This world is the place of sacrifice. All of humanity came here to make sacrifices. They wanted to come here, knowing it would require sacrifice to produce the faith necessary for salvation — and all gladly came. According to the Lectures on Faith, Christ is the great prototype of the saved man. He came and gave Himself as a sacrifice, and mankind is to follow Him if they are to be saved. Men and women came here to lay everything on the altar : their desires, appetites, passions, and everything with which the Lord has blessed them. Abraham put his beloved son on the altar, intending to kill him and then burn his remains because God asked it of him. He did not refuse. However bitter, terrible, and painful the request, the Lord asked it of Abraham, and he proceeded to offer it. No one obtains the faith necessary for salvation unless they are prepared to sacrifice all things to God. Faith for salvation cannot otherwise be obtained (see Lectures on Faith). 1 “Now I do not expect anyone to be asked to sacrifice their only child. Nor to be told to kill someone and take their possessions. What I expect is that in the context of the life someone has lived or is living, they will be asked to do, or not do, something which is so specific to them that they alone will understand why it is a sacrifice to them. If asked of another, it may be completely insignificant. But when asked of them, it will be exactly what the person will struggle to place on the Lord’s altar. Hence the term sacrifice with its partial meaning of parting with something involving great value to them. However, it is not possible to rule anything in or out — the Lord alone will know you and what is required for you to obtain this faith. The requirements for obtaining this kind of faith are the same for every man or woman who has ever lived. Without making the sacrifice it is not possible to obtain the faith.”2
Sacrifice is necessary if a person is to have faith. Men and women can believe a lot of things, but if they’re going to have faith, it is the order of Heaven that they have to make sacrifice to demonstrate that faith.3And in the last days, before the Lord comes, he is to gather together his saints who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice (Lectures on Faith 6:9). This is not a covenant to sacrifice. One can go make a covenant to sacrifice every day the LDS temple is open. Making a covenant to sacrifice is not at all the same thing as making a covenant by sacrifice. It’s only through actually sacrificing that it is possible for the Lord to make a covenant with man : Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence : a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the Heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice (Psalms 50:1).4 Sacrifice is directly related to faith — obtaining faith requires sacrifice. It can be had in no other way. When sacrifice is an end in itself, it produces nothing. Sacrifice must be directed toward the correct end, or it fails to produce faith. If sacrifice were in itself an end, then self-denial, self-abuse, and the most extreme practices of asceticism would be noble. But they are not. Rather, they are self-centered and selfish. There is nothing noble about these extremes. They never produce great faith. From Moses to Jesus Christ there was sacrifice performed as a daily rite in Jerusalem (excepting only temporary interludes, including the Babylonian captivity). In spite of performing daily sacrifices, the people most directly involved had no visitations from angels, had no revelations, received no audience with God, and performed no miracles. When Christ came to fulfill the law of sacrifice, the ones performing the sacrifices were the least willing to accept Him. The sacrifices they had and were performing had no faith-producing effects for them. Sacrifice must, therefore, be connected with a proper understanding of how it relates to something higher. Sacrifices are not intended to teach one how to sacrifice; they are intended to teach an underlying truth. If there is no understanding of that underlying truth, then the act of sacrifice can become a meaningless end in itself. Almost any principle of the Gospel can become a misleading end in itself. The Gospel is a harmony of principles correctly weighed and measured. It is a symphony, and not a single, bloated, and distorted note. The underlying truth sacrifice teaches is simple. All great truths are simple. If they were not, then they could not be obtained by the weak, simple, and childlike — and, of course, it was and is to such persons that the Gospel has always been primarily directed. Sacrifice is a tool that is given to change one’s heart and realign one to being less materialistic and more spiritual. Men and women can only let in “one light” at a time — they are so constituted to be able to focus on only one thing at a time. One must necessarily choose between all other things and that one thing. Christ is teaching, through sacrifice, how to choose God above all else. Sacrifice allows men and women to show, by their choice, that what they lay upon the altar is not more treasured to them than God’s will for them. By laying themselves and their emotional needs on the altar and sacrificing the things this world values, they are saying and proving they choose the other world to this one. They value the things of the spirit above the material things of this existence. It is another affirmation that they would prefer to have their existence filled with things of the spirit, rather than filled with the materialism of the world.5 “I used to think having the right heart must precede action to be of any worth. What I have found instead is that action can lead the heart. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is a call to action. Do the things asked by Him and the heart will follow. The mind can lead the heart. The heart does not always have to go first.”6
1 “Sacrifice,” Dec. 12, 2011, blog post.
2 “Belief Becomes Knowledge,” May 5, 2010, blog post.
3 500th Year Reformation Talk Two, 1, Dallas, TX, Oct. 19, 2017.
4 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 2, “Faith,” 20.
5 The Second Comforter, 185–187.
6 The Second Comforter, 195.