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A better kind of sacrifice

February 12, 2011

The Priesthood and Relief Society lesson for tomorrow comes from Gospel Principles, Chapter 26, “Sacrifice.”

The lesson discusses the story of Abraham and Isaac. The manual says, “like Abraham, we should be willing to sacrifice everything to become worthy to live in the presence of the Lord.” If God tells you to kill your child, isn’t the proper response, NO?!” If you truly believe that God was telling you to kill your son and you’d be willing to do it, I would call you an immoral person. Abraham was an immoral person. I wouldn’t do it. Even if I were religious, I wouldn’t kill one of my sons.

Jephthah’s daughter wasn’t as lucky as Isaac. Unlike Abraham, Jephthah wasn’t given a ram at the last second to stand in for his only child (maybe because she was female?). Here’s the story:

Jephthah promised God that if He helped him kill the Ammonites in battle, “whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30-31).

When Jephthah came home, “his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child” (v. 34).

Exactly whom did Jephthah expect to greet him when he got home anyway?

Jephthah allows his daughter to go with her friends to the mountains to bewail her virginity for two months, after which she returns to her father’s house where he burns her as a sacrifice just like he promised.

This is repulsive. And Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac isn’t much of an improvement.

But the manual states, “If we are to be a living sacrifice, we must be willing to give everything we have for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” And each of the examples are of sacrifices for the church:

A member of the Church in Germany saved his tithing for years until someone with priesthood authority could come and accept it.

A Relief Society visiting teacher served for 30 years without missing an assignment.

A group of Saints in South Africa rode for three days, standing up, to be able to hear and see the prophet of the Lord.

At an area conference in Mexico, members of the Church slept on the ground and fasted during the days of the conference. They had used all their money just to get to the conference and had nothing left for food and shelter.

One family sold their car to get the money they wanted to contribute to a temple building fund.

Another family sold their home to get money to go to the temple.

Many faithful Latter-day Saints have very little to live on, yet they pay their tithes and offerings.

One brother sacrificed his job because he refused to work on Sunday.

In one branch, the youth gave freely and willingly of their time to care for the young children while their parents helped build the meetinghouse.

Young men and women give up or postpone good job opportunities, education, or sports to serve as missionaries.

Now the principle of sacrifice isn’t a bad lesson if you put a different spin on it. To become really good at something, for example, requires dedication and sacrifice of other activities that might bring more immediate gratification, socializing with friends for example. To complete my PhD requires sacrifice – money, time, and energy that could be expended elsewhere. If one of my kids wants to become really good at a sport or an instrument, he’ll have to forego other activities. In other words, delayed gratification.

This kind of sacrifice isn’t only self-serving; People sacrifice for others all the time, too. Roseli is sacrificing a career and other worldly perks for staying home to help raise the boys. I sacrifice school responsibilities in order to take my boys to the doctor or to listen to a friend in a time of need.

These kinds of sacrifices I get. These kinds of sacrifices privilege life over death. They privilege people over gods, just as it should be, because people are real.

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2 Comments
  1. Carrie permalink

    That just makes me think of when Nephi murders Laban. “…It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:13). For some reason I had no problem with that story growing up. I also had no problem with Captain Moroni randomly killing people that did not professs their belief in the “freedom” of the land. (I tried looking up for that scripture online, but I think they changed their search mechanism so you only pick up flattering scriptures). I have a problem with both situations now. Even though I know they’re fictitious, they anger me because they laid the framework for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, an event that is sadly not fictitious. It’s okay to kill in the name of the Lord. It’s okay to kill people because their philosophical beliefs are different than yours and may threaten your way of life. War is one thing, but slicing off someone’s head because you want their scriptures (and there only happens to be one copy??) is another. No me gusta moral relativism!

    In terms of sacrifice, I was always told that General Authorities lived on “stipends”. I always imagined that as similar to how I was living as a missionary: very cheaply. Now I hear that the apostles may be earning into the hundreds of thousands (and the way they deny that is that they don’t earn that money from the “church”, but from the businesses the church runs. Big difference, NOT!) That angers me because of the poor members of the church that I saw in Argentina that gave 10% of their paltry income to the church. They sacrificed so Seventies and Apostles can have cushy high paying jobs. Their sacrifice should have been for their family and close friends, not some white dudes a continent away.

  2. Carrie permalink

    I found the scripture about Captain Moroni: Alma 51:15-20. It’s kind of ironic that it was either hoist the title of liberty or face death. That doesn’t sound like liberty to me!

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