William W. Phelps, an early convert to the Church and a gifted hymn writer, wrote the inspiring hymn “Praise to the Man,” a magnificent tribute to the Prophet Joseph Smith. This beautiful hymn not only incorporates the elements of rejoicing and prophecy but also contains choice bits of basic doctrine, as is evidenced by the statement, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”
The Prophet in delivering a lecture on faith emphasized this truth when he said, “… a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” (Sixth Lecture on Faith, paragraph 7.)
The law of sacrifice is an important part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and contributes to the building of faith, love, and many other virtues. The dictionary defines sacrifice as “a surrender of some desirable thing for a higher object.” This is undoubtedly true, but it might be observed that the higher object is not always discernible at the time the surrender or sacrifice is made.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan of life that will bring happiness, success, and eternal life to those who follow the plan, but we know that evil influences exist and provide temptations and obstacles for us to overcome in order to live the plan. As Lehi said to his son Jacob, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass. …” (2 Ne. 2:11.)
The Lord has said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10), and “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21).
Without doubt many blessings are predicated upon obedience to the eternal law of sacrifice.
The Savior said, “Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake.” (D&C 103:27.) And he never asked anyone to do something he was unwilling to do himself. He made the supreme sacrifice. You and I may never be asked to lay down our lives for the gospel’s sake, but in many ways we can be obedient to the law of sacrifice and indicate our willingness to build the kingdom.
As a young man I had an important decision to make. Congressman Milton H. Welling offered me an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. This was an outstanding opportunity for a fine education and experience. After careful and prayerful consideration, I declined the appointment and accepted a call to go on a mission. This was a decision that required some sacrifice and greatly affected my life. However, while on my mission I wrote my parents from Boston, Massachusetts, “From my mission I have gained much. … I wouldn’t trade the last two years for anything. They have been wonderful in bringing a realization of life in its true sense.” Yes, my sacrifice, if it could be called that, was bringing forth the blessings of heaven.
I recall that when I was called to be the president of the Northwestern States Mission, it came at a very difficult time for me to leave my business. Many of my friends, members and nonmembers, said to me, “The Church is asking you to make a great sacrifice.” I replied to each, “I feel it is a real opportunity.”
As President McKay set me apart, he promised me that it would be the happiest period of my life. It wasn’t the easiest experience of my life, but it was the happiest—another experience in my life where sacrifice brought forth the blessings of heaven to me and my wife.
The history of the church of Jesus Christ in every era is replete with experiences of every kind and description that men are prone to call sacrifices. As the Savior was calling Peter and the other disciples, he said, “… Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (Luke 5:10–11. Italics added.) They sacrificed and received great blessings.
Joseph Smith’s life was another great example of dedication and sacrifice. While in Liberty Jail the word of the Lord came to him: “… If thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; … if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7. Italics added.)
Here the Prophet was specifically told that these tribulations and sacrifices would be for his good, as undoubtedly the Liberty Jail experience was preparing him for coming events. In the end he and his brother Hyrum were called upon to be martyrs for the kingdom of God—another great story of sacrifice and blessing.
Our present-day problems in the Church are mainly those related to rapid growth and change. Far-reaching challenges are requiring sacrifices of members’ time, talents, and means, possibly as great as ever before.
Today the Church is a worldwide organization, and the members are building hundreds of chapels and other Church buildings requiring substantial expenditures of money and time. These sacrifices are bringing forth the blessings of heaven in many different ways. You and I know this to be true.
Today, as was done in the early history of the Church, many are sacrificing friends, family, and positions when they join the Church.
Today many are sacrificing for missionary work, either in supporting missionaries or by going on missions themselves. We now have the largest missionary force in the entire history of the Church.
Today we have a full Church program, and whether we are called upon to be a Sunday School teacher, a bishop, or an usher, or to pass the sacrament, to be a missionary, to work on a welfare project, to do genealogical work, to consult on data processing problems, or to fulfill any other Church assignment, we should recognize that “whatever [we] do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.” (D&C 64:29.)
Sacrifices today are in reality opportunities, the same as they have always been. Remember the promise made by the Savior: “… There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” (Luke 18:29–30.)
How true this is. In summary then, in building the kingdom, each of us has his duties to perform, and to perform them faithfully should be our constant aim, even though self-denial and sacrifice are required.
May we incorporate in some way the law of sacrifice in our daily lives, that we and our families may enjoy the blessings derived therefrom. Today, as in the past, sacrifice does bring forth the blessings of heaven.