April 15, 2012

Sacrifice: General Conference Week 1

For my first weekly General Conference talk, I chose Elder Dallin H. Oaks's talk, "Sacrifice." This topic is something I've had on my mind for a little while and have been wanting to study more in-depth.

Elder Oaks said, "The Atonement of Jesus Christ is at the very center of Mormon doctrine and should be at the heart of all we do." I know personally that Jesus Christ's Atonement for each one of us was real and that all our heartaches and sorrows can be made whole through Him. Christ's Atonement ended the ancient ritual of animal sacrifice, "but it did not end the importance of sacrifice in the gospel plan. Our Savior requires us to continue to offer sacrifice, but the sacrifices He now commands are that we 'offer for a sacrifice unto [Him] a broken heart and a contrite spirit.' (3 Nephi 9:20)."

So I asked myself, Why does God require us to continue to sacrifice? What and when have I sacrificed /do I sacrifice?

Elder Oaks spoke of the sacrifices of the Mormon pioneers and the sacrifices of church members today in fulfilling their various callings. He then spoke of missionaries and the sacrifices they make to serve. He also mentioned the sacrifices their families make in order for them to serve.

When I heard his talk live I thought, "Psssh! My mission was so not a sacrifice!" And then I felt prideful and small-minded. I guess what I mean is that my mission was such a blessing to me, and I received so many blessings during/because of it, that I feel ungrateful viewing my measly little year and a half of full-time service as a sacrifice... I also know that my experience and the way I feel about my mission may be different than others' experiences. I really don't mean to say I know better than one of the Twelve.

I appreciated his mention of the sacrifices of the families of missionaries, because I know my family sacrificed for me. My mom definitely sacrificed to contribute to my mission every month. And I know that when my own brother leaves in July, I'm going to try to help support him financially when I can, AND I'm definitely going to miss the little stinker! (Who will I call now when I have ridiculous stories to share or when I'm walking down the mean streets of DC in the dark??)

When I re-listened to Elder Oaks's talk today, I felt completely in synch with this comment:

"We are frequently asked, 'How do you persuade your young people and your older members to leave their schooling or their retirement to sacrifice in this way?' I have heard many give this explanation: 'Knowing what my Savior did for me -- His grace in suffering for my sins and in overcoming death so I can live again -- I feel privileged to make the small sacrifice I am asked to make in His service. I want to share the understanding He has given me."

This was exactly how I felt when I left! Aside from the arm-twisting that had to happen for stubborn lil' me to truly seek to know whether Heavenly Father wanted me to serve, my greatest motivator for serving was the love I felt from Heavenly Father and my Savior, the peace I felt through the Atonement, and my desire to share that peace with others. Cuantos no saben quienes son, ni que hay un Dios que los ama y que tiene un plan para ellos? Cuantos no saben como encontrar la paz y el gozo que yo tengo en mi vida por tener el evangelio? How could I not share this? I can't wait to be able to be a senior missionary with my husband and be able to share this knowledge full-time again someday!

With regard to how I sacrifice now, I think it comes down to time and money. We learned today in Sacrament meeting and in Sunday School that the natural by-product of living the gospel and keeping our covenants is a desire to serve and love others. The thing is... that serving others requires taking time to think, plan, and DO. We also have callings to magnify and responsibilities to fulfill within the church -- those take up time, too. But we do these things because we love the Lord and we love our fellow man. I could use extra time to do homework or study, or even just relax or socialize more, but I know the Lord wants me to magnify my callings in the temple and in visiting teaching, so I know it's important for me to make time to do these things.

Tithing (read Malachi 3:8-10 in whichever version of the Bible you happen to read) is another way we sacrifice. I'm grateful for a mother who taught us to ALWAYS pay tithing. I also know firsthand that God does pour out His blessings when we pay our tithing. But sometimes, especially when money is tight, it can be tempting to not. For me, tithing is one of those things that's sort of like my mission. I receive so many blessings, it doesn't really feel like a sacrifice, but in our expensive world, I know it can be a hard thing to do.

As far as how I can sacrifice more, I know I personally need to work on actively looking for opportunities to serve others. I get so caught up in everything "I" have to do, or what's going on in "my" life, that I forget to see how others around me are doing and how I can help them. My arrows are not pointing outward, as my mission president's wife would have said.

And I think the answer to why does the Lord require us to sacrifice? lies in the fact that we do these things (serve and sacrifice) "in worshipful imitation of our Savior." We do as He would do, and thus, we become more like Him.

Elder Oaks's talk has placed in my heart a desire to always look for opportunities to serve, to live my life in such a manner that I can recognize promptings and opportunities to serve, and to always be prepared to render the service needed.

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