Relief Society Lesson #26: Sacrifice

Guest Post by Vada

I have cut out some parts of the lesson that I probably wouldn’t use or focus on – you should look at your manual for the whole thing and add back in anything that seems particularly important to you.  Also, I have included quotes from General Authorities throughout the lesson.  It might be nice to print these out and hand them out to people before the class, so they can read them aloud at the appropriate time and you can get more people involved in the lesson.  When I pose questions to be asked to the class (either my own or those in the lesson) I’ve put a few basic ideas/thoughts underneath that you can use to get discussion started, though the answers are by no means exhaustive or thorough – just a place to start.

Chapter 26: Sacrifice

The Meaning of Sacrifice

Sacrifice means giving to the Lord whatever He requires of our time, our earthly possessions, and our energies to further His work. The Lord commanded, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God.

“President Gordon B. Hinckley defined sacrifice so beautifully when he said: “Without sacrifice there is no true worship of God. … ‘The Father gave his Son, and the Son gave his life,’ and we do not worship unless we give—give of our substance, … our time, … strength, … talent, … faith, … [and] testimonies” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 565).”
-“Sacrifice: An Eternal Investment,” Carol B. Thomas, April 2001 General Conference

I would at this point ask some questions to get people thinking about the subject and engaged in the lesson, but not expect too many or very long answers.
-What does sacrifice mean to you?
(giving of our substance and time, doing the Lord’s will)
-How can we sacrifice for the Lord?
(pay tithing and fast offerings, help those in need, serve)

The Law of Sacrifice Was Practiced Anciently

*What was the significance of the sacrifices performed by the Lord’s covenant people anciently?
(a symbol of the sacrifice Jesus would make, as they looked to his coming)

From the time of Adam and Eve to the time of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s people practiced the law of sacrifice. They were commanded to offer as sacrifices the firstlings of their flocks. These animals had to be perfect, without blemish. The ordinance was given to remind the people that Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of the Father, would come into the world. He would be perfect in every way, and He would offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. (See Moses 5:5–8.)

Jesus did come and offer Himself as a sacrifice, just as the people had been taught He would. Because of His sacrifice, everyone will be saved from physical death by the Resurrection and all can be saved from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ (see chapter 12 in this book).

Christ’s atoning sacrifice marked the end of sacrifices by the shedding of blood. Such outward sacrifice was replaced by the ordinance of the sacrament. The ordinance of the sacrament was given to remind us of the Savior’s great sacrifice. We should partake of the sacrament often. The emblems of bread and water remind us of the Savior’s body and of His blood, which He shed for us (see chapter 23 in this book).

*Why is the Atonement considered the great and last sacrifice?
(it was the last blood sacrifice required; it alone of any sacrifice has the power to save or to wash away our sins)

We Still Must Sacrifice

*How do we observe the law of sacrifice today?
(paying tithes and offerings, donating to charities, giving of our time in callings, bringing meals to the sick, going on missions, volunteering at a homeless shelter)

Even though sacrifice by the shedding of blood was ended, the Lord still asks us to sacrifice. But now He requires a different kind of offering. He said: “Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood, … and your burnt offerings shall be done away. … And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19–20). A “broken heart and a contrite spirit” means that we offer deep sorrow for our sins as we humble ourselves and repent of them.

“The words “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven,” from the hymn “Praise to the Man,”  always stir my soul. Sacrifice is defined as “the act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else more important or worthy.”  Sacrifice comes in many forms and may not always be convenient. Latter-day Saints make a covenant with the Lord to sacrifice. By doing so, we surrender our will to His, dedicating our lives to building up His kingdom and serving His children. …

“Our challenge is to unselfishly sacrifice all that we have been given, including our will. Elder Neal A. Maxwell rightly said: “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give’ … are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.”

Sacrifice is ultimately a matter of the heart—the heart. “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.”  If we are caring, if we are charitable, if we are obedient to God and follow His prophets, our sacrifices will bring forth the blessings of heaven. “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.””
-“Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven,” Robert K. Dellenbach, October 2002 General Conference

We Must Be Willing to Sacrifice Everything We Have to the Lord

*Why are people willing to make sacrifices?
(it’s a commandment, we’ve covenanted to do so, it will bring us closer to Christ)

Another answer to that question might be we do it for those we love and care about, and I might have someone read the following quote:

“A little over a year ago, my husband and I visited Nauvoo. As we walked through the Old Pioneer Cemetery searching for the grave of an ancestor, Zina Baker Huntington, I was touched by the peaceful solitude and spirit I felt. I walked through the trees and read the names on the gravestones, many of them children and families. I wept as my heart was turned to our forefathers, many of whom had joined the Church and come to Nauvoo. In my mind I asked many questions: Why did they leave their comfortable homes and families? Why did they suffer persecution, sickness, even death? Why did they sacrifice all that they had to come to this place and build a temple? They hardly had shelter, and yet they were building a temple! Why did they do it? And when the temple was nearly completed, how could they leave it behind? As I sat silently contemplating this scene, the answer came forcefully yet softly to my mind and heart: “We did this for you.”

Those words, “We did this for you,” reminded me that our ancestors, along with many other faithful Saints, sacrificed everything because of their testimonies and faith in Jesus Christ. They knew that the gospel had been restored to the earth once more and that they were led by a prophet of God. They knew that the Book of Mormon was true and understood its message and witness. They knew that through the restoration of priesthood keys, families could be sealed together for eternity through holy priesthood ordinances available only in a temple. They knew that temple work was the key to the salvation and exaltation of the human family. They knew the importance of this work, and they were willing to give all that they had in order to provide a house acceptable to the Lord wherein this holy work could be performed. They sacrificed everything so that past and future generations would have access to the eternal blessings of the temple.”
-“We Did This for You,” Elaine S. Dalton, October 2004 General Conference

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should become living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God (see Romans 12:1).

If we are to be a living sacrifice, we must be willing to give everything we have … to build the kingdom of God on the earth and labor to bring forth Zion (see 1 Nephi 13:37).

A rich young ruler asked the Savior, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.” And the rich man said, “All these have I kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, He said, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he was sorrowful. He was very rich and had his heart set on his riches. (See Luke 18:18–23; see also the picture in this chapter.)

The young ruler was a good man. But when he was put to the test, he was not willing to sacrifice his worldly possessions.

“What about sharing our food, clothing, and furniture? The Lord commands that we not covet our own property (see D&C 19:26).”

“Many rewards come from sharing our material possessions. King Benjamin reminds us of this when he says, “For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God … impart of your substance to the poor, … such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief” (Mosiah 4:26). We can all be searching for the many opportunities in our lives to give—to share.”
–“Sacrifice: An Eternal Investment,” Carol B. Thomas, April 2001 General Conference

On the other hand, the Lord’s disciples Peter and Andrew were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the kingdom of God. When Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, … they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:19–20).

Like the disciples, we can offer our daily activities as a sacrifice to the Lord. We can say, “Thy will be done.”

*What examples of sacrifice have you observed in the lives of people you know? What examples of sacrifice have you seen in the lives of your ancestors? in the lives of early members of the Church? in the lives of people in the scriptures? What have you learned from these examples?

This is a great time for others to participate in the lesson, and hopefully there will be a lot of sharing from your class.  You should be prepared to step in and do some sharing of your own to get things started or keep things moving.  If you need examples there are many at the end of the lesson.  There’s also a story of Korean saints preparing for the 50th anniversary of the church in Korea here: http://lds.org/ensign/2005/11/sacrifice-is-a-joy-and-a-blessing?lang=eng or a couple of stories of sacrifice here: http://lds.org/ensign/1981/06/sacrifice?lang=eng (though the first story in that article is probably not true, it’s still a nice story and a fine example).  Personal stories from your own life or those of your ancestors would be even better.

Sacrifice Helps Us Prepare to Live in the Presence of God

Only through sacrifice can we become worthy to live in the presence of God. Only through sacrifice can we enjoy eternal life. Many who have lived before us have sacrificed all they had. We must be willing to do the same if we would earn the rich reward they enjoy.

We may not be asked to sacrifice all things. But like Abraham, we should be willing to sacrifice everything to become worthy to live in the presence of the Lord.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie related the story of the rich man who was asked to give up his earthly possessions, and commented on it thus:

“But what the scriptural account means is that to gain celestial salvation we must be able  to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do.

How, for instance, can we establish our ability to live the full law of consecration if we do not in fact pay an honest tithing? Or how can we prove our willingness to sacrifice all things, if need be, if we do not make the small sacrifices of time and toil, or of money and means, that we are now asked to make?”
-“Obedience, Consecration, and Sacrifice,” Bruce R. McConkie, April 1975 General Conference

The Lord’s people have always sacrificed greatly and in many different ways. Some have suffered hardship and ridicule for the gospel. Some new converts to the Church have been cut off from their families. Lifetime friends have turned away. Some members have lost their jobs; some have lost their lives. But the Lord notices our sacrifices; He promises, “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29).

As our testimonies of the gospel grow, we become able to make greater sacrifices to the Lord.

*Why do you think our willingness to sacrifice is related to our readiness to live in the presence of God?

“Sacrifice is integral to the celestial law, pointing us to the most glorious sacrifice of all: our Savior Jesus Christ.”
-“Sacrifice: An Eternal Investment,” Carol B. Thomas, April 2001 General Conference

I would end the lesson with the following quote, and then my own testimony about the importance and power of sacrifice.

“Sacrifice is an amazing principle. As we willingly give our time and talents and all that we possess, it becomes one of our truest forms of worship. It can develop within us a profound love for each other and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through sacrifice our hearts can be changed; we live closer to the Spirit and have less of an appetite for things of the world.

President Hinckley taught a grand truth when he said: “It is not a sacrifice to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is never a sacrifice when you get back more than you give. It is an investment, … a greater investment than any. … Its dividends are eternal and everlasting” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 567–68).”
-“Sacrifice: An Eternal Investment,” Carol B. Thomas, April 2001 General Conference

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7 Responses

  1. julie says:

    Vada & Kelly Ann,
    Thank you so much for your excellent work, wonderful thoughts and for sacrificing your own time in preparing this lesson outline. I love all the quotes and you really added such a wonderful spirit to the lesson – much more than the manual provided. Thank you, thank you!

  2. Kristen says:

    Oh, thank you for all your time and effort put into this lesson. I am a teacher by profession, but struggle to organize my spiritual thoughts to teach women. Thank you for helping me to gather my thoughts, give me ideas, and provide such appropriate quotes. This is so deeply appreciated! Thank you for organizing it in such a way that I could feel the spirit as I read it.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your lessons with us! It helps so much to gather ideas from other Sisters in the Gospel. I appreciated the story about Nauvoo. It was so touching, it had me in tears.

  4. Diane says:

    This is wonderful!! I just got called to be a Relief Society teacher, and this will be the first lesson I teach! I love your quotes and I’m excited to start teaching! Thanks for the ideas and lesson helps!!

  5. Opal L. Reynolds says:

    I found your sight today, and love it. How sweet of you to take your time and help us to prepare lessons.
    May the Lord richest blessings be yours.

    Opal L. Reynolds

  6. Tricia World says:

    Thank you so much for letting us be the recipients of your generosity. This is my first lesson teaching in relief society. I have been teaching the sunbeams and before that yw and primary. I dont know what to do w/ adults 🙂 Your wonderful preperation and research has allowed me to relax and know that the spirit will help me the rest of the way. 🙂 Thanks again!

  7. Opal L. Reynolds says:

    So happy I found you

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