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The Course Which They Pursue

the-course

Of the seven Lectures on Faith, Lecture Sixth is perhaps my personal favorite. It is the only lecture that has this footnote:

This lecture is so plain, and the facts set forth so self-evident, that it is deemed unnecessary to form a catechism upon it: the student is therefore instructed to commit the whole to memory. (Emphasis Added)

So what are these facts that are so plain and self-evident and why are they important? In verse 7 we find a great summation of the critical role the law of sacrifice plays in our salvation and ability to enjoy eternal life.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. (Lecture 6:7, Emphasis Added)

I’ve tried several times to put this into my own words, but I think the text is perfectly clear. This is essential, it is 100% necessary and there is no other way or means whereby we can find salvation. In verse 8, we begin to see an explanation of why:

It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him. (Lecture 6:8, Emphasis Added)

Verse 12 puts it all into perspective:

But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them. (Lecture 6:12, Emphasis Added)

There are many out there struggling with “faith crisis” because of one thing or another. They stumble over the mistakes of men and paradoxes they encounter in this world garnished with smug secular security. I sympathize with those that struggle, who are looking for their way and have not yet been able to find it. At one time, the grip on the iron rod seemed sure and firm, but there are many voices in the mists of darkness promising relief from the confusion. Remember, there is no perfect knowledge until you reach the tree and taste of the fruit.

Lehi observed that people had to “press forward through the mist of darkness” and that they “came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree” (1 Nephi 8:24,30). This was not an easy process. In the last few verses of Alma 32, we find the following words and phrases that describe the process of obtaining the fruit of the tree:

  • nourish the word
  • great diligence
  • patience
  • looking forward to the fruit
  • diligence
  • faith
  • patience
  • nourishing
  • faith
  • diligence
  • patience
  • long-suffering
  • waiting

Sacrifice was never easy, it involves removing everything in our life that stand between us and God; many of these things, for whatever reason, we deeply cherish. There is no point in creating a list because this is a process between you and God, it doesn’t get any more real, visceral and tangible than this.

If we do not personally know God or are not actively seeking to know him, then nothing else matters.

If we have never made the sacrifice and secured for ourselves an actual knowledge that the course we are pursuing in life is pleasing to the Lord, perhaps at the last day, we will say in vain, “Lord, Lord, I went to church, said my prayers, paid my tithing and attended the temple” to which the Lord may respond, “I never knew you: depart from me…” (Matt 7:23).

Initially, this may sound harsh and over the top, but what other alternative is there? There is no other way.

David O. McKay taught that as part of our temple covenants,

You will first be asked if you are willing to obey the law of Elohim; are you willing to take upon yourself the responsibility of making God the center of your lives? That is what it means. Then you will be asked if you will obey the law of sacrifice? Nature’s law demands us to do everything with self in view. The first law of mortal life–self-preservation, selfishness–would claim the most luscious fruit, the most tender meat, the softest down on which to lie. I am taking you back to the Garden of Eden, when man entered into mortality; the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Good and Evil, and everything which man desired was placed before him. And selfishness, the law of nature, would say, “I want the best; that is mine.” But God said: “Take the firstlings of the flock and offer a sacrifice unto me.” (David O. McKay Temple Address)

Some may suppose that because God requires this of us, he is greedy; but does God really need our stuff? Why ask us to give him things that are already his?

Maybe the law of sacrifice isn’t about us giving things up, but making room to receive.

Is the law of sacrifice about idly standing by until God requires some great act on our behalf? Or is it about a moment to moment, choice to choice, grace to grace, conscious, deliberate decision to place the will of the natural man upon the altar until one obtains an “actual knowledge … that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God” (Lecture 6:12).

The beauty is that you don’t have to wait, you can start right now. After you finish reading this paragraph, you will be left to your own thoughts and will, and the next choice in your life will present itself. What will you do, how will you do it and for what ultimate purpose are even the smallest actions contributing to removing the veil between you and God?

  • G.D.

    Thank you! This article is perfectly stated. Brief, concise, a bulls eye to the heart of the matter in a matter of the heart. Period. “Where your heart is…there is your treasure.” And we’ll give/do anything to obtain the treasure we see most valuable.
    Knowing the Lord should be our treasure and joy. Being pulled away from prayer should cause our hearts pain at separation from Him. Giving our all to Him who has given His Only Begotten Son to suffer the wine press of the wrath of the Almighty God should be at the forefront of our lives.
    Your article helped me to realize that the people in Lehi’s vision were still mortal in their journey to the Tree of Life. I understand now it’s the pursuit of Calling and Election. A reward we are given when the Lord sees that we are determined to serve Him at all costs even to the point of giving our lives.
    Amid the “lone and dreary wilderness” experience, we can and should cultivate the state of being that “nothing else matters as long as we are saved in the Kingdom of God.”
    You did and OUTSTANDING effort helping us to open our eyes and wake up to what in our lives is keeping us separated from the Father and the Son taking up their abode with us personally.
    I’ve already noticed increased spirituality and power from giving up allowing television/movies to waste hours of my life. Hours that should be used in feasting upon the Word of God or in Service to Him in whatever way He needs me.
    The more I let go, the more freedom I feel!!!! Possessions and the pull of Babylon are the true prison and burden.
    I know the adversary will be permitted to present opposition equal to my efforts in drawing closer to the Lord. I KNOW, however, who my MASTER is. Jesus Christ. I have but to call out for deliverance and help will come.
    Sorry my comment was so long but this article is timeless already and should be shared in every way possible. I intend to share this link.
    Keep up the good work Brother Reed and THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!! God bless you even more than He obviously has.

    Sincerely,
    Your Sister in Christ

    • oneclimbs

      Thank you for your comments and contributions to the topic. Your words about giving up excessive movie and TV time reminded me of another important principle.

      Clearing ungodly things out of our lives is only half of it. Think of a forgotten corner of a yard that you wish to make into a garden. The first step is to make room for the garden by cleaning out all that doesn’t contribute. Sometimes we feel good about eliminating these things from our lives but go no further, but all we are left with is empty space.

      The next step is to plant and cultivate; it’s a messy process. Your cleaned out space then becomes a construction zone where soil, dung and seeds are introduced, and order returns again for the moment.

      Your faith, dedication and patience assist growth. Then it gets messy again during the harvest and clearing out of old plants to make room for the new.

      Removing things from life is just one small part. Discipleship is a moment by moment thing. In the beginning it consists of conscious choices to act in a certain manner and hopefully it ends up becoming something that we are instead of something we do.

      • G.D.

        Totally agree! Being one who loves gardening, this is a perfect analogy. I must humbly admit I have ALOT of weeding to do! But I hope to achieve this……”when we see Him we shall be like Him”. Thank you again for the “revelatory experience”. God bless! I am totally exploring your site like happening upon a banquet after fasting for a week! So appreciate your time/thoughts/efforts.

        • oneclimbs

          You are welcome, I’m glad that you have found some things here that are useful to you. I appreciate your comments and feedback.

  • ron

    This is a revelation that came to me in the midst of a trial I had that was of the caliber of Jobs trials: The Law of Sacrifice is the “Scale of Weights” that measures Love. Love can only be measured when it is balanced in a scale against sacrifice.

    • oneclimbs

      Ron, that’s awesome, simple and sublime. Spoken like someone who knows what they are talking about. I’m saving this quote from you in my personal records.

    • G.D.

      Soul stirring comment that leads me to ponder the greatest love of all. John 3:16. I cannot comprehend our Heavenly Father’s sacrifice of His Son due to His love for all of us. Thank you kindly for the simple, yet profound, lesson that is deeper than the ocean. You have truly given me pause to stop and give consideration with all the humbleness of heart I can muster to really think about how much they love us. Thank you brother.