The Course Which They Pursue
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
- looking forward to the fruit
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?