“Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven”

Talks and Lessons

Meghal Vogel carrying another runnerLast summer, Meghan Vogel, a high school track runner, competed in her state’s 3,200-meter race. Meghan was in last place after running nearly two miles. In the last 20 meters of the race, Meghan had the opportunity to not place last when the runner ahead of her collapsed on the track. Rather than pass her fallen opponent, Meghan stopped, placed her arm around her and carried her to the finish line. Meghan made sure that her competitor walked across the finish line before her. In the record books, Meghan is listed last, but to everyone who saw this she placed first that day.

Our faith is what has brought us here today. To honor the Lord, partake of the sacrament and be filled with the strength to face another week. The efforts of everyone who teaches, counsels and serves today are sacrifices of their time, energy, and even patience. What would a religion be if it did not ask its members to sacrifice? In the Lectures On Faith, it is stated 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. … It [is] through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.”

I’d like to share two stories about my family with you.

My great-great-great grandfather, Elijah Knapp Fuller, joined the church in the early 1840s and moved his wife and six children to Nauvoo. Shortly after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, Elijah had a crisis of his own. In less than five months, four members of his family died, including his beloved red-headed wife. Elijah was left to care for three children (ages 10, 5 and 3) at the same time Brigham Young was asking the Saints to abandon their homes and property to move to parts unknown. Elijah had the faith to do as President Young asked and left Nauvoo in April 1846. He left behind portions of his precious family in a common shared grave and never visited them again.

Why would Elijah do this? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland offered an answer as to why the early pioneers pushed toward the Salt Lake Valley. He said, “They didn’t do that for a program, they didn’t do it for a social activity, they did it because the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ was in their soul, it was in the marrow of their bones. That’s the only way those mothers [and fathers] could bury [their babies] in a breadbox and move on, saying ‘The promised land is out there somewhere. We’re going to make it to the valley.’ They could say that because of covenant and doctrine and faith and revelation and spirit.”

Elder Holland concluded with these thought-provoking words: “If we can keep that [kind of focus on] our families and in the Church, maybe a lot of other things start to take care of themselves. Maybe a lot of other less-needed things sort of fall out of the wagon. I’m told those handcarts could only hold so much. Just as our ancestors had to choose what they took, maybe the 21st century will drive us to decide, ‘What can we put on this handcart?’ It’s the substance of our soul; it’s the stuff right down in the marrow of our bones.”

Pioneer handcart

So what is in your handcart? What do you value most in this world? We have been challenged by Elder Dallin H. Oaks to seek after what is best for our lives rather than filling it with that which is good or better.

For my parents, their handcart focused on education. They are college sweethearts and were married in the institute where they met since my mother had recently joined the church. They were later sealed in the temple. Children followed shortly thereafter – three boys and a girl – and then there was a lag. They may have thought they were done and their family was complete. Dad was working, Mom was taking care of the home front and both of them were budgeting in order to afford four college tuitions. However, after placing their youngest in pre-school, Mom found out she was pregnant again … with me. This pregnancy changed their plans. My mother, a teacher by training, knew the gap in years between the older children and the baby would cause a rift. My parents concluded that I would be raised as an only child, but they didn’t want me to grow up that way. So two years later they had another child – my younger brother – so I would have a playmate.

Fuller Family in 1979

Fuller Family in 1979

Now there were six college tuitions to pay for! So their goal had not changed but the challenge to achieve it became greater. My parents put into place a plan in which they divided the work according to their strengths. Dad oversaw the budget, scouting (remember, four boys to raise), and all things green. Dad can make anything grow; his specialty is fruit trees. He cared for over 20 fruit trees which provided the family with free fresh fruit throughout the year: avocados, plums, lemons, apples, tangelos, grapefruits, apricots, limes, nectarines, oranges, and my favorite, pomegranates that came from a tree Dad had grown from a cut branch he took from my grandparent’s orchard. (I was not in the habit of buying fruit, especially avocados, until I went to college and found out that I couldn’t afford the bounty I was used to. Mom and Dad had to send me a “fruit basket” care package to make my homesickness go away.) Mom cared for the cooking, sewing and haircuts. We all went to Mom’s Salon in the kitchen. I estimate that my parents’ budget for haircuts was $100 a year for a family of eight. Mom was the only one who got a haircut at a salon and she didn’t pay more than $15 for it (tip included). I can happily report that all six children attended college and three have advanced degrees (two of whom have taught at the college/university level). It required great sacrifice on the part of my parents and was a team effort. I have always been grateful for the faith of my parents to accept an unplanned pregnancy and then decide to have yet another child. This was not an easy sacrifice for them to bear, yet they took it on.

These stories have reflected on the sacrifices people make in their families, but what about the sacrifices we make in the Gospel?

Prior to becoming an apostle, Elder Robert D. Hales shared the following story: “I served as an elders quorum president, a branch president, and a bishop over a period of five years. Then my wife and I moved our family to a new stake. My wife was asked to be the Relief Society President in our ward. She went to her first meeting with the bishop, while I chased two youngsters up and down the halls, and I had my first experience with waiting. I waited one and a half hours. When she came out, I had one boy in my arm and was holding the other by the hand. I had that look on my face. You know the look. I didn’t have the courage to say anything, but my look told her, ‘Do you realize you’ve kept me waiting for an hour and a half?’ All she did was raise five fingers and say, ‘Five years.’ That is how long she had been waiting for me.”

Brothers and sisters, we are each asked to sacrifice much for the Gospel; some struggle with this whereas others have made giving their all to their callings part of who they are.

A few weeks ago, Bryan and I attended the Huntington Beach Stake conference. Frank Parker was being released as stake president and since my husband served him as a clerk, we wanted to honor President Parker. I was not fully aware of President Parker’s length of service to the Lord until he shared his testimony. He had served as stake president for nine years, as a counselor in the stake presidency the nine years prior and as a bishop for the five prior years to that. Brothers and sisters, 23 years of continual service to the Lord’s work is a high standard and makes for a very long “honey-do” list. Not all will be asked to give in such a manner, but we have exceptional examples within our community to show us that it is possible. What was not shared in his testimony was the faith that President Parker placed in the Lord as his responsibilities grew. When he accepted the calling as stake president, he was unemployed and had been so for many months. Shortly after accepting the calling, President Parker’s former company asked him to return at a higher salary rate and with the agreement that he would be given more than the company’s normal vacation package so President Parker could spend time with his family and attend numerous stake events.

The Lord has laid out the manner by which we can achieve communion with Him. In Romans 12, Paul states, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be yet transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane by Ellen G. White

Last April, Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke on sacrifice. He stated, “… The Atonement of Jesus Christ is at the center of the plan of salvation. The incomprehensible suffering of Jesus Christ ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood, but it did not end the importance of sacrifice in the gospel plan. Our Savior requires us to continue to offer sacrifices, 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). He also commands each of us to love and serve one another — in effect, to offer a small imitation of His own sacrifice by making sacrifices of our own time and selfish priorities.”

In the temple, we make a covenant with the Lord to sacrifice. The Lord does not ask his children to do something without there being a promise. In D&C 82, we learn that “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

For my great-great-great grandfather, he was asked to leave a portion of his family in Nauvoo and start a new life in the West. He did what the Lord asked him to do. The promise he was given – a widower with three children – was that his family would grow. Elijah married again (a couple of times, actually) and had more children. This book [I hold up a 4″ thick book] catalogs his descendants. It is a testament to my family that “sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”

Brothers and sisters, President Thomas S. Monson has promised us that “wonderful, glorious things are in store for [us], if only [we] will believe, obey and endure.” Let us “listen to a prophet’s voice” and place in our handcarts what is best in order to serve the Lord who is the “fount of every blessing.” By doing so, we will be unable to count the blessings that we will receive because there will be so many.

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