I have frequently cited the following statement by Richard G. Scott, an eminent nuclear physicist and general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: “You can learn vitally important things by what you hear and see and, even more, by what you feel, as prompted by the Holy Ghost. Many individuals limit their learning primarily to what they hear or read. Be wise. Develop the skill of also learning by what you see and particularly by what the Holy Ghost prompts you to feel. Consciously and consistently seek to learn by what you feel. Your capacity to do so will expand through repeated practice. Significant faith and effort are required to learn by what you feel from the Spirit. Ask in faith for such help. Live to be worthy of such guidance.” As you read this blog entry, please consider those feelings or promptings and as they come, may I suggest that you record them. This revelatory experiences, or for those who do not share my beliefs or even faith in a deity, these intellectual impressions, will provide you with important treasures of knowledge that you will be able to use in the circumstances of your life. I hope the following thoughts will also further help people to understand some of the beliefs and philosophies that US presidential candidate Mitt Romney share with his fellow members of the Mormon faith.
Sometimes the meaning of words is derived from actions and other meanings that created those words. The word sacrifice is composed by two Latin words, “sacer” which means sacred or holy and “facere”, which means to make or to do. Therefore, in its most ancient meaning, the word sacrifice is the act of making something holy or to do that which is sacred. As a young man, I soon learned that sacrifice was to renounce to something good for something else even better that would come only at the expense of the first one. I come from a family of humble means where we could not have things that others had. We had everything we needed to live a happy and comfortable life, but the wants were relegated in the realm of our fervid imagination. I remember my school friends riding in spiffy motorcycles or cars to school while my brother and I could only walk. It wasn`t until much later that I was able to purchase my first used car. It was just a few months before my wedding and I needed the car to go to work. It cost me a whopping $700 but it was the most beautiful vehicle I had ever seen. The wait was over and it was worth it. I guess my wise parents had prepared me to understand how important it was to set aside the desire for things that were good and, in fact, desirable, for things that were more worthy but could not provide immediate gratification. My wife grew up with the same principles and we try to teach those principles to our children. We explain to them almost daily the value of hard work and how we can be happy by simply enjoying the blessings we have. When we buy things, even for them, we explain the value of those things and we try not to purchase stuff for frivolous reasons or just because others have it. Recently, we had to exercise a bit of flexibility and we relinquished to our son and daughter request to buy an iPod. The only reason we did it was because their neighbours were selling their two older contraptions for $10 each, having received new ones as gifts. Yes, one of them has a crack line that shows in the upper left corner of the screen, but it works well.
In a society that has become more accustomed to immediate gratification and entitlement, the value of sacrifice is becoming more and more difficult to find. Hence, it has become more imperative to exercise. True sacrifice is a measure of integrity, self-respect and balance in all things. True, selfless sacrifice can only be found in two essential areas: first whenever and wherever we as individuals, exercise a conscious effort to renounce to something for the betterment of ourselves. The prophet Samuel said “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel was trying to explain that outwardly expressions of sacrifice can only be sincere and acceptable if supported by an inwardly effort of repentance. Jesus Christ Himself said it even more clearly: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” The outcome of this behaviour is a sweet reward. However it does not come immediately. Instead the wait may be long and somewhat hard at times. But it is worth it. The Lord revealed this secret to the prophet Joseph Smith when He said to him: “Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that…all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 98, verse 3) He further said to the afflicted prophet during a very difficult time in which he had been languishing in prison unjustly: “and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (Doctine & Covenants, Scetion 122, verse 7) How hard then it is in front of these glorious promises to show our level of sacrifice by keeping all the commandments and waiting patiently for an eternal reward that surely will come? And yet how many fail. Sacrifice is also perseverance.
Also, it is important to understand the value of sacrifice for the benefit of others. We are intrinsically connected to others. I believe that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. In fact, I believe we are all offspring of divine nature. We live with others, and we need to be, in order to experience this life fully. We heard the statement from Jesus: “And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mark 12:30-31) The ancient prophet and ruler Benjamin masterly described the practical application of this golden rule when he taught to his people: “And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will he suffer that they … fight and quarrel one with another… But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition in vain, and turn him out to perish.” (The Book of Mormon, Mosiah, Chapter 4, verses 13 to 16)
I learned a lesson of service, sacrifice and humility when I served a mission for my church. Upon arrival to the mission office as a newly called missionary, and after two days of training with my Mission President and his assistants, I was given my first assignment and companion. I was to travel by train to Pisa, the city of the leaning tower, and meet my first companion at the train station for my very first day in the mission field. I had high expectations of preaching the word of God and helping people to come unto Christ. It was the enthusiasm of a 20 something year old young man with no true experience of life. So, after meeting my smiling companion and feeling his enthusiasm as well, I thought we would be immediately engaged in missionary activities, at least in the way I believed what that meant. However, after depositing my luggage, we left our apartment and we took the bus to a catholic nursery home for assisted living seniors, managed by nuns. I thought we were going to see some older person who was interested in the gospel. I was soon disappointed when a nun came to greet my companion and assigned us to a room where we were to feed those who lived there. I have to confess that my first thought was of displacement. I did not think I understood the reason for me to be there. Plus, it was evident that the nuns were doing a great job. However, something began to happen when I saw the expression of gratitude by that nun who gave us the assignment as she left us to our task with a ‘God bless you for what you do.’ As soon as I took a spoonful of soup and put it in the mouth of a disabled woman who could not speak because of her condition, a spirit of deep humility enwrapped me and I saw my purpose and mission in a very different light. As tears rolled down my cheek, I began to understand, as a Christian, the words of the Christ when he said: “…For I was hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in… Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40 KJV) As a person, the very acting of being available brought me to the realization that we are all connected and that we all need each other. Without others, we would have a really miserable existence. All of a sudden, many of the teachings I had received from my parents and extended family began to make sense. I understand now that faith without works is indeed dead. So is preaching doctrine without practising the works of service and sacrifice. The ancient apostle Paul epitomized this principle when he wrote: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work…Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgiving unto God.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, 11-12 KJV) Past Mormon Church President Spencer W. Kimball, whose life exemplified the word sacrifice, once said: “God does notice us an watches after us. But it is usually through another mortal that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”
In conclusion, let me suggest three simple ways to sacrifice and serve in a more meaningful way:
First, let’s serve our family: as fathers and husbands, we need to resist the temptation to a tired and negative attitude after a long and stressful day at work, and we should recharge ourselves by relieving our spouses in the simple chores around the house. Let’s help our children to appreciate the warmth we feel inside when we help our own family. A spirit of unity will then dwell in the house and people that come to visit will notice the difference. I am very grateful to my parents for teaching me this principle. I am also extremely grateful to my wife who exemplifies the word service in our house and to all the people she knows. She has learned this from her parents and I am ever blessed to be part of her life.
Second, let’s serve in our community. There is no greater joy than providing assistance to members of the community, especially those within our circle of influence such as neighbours, friends, coworkers, etc. Some of them, in fact many, may have lost their touch with life and just need a friendly voice to lean on. In other words, they probably need to feel again a measure of consideration that probably only we can give. Through discernment and consideration we can easily realize the needs of those we know and promptly act when we recognize that something needs to be done. Steven Snow said: “Service is to be given as needed, not when convenient. Opportunities to serve may not always seem obvious, as it is human nature to worry about our own wants and needs. We must resist such tendencies and look for opportunities to serve… look for ways to bless the lives of others through seemingly simple acts of service. It is better to do even things of little consequence than to do nothing at all.”
The words of a beloved hymn come to mind as I see the power for good that all of you are:
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
Then wake up and do something more
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.