When Church members overcome their own selfish desires, put God first in their lives, and covenant to serve Him regardless of the cost, then they are living the law of sacrifice, said Elder M. Russell Ballard during a New Testament Church Educational System Symposium Aug. 13.
"Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love," he told more than 8,300 full-, part-time and volunteer Church Educational Systems teachers gathered in the BYU Marriott Center. "The degree of our love for the Lord and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them."Elder Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, was one of more than 80 presenters during the three-day symposium Aug 13-15.
He said that while reflecting on Church history during a family visit to Palmyra, Kirtland and Nauvoo, his mind focused on the eternal nature of the law of sacrifice, which he called a vital part of the gospel.
He told the Church educators that it is important that students understand how the law of sacrifice was practiced in the New Testament before and after the Atonement.
Elder Ballard explained that there are two major, eternal purposes for the law of sacrifice: "To test and prove us and to assist us in coming unto Christ."
"The first purpose of the law of sacrifice is described by President Lorenzo Snow.
The trials and temptations have been very great to many of our people and more or less, perhaps, to all of us,' " quoted Elder Ballard. "The Lord seems to require some proof on our part, something to show that He can depend upon us when He wants us to accomplish certain things in His interest.' "
Elder Ballard then called the law of sacrifice a means to come unto the Lord Jesus Christ.
"No one will ever accept the Savior without having faith in Him first . . . ," he said. "To have faith and come unto Christ we must know that God exists, have a correct understanding of God, know what we do is pleasing before God, and understand that this knowledge comes to us through sacrifice and obedience. To those that come unto Christ in this way comes a confidence that whispers peace to our souls and that will eventually enable us to lay hold on eternal life."
Elder Ballard said it is interesting to note that the word sacrifice literally means "to make sacred" or "to render sacred."
"As we sacrifice more and more, we will come to better understand the life of Jesus Christ, who is the perfect example of sacrifice," he said.
Elder Ballard told the teachers that they learned their first lessons about the law of sacrifice in the premortal life, where they were taught the fullness of the gospel and the plan of salvation. "We knew of the Savior's mission, of His future atoning sacrifice, and willingly sustained Him as our Savior and our Redeemer," he said.
He explained that after the law of Moses was fulfilled, the ordinance of the sacrament replaced the ordinance of sacrifice and moved the focus of the sacrifice from a person's animal to the person himself.
Elder Ballard recounted some of the great sacrifices made by the pioneers. He then told the audience members that their "commitment to the kingdom should match that of our faithful ancestors, even though our sacrifices are different."
He added, "I believe we should increase our spiritual devotion and service to the Lord and others in order to demonstrate to the Lord our love for Him and our Heavenly Father."
Elder Ballard said the Lord asked members to wholly rid themselves of the "natural man" and all the ungodliness associated with it. "When we completely surrender ourselves to the Lord, then He will cause a mighty change in us and we will become a new person, justified, sanctified, and born again with His image in our countenances," he said.
He thanked each teacher for his or her sacrifice for the Church Education Program, telling them that their influence on the life of young people is far reaching.
"If I have a fear it is that the principle of sacrifice is slipping away from us," Elder Ballard concluded. "The principle of sacrifice is a law of God. We are obliged to understand it, teach it and live it."