Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints promise in the endowment ceremony in sacred temples to obey “the law of sacrifice.” And yet, little is explained about what this consequential law actually requires.
The church’s General Handbook (section 27.2) says that the law of sacrifice means “sacrificing to support the Lord’s work and repenting with a broken heart and contrite spirit.”
To me, this definition is quite interesting. It brought up some aspects of the law that I hadn’t considered. It is not only about sacrificing to do the Lord’s work, but also sacrificing our desires in order to improve (repent).
Accepting the law of sacrifice seems to signal a willingness to accept any pain or difficulty that will come to us if we choose to follow the path of discipleship. You become a willing participant in the refiner’s fire.
If the Lord requires you to experience the death of a spouse in order to strengthen your faith, you’ve now accepted that challenge. If the Lord requires you to move to a different state, or accept a challenging calling, or live single, or deal with chronic pain or any challenge that could strengthen you, you’ve accepted it. It’s part of repentance, which really just means allowing our weaknesses and faults to become whole through Jesus Christ.
Is The Law of Sacrifice More Broad Than We Think?
I was intrigued to read a definition of the law of sacrifice on “The Art of Manliness” page written by an author who is a member of the church: “The law of sacrifice says that you cannot get something you want, without giving up something in return.”
I have really reflected on that thought. Is the law of sacrifice as broad as saying that all progress requires sacrifice? That we can never get anything good without sacrifice? I have reflected on that question all day, and I simply can’t think of an exception.
Certainly, God gives us many good gifts that we do not deserve. Our efforts do not match or create the gifts by their own, but God still requires our effort in order for his grace to fully give the gift.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “The primary purpose of the law of sacrifice is twofold: to test us and to assist us to come unto Christ.”
The Institution of the Law of Sacrifice
The law of sacrifice was contemplated before we were even sent down to earth, and instituted in the Garden of Eden.
“The Lord designed in the beginning to place before man the knowledge of good and evil, and gave him a commandment to cleave to good and abstain from evil. But if he should fail, he would give to him the law of sacrifice and provide a Savior for him, that he might be brought back again into the presence and favor of God and partake of eternal life with him. This was the plan of redemption chosen and instituted by the Almighty before man was placed on the earth”Joseph F. Smith (Gospel Doctrine , 202)
It is interesting to me that President Joseph F. Smith said “If [men] should fail” and partake of the fruit, then God would give the law of sacrifice. This implies that the law of sacrifice was not in play before this event.
I then wondered if the law of sacrifice is a mortal law, or a celestial law. It is difficult to even conceive of receiving something without sacrifice because of the bounds of our mortal life which always require this law. However, will the same be true in heaven after Christ’s atonement fully pays for all good? We certainly will be required to follow laws and to work, but I wonder if the full law of sacrifice will still be at play.
Certainly, the Savior’s sacrifice completed the ancient form of the law of sacrifice which was accomplished by the shedding of animal blood.
“Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be … a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled. … And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.”(Alma 34:13–14)
After the Law of Moses was completed in Christ, our Savior instituted the higher law. We obey the law of sacrifice by offering up to God “a broken heart, and contrite spirit.” We sacrifice our desires, our passions, our lusts, and every desire of our hearts to the Lord. Our mortal lives cease to become enough. We must also lay our own soul on the alter so that it, too, can be perfected in Him.
“Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him…” Omni 1:26.
Putting The Law of Sacrifice Into Perspective With Other Temple Covenants
According to the public General Handbook, the following are the covenants that members of the Church make when receiving the endowment in temples:
- “Live the law of obedience and strive to keep Heavenly Father’s commandments.
- Obey the law of sacrifice, which means sacrificing to support the Lord’s work and repenting with a broken heart and contrite spirit.
- Obey the law of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the higher law that He taught while He was on the earth.
- Keep the law of chastity, which means having sexual relations only with those to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded according to God’s law.
- Keep the law of consecration, which means dedicating their time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed them to building up Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth.”
To me, it is interesting that the first covenant is the law of obedience. Did we not already make that promise at baptism (Mosiah 18:9)? Have we not also made that same covenant every single time we take the sacrament (D&C 20:77)?
Next, the law of sacrifice. Yet, this covenant also feels quite familiar. If it is defined as (1) Sacrificing to support the Lord’s work, and (2) repenting with a broken heart and contrite spirit, then we should analyze those two parts to see if this is actually a new covenant we make in the temple.
First, sacrificing to support the Lord’s work. At baptism, we promise to bear one another’s burdens, and even to stand as a witness of God even until death (Mosiah 18:9). To me, that seems to encompass the first portion of the Law of Sacrifice.
Second, “Repenting with a broken heart and contrite spirit.” This also is a covenant we made at baptism. D&C 20:37 says “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins…”
It seems to me that by the time we enter the temple, we have already promised to follow the Law of Sacrifice. I wonder if this temple covenant is a renewal of our baptismal promise–just as we continually promise in the sacrament to do many of the things we also promised at baptism. I could be wrong if there are aspects of the Law of Sacrifice that I simply don’t yet understand, but it seems that this temple covenant is not novel.
Next, we promise in the temple to obey the law of the gospel, which is the higher law. This may be the first time we make this promise specifically, but the law has certainly has always been in play.
Then, we promise to obey the law of chastity, which frankly is already required as a requisite for baptism and entrance into the temple.
All of that seems to be in preparation for the last covenant–the law of consecration. The law of consecration is so all-encompassing that it affects nearly every aspect of a disciple’s life. I squirm a little in Sunday School when I hear that we don’t live the law of consecration. They mean we don’t have all property in common like some pioneer settlements, but we actually promise far MORE than just that. The law of consecration “means dedicating their time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed them to building up Jesus Christ’s Church on the earth.“
I don’t claim to understand all that is intended in the covenants we make in the endowment, but I am of the opinion that the only new covenants we make in the temple are the law of consecration and technically the law of the gospel. The other covenants are renewals of promises we have made before. If I am wrong on this, please leave a comment and help me to learn.