Saturday, February 18, 2017


From our first parents, the Lord has required sacrifice.  

“And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.

And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:5-7).

The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth and fulfilled the Law of Moses.  No longer were the followers of God required to sacrifice the most valuable lamb of their flock.  A deeper, more intimate sacrifice was now necessary.

When Christ came to the Americas, he proclaimed, “Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite heart” (3 Nephi 9:20).

The heart of the natural man is cold and hard as stone. What does it mean to give a broken heart and a contrite spirit?  Essentially, we must humble ourselves and approach our Heavenly Father with a teachable spirit.  The hardened heart must be cracked, crushed, and ground to powder in order to be sculpted into what God wants it to be.

I find it interesting that Adam didn’t understand the “why” behind the commandments, but he was willing to be obedient and make the sacrifices asked of him.  Our willingness to sacrifice for the Lord is a reflection of our love for and dedication to the Father.

The natural man does not make sacrifices.  Self-preservation is the top priority of nature.  What separates us from the other animals is our powerful understanding of morality.  To sacrifice things of the world is to gain spiritual blessings.  Therefore, the natural man cannot understand spiritual truths.  Giving up this world will gain us the world to come.

In Christ’s encounter with the rich young man, we see that we must do more than simply keep the commandments in order to enter the kingdom of God.  We have to be willing to give all to our Heavenly Father.  Christ’s apostles “straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:20).

All followers of Christ have been commanded to keep the law of chastity.  In regards to same-sex attraction, any appetite outside the boundaries that the Lord has set must simply be given up.  Even when every inch of our bodies wants to satisfy that craving, we must be willing to give up all to follow Christ.  From a life-long perspective, this can be a daunting and devastating proposition.  

How could a merciful God ask so much of us?!  I’ve heard a saying that a government that can give you anything has the power to take anything from you.  However inadequate the comparison may be, I see the Supreme Creator in a similar yet inverse manner.  The Being that can give you eternal life and mansions in His kingdom must require everything of us.

Remember what God has asked of those before us.  Abraham waited a lifetime for a son with his wife, Sarah.  When he finally gained the blessing he wanted more than any earthly treasure, he was asked to literally slaughter his son, Isaac. Can you imagine?  How heart-wrenching would that be?  I’m sure that Abraham would be willing to give up anything to substitute for the life of his son.  Yet, he surrendered his will to the Father, thereby securing marvelous eternal blessings.

Christ made an enormous and incomprehensible sacrifice, suffering not only the sins of the world, but every heartbreak, sickness, temptation, and pain.  Justice required nothing of Him; He was perfect in every spiritual way.  But He surrendered His will to the Father in the ultimate and incomparable sacrifice of atonement.

So why does the Father require all of His children to make such incredible sacrifices?  How is that fair?  He has eternal life and glory in heaven, why does He want more?  Last Sunday when I was teaching Gospel Principles, it came to my mind that our Father has made enormous sacrifices.  He gave His perfect son to the wicked world for slaughter so that we could have the option to choose wrong; this is widely-acknowledged.  But another form of sacrifice is more subtle and overlooked.  

In the pre-earth life, we decided between agency and guaranteed security.  Our Father and His champion Jesus Christ stood in defense of agency.  God could have chosen to retain our agency, forcing us to live our lives without the pain of sin and making sure that we would live with Him forever in bliss.  However, HE sacrificed control over our wills for our good.  He knew that many of us would never live with Him again.  Can you imagine the torture inflicted on Him because of that choice?  He loves us in an incomprehensible way.  I doubt I could do that!  

Essentially, our Father has given us everything, which makes tithing a simple and minor sacrifice by comparison.  Nothing that we have is truly ours…except our will.  Our Heavenly Father has completely surrendered that power to us.  So in order for us to gain everything our Father has, we must be willing to give everything to Him.  

When we have these truths in mind, is abstinence and chastity that much of a sacrifice?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Bear One Another's Burdens

On my mission, we would often read Alma's admonition to his converts to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . mourn with those that mourn; . . . and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). In this chapter we are taught the attributes of a true follower of Christ. These commitments are required for baptism into the true church of Jesus Christ.

However, various situations and circumstances challenge these covenants. Perhaps a hometeacher feels uncomfortable doing his hometeaching because the family he's been asked to visit has a smoking addiction.  Maybe personalities clash. Whatever the case may be, it is human nature to withdraw from people who are different from you. There are few life differences that cause individuals to hold back friendship and compassion more than same-sex attraction.

Now my intention is making this point is not to throw an intolerance pity party. I have many friends who do not experience same-sex attraction who accept me for who I am. In fact, I've never had a negative reaction in "coming out" to anyone. However, I have been very careful and selective in whom I have shared this aspect of my life with. 

I have met many people who have taken the Church's stance on traditional marriage as a justification for "homophobia." I totally understand where they're coming from; I've been there myself, believe it or not. I feared gay people largely because I questioned my ability to ward off potential advances from them - which is probably not the reason most "homophobes" are reluctant to befriend people who experience same-sex attraction. 

A problem with LDS culture is that because we're all aiming for perfection, many maintain a veneer of sinless pietty. There's not anything overly wrong with this, provided that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and empathetic. However, there are certain sins and temptations that are untouchable. We can't stand the idea that people in OUR church have culturally deviant sexual attractions. These are not restricted to homosexual tendencies. Consider pedophilia (the attraction, not necessarily the fulfilling of this tendency) and asexuality. I've never heard these mentioned in a church setting. What about gender dysphoria? When was the last time you heard a talk, lesson, or discussion on that painful subject? I certainly never have. It makes people uncomfortable to imagine that some individuals feel incongruence with their birth sex. After all, the "Proclamation to the Family" clearly states that "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." 

"So if you don't like your gender, get over it" is the general feel of many members sentiments toward such feelings. Maybe I'm generalizing a little. Let's move on to something a little closer to home: pornography. 

Mind you, I've honestly never struggled with a pornography addiction, but I totally understand the appeal. I think most men do (at least, heterosexual pornography) which is why this topic is so often discussed in priesthood meetings. After all, a significant percentage of church members battle susceptibility to pornography.  However, when was the last time a friend confided in you that they struggled with a pornography addiction (or an addiction in general)? 

The point that I'm trying to make in this post is that, in order to be true followers of Christ, we need to be willing to comfort those who stand in need of comfort and mourn with those who mourn. How can we do that when we all pretend that everything is fine and that we don't have problems (after all, if you're living the Gospel perfectly, you won't have issues, right?)? I'm not suggesting that we confess or sins or "come out" over the pulpit, but I certainly believe that more children of God will feel at home in the body of Christ if they recognize that they can discuss their trials and temptations in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. 

Surely, we can't bear one another's burdens if we don't know what they are, and we certainly can't comfort each other without at least knowing that there is a need of comfort. Although some struggles are significantly more socially awkward than others, true discipleship requires love, compassion, and honest empathy.