Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The greatest satisfaction

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday afternoon session from the April 1975 Conference.
I loved Elder Bruce R. McConkie's talk in this session of Conference. I'm always wanting to know more about temple covenants, and this treated some of them in great depth. The talk helped me understand the difference between the Law of Sacrifice and the Law of Consecration, which is something I've often wondered about. I knew they were connected, but Elder McConkie's explanation helped me sort it out:
Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church: such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth. 
The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.
Put even more simply, it seems like the Law of Sacrifice requires us to give up, where the Law of Consecration requires us to give. Sometimes they might overlap, like if we were asked to give up money so we could give it for the building up of temples. But other times they have different goals: we may give up a pet cause that is keeping our heart from God's work, for example, but in turn give our energy—that is, focus it, use it, stretch it—in the service of God. That way of thinking of things was clarifying to me.

Elder McConkie continues:
To gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do. 
How, for instance, can we establish our ability to live the full law of consecration if we do not in fact pay an honest tithing? Or how can we prove our willingness to sacrifice all things, if need be, if we do not make the small sacrifices of time and toil, or of money and means, that we are now asked to make?
And I love his conclusion:
Every member of his church has this promise: That if he remains true and faithful—obeying, serving, consecrating, sacrificing, as required by the gospel—he shall be repaid in eternity a thousandfold and shall have eternal life. What more can we ask?
Once I had sacrifice and consecration on my mind, I noticed these same principles coming up in several of the other talks as well. One of my favorite sections was in Elder Hartman Rector, Jr.'s talk called The Roots of Mormonism. Let me back up: I've been thinking a lot lately about the relief and satisfaction that comes with completing a task or an assignment. Even on a small scale—finishing up a few items on my to-do list for the day, or at the end of a Cub Scout activity I was in charge of—I love the feeling of knowing I actually DID something. That may be because there are so many things I don't get the satisfaction of "completing" (laundry…cooking…teaching the children) but even then, I love being able to sink into a chair and say to myself, "Ah…DONE for now." And I think everyone feels that. Even my little two-year-old can't get enough of saying "I did it!" when he finishes something hard. (This goes with what I was talking about with Elder Hales last week, too!)

Because I love these types of feelings so much, I have always been drawn to the scripture where Paul says "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." It just fascinates me. How could he be so sure he had fought a good fight and finished his course? How did it feel to be able to say that, even knowing of his mistakes and imperfections? What a glorious feeling it must have been for him to know he could finally rest and be assured that he had done a good job, that God was pleased with his offering. I saw something similar in my Dad's face as he passed away. He was free, he was happy. He knew he had done what he could, and it was enough. As I watched him, I wanted so much to have that knowledge and relief for myself someday!

So, I knew just what Elder Rector meant when he said:
The glory of work cannot be overemphasized. The satisfaction of a difficult task successfully completed or accomplished is one of the greatest satisfactions that we know in this life.
It's true. The difficulty of the task only makes the completion of it that much more satisfying. Then (and I loved this), Elder Rector says
It seems we are eternally having to do that which we may not particularly want to do to bring to pass the purposes of God among his children on earth.The real secret of the success of the Lord’s program here on earth, or anywhere else for that matter, is sacrifice.
I just love the way the two things tie together: the fact that doing something hard, something we don't particularly WANT to do, in no way diminishes the satisfaction of having done it! That is—I suppose doing something unpleasant just for the sake of being unpleasant wouldn't bring much fulfillment—but both giving up and giving (sacrifice and consecration) hard things for the Lord's sake—for the sake of our covenants—makes our feelings of satisfaction even more all-encompassing once the task is done!

The main point of Elder Rector's talk is that the programs of the church are only effective because of the deep commitment in the hearts of those who carry them out. The programs by themselves are hollow, but with a committed, covenant people filling them, they become living and powerful vehicles that carry us toward God.
It is not the program, but people with a certain knowledge of God and their relationship to him burning in their hearts that bring about success in the activities of the kingdom. This is the strength and vitality of Mormonism.
I loved connecting that principle to the covenants we make in the temple, and to Elder McConkie's talk. It is not simply the giving up of time and energy that brings us joy and satisfaction. It is not the draining, unending work of parenthood or the demands of a challenging calling alone that will lead us to that feeling of "I did it!" It's the doing of those acts, the giving of those gifts, as purposeful and willing fulfillment of the covenants we have made, that allows us to know for ourselves that we can be happy with our work. It is our covenant relationship with God which gives us a standard we can reach toward, and ultimately, reach—and which brings us those feelings of deepest joy when we complete the work we know He has set before us.

I've run marathons and felt amazing relief and joy upon their completion. I've come home after a Young Women's activity or a Relief Society dinner and collapsed with utter thankfulness that it was a success. And of course, like most mothers, after the birth of each of my children, I have felt an almost indescribable joy and satisfaction that we did it, this child and me. We made it through pregnancy and labor and we have truly been delivered into a brand new world full of light. And those feelings, magnified a hundredfold, are what I imagine as the greatest reward, someday, if I can say what Paul said at the end of his race. "I have obeyed, I have served, I have sacrificed, I have consecrated all that I had. I have kept the faith." I can only imagine the feelings that will overcome us when the Savior Himself approves our work, and honors those covenants we cherished, now fulfilled.

Other posts in this series:

4 comments:

  1. Well this is crazy! I seriously only an hour ago read this from Pres. Benson:

    "This is our day to show what we can do--what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly bring to God. If we give our all, we will get his all from the greatest of all."

    And I was thinking and praying that I could see this time (of consumed by baby needs) as set apart and a sacrifice of personal things, etc that I am choosing to offer God. And then lo and behold, you've written a blog post touching on the very thing!

    Also, after reading the first two quotes I thought, "So, I could think of them like 'give' and 'give up'." And then -- your next sentence! Ha!

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    1. I love it when we're on the same wavelength. :) Great quote from Pres. Benson! It reminds me of the talk last week from Elder Hales too. Definitely seems to be a theme cropping up in my life right now!

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