Last week (March 10th, 2013) I had the opportunity to speak in my ward's sacrament meeting before I report to the MTC. It was such a happy day. And I got to share it with so many loved ones. I had people near and far come to support me and I felt of their love. I felt the love of my Savior. And I felt love for them all. It was such a happy day, I am truly blessed with so many loving family and friends to support me in this decision. I got to speak on Sacrifice. I focused on the Lord, our Savior, the Ultimate Sacrifice. I am so grateful for His example of love as He Atoned for each and every one of us. He is the ultimate example in all that we do. He sacrificed for us, and all He asks is that we come to Him with a broken heart and contrite Spirit as our sacrifice. We will then be blessed with love and never-ending happiness. I had such a great Sabbath as I got to share my day with people I love and got to share with them my testimony of the Savior. And I actually wrote down my whole talk (almost exactly what I said..) to send to a few friends on a mission who asked me to send it to them since they were unable to attend. Feel free to read on...

(I opened with a joke about how I was more than likely going to be looking down most of the time.. I usually try to just write notes and actually talk to the congregation when I give talks, but I admitted right up front that this probably wouldn't be the case this time. Because 1- I have never been so nervous before in my life. And 2- because any time I looked out into the congregation I would see my sister and start to tear up, then make eye contact with my friends and start making faces to try to lighten the mood, and then looking at my mom and getting this look like, "Come on Madisen. You're 21. People are looking at you." People laughed.. I promise.. you just had to be there.)

When I was sitting in the congregation at Elder McGregors farewell a few weeks ago and noticed that the topic was joy, I couldn’t help but wonder what my topic would be. I thought to myself, “I think it’d be really cool to speak on sacrifice.” But I had no idea why, it’s not like I had anything specific about sacrifice in mind.. it just popped in. And I quickly pushed it aside and continued to pay attention to the meeting. Then, after that meeting I was pulled aside and told what would be happening for today. Before walking away I asked if the topic was known yet. He looked for me. And sure enough.. sacrifice. Now, don’t get your hopes up that this is going to be the greatest talk you’ve ever heard. It actually kind of freaked me out. But, I thought it was really cool. As I am really excited and honored.. as well as terrified to speak to you today.

Now, ever since then I have been pondering sacrifice. What sacrifice is, what the word actually means, what it means to me, things like this. As I was pondering this I decided that so often we look at sacrifice as a bad thing. I want to start off now by saying that it is very much so the opposite. When I think of “sacrifice” I would much rather focus on the part where it is giving something up for something “better” not that it is negative of simply just “giving something up.”

As I was studying this subject, I came across a talk that described my thoughts exactly. It is titled, The Blessings of Sacrifice by Elder M. Russell Ballard. Towards the end of this talk he portrayed my thoughts perfectly, “

As I was studying this subject, I came across a talk that described my thoughts exactly. It is titled, The Blessings of Sacrifice by Elder M. Russell Ballard. Towards the end of this talk he portrayed my thoughts perfectly, “Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love. The degree of our love for the Lord, for the gospel, and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ manifested the supreme example of this love. His life and ministry established a pattern for us to follow. His divine mission was culminated in a supreme act of love as He allowed His life to be sacrificed for us. Having power over life and death, He chose to submit himself to pain, ridicule, and suffering, and offered His life as a ransom for our sins. Because of His love, He suffered both body and spirit to a degree beyond our comprehension and took upon Himself our sins if we repent. Through His personal sacrifice, He provided a way for us to have our sins forgiven and, through Him, to find our way back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

The sacrifice he requires of us is “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Ne. 9:20) that can lead us to repentance. When we consider His example, the demands made upon our time or means are slight in comparison. We should, therefore, give gladly and count it as a blessing and an opportunity.”

I love this quote particularly because it is focusing on the ultimate sacrifice. The sacrifice that matters most. The sacrifice that set the example to us. Jesus Christ gave His own life gladly because He loves us. It was the most selfless act anybody has ever done. The definition that we often hear for “sacrifice” is to give up something good for something better. When I thought of His ultimate sacrifice in these terms it hit me hard. Jesus Christ sacrificed something great and perfect, His life, for something greater, us. So that we may have the chance to return to our Father in Heaven. That says so much about our worth in the site of God, which is the real opinion that matters. And as we learn in 3 Nephi 9:20, the sacrifice that He requires of us is to come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and repent, taking full advantage of His great Atoning sacrifice. Which He gave freely, to sacrifice something is a choice, just like everything else. Jesus Christ chose to suffer and die for each of us. The fact that that was His choice makes it so much more powerful to me.

Each choice we make is accompanied by a consequence. Christ knew what He was doing. And we can know what we are doing to. Whenever we are faced with a choice, we weigh our options. We choose the one that is more “worth it.” Sometimes we make decisions with a temporal frame of mind, but I know that the way to true happiness can be found in the eternities.

When I was thinking about things that I have had to sacrifice in my life.. I was having a hard time thinking of anything that was really all that hard. Of course I’ve had to do hard things in my life, but with the end goal in mind it sure makes it a lot easier. That’s the thing with sacrifices, when we have faith that it is for a greater purpose.. it becomes easier. It is very much so an act of faith when we sacrifice things in our life; whether it be to put off the natural man and our natural desires and temptations of this world, give of our time freely to lighten the burdens of another, or to leave our families for a year and a half. Each and every thing we will ever have to sacrifice will show our dedication, appreciation, and love for the Lord and His ultimate sacrifice.

I came across a scripture the other day that really stood out to me. It is found in Mosiah chapter 2 verse 41. And it reads, “And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.”

That scripture is the exact reason that a “sacrifice” is actually a good thing. When we sacrifice everything by putting God first and keeping His commandments we will be blessed with happiness in this life and with never-ending happiness with the opportunity to dwell with God. That was the purpose of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, that we all may have the opportunity to return to our Father in Heaven, and that is what makes it so worth it.

This whole church runs on sacrifice. None of you are being paid to take time out of your week to attend your church meetings or to fulfill your callings. But you are surely blessed with spiritual gifts as well as temporal blessings when you do those things. At least, I have been. In the talk given by Elder Ballard he says, “It is our privilege to invest our means and our time to bless others. Each one of us must do all we can to preserve our Latter-day Saint way of life. A vital part of this preservation is a willingness to set aside personal desires and replace them with unselfish sacrifice for others.” I know that as we have this selfless attitude we will actually be blessed and we all may be a happier people.

In biblical times, people would offer live sacrifices to show their dedication to the Lord and to remember His great Atoning sacrifice. Which is why we are now asked to offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Each week we have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. This is a great time for us to reflect on our Savior’s loving sacrifice for us as we renew our covenants and commitments to Him. That’s what the sacrament is, a symbol of His atoning sacrifice. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “How can we have the Spirit of the Lord to guide our choices so that we will remain “unspotted from the world” and on the safe path through mortality? We need to qualify for the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We do this by keeping His commandment to come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and in that wonderful weekly meeting partake of the emblems of the sacrament and make the covenants that qualify us for the precious promise that we will always have His Spirit to be with us.” What a blessing the sacrament truly is.

I was trying to think of an example from my life to apply to sacrifice, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything that even compares to our Savior’s sacrifice for us. But I do know that even the little sacrifices show our love for God, and as stated earlier, specifically a broken heart and contrite spirit, which is all He asks.

I thought of Peter and Andrew as they gave up their ways to follow the Lord because they knew it would be worth it. In this past General Conference Elder Hales said, “As Christians today, we have the opportunity to act straightway, immediately, and decisively, just as Peter and Andrew did: “they forsook their nets, and followed him.” We too are called upon to leave our nets, to reject worldly habits, customs, and traditions. We are also called to forsake our sins. “When [Jesus] had called the people unto him … , he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Denying ourselves of ungodly behavior is the beginning of repentance, which brings a mighty change of heart until “we have no more disposition to do evil.

This change, called conversion, is possible only through the Savior. Jesus promised: “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. … And my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” As we are made new in Christ, our very natures change and we no longer want to go back to our old ways.” I find great comfort in this, knowing that we can be completely transformed when we choose to follow Christ and humble ourselves before Him.

In my life I have seen time and time again as I have given of my time and my recourses to follow Christ’s example I have been blessed with a sure knowledge that He loves me. I have felt my burden’s been lightened as I have assisted another in their burdens instead of worrying about my own silly problems. I have felt the love of our Savior for others as well, as I choose to serve them. And I already love the people of San Bernardino California so much and I cannot wait to get out there and share with them my testimony that this gospel is true and this is where true happiness is found.

One of my favorite quotes on the Atonement is found in a talk given by President Boyd K. Packer that says, “That is the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Atonement: to take anyone who comes, anyone who will join, and put them through an experience so that at the end of their life, they can go through the veil having repented of their sins and having been washed clean through the blood of Christ.

That is what Latter-day Saints do around the world. That is the Light we offer to those who are in darkness and have lost their way. Wherever our members and missionaries may go, our message is one of faith and hope in the Savior Jesus Christ.”

I testify to you right now that as we follow our Lord and Savior’s example of sacrifice that you will be blessed, because His Atoning sacrifice is a blessing. He died, sacrificing His life, that we might live. He loves us so much that He willingly suffered for each and every pain and sorrow of this world that we may repent. I know that when I allow the Atonement to take place more fully in my life I am much happier than when I do not. He knows all things. He experienced every single thing we will ever experience. He knows how we feel and He wants for us to know true happiness. I know that He gave man weakness that we may be humble, which are blessings in that they help us give our sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit. I know that those weaknesses can be made strong through Him. He is the light and the love of the world. He made all things possible. He is our strength.

Alama 26:12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

And with that I leave with you my testimony that this is the only true gospel in it's fullness on the earth today, and I say this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.