If you prefer to listen over reading an article, keep an eye on A Balanced Saint of Mind on YouTube. I post video versions of my blog posts on my channel. The video versions are often posted a little later than the written blog posts.
So the Lord has made the first commandments for the Saints to gather in the chapters this week. What are the stories that are occurring around this commandment? I want to talk about some of the things happening in the hearts and minds of the people as well as the things they were sacrificing so that we can talk a little bit about our lives and what they should look like.
“Saints” First Volume, Chapter 10
“…the call (to go to Ohio) still came as a shock. At the church’s third conference, held at the Whitmer’s home soon after the new year, many of the Saints were troubled, their minds full of questions about the commandment. Ohio was sparsely settled and hundreds of miles away. Most church members knew little about it.
Many of them had also worked hard to improve their property and cultivate prosperous farms in New York. If they moved as a group to Ohio, they would have to sell their property quickly and would probably lose money. Some might even be ruined financially, especially if the land in Ohio proved less rich and fertile than their land in New York.”
To give you just a little bit more background on their lives, the Colesville Saints sacrificed even more to help their poor make it to Ohio. Emma Smith was recovering from illness, and she was pregnant with twins.
So lot’s of sacrifice and uncertainty. They had a lot of questions about how to make it work. They were concerned about being ruined financially. Some sacrificed more to help others follow the commandments. It was not comfortable.
So it is in Section 37 that the Lord gives His commandment to gather in Ohio; this occurred in December 1830. It wasn’t until January that the Saints received further guidance. The Lord gives them at least a little bit more to go off of in Section 38.
Doctrine and Covenants 38:18, 31-32
18 And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;
31 And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—
32 Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high;
Okay so what does the Lord promise here? He promises that the land will be flowing with milk and honey. He wants them to leave so they can escape their enemies and be gathered as a righteous people. In Ohio, He plans to give them His law and an endowment of power. In Ohio, the first temple in this dispensation is built and they are literally given the endowment ceremony.
So we see this pattern over and over and over. We are taught this pattern over and over and over. The Lord asks for big things from His people, things that are a little confusing and maybe even troublesome. In turn, the people who choose to be obedient and make the necessary sacrifices receive big blessings temporally but more importantly, spiritually.
There are so many different, small principles that we could focus on from that doctrine. We could focus on the fact that even if we don’t receive the blessings in this life, we will receive those blessings in the next life. We could focus on the hope and the obedience and the courage to do hard things. We could talk about how the Lord always fulfills His promises.
And we could talk about sacrificing.
These early Saints sacrificed their homes and livelihoods for uncertainty. Emma had health problems when she travelled on top of being pregnant. They sacrificed lifetimes of work and devotion, building up what they could in their lives.
As I thought about some of these sacrifices, I found myself wondering how I could possibly imagine myself standing next to some of these spiritual giants who gave up the world in pursuit of the kingdom of God. My life has been comfortable. There have been times of financial insecurity, but it was never about sacrificing my home and income and comfort or that of my children’s. How can we expect to stand next to these people who gave up everything when we’ve never been called upon to close our front doors and walk to a new state.
Some would argue that the Lord seeks willingness. If the prophet were to call upon us to do the same things these Saints did, would we be willing to follow the prophet?
I argue that the Lord has called upon us to sacrifice everything, and He expects to sacrifice everything. Does this mean abandoning our homes to live on the streets and preach the gospel? Does it mean giving away all of our income and all of our food to other people? Does it mean walking through snow storms when we’re pregnant to show the Lord our willingness?
No. It means consecrating everything we have and all of ourselves to the purposes of the Lord which many of us have already promised to do. It starts with putting down your phone to read your scriptures and consciously pushing other thoughts out of your mind so you can focus on what you’re saying in your prayer.
The Lord has a to-do list for you. The only way to find out what’s on that list is to continuously invite the Spirit into your life so that He can tell you what He wants you to do.
For some, this will look much less heroic than what the Saints did. For some, this life is the life of a mother. Laundry, driving, scheduling, tutoring, nurturing all at the expense of your own comfort, ambitions, and often, hygiene. The life of a mother is not glamorous. If the Lord asked us to do what the Saints did, many of us would feel anxiety and disappointment over past dreams that we had worked our lives for, but we would be willing to do it and the sacrifice would be openly applauded. But when it comes to the small, daily, unnoticed sacrifices made by more than just mothers, it often comes more begrudgingly.
Perhaps you worked for an education, but the Lord has asked you to stay home. He asked His early Saints to give up their dreams too. Do not mistake me; I’m not saying that’s the correct path for everyone. I’m merely pointing out one form of sacrifice.
Perhaps you worked all week and now you’ve been asked to help someone move or help clean the church building on your much-awaited weekend. Perhaps you have been meek over and over and over in a relationship that doesn’t seem to be getting healthier. Perhaps you want to go on a date but haven’t been to the temple in a few months. Perhaps you just want to live your quiet, introverted life but the Lord wants you to give a Book of Mormon to a friend. Perhaps you’ve been making great money and you’re building this great career, but the Lord wants you to serve a senior mission. Perhaps you’ve got a girlfriend but the Lord has commanded you to serve a mission as a young man. Perhaps you’re exhausted and your spouse is exhausted and the baby is crying because they threw up in the crib. Perhaps it means doing your homework late at night (despite having to wake up early for seminary) because your sibling needed someone to talk to. Perhaps it will look like serving in nursery when you’ve never really liked kids.
There will be no memorials for the small sacrifices you made. There will be no stories in the Ensign about your forgone dinner date so that you could afford some food storage. There will be no accolades about the time you accomplished the chore that was supposed to be done by spouse or sibling.
It is so much harder (in some ways!) to remember to sacrifice and be kind and generous when we live in plenty versus when we’re living in poverty amongst everyone else living in poverty. Are we awake? Are we making those sacrifices? Part of the Lord’s to-do lists for us will include laundry and going to school and earning money, but there is more on those lists. What are you doing to learn about what’s on that list? Are you taking action right now to learn about what He is asking you to sacrifice? The early Saints received a revelation from the prophet about how they should sacrifice everything. We have received some revelations from modern prophets about tithing, temple attendance, missionary service amongst other things but the Lord has more for you. It will not come directly from the prophet, but it can come directly from the Lord. What is He asking you to sacrifice this week?