Obedience is Better than Sacrifice

I recently downloaded a talk by Gordon B. Hinckley from the BYU Speeches website. It's an old one, if it isn't rude of me to say so. My age doesn't permit me to really fathom what it means to have been alive and breathing in 1958, let alone to have been alive and wise enough by then to be speaking to a group of BYU graduates, which was the context for his address.
The talk was called The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He gave seven very compelling ideas which he thinks every man and woman should strive to understand throughout their adults lives. One in particular really threw me for a whirl.

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

My first question upon hearing that was, Wait, does that even make sense? Upon deciding that it must, or he wouldn't have said it, I then tried to tackle what it meant and came up shorter than Max Hall at 3rd down. A rather frustrating experience, let me assure you.

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

It's one of those enigmatic little statements with just enough zing to stick to your cerebrum until you can resolve it through understanding--or finally shake it loose with some kind of head trauma. I'm not a fan of the latter, and as such for the next day or so whenever I wasn't thinking about anything in particular, that clarion call of lessons not yet learned rang out... obedience is better than sacrifice... obedience is better than sacrifice...

Understanding Obedience and Sacrifice

BYU's Museum of Art has a new exhibit called Types and Shadows, and it's an exhibit full of religious art. I LOVE IT. I've been twice this week and will surely go back many more times throughout the semester. It was only when I came to a rather striking representation of Abraham and Isaac that I finally began to understand what President (then Elder) Hinckley was talking about.

Abraham was told to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. And that's exactly what Abraham intended to do, as hard as it must have been for him because Isaac was his eldest son by his first and most beloved wife, Sarah. But Abraham had the faith to do what he was told, understanding that what he was doing was to be in similitude of the sacrifice of the Messiah who was to come.

Sure, that makes sense. I'm glad it's not me, but it makes sense... until you get to the part where God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, tells him his faith has been proven, and provides an animal for him to use instead.

If what's happening between Abraham and Isaac is supposed to be in similitude of Christ, why in the world would anything less than Isaac's death be a proper similitude? Christ didn't get to stop His sacrifice halfway through and trade with an animal. What is going on here? Why the trade? If we were looking at a poem, it seems like there's be a gaping line break at this point of the story that somehow I've missed, and I realized at that moment that I couldn't account for it... until--

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

Heavenly Father is NOT a blood-thirsty God who is bent on the destruction of the wicked out of some merciless power kick, or the desire to see suffering in the lives of those beneath Him. Heavenly Father, the Father of our spirits, LOVES US PERFECTLY. Heaven wept and the earth shook the day the Only Begotten Son was crucified. Our God weeps at the sight of those who must sacrifice, who must know the weight of spilling blood. And no greater sorrow was EVER felt, I hazard to say, than for the grief of Heaven for the agony and blood of Jesus Christ.

But in spilling that blood, I testify that our Savior was perfectly obedient to the will of the Father. His submission was flawless, and I hazard to say that THIS is why the Atonement is the polished example to all mankind of what Heavenly Father asks of us, what this life is really about, why Christ's sacrifice leads us to the Father.

If you do a search of the KJV of the New Testament for the word "Father" and you focus on the Gospels, you see His point of emphasis is how to glorify, honor, please, and submit to the Father. This was what He spent His ministry teaching to all who would hear Him--how to repent and return to their Father who loves them. How, then, can we mistake His sacrifice to be anything less than the act of ultimate submission that it was intended to be?

Obedience is better than sacrifice because obedience is the reason we should make sacrifices. This is an important lesson for me to learn because I'm the kind of person who will put my shoulder to the wheel and push along until I'm too bloody and tired to keep moving anymore. I dig deep and I don't stop, losing sight of the fact that in my mortality, I'm never going to be enough. Ever. It was the lesson that Peter had to learn, and it's the one I'm still learning.

But that's not what our Father asks us for. He pleads for our wholeness and health, our fullest happiness, our reasoning, our minds, our strength. By obeying His laws, He shows us how to properly obtain these and many more great blessings. He would have us to be a holy people, a loving people, a consecrated and purified people. And we don't obtain that great blessing through bloody hands alone; rather, through obedience to the work that may, and I daresay inevitably will, cause them to be bloody.

I'd like to bear my testimony of the reality of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I know that He lives, that He atoned for our sins, and that because He did so we have a way to return to our Father. My heart could crave no better blessing, and I look forward to that day in faith and eagerness. In the name of Jesus Christ.

AMEN

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