Sacrifice is something we are all expected to do for Jesus Christ and His gospel. It is something that at times can be very simple, but at times can also be very hard. In my most recent study of the Book of Mormon, the story of King Lamoni’s father really stuck out to me. His willingness to sacrifice everything to know Christ is very inspirational; and in studying his story, he has become my newest Book of Mormon hero. The story of King Lamoni’s father also serves as a great contradiction to the story of the rich young man found in the New Testament. The contrast between these two stories serve as a great example of how much we should be willing to sacrifice when it comes to following Jesus Christ.
The rich young man’s story can be found in Mark 10:17-31. This man asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him that he knew the commandments, then the man replied that he had observed those his whole life. Jesus’ response is the big test of faith:
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. (Mark 10:21)
Jesus loved this man, and because he loved this man – because he loves all of us – he gave simple and clear directions on what to do: give up his (our) worldly possessions, give them to the poor (serve others), and follow Him. The man “was sad at that saying,” and chose to walk away rather than follow Jesus “for he had great possessions.” (vs. 22)
It has always been interesting to me how this man responded when he could physically see and talk to Jesus. He obviously knew – or at least believed – that Jesus had the right answer or he wouldn’t have asked him. It also was a pretty important question that he truly sought the answer for. It wasn’t one of those interpretation-of-the-law questions that the Pharisees liked to ask in order to trap Jesus; and yet he wasn’t willing to sacrifice his worldly possessions and follow Christ.
In his October 2015 address What Lack I Yet?, Elder Larry R. Lawrence commented on the rich young man’s decision saying,
“He was humble enough to ask the Lord but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given. We must be willing to act when we receive an answer.”
Elder Lawrence later says that the Holy Ghost gives “customized counsel.” What Jesus told the rich young man to do was what he specifically needed to do for his individual progress. That applies to each of us as well. As we are given the opportunity to make sacrifices, those sacrifices will be different than the sacrifices our family, friends, and neighbors make.
The experience of King Lamoni’s father is quite different, and a much better example for us to follow.
King Lamoni’s father (see Alma 20-23) began sacrificing before he even had a testimony of Jesus Christ. The prophet Ammon and King Lamoni ran into Lamoni’s father while traveling. Upset to see his son in the company of a Nephite, Lamoni’s father commanded his son to kill Ammon, which Lamoni refused to do. Lamoni was king over a small portion of the land, and was still subject to his father who was king over all the land, so it was a big deal that he disobeyed his father. Lamoni’s father then chose to kill his son for his disobedience. Ammon stopped him, Lamoni’s father then turned his anger towards Ammon and tried to kill him again. Ammon was able to defend himself and gained the upper hand. Lamoni’s father then said to Ammon, “If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom.” (Alma 20:23) Alma responded,
“If thou wilt grant that my brethren may be cast out of prison, and also that Lamoni may retain his kingdom, and that ye be not displeased with him, but grant that he may do according to his own desires in whatsoever thing he thinketh, then will I spare thee; otherwise I will smite thee to the earth.” (Alma 20:24)
Lamoni’s father agreed to those terms and invited Ammon to come to his kingdom after his brethren were freed.
Let’s take a look at the sacrifices Lamoni’s father (who will now be called “the King”) has made so far. First, he was willing to bestow half of his kingdom to Ammon in order to save his life. Second, he gave Lamoni total control over his portion of the kingdom (something Lamoni didn’t have before). Third, he sacrificed his pride as a Lamanite and a king in accepting Ammon’s demands and inviting Ammon to visit him.
- What is this that Ammon said – If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day? (vs. 6)
- What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? (vs. 15)
- What shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? (vs. 15)
The King then made two promises to Aaron before receiving answers to those questions:
- I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words. (vs. 11)
- I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy. (vs. 15)
The King was willing to believe Aaron’s words and sacrifice his entire kingdom before he even heard Aaron’s answers to his questions. Aaron told the King to bow down to God, repent of his sins, call upon God’s name in faith, and believe that he would receive. The King was not required to give up his kingdom because as king he was in a powerful position to make changes for the Lamanites. The King then prayed to God and was converted. After his conversion he administered to his household and to the rest of his kingdom. He sent out a proclamation that Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni, and any other missionaries were no longer to be arrested or persecuted in any way. Instead, these men could be welcomed into the homes of the Lamanites. (See Alma 22:16 – 23:3)
This is a really big sacrifice for a king. The King sacrificed religious control over his kingdom. As king, he could have commanded that everyone be converted just like him and set himself up as the religious leader among the Lamanites. However, he understood that conversion is a very personal thing and knew that Ammon and his brethren were prophets. So he established religious freedom to allow the missionaries to preach and the people to choose to accept the gospel and convert.
What sticks out to me in this story is that the King was willing to sacrifice his entire kingdom and planned on believing before Aaron even answered his questions. He also didn’t ever see Jesus Christ in person like the rich young man did. In fact, Jesus had not even been born yet, and the King of the Lamanites still converted fully to Christ and His gospel.
We, like the King of the Lamanites, have never physically seen Jesus Christ with our mortal eyes; and like the King, we can still fully convert and sacrifice for Jesus Christ. The sacrifices made in these modern days will differ from person to person, and some will be easy while others will be difficult, but they will all be worth it. Here are some modern day examples of sacrifice:
- Choosing not to buy an expensive house, vehicle and other items so that you can still pay your tithing.
- Give up watching certain TV shows and movies and stop listening to certain music that drive the Spirit away.
- Give up or lessen the amount of time spent on your wants in order to focus on your family’s needs.
- Support your spouse, parent, or child in their church callings.
- Give up or lessen the amount of time spent on a habit that takes away time from scripture study, FHE, and other spiritual activities.
In my own life I have made several sacrifices for Jesus Christ and His gospel. Some were easy and didn’t really feel like a sacrifice, while others were hard. One that was difficult – that still sometimes eats at me – was when I gave up ballroom dancing in order to strengthen my marriage, start my family, and finish school faster. I sometimes feel sad and jealous when I see my friends who are still dancing post pictures in new costumes at performances and competitions. But when I am reminded of all the hours that practicing kept me away from my husband, and that I wouldn’t have my two children if I was still dancing, I know that I made the right choice. How is that a sacrifice for Christ? Well, the family is central to the plan of salvation, so sacrificing for my family is the same thing as sacrificing for Christ.
I testify that when you sacrifice for the Lord, you will be blessed. The blessings might not come right away, but they will come. What other examples of sacrifice can be found in the scriptures? What have you personally sacrificed for our Savior?