Several years ago my dad was called to preside over a large group of LDS missionaries in London, England. The call was to serve for three years and was also extended to my mom and brother, seeing as he was still living at home and would be moving with them. My brother was in junior high school at the time. My sister Lindsay was at college and Katelyn was trying to decide if she was going to marry Wade. The call to serve implied sacrifice, which was obvious on the part of my parents, not as blatantly assumed on the part of my siblings. This experience for my family ended up being the greatest lesson in sacrifice I have ever witnessed or been a part of.
Each person in my family, myself least of all, laid something on the alter for this experience. My sisters sacrificed more than anyone anticipated would be necessary in ways that created heartache, stretching and often a deep sense of loneliness. The greatest sacrifice, however, came on the part of my brother and my parents who were first-hand witnesses to his struggles. As the darkness of the call seemed all-consuming, we wondered what good was to come out of this sacrifice. Today in Relief Society we briefly revisited the story of Adam when he was offering a sacrifice at an alter after being cast out of the garden of Eden. When he was approached and asked why he was doing that, he responded with, “I know not.” I heard that answer several times as conversations with my parents turned to questions… why were we asked to do this? Why must he suffer? Isn’t it time to come home? Always the answer was the same. My dad would respond saying that he didn’t know why, only that he was asked to be there and they were supposed to stay and finish this call. The answer, while affirming my dad’s faith, was often frustrating to my sisters and I who were ready to see my brother removed from the hell he was living. While sacrifice brings forth blessings, the question became, “is this worth sacrificing a son? a brother?”
We were asked today what blessings come from sacrifice. I can not share the personal blessings each of my family members received, but I know that Ben is who he is today because of the low, dark valleys he suffered through in London. He is infinitely more compassionate and understanding of others than before he went. He is wiser and more competent than any other adolescent I have ever met. I believe he has a relationship with the Lord that for him couldn’t have been developed any other way than to come to the end of his light, be succumbed with darkness and feel what it is to need the Savior to survive. He has a perspective that is unique and in large part exists because of his sacrifice. He may claim different blessings than I see, but I am grateful that after crawling through the refiner’s fire, he came out exemplary.
When this call was extended, blessings were promised to our entire family. My parents left with the surety that their children would be watched over in their absence. Again, I can not speak for my sisters, who had many more dark days than I during those three years, but I know without a doubt that our family was blessed. I know that I received blessings directly from my Father in Heaven because of my parents’ obedience and willingness to serve. During the time they were gone, I was blessed with amazing experiences in regard to my marriage, my education and my own spiritual growth. Within those three years of sacrifice, I was also blessed with a son. There is no denying the fact that sacrifice brings forth blessings. I was fortunate to have sacrificed the least through this experience and be blessed with so much, but I know that my family is closer and stronger and has been blessed beyond measure in Ben’s character alone for the sacrifices made.
Francis Webster was at a meeting regarding the Martin Handcart company disaster where many were criticizing the leaders of the company for decisions made. Webster stood and said, “No. You may not judge. You weren’t there. Every person came out of that experience knowing God in their extremities. No one would take that back.”
I believe that thus far in my life the greatest sacrifices I have been asked to make are of my time and my comfort. I also believe that someday I will be asked to give much more. I am grateful for the law of sacrifice and for the blessings obedience brings about.