Why sacrifice is required can only be understood when looking upon mortality from a spiritually profound height. The whole purpose of this life is to prove us, or to teach and then test us, to see if we will “do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them”. (Abraham 3:25)
The purpose for this test, and the object of it (obedience), is best understood in the light that the ultimate and highest outcome of mortality is to receive “all the Father hath”. This gift is not one of things and stuff. It is the gift of the creative power. When you can create anything through the vast powers of godhood, you have everything God has. The beauty is that everyone who qualifies can have everything in concert with everyone else. The promise, as extraordinary and impossible as it sounds, (that more than one person can have “everything”) can be fully endowed.
Since God Himself obeys laws He enacted into being, (justice, agency, creation and the work of exalting others). He requires that anyone who receives His creative power be able and eternally willing to live the same laws. Hence – the overarching and undergirding demands that we learn to obey. Obedience is all that matters. We can be gifted with kindness, love, and willing godlike service. But eternally inviolate agency demands that those who would become gods, must choose and demonstrate and set in eternal stone, their unending obedience to the same laws God obeys.
The only way to learn, demonstrate and establish in the record of heaven that we possess that level of obedience is through the sacrifice of all things.
Joseph Smith explained it this way in the Lectures on Faith:
7. “Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 6:7)
Thus it is by willing sacrifice that we obtain “the actual knowledge” that we will obtain eternal life. This actual knowledge is a revelation of unmistakable power, which informs the obedient seeker that his or her calling and election is made sure.
Joseph also left us this explanation:
“After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure,” (Teachings, pp. 150.)
Last of all, I wish to add these words of hope. This great gift is not reserved for the greatest of the great, or the best of the best. These promises and this process of obtaining all that the Father hath is held out to all who desire it, and who are willing to sacrifice to obtain it.
Why is it that we can all do it? It is because sacrifice engages the mighty gears of the Atonement, and Jesus Christ changes us, He upgrades and polishes, purifies and sanctifies us. He does it all – not we mere mortals. He does it all in return for our obedience to His will.
It is surely a demanding process, and it will try anyone who pursues it to the utmost of their faith and courage, but it is a process we must endure on this pathway to exaltation. We must emerge through the flames of purification, not around them.
The glorious, wondrous, and healing truth that operates right within these flames of purification is that the process is infused with Joy. Miracles happen, the heavens open, angels attend, the veil is thinned, and the doctrine of the priesthood distills upon our souls as the dews from heaven. It is above all, the penultimate mortal existence.
Tomorrow: Calling & Election and Seeing the Lord