Review of Ballard, M. Russell. “The Law of Sacrifice.”

Ballard, M. Russell. “The Law of Sacrifice.” In Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Timeless Gospel Messages with Insights from His Grandfathers Melvin J. Ballard and Hyrum Mack Smith, 113-31. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015. [Mormon/Sacrifice/Symbolism/Theology]

This chapter provides a helpful and insightful review of the Law of Sacrifice from the time of Adam to the Restoration, as understood in LDS theology. As an introduction Elder Ballard begins with the statement that the New Testament describes an era in which the law of sacrifice was changed after the death of Christ and it is helpful to consider how it was observed before and after the Atonement. He identifies two purposes for the law: 1) to test and prove God’s children; and 2) to bring us to Christ. His reasoning on the latter is interesting. “The law of sacrifice has always been a means for God’s children to come unto the Lord Jesus Christ,” he asserts. (p. 116) The first prerequisite is to have faith in Christ, and from the Lectures on Faith, we learn this is dependent upon possessing the idea that God exists, knowing his correct character and that one’s course of life is approved by God. We also learn from the Lectures, that the quality of faith sufficient to “lay hold” of life and salvation is generated by sacrifice. Thus, sacrifice is one means of coming to Christ. Moreover, the sacrifices themselves typified and foreshadowed the Savior’s life and mission. This is followed by a very brief section about the law of sacrifice in the pre-mortal life. D&C 138:56 and a quotation from President Joseph F. Smith are used as authority for this idea.

Elder Ballard then turns to a consideration of the law of sacrifice from Adam to Moses and asserts that two emblems were given to Adam: 1) the firstlings of the flock and 2, the firstfruits of the field. (p. 121) This is somewhat puzzling because it is generally thought that the “firstfruits” commandment came in the time of Moses. However, in the next section dealing with the law of sacrifice between Moses and the death of Jesus, he does say, “From Adam’s day to Moses’s, there was just one kind of sacrifice offered.” So it is uncertain if the earlier statement is an error, or if he had something else in mind. In addition, he explains that in the time of Moses there was an “expansion” of the number and variety of sacrificial offerings. The common element in them all is that they focus on Christ. [Parenthetically I note that on page 122, Elder Ballard lists nine parallels between the sacrifice and the Savior, however, number five is missing although two similarities may be found under number four. I suspect the sentence should have read “Fourth and fifth,” much like the following sentence begins “Sixth and seventh.” Something to correct in a future edition.]

The following section deals with the fulfillment of the law of Moses at the death of Christ which was the final blood sacrifice, and Elder Ballard shares his special Apostolic witness of this. He writes:

I stand as a special witness of this most singular event of all times. I testify in a unique way of the far-reaching effects of this most holy of all offerings. In a future day of another life when our finite reasoning will be expanded, we will more fully understand the penetrating powers of the Atonement and feel moved even more with gratitude, admiration, worship, and love toward our Savior in ways not possible in this present state. (p. 125)

The Law of Moses is not the same as the law of Sacrifice. The law was fulfilled by Christ, but the principles of the law of sacrifice continued to be part of the Gospel with the same two purposes. Two adjustments were made after Christ’s death. Sacrament replaced sacrifice and the focus moved from a person’s animal to the person themselves. So, sacrifice pointed forward to the sacrificial atonement of Christ and the sacrament looks back to or memorializes it. The Savior “elevated” the law of sacrifice to a new level when he taught the Nephites, “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost….” (3 Ne. 9:20) Commenting further on this, Elder Ballard says the higher practice of the law of sacrifice is for each individual to give up all that is ungodly and he cites Elder Neal A. Maxwell to the effect that we are to sacrifice the animal in us on the altar. We show our love by obedience and our willingness to live the law of sacrifice by keeping the First Great Commandment. “When we overcome our own selfish desires and put God first in our lives and covenant to serve Him regardless of the cost, then we are living the law of sacrifice.” (p. 126)

The chapter concludes with a look at the blessings which come from our sacrifice and a final challenge to keep the law, to “Offer [our] whole soul as an offering,” (Omni 1:26); to present our living bodies as a sacrifice, (Rom. 12:1); to covenant by sacrifice, (D&C 97:8); and to sacrifice the natural man, (Mosiah 5:2; Al. 3:14; and Moses 6:59-61). The Lord is the supreme example and his life and ministry established the pattern of sacrifice. Latter-day Saints are obligated to understand, teach, and practice this law.

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