I’ve been pondering the power of sanctifying sacrifices and why each of us needs them.
Of course, the Savior’s atoning sacrifice is the penultimate example. His sanctifying furnace enables all who repent to also be sanctified.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
Do our sanctifying sacrifices enable others to be sanctified through the truth, too?
Abraham’s Sanctifying Sacrifices
Abraham and Isaac’s sacrifice, patterned after the Father’s willing sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son, demonstrates how we can prove absolute unattachment to everything besides God’s will. Even a cursory look at Abraham’s life reveals his commitment to follow God at all cost.
Willing to lose his own life for God’s truth, Abraham found himself on a sacrificial altar. Abraham sacrificed his nation. Following God’s will in a similar pattern, Abraham sacrificed his wife Sarah in Egypt and Canaan. Abraham sacrificed potential monetary increase in after-war booty and letting Lot pick the land first. Abraham sacrificed his relationship with Ishmael.
And then, God asked Abraham to literally sacrifice Isaac. And that sanctifying sacrifice was enough.
For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.
Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.
Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
One of Wilford Woodruff’s Sanctifying Sacrifices
We lost one of our apostles a short time since. He was about the youngest man in the quorum of the Apostles. He was suddenly called away from us. There is a meaning to this. Many times things take place with us that we do not comprehend, unless it is given to us by revelation. But there is a meaning in the loss of that young apostle. I had a manifestation of that while in San Francisco recently.
One evening, as I fell asleep, I was very much troubled with evil spirits that tried to afflict me; and while laboring to throw off these spirits and their influence, there was another spirit visited me that seemed to have power over the evil spirits, and they departed from me. Before he left me he told me not to grieve because of the departure of Abraham Hoagland Cannon; for the Lord had called him to fill another important mission in the spirit world, as a pure and holy apostle from Zion in the Rocky Mountains—a labor which would not only prove a great benefit to his father’s household, but to the Church and kingdom of God on the earth. I feel to name this, because it is true.
I have become acquainted with many things in our history that I have marveled at. While in the St. George temple I had a son, who was in the north country, drowned. He had a warning of this. In a dream he was notified how he would die. We had testimony of that after his death. I asked the Lord why he was taken from me. The answer to me was, “You are doing a great deal for the redemption of your dead; but the law of redemption requires some of your own seed in the spirit world to attend to work connected with this.” That was a new principle to me; but it satisfied me why he was taken away.
I name this, because there are a great many instances like it among the Latter-day Saints. This was the case with Brother Abraham Cannon. He was taken away to fulfil that mission. And where we have anything of this kind, we should leave it in the hands of God to reconcile. (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p.292)
One of John Bushman’s Sanctifying Sacrifices
In January of 1897, two of John and Lois Bushman’s children, Wickliffe and Adele contracted measles. Another son, Homer, neared the end of his mission to Germany. The family hoped Homer would find a genealogical breakthrough on the Bushman line while he was in Germany. But he hadn’t had much success in that regard.
One day, as John trudged through deep snow delivering the mail to a neighboring town, he thought of Homer and their hope for a family history breakthrough.
He thought he heard a voice say, “Are you willing to make any sacrifice to get the information?”
Involuntarily, he said he thought he would.
Home requested relatives in Arizona and Utah to fast for success.
Accordingly, on Sunday, February 7th, in the St. Joseph Ward first meeting, a special prayer was offered for Homer that he would be directed to the right relatives and that Wickliffe and Adele who were very ill would recover.
Adele recovered, but Wickliffe contracted pneumonia. Though everything possible was done for him, he passed away the day after his 23rd birthday, 11 February 1897.
The family and town were in mourning. They needed this stalwart young man. At his funeral, all spoke of his clean, chaste life and his exemplary conduct. He must have a greater work awaiting him in the spirit world. At the burial, when the casket was lowered, the snow fell so fast that the grave was very white inside and out, which made everything look so pure and beautiful.
Just about this time, while Homer was preparing to leave Germany, he was told about some Bushmans living in the southern part of Germany. On the day of Wickliffe’s funeral, Homer went there and found the name which he believed was their Bushman ancestor. A Henry Bushman had left Germany for America about 1753 and was the missing Bushman link (Stories of the John Bushman Family and Their Descendants, pg 323).
One of J. Virgil Bushman’s Sanctifying Sacrifices
My father, John Bushman, was a very close friend to President Heber J. Grant. They often talked about their families. President Grant always admired John Bushman’s family, especially his large number of sons and grandsons, often expressing regrets that he only had one son, who died when a baby, leaving him without an heir to carry on his name. This disturbed John Bushman considerably and he gave it much thought. After which, he made up his mind to offer his dear friend, Heber J. Grant, one of his many grandsons to have and to name and raise as his own son. He felt then President Grant should have an heir to carry on his name.
But first, John Bushman realized he must get permission from one of his sons and wife who had several sons and would be willing to part with a son and give him to a prophet of God as his very own. Therefore in August 1921, shortly before mother, Lois, died and while his son J. Virgil and wife Ruth with five little sons were visiting their parents in Lehi, Utah…he told Ruth and I his experiences with President Grant and of his desire to give a grandson to his dear friend.
At this time Father had 45 or 50 grandsons and he said inasmuch as the Lord had blessed us with five sons, he thought we would be willing to give one of them to President Grant, one of the best men in the world. He needed a son so bad and he could give him a good education and raise him up to be a good man.
Father said, “You know this is not near so much a sacrifice as the Lord asked Abraham to offer up his only son, Isaac, a choice son of promise, as a sacrifice on an altar to be burned.”
Father explained, “This will be a blessing to your son. His advantages in life will be added to.” Father told us not to answer now, but to think about it overnight and let him know in the morning.
Well, that night, we didn’t sleep much. We talked about each of our five sons, but felt we could not part with any of them, even little Preston W. who was only about five months old. Yet, like Abraham of old, we dare not refuse. So we cried together, then prayed, together. This was the greatest trial of our life and we wanted to prove true to any tests that came to us.
The next morning, Ruth said she would be willing to give the next son she had, if he could be taken at birth before we got used to loving him. I said that is the way I felt about it, so we told Father. Father said, “That’s good. I will tell President Grant,” which he did.
However, it was a few months later, Father told us that President and Sister Grant said they couldn’t take the gift of a son because it would be asking too much of us. But he said he appreicated the offer just the same as though they accepted it. He thanked Father over and over.
Well, you know how Abraham felt when the angel of the Lord stopped him from slaying his son Isaac on the altar and told him he was satisfied and to take the ram that was caught in the thicket nearby and offer it up instead of Isaac. We felt that our offer had been accepted and a ram provided for us also. As Father said, we had been put to the test and proved true.
On July 27, 1923, our next baby was born and sure enough it was a boy. Father was spending the summer in Joseph City where we lived then, so we told him he could name him as he chose and bless him. Father chose the name Grant Moroni, after which he wrote and told President Grant about it.
President Grant wrote a nice letter to Ruth and I thanking us for naming our son Grant for him. We did appreciate this letter from the Prophet of the Lord.
Father gave each of us a blessing for which we were thankful for.
John Bushman made the same unusual request at the same time to his son Preston A. Bushman and his wife Daphne. They, too, after serious consideration, consented to part with a son for President Grant. But as stated, the sacrifice was declined (Stories of the John Bushman Family and Their Descendants, pg 232-237).
Every family seeking the face of God must endure sanctifying sacrifices.
Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
When we turn to the Lord during these trying moments, He will be a sure foundation!
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.The flame shall not hurt thee; I only designThy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. …
If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.