Friday, February 09, 2007

"Let me bury my father"

Have we become too soft, have the Lord's expectations changed, or are life altering sacrifices no longer necessary?

We make a lot of efforts in the church not to inconvenience people. We try not to leave people in church callings too long. We limit the number of hours we're asked to do church work. We are no longer required to contribute budget money to the church. We're even asked NOT to spend our own money on our callings.

Are we making the sorts of sacrifices that will make us strong enough to greet the Lord when he returns? I wonder.

Gerald Lund reported overhearing a seminary teacher explain part of Brigham Young's great success in colonizing Utah. By the time they arrived in Utah, the spiritually weak had fallen away and the physically weak had died. What was left was pure steel, ready to be incorporated into the Kingdom of God.

I'm afraid I'm not pure steel.

In our recent stake conference, a bishop talked of his experience as a young man being encouraged by his own bishop to go on a mission. His response at the time was less than enthusiastic. "Maybe after the baseball season is over." Instantly my mind called up a scripture I'd recently read.

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
(Luke 9:59-62)

It has been explained to me that to "bury my father" meant to care for an aging parent until his death--however long that might take. I'd think that would be pretty important business for anyone. But once Jesus issued the call to follow him, he expected people to trust in him to make it work. That's hard counsel for me to comprehend and accept.

I don't think the requirement of discipleship have changed in our day. So what is it we will be called to do to sacrifice like Abraham of old?


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  • Perhaps, oh I don't know, love our fellowmen, do family history work, attend the temple regularly, hold regular family home evening, have daily personal and family prayer and scripture study, serve in welfare assignments, do much good of our own free will, etc., etc.

    We don't have to have extreme experiences to martial us into being stalwart. We can choose it for ourselves. And I think that course is where our souls derive the greatest benefit.

    By Blogger Scott Hinrichs, at 2/09/2007 11:54 AM  

  • This is a nice post. However this comment is ridiculous:

    ...a seminary teacher explain part of Brigham Young's great success in colonizing Utah. By the time they arrived in Utah, the spiritually weak had fallen away and the physically weak had died. What was left was pure steel, ready to be incorporated into the Kingdom of God.

    It is devoid of any basis in reality. That seminary teacher should read more.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/09/2007 1:36 PM  

  • Resisting the highest and most accessible levels of temptations the world has ever seen might count for something.

    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 2/09/2007 3:21 PM  

  • J., could you elaborate?

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 2/09/2007 3:42 PM  

  • I know this is going to sound really pathetic, and to some degree it is. However, I would agree in no small part our physical burdens are much lighter in this day and age. On the other side of the coin though, the spiritual burdens of living in this society of a pandering, advertising, sexed-up carousel of sin is emotionally and mentally taxing.

    More so than ever our lives and our children's lives are a torturous battlefield of spiritually moral survival. I've never had to push a handcart for 500 miles, but I have had to carry my children over the minefields of a society gone bonkers. No, my life was never in danger, but the salvation of my soul certainly has been.

    /shrug Perhaps I'm being lazy and defending the weakness of our modern lives; hard for me say as I'm probably unable to be truly impartial. I do think there is a nugget of truth in their somewhere though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/09/2007 4:36 PM  

  • cew-smoke, I think that is was Eric was getting at too. Perhaps you are all right in your argument. It just seems that the Savior was getting at something more dramatic. The sorts of things that Reach Upward (Scott) listed in his comment above are the sorts of things that a person could do while still burying their father. And yet he said, "Let the dead bury their dead." Isn't He asking for something more? Maybe I'm pulling the story of a mission call (as evidenced by the phrase "go thou and preach the kingdom of God") out of context. That could contribute to drawing the wrong moral. I'm just not sure.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 2/09/2007 8:21 PM  

  • Let's also consider the possibility that this young man was receiving a personal call from the Savior; a calling that was not given to everyone. For those that are faithful members of the church, callings like that will likely come several times throughout life.

    My friend's father was called to be a mission president overseas. My friend's mom later said that having to leave an elderly parent with needs and having to leave just before her twin grandsons were born were great trials for her. When her son sent her pictures of the twins, she cried and laid them face down on the fireplace mantle because she couldn't bear looking at them. She said that she sometimes thought the Lord didn't know what he was doing.

    But they faithfully fulfilled their three-year mission while others took care of their aging parent and while their twin grandsons grew to three-year-olds. My parents made similar sacrifices when they served their mission.

    There were times when I was in the bishopric that my wife and I decided that I needed to do something related to my calling instead of seeing to a pressing family matter. It sometimes nearly tore my heart out. But we did it.

    I suppose that the point is that when the calling/opportunity presents itself, we need to be sure that our level of personal consecration is sufficient to pick up our cross and follow Him.

    By Blogger Scott Hinrichs, at 2/13/2007 10:41 AM  

  • I am reminded of a story in the scriptures in 2Kings5. Verse 13 sums up the moral I find relevant. "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"

    Sometimes it is the 'lowly' things we are asked to do (like be a nursery leader) that show what we are really made of. Cross the plains..OK, but don't ask me to teach a rowdy Sunday School class. Or no one could expect me to magnify this calling--I only am here because I wouldn't say no like the 7 people asked before me. Or the one I like to tell myself- If people had a clue what I am dealing with in my life right now they would know why I just can't do this calling (I've got to bury my dead) surely there is someone else in the ward with less on their plate-call them.

    It is by the small and simple things that great things are brought to pass, but small and simple things definately aren't 'dramatic.' We walk to Zion or Babylon one step at a time and there is no standing still.

    By Blogger ShelleyG, at 2/16/2007 8:31 PM  

  • Wow, ShellyG. Thanks for those comments. They are an excellent follow up to other equally insightful comments above.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 2/17/2007 2:00 PM  

  • Hey-just for the sake of being contrary, I was wondering if you think the requirements of discipleships have changed.. or not. You wrote we would be asked to sacrifice like Abraham (called to give up his firstborn) but in a previous post you quoted E Ballard and said that we need prophets because 'needs of a community change over time--and even the commandments'. So which is it? Family first or all for the Kingdom?

    By Blogger ShelleyG, at 2/18/2007 6:10 PM  

  • Sheesh! You remember what I say better than I do! Here is the comment you are referring to.

    In light of that comment, I guess I'd have to think that Reach Upward's comment is on target when he said, "this young man was receiving a personal call from the Savior."

    Maybe the circumstances of the call were out of the ordinary. Elder Ballard has clearly asked us NOT to sacrifice our families. I'm not totally sure how to reconcile the two thoughts. Any further insights would be appreciated.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 2/19/2007 9:27 PM  

  • Elder Ballard did make the comments quoted in your post. But he also said the following in the same talk: "No matter what your family needs are or your responsibilities in the Church, there is no such thing as 'done.' There will always be more we can do. There is always another family matter that needs attention, another lesson to prepare, another interview to conduct, another meeting to attend. . . . The key, it seems to me, is to know and understand your own capabilities and limitations and then to pace yourself, allocating and prioritizing your time, your attention, and your resources to wisely help others, including your family, in their quest for eternal life."

    As an elders quorum president, I have learned that "Sorry - I need to take care of my family" is the "trump card" in our church. If someone tells me those words in response to a call to serve (shovel the church walks, work at the bishop's storehouse, home teach an additional family, etc.), I can't dispute them. It is, however, a very easy excuse to overuse and to pat ourselves on the back in doing so. (Knowing Brad, and suspecting that most people who frequent this blog are like him, I realize I am probably preaching to the choir on that point. But I do want to point out that with the vast majority of service opportunities in the church, our families will easily survive if we accept the call.)

    We have consistently been counseled not to reject callings. So what happens if we genuinely believe a calling will interfere with our family duties? I can't quote a prophet on this, but the advice I've always heard unanimously from people I trust and respect (including bishops and stake presidents) is to explain your circumstances and then to tell them you'll accept the calling if they still believe you're the person for the job. This is consistent with D&C 84:36, which reminds us that "he that receiveth my servants receiveth me." Sometimes accepting a calling will be a huge trial of our faith, but we should allow the Lord to fulfill His promises in such circumstances rather than try to avoid the trial.

    As Reach Upward and Elder Ballard point out, there are times when certain tasks within callings we already have can conflict with family priorities. I agree with them, that it then becomes a case-by-case analysis of what to do, and I don't think the answer will always be to do the family-related task. One additional idea is to try to think of ways to satisfy both priorities at the same time. For example, I often visit the elders in our quorum in their homes. This can put some stress on my wife since she's a stay-at-home mom and appreciates my help at home in the evenings. So I often take one of our kids with me, allowing me to give my wife a rest, fulfill my calling, and also acquaint our kids with service.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/20/2007 9:46 AM  

  • Wise counsel. Thank you!

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 2/21/2007 11:03 PM  

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