Dear 100 Hour Board,
How do you live the law of sacrifice? What does that mean to you?
The law of sacrifice is tricky because their seems to be so much overlap with the law of consecration. In fact, sacrifice and consecrate both have very similar meanings, etymologically. Both come from Latin terms meaning to make something holy or to dedicate something to God. I've heard people try to differentiate between them, with varied success. I don't like it when people say that sacrifice is giving up something in the hope of getting something in return, because that makes sacrifice sound inherently selfish or cunning, which it isn't. I actually wasn't entirely sure myself what the difference was until I read this talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard. It doesn't contain everything I'm about to say, but it did say enough for me to come up with some thoughts coherent enough to write.
As we learn in the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price, the law of sacrifice was first given to Adam and Eve after they were cast out of the garden of Eden. There were two major purposes for the law of sacrifice: 1) to teach Adam and Eve and their posterity about the sacrifice that Christ would make for them, and 2) to give them an opportunity to show the Lord what they were willing to do for Him. Just as God showed His perfect love for us by offering up His Only Begotten Son, "the law of sacrifice provides an opportunity for us to prove to the Lord that we love Him more than any other thing" (Ballard).
With the implementation of the Law of Moses, the application of the law of sacrifice changed, but the principle remained the same. By keeping the law of sacrifice, the House of Israel demonstrated to the Lord that they were willing to obey Him above all other desires or influences.
Elder Ballard describes two major changes to the law of sacrifice after the atonement was made. "First, the ordinance of the sacrament replaced the ordinance of sacrifice; and second, this change moved the focus of the sacrifice from a person’s animal to the person himself. In a sense, the sacrifice changed from the offering to the offerer." Without the ordinance of sacrifice, we are required to find other ways to show our devotion. While this sometimes means that it's harder to figure out what to do, it also means we can show even greater faith by living the law of sacrifice in every aspect of our lives. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!” (“‘Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,’” Ensign, May 1995, 68).
Now that I've gotten that background out of the way, I can talk about what I think the difference is between sacrifice and consecration. From what I can tell, sacrifice is — in the words of King Benjamin — "[putting] off the natural man," while consecration is "[becoming] a saint" (Mosiah 3:19). When we live the law of sacrifice, we give up our time, possessions, and desires to show God that we love Him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. This leads to consecration, which is using our time, talents, and means to build the kingdom of God.
Now, to answer your first question, I'll finish by quoting Elder Ballard one last time: "When we overcome our own selfish desires and put God first in our lives and covenant to serve Him regardless of the cost, we are then living the law of sacrifice."