"A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." (Joseph Smith)
While serving as a new Bishop, our stake undertook the project of raising $one million to build the Irvine, California stake center. That was the 30 percent we were required to raise before the Church would make available the additional 70 percent necessary to build that huge stake center. The projected building was to be an acre under roof, which included two full-size chapels, two cultural halls, really two of everything, and enough office space, literally to house an entire stake.
As bishops we committed our wards to raise our portion of the $one million within three years. None of us knew how we could possibly do this and ultimately we just went forward with faith. That three-year period was one of the most spiritual in my life. I saw many people and families make incredible sacrifices to raise the money necessary to build the stake center. We never held any "building fund projects" but simply asked for commitments from the Saints for the necessary funds.
Each December during tithing settlement I would make sure that I met with as many families as would come to my office. I would then tell them what amount we needed to raise for the building fund that year and ask them what commitment they thought they could make. If I remember correctly the commitments ran anywhere from 2 to $4000 per family for the year. The thing that touched me so much was how faithful each family was in fulfilling their commitment to me as their bishop. Homes were not painted, cars were not purchased, carpeting endured a few more years of wear, and we just gave all we could to build the building, in addition to paying our tithing.
Of the many stories I could tell of sacrifice at this time I will just share a couple. Many members of our ward during this time period lived in government subsidized housing -- the Nissan Garden Apartments. This is indicative of the lack of affluence in our ward while we were trying to raise money for the building fund. One young couple with several small children that were living in government subsidized housing came to me and told me they wanted to commit, what I considered to be an amount unrealistic considering their circumstances, but which they insisted on doing. They felt they needed all the blessings they could receive and that this was a good way to go about receiving them. They told me that if I would give them one food order from the bishop's storehouse that they had figured out a plan whereby they then could make a monthly payment to the building fund. I finally agreed to their plan and then watched each month as their payment came in to fulfill their commitment. I knew how little they had and my heart was touched with their willingness to literally give all to the Lord.
Another wonderful young couple living in the Nissan Garden Apartments made a commitment to me of $2000 for the year. Again I wondered how they would ever be able to fulfill this commitment. During the months that followed they never paid anything to the building fund and I began to be concerned that they wouldn't fulfill their commitment and how badly it would make them feel. This went on until December of that year. It was near Christmas as I remember that this young man walked into my office and handed me a check for $2000. He told me that all through the year he had expectations of making the money necessary to pay his commitment to the building fund but that it just hadn't happened. His passion in life was hang gliding -- he had done it for years and was an expert at the sport. He told me that the day before he had gone out and sold his hang glider and all of the equipment he had accumulated through the years for $2000. He didn't do it grudgingly but was happy and relieved that he could fulfill his commitment to the Lord. I am sure it was not in the same ballpark with Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, but to me it was as pure a sacrifice as I have ever witnessed.
The day the Irvine stake center was dedicated the bishops blessed the sacrament while the high council and counselors in the bishoprics passed the sacred emblems to those attending the dedication. As I sat at the sacrament table I had one of the most powerful and touching experiences I have ever had. I knew the Lord had accepted of our sacrifice and was pleased with what we had done.
That same kind of sacrifice is not being required at this time, but whenever we give time and resources to the Lord with a willing heart, the faith necessary to our obtaining salvation deepens and grows.