When defining what constitutes “an acceptable sacrifice” in God’s eyes, we should be careful to avoid assumptions as there are far more variations of what is not an acceptable sacrifice than of what is. Nevertheless, we are given this goal: “The sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron [the priesthood] shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:31)—so that when we attend a house of worship our devotions are backed up with a bank account of merit that lends us “power with God and with men” (Genesis 32:18).
What is it in temple worship that God finds acceptable if not the covenants that transform our lives into the similitude of Christ as we apply them in our lives? “All among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me” (Doctrine & Covenants 97:8). That is, “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him” (Mosiah 3:19);
In short: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (Ephesians 5:1–2); “I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1–2).
And yet, by our idolatries and injustices we have turned this objective on its head, causing God to “hide his face, so that he does not hear you” (Isaiah 59:2): “Our transgressions before you have multiplied; our sins testify against us. Our offenses are evident; we perceive our iniquities: willfully denying Jehovah, backing away from following our God, perversely planning ways of extortion, conceiving in the mind and pondering illicit transactions” (Isaiah 59:12–13); “For I Jehovah love just dealings, but I abhor extortion in [those who] sacrifice” (Isaiah 61:8).
Says the Lord, “When you come to see me, who requires you to trample my courts so? Bring no more worthless offerings; they are as a loathsome incense to me. As for convening meetings at the New Month and on the Sabbath, wickedness with the solemn gathering I cannot approve. Your monthly and regular meetings my soul detests. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of putting up with them. When you spread forth your hands, I will conceal my eyes from you; though you pray at length, I will not hear—your hands are filled with blood” (Isaiah 1:12–15).
Have we missed the grand key Isaiah teaches through the terms of the Davidic Covenant that are manifested in temple covenants? Says the prophet Joseph, “It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him” (Lectures on Faith 6:8). Happily, some succeed:
“There were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness” (Doctrine & Covenants 138:12–15).