Instead, 17 pounds refers to the weight limit the Mormon Pioneers had when they crossed the plains by handcart. This included pots, pans, blankets, clothes and special possessions (music boxes, inherited vases, china, etc).
A description of this experience from Gerald Lund's novel, Fire of the Covenant, touched my heart as I was reading it last night:
"Maggie had known about the seventeen-pound limit before they ever left Scotland. She thought she had culled out everything that she could bear to leave behind. But now as she eyed the two stacks she had mad--one for discard, one for taking--the one looked pitifully small, the other unbelieveably large. Taking a deep breath, she started through the larger stack one more time. Out went her favorite dress. She had bought a year ago, one of the few times she had spent her wages on herself...after another five minutes of agonizing, it came down to two things. There was a brass looking glass that James [her boyfriend] had given her for Christmas last year...or the plain wooden music box, a gift from her
As Maggie went to weigh her things "The scales reversed with a heavy thud. The pan with the weights swung slowly back and forth in the air. The other pan rested heavily on the ground" revealing the weight of her precious possesions was too high. "She reached for the handle of the looing glass and pulled it out
from between her clothing. For a moment she thought the scales might come in balance. The lower pan lifted for a moment, but then hung silently about an inch above the ground." She was still too heavy. "Her shoulders lifted and fell, but without hestitations she reached out and took off the music box. The scales did not come into perfect alignment but the weigher declared, "that's enough."
Could you imagine traveling thousands of miles from Scotland, giving up your native land, home, friends and family; and then sitting on the edge of the wilderness and told, "No, you cannot take the precious music box your father gave to you."
Oftentimes, I believe we think we know what it means to sacrifice. Yet, after reading this story I have realized sacrifice means more than giving of your time and talents. More importantly, sacrifice is to give up the things you love the most, to obtain the greater unseen things God has for you.
It's never easy, but always worth it.