• What does it mean to have a broken heart? (To suffer extreme sorrow.)
• What does the word contrite mean? (Repentant.)
Write these definitions on the chalkboard.
D&C 59:8 Thou shalt offer a asacrifice unto the Lord thy God in brighteousness, even that of a broken heart and a ccontrite spirit.
19 And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a abroken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the blaw is fulfilled.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and asaveth such as be bof a contrite spirit.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Psalms 51:17
What does it mean to sacrifice?
To sacrifice is to give up something valuable or precious, often with the intent of accomplishing a greater purpose or goal. Sacrifice has always been a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a reminder of the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all who have lived or will live on earth. Before the ministry of Christ, animal sacrifices were offered for this purpose. After the Atonement of Christ, followers of Jesus Christ—by His direction—began to offer instead a "broken heart and contrite spirit" (3 Nephi 9:20),
• Why does Christ want us to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit?
As in all things, the Savior’s life offers us the perfect example: though Jesus of Nazareth was utterly without sin, He walked through life with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, as manifested by His submission to the will of the Father. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). To His disciples He said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). And when the time came to pay the ultimate sacrifice entailed in the Atonement, Christ shrank not to partake of the bitter cup but submitted completely to His Father’s will.
The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master. (Bruce D. Porter)
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) defined a broken heart and a contrite spirit this way: “Godly sorrow … is a deep realization that our actions have offended our Father and our God. It is the sharp and keen awareness that our behavior caused the Savior, He who knew no sin, even the greatest of all, to endure agony and suffering. Our sins caused him to bleed at every pore. This very real mental and spiritual anguish is what the scriptures refer to as having ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ ”
When we sin and desire forgiveness, a broken heart and a contrite spirit mean to experience “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). This comes when our desire to be cleansed from sin is so consuming that our hearts ache with sorrow and we yearn to feel at peace with our Father in Heaven. Those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit are willing to do anything and everything that God asks of them, without resistance or resentment. We cease doing things our way and learn to do them God’s way instead. In such a condition of submissiveness, the Atonement can take effect and true repentance can occur. The penitent will then experience the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost, which will fill them with peace of conscience and the joy of reconciliation with God. In a wondrous union of divine attributes, the same God who teaches us to walk with a broken heart invites us to rejoice and to be of good cheer. (Bruce D. Porter)
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), who gave such comprehensive teachings on repentance and forgiveness, said that personal suffering is a very important part of repentance. “One has not begun to repent until he has suffered intensely for his sins. … If a person hasn’t suffered,” he said, “he hasn’t repented.”2
Why is it necessary for us to suffer on the way to repentance for serious transgressions? We tend to think of the results of repentance as simply cleansing us from sin, but that is an incomplete view of the matter. A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day, the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we focus only on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition continues until the tree has been strengthened.
When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to His presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. We must, as the scripture says, become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). This is what the scripture means in its explanation that a person who has repented of his sins will forsake them. Forsaking sins is more than resolving not to repeat them. Forsaking involves a fundamental change in the individual. (Dallin H. Oaks)
When we have received a forgiveness of sins, a broken heart serves as a divine shield against temptation. Nephi prayed, “May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (2 Nephi 4:32). King Benjamin taught his people that if they would walk in the depths of humility, they might ever rejoice, “be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of … sins” (Mosiah 4:12). When we yield our hearts to the Lord, the attractions of the world simply lose their luster.
There is yet another dimension of a broken heart—namely, our deep gratitude for Christ’s suffering on our behalf. In Gethsemane, the Savior “descended below all things” (D&C 88:6) as He bore the burden of sin for every human being. At Golgotha, He “poured out his soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12), and His great heart literally broke with an all-encompassing love for the children of God. When we remember the Savior and His suffering, our hearts too will break in gratitude for the Anointed One.
As we make the sacrifice to Him of all that we have and all that we are, the Lord will fill our hearts with peace. He will “bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1) and grace our lives with the love of God, “sweet above all that is sweet, … and pure above all that is pure” (Alma 32:42). (Bruce D. Porter)
Repentance is a continuing process needed by all because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Repentance is possible, and then forgiveness is certain.
President Kimball said: “Sometimes … when a repentant one looks back and sees the ugliness, the loathsomeness of the transgression, he is almost overwhelmed and wonders, ‘Can the Lord ever forgive me? Can I ever forgive myself?’ But when one reaches the depths of despondency and feels the hopelessness of his position, and when he cries out to God for mercy in helplessness but in faith, there comes a still, small, but penetrating voice whispering to his soul, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’”4
When this happens, we have the fulfillment of the precious promise that God will take away the guilt from our hearts through the merits of His Son (see Alma 24:10). How comforting the promise in Isaiah 1:18 that “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” How glorious God’s own promise that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).