19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
(3 Nephi 9:19-20)
After the destruction which marked the death of Jesus Christ, as the Nephites and Lamanites mourned the loss of their friends and relatives, they heard the voice of the Savior explaining to them what had just happened and why. He told them that they were still alive because they were more righteous than the people who had died. Then He invited them to repent and be healed (3 Nephi 9:13).
In the passage above, He reiterates the same promise in different words: If we come to Him with “a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” He will baptize us “with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”
Approximately 1,000 years earlier, King David recognized the same principle. As he pleaded for forgiveness for his sins, he acknowledged that the ritual offerings required by the law of Moses would be a pretty superficial display of remorse, and that God expected something much deeper from him:
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:16-17).
The word “contrite” comes from the Latin word contritus, which means “worn out” or “ground to pieces” (Online Etymology Dictionary). So, when I am worn out or distressed, or feel that my life is coming apart at the seams, I may be close to the appropriate mental and emotional state to receive the healing and enabling power of the Savior through the Holy Ghost.
As Elder Bruce C. Hafen has taught:
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 (“A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit,” General Conference, October 2007).
Today, I will strive to approach my Heavenly Father with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. I will recognize that feelings of humility and even of inadequacy are part of the process of learning and growing, and that those feelings can open my heart to receive the grace of God.