Each young man will come to understand the necessity for having a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Suggested Lesson Development
Tell the following story:
A potter once molded soft clay into a beautiful statue. Unfortunately, the clay cracked when it dried, leaving many weaknesses and flaws in the statue. The potter tried unsuccessfully to fill the cracks with new clay and to correct the flaws in the hardened clay. Despite his best efforts, he could not restore the beauty and grace of the original statue.
He did the only thing that can be done to hardened, cracked, and imperfect clay. He broke the statue with a hammer, pounded the hardened clay into dust, added fresh water, and began shaping a new statue.
Scripture and discussion
How could our hearts and spirits be compared to the potter’s clay?
Help the young men understand that the scriptures often speak of the “hardhearted.” A hardhearted young man is not interested in spiritual things. He seeks to follow his own desires and is not willing to submit his will to the will of God.
Have the young men read 1 Nephi 2:16.
What did Nephi do to avoid becoming hardhearted? (Nephi prayed for knowledge, and his heart was softened.)
A New Form of Sacrifice
Scripture and discussion
Explain that anciently those who believed in Jesus Christ were commanded to offer up animal blood sacrifices as a “similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father” (Moses 5:5–7). The Book of Mormon prophet Amulek taught that Jesus Christ himself would be the “great and last sacrifice” (Alma 34:14) and that he would allow his own life and blood to be shed to atone for the sins of man. After this great and last sacrifice, there was “a stop to the shedding of blood” (Alma 34:13). Jesus himself appeared to the Nephites after his death and resurrection and told them they should no longer offer up sacrifices by the “shedding of blood” (3 Nephi 9:19–20).
What kind of sacrifice did the Lord then require of those who believed in him?
What sacrifice, if any, replaced the sacrifice of the shedding of blood?
Have a young man read 3 Nephi 9:19–22. Help the young men understand that the sacrifice that replaced the shedding of blood is the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Emphasize that the shedding of blood in animal sacrifices was an outward ordinance intended to remind those involved of the future sacrifice of the Son of God and of the need for the believer to offer up at the same time an inward sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Explain that the instructions of the Lord to the Nephite people have been repeated to us in our day. Read and discuss Doctrine and Covenants 59:8.
A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
Chalkboard and discussion
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.
Why does Christ want us to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit?
Explain that the “broken heart” spoken of in the scriptures is not the sorrow one feels because he has lost a close relative or loved one or suffered some other personal disappointment in life. Rather, the broken heart spoken of in the scriptures is the natural consequence of a person’s recognizing and admitting his own sins and imperfections.
Explain that a knowledge of the following truths should lead a person to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit:
All of us in our natural, carnal, and fallen state on earth have sinned and transgressed the laws of God, for which a punishment is designated by the law of justice.
Jesus Christ is holy and pure. He lived a perfect life and was therefore the person least deserving of punishment for sin.
Because of his great love for us, Jesus Christ paid the price for all our sins. He suffered the punishment for the sins of all people.
Explain that we should realize that Jesus, the one who was perfect and had not sinned, has suffered awful punishment for all of us. Pondering the awful suffering of our Lord for us and our own unworthiness should be a heartbreaking experience.
Scripture and discussion
Tell the young men that the following scripture illustrates what it means to have a broken heart and contrite spirit. Have a young man read Alma 36:5–20.
What was Alma doing before the angel appeared to him? (Seeking to destroy the Church [see verse 6].)
What did Alma experience during the three days and three nights? (He was racked with eternal torment [see verses 12–13, 16].)
What caused Alma’s torment? (He remembered all his sins and saw that he had rebelled against God and had not kept His holy commandments. Because of his sins, he was horrified at the thought of coming into the presence of God and wanted to become extinct. [See verses 14–15].)
What thought gave Alma hope to escape his torment? (The prophecy of his father concerning the coming of Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of the world [see verse 17].)
What did Alma do when he realized his own unworthiness and remembered the atonement of Christ? (He prayed, crying within his heart, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me” [verse 18].)
What happened after his prayer? (He was no longer harrowed up by the memory of his sins, and he was filled with joy and light [see verses 19–20].)
Explain that Alma the Younger experienced a broken heart and contrite spirit, which caused him to exercise faith in Christ unto repentance. Our sins may be different from those of Alma, but we have the same need to see our own sins honestly in contrast to the purity of Christ. By doing so, we too can come to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Scripture story and discussion
Explain that a similar experience was shared by the people who gathered to hear the words of King Benjamin (see Mosiah 2:5–6). King Benjamin spoke to the people about the atonement of Jesus Christ and the Lord’s great sufferings for the sins of his people. King Benjamin also spoke to the people about their own sins and transgressions.
As a result of their belief in King Benjamin’s words, the people “viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified.” In answer to their prayers “the Spirit of the Lord came upon [the people], and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins” (Mosiah 4:2–3).
Explain that King Benjamin analyzed what had happened to his people. Have a young man read Mosiah 4:4–8. Then have the young men discuss the meaning of these verses.
Help the young men understand that to have a broken heart means to feel godly sorrow for our sins and to recognize our own fallen state.
Explain that when the prophets say that we are lower than the dust of the earth, they are merely saying that the dust of the earth obeys the voice of God perfectly and moves when it is commanded to do so. In contrast, man (who is made from the dust of the earth) is not perfectly obedient and often rebels against or rejects the commandments and counsel of God. (See Helaman 12:6–8.)
As a consequence of acknowledging their nothingness, those who believe in Christ will come to him in a repentant spirit and seek forgiveness of their sins. This is the meaning of a “contrite spirit.” It is not enough to break the hardened heart of rebellion and transgression. One must also earnestly seek the Lord and pray with all energy of soul for a new heart, for forgiveness of sins, and for mercy through the atoning blood of Christ. The prayer of the contrite spirit is the prayer of the people of King Benjamin, “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified” (Mosiah 4:2). It is the prayer of Alma the Younger, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of [spiritual] death” (Alma 36:18).
We Must Develop a Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
Scripture and discussion
Have the young men read and mark Moroni 6:2.
Who is baptism reserved for according to this verse? (For those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.)
Explain that the ordinance of baptism needs to be preceded or followed at some time by a broken heart and contrite spirit.
Have the young men read and mark 2 Nephi 2:6–7.
According to these verses, how important is it for us to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit? (Only those who have a broken heart and contrite spirit can receive the full blessings of the Lord’s atonement.)
Testimony and challenge
Bear witness of the truthfulness of the principles taught in this lesson. Encourage the young men to read the scriptures used in this lesson and to use the Topical Guide in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible to locate other passages and examples of people who had a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Bear testimony that “the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). The proud, worldly young man is not pleasing unto the Lord.
Challenge the young men to recognize their desperate need for the Savior and to humble themselves. Challenge them to remember that part of Christ’s suffering was for their sins.