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), a willingness to repent of sins and a desire to follow Jesus Christ and align one's life with His commandments.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the great and eternal sacrifice at the center of the gospel (see Alma 34:8-16). Before the Savior carried out the Atonement, His covenant people sacrificed animals as a symbol of His sacrifice. This practice helped them look ahead to the Atonement (see Moses 5:4-8). The command to offer animal sacrifices ended with the death of Jesus Christ. In the Church today, the ordinance of the sacrament is a reminder of the Savior's atoning sacrifice.
In addition to remembering the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Church members offer their own sacrifice: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The Savior said: “Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away. … 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” (3 Nephi 9:19-20).
To have a broken heart and a contrite spirit is to be humble and receptive to the will of God and to the counsel of those He has called to lead His Church. It also means to feel deep sorrow for sin and a sincere desire to repent. The prophet Lehi emphasized the importance of offering this sacrifice: “Behold, [Christ] offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7).
Those who show their willingness to sacrifice as the Lord has commanded will be accepted by Him. He taught: “All … 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” (D&C 97:8).