I believe learning how to have a broken heart and contrite spirit is the single most powerful thing we can learn to do in this life.
This state of being unlocks the power of the atonement. It purifies us and cleanses us from all sin. It seals us agains the power of the adversary. It opens us to the fullness of the visions and revelations available in this life by rending the veil of unbelief. It is this state of being that brings us to have all of our callings and elections sealed upon us.
Should this not be the whole heart’s desire?
Every moment of your life is an opportunity to change. Every moment is an opportunity to choose to have a broken heart.
In the prayer process, we are subduing our spirits in the morning so that they become softened by the spirit. What this process is, to frame it another way, is to receive a broken heart and contrite spirit.
A broken heart is a completely softened heart.
It does not mean you have a heart ache, although those experiences often bring you into a softened state.
Softening your heart is the process of allowing the spirit to act on you so that you let go of the grip on your own will, and have the spirit remake your heart.
A completely softened heart is a broken heart. It is completely pliable. Completely soft. There is no resistance in it. It is wholly submitted to the Lord. It retains nothing for itself, and it does not seek to consume any lust. The softened heart holds on to no fear, jealousy or pride. It is a heart that is divested of any resistance to the spirit of the Lord.
What is also powerful about this principle is that it is usually the single source of all spiritual problems. If you are having a faith crisis, struggling with addiction, feelings of self-worth, if you feel the heavens are shut to you – all problems can be addressed and healed through this single principle.
As we go through this completely we become born of God. When this softening is complete, we experience the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost.
This is how we become born again. This is how to receive the mighty change of heart. It is how to become a new creature in Christ.
If we submit to the process of having the holy spirit work upon us until our hearts are completely broken, and we submit to this process by our own free will and choice, the result is the born again experience.
We submit to the process, but the Holy Ghost does the work.
When Nephi is going through his own broken heart process he records the following account:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers” (1 Nephi 2:16).
This passage speaks a sermon. For me, it is one of the most important passages in all of scripture.
Notice that Nephi identifies the Lord as the one that softens his heart. It is the Spirit that does the work if we will submit to the process. This process is described here.
The Great Requirement: Sacrificing Your Earthly Kingdom
The account of Aaron teaching King Lamoni’s father captures this process:
“And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:16).
The actual desire the king has to give all that he possesses is a result of a completely broken heart. He is holding absolutely nothing back.
Here is his prayer:
“And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day” (Alma 22: 17-18).
The King was willing to give up all that he possessed.
He was willing to give up all of his sins.
He was willing to give up his earthly kingdom.
And this is the requirement.
The end result of a broken heart and a contrite spirit is giving up a desire for all of your sins, possessions, reputation in the world, your preeminence, your self-image, your wealth. Everything. Nothing is held back.
Your heart is broken of all competing desires. And any sacrifice becomes worth becoming born again.
It is a sincere willingness to sacrifice your earthly kingdom that brings you into a state of being born again. This is the broken heart and contrite spirit.
Jospeh Smith taught this principle with precision in Lecture 6 in the Lectures on Faith.
These are long passages, but consider them carefully. No where else is this doctrine better distilled.
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.
Those, then, who make the sacrifice will have the testimony that their course is pleasing in the sight of God, and those who have this testimony will have faith to lay hold on eternal life, and will be enabled, through faith, to endure unto the end, and receive the crown that is laid up for them that love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who do not make the sacrifice cannot enjoy this faith, because men are dependent upon this sacrifice in order to obtain this faith; therefore, they cannot lay hold upon eternal life, because the revelations of God do not guarantee unto them the authority so to do; and without this guarantee faith could not exist.
All the saints of whom we have account in all the revelations of God which are extant, obtained the knowledge which they had of their acceptance in his sight, through the sacrifice which they offered unto him: and through the knowledge thus obtained, their faith became sufficiently strong to lay hold upon the promise of eternal life, and to endure us seeing him who is invisible; and were enabled, through faith, to combat the powers of darkness, contend against the wiles of the adversary, overcome the world, and obtain the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.
But those who have not made this sacrifice to God, do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them” (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6).
Of course what Joseph is also teaching is this is the path to have your calling and election made sure.
The broken heart and contrite spirit is the only way we have access to the atonement.
“Behold, he 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 2:27).
The broken heart and contrite spirit is the condition that we are baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost.
“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 9:20).
The broken heart and contrite spirit is the condition that gives us power overcome the power of Satan.
“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)
The broken heart and contrite spirit is the requirement to rend the veil and enter into the presence of the Lord while in the flesh.
“And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are….
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel“ (Ether 4: 7,15).
Having a broken heart is a choice. It is something we can do every day. We can choose to submit to the process of having it softened every single day.
There is so much power by choosing to come to God by our own free will and choice without being compelled. Choosing to have our hearts broken without being compelled brings so much power.
Asking the Lord to soften our hearts until we can relinquish all claims to an earthly kingdom, will, and desires of our own hearts will birth us into the state of the mighty change of heart.
Becoming Born Again is Not a Lifetime Process.
The process portion of becoming born again is the process of having our hearts softened. It is not a process that takes a lifetime (although retaining a broken heart is).
If someone teaches that becoming born again is a process that is slow and imperceptible over a lifetime of faithful Christian living, what they are not inviting you to do is to repent now, with all of your heart, until your heart is completely broken,
The process of becoming born again takes exactly the length of time it takes to have our hearts completely broken. That’s it.
If it takes you a lifetime to have your heart completely broken it is wonderful that this condition is finally received. It is much better, however, to consider today as the day of repentance and work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Choose today to come to Christ with all of your heart. And have him break your hardened condition through the reception and workings of his Holy Spirit. Do whatever he asks of you. Whatever he requires.
Hold nothing back.
And receive the cleansing and transformation of the Holy Ghost.
Reject the deception that this is a slow process for you. It happens as fast as you desire to repent of absolutely everything.
It happens as fast as you desire to give up your whole kingdom to know God.