2 Nephi 2: 6-7 – LeGrand Baker – broken heart and a contrite spirit
2 Nephi 2:6-7
6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 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: 6-7).
Some ideas about what it might mean that the Lord requires us to sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
“Sacrifice” is, of course, a key word, and “similitude” is the key to understanding what sacrifice is about. In the Pearl of Great Price we read:
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:6-8)
It’s easy, at least superficially, to see how the slaughter of an unblemished lamb might be a reminder of the Saviour’s sacrifice upon the cross. But “similitude” is a stronger idea than “reminder.” The animal sacrifice was important to the people but it had no powers of redemption. for even symbolically, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) It was not the dead animal, but the living Adam who was “in similitude.”
When the angel spoke to Adam about a burnt offering, he made it very clear that “this thing” which was “in similitude” of the Saviour’s sacrifice, was Adam’s attitude when he made the offering. It was Adam’s doing the will of the Father which was “in similitude,” as the angel explained, “Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.”
This concept of a dual sacrifice (one of an animal, the other of Adam himself) was preserved, even in the days of the Law of Moses. David understood that the sprinkling of the blood of animals could never be more than a symbol of a real cleansing, and that cleansing, made effectual by the blood of Christ, must happen within the heart and spirit of every individual. David wrote,
15 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. OLord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.(Psalms 51:15-17)
To the Saviour on the cross, a broken heart was real, and there was nothing symbolic about it. John saw its reality, he understood, and testified what he saw. I am told that the separation of the plasma as described by John is medical evidence that his heart burst under the extreme pressure of his agony.
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. (John 19:34-36)
That which we are asked to sacrifice is a similitude of the Saviour’s sacrifice. If we are to sacrifice a broken heart, it must surely be a similitude of his. For him the heart was real, for us it is usually only symbolic, even though it may hurt more than one can say, and as much as one can bear. That being so, if we are to understand what it is which must be broken, we must first understand something of the symbolism of the “heart.”
Anciently, people assigned thoughts and emotions to the parts of the body where they could feel them. No one feels any thought in his head so that clearly wasn’t where they happened. (The ancients didn’t know what good the brain might be. When Egyptians embalmed a body, they preserved the important organs in jars, but threw the brain away with the entrails.) There were other places where thoughts seemed to originate. For example, one feels compassion in the “pit of the stomach” as we would say; they spoke of that as “the bowels of mercy.” But they assigned most of the other emotions to the heart. Consequently, in the Old and New Testaments, we find the heart being full of anger, jealousy, fear, desire, and every other feeling which motivates men and women to make decisions and to act. That is not all. They believed the heart was also the seat of their intellect. The scriptures say the heart thinks, plans, contrives and reasons. In short, all of their rational and academic thinking happened in their heart.
Thus the phrase “the thoughts and intents of the heart” includes all the emotional and rational reasons we can invent to justify our attitudes, motives, prejudices, beliefs and actions. Since we think, say, or do nothing whose objective is not found in our heart, every purpose for which we act is a “purpose of the heart.”
A heart is all that, so now, what causes a heart to be “broken?”
When I was a boy, living on the farm, someone told me that a broken heart meant the same as a broken horse. That is, when a young or wild horse is “broken” it is taught to obey. Thereafter it will carry its rider where he wishes, responding knowingly or intuitively to the slightest movement of the reins or to the tilt of the rider’s body and the pressure of his knees. But the Hebrew word translated “broken” doesn’t mean anything like that. The word has nothing at all to do with obedience. But the concept does.
Even though, on the surface, obedience seems to be beside the point in this question of sacrifice, if fact, obedience is the beginning of the whole matter. This dichotomy is derived from the fact that obedience is the “first law of heaven,” but it is only the first. There are four others. Sacrifice is the second; charity, expressed as the Law of Consecration, is the last. Nevertheless, to understand the other three one must first obey, which takes some careful doing, for obedience is fraught with danger. Its consequences can be either to enslave one or to make one free. For a rational human, obedience is never the product of the instructor or of the instruction, but is always a product of the motive of the obedient, whether that motive be self-preservation, self- aggrandizement, fear, compulsion, or love unfeigned. Obedience, then, is always a consequence of “the purpose of the heart.”
In the beginning of our odyssey in time, we learned that there seems to be a relationship between obedience and getting what we want. The more nearly we keep the commandments, the more apt we are to get the blessings–that sort of thing. If we never admit to religious experiences which take us farther than that, then we might choose to conclude that blessings from the Lord are for sell and that we may purchase them simply by following instructions. That is a wonderfully convenient idea, because it asserts that we can have the fruits of righteousness as often as we choose to purchase them, and having purchased them, we no longer owe anyone for them. Such an idea puts us entirely in control and it is comfortable to be in control.But comfortable or not, the time comes when the child in us matures and we open our eyes to discover that there is much more to it than that. Eventually we come to realize that those truths which “seemed” are not the same as those truths which are. Then the Spirit itself will teach us that we can purchase neither the gifts of the Spirit nor the blessings of its companionship by our dedicated obedience. Obedience is not a kind of currency with which we purchase blessings from the Lord and it certainly is not the medium by which we can purchase eternal life. It brings us to the gates of the temple, but can take us no further along the Way. When Israel was obedient they brought their offerings to the temple, but their obedience would have been of little consequence had it not been followed by their sacrifice. So it is with us. We come to the doors of the temple through obedience to the Saviour and to the apostles and prophets whom he has set to be our guides, and to the Holy Ghost who testifies of the correctness of eternal principles.
But, having come, we do not enter to learn obedience, but to learn love through sacrifice.
After that, it is not so much a question of obedience as it is a question of orientation–toward whom we look, with whom we walk. When we walked in darkness it was expedient that we listen and obey, but when obedience brought us to the light, it is expedient that we walk in that light, that our light, also, may be amplified.
As we enter the allegorical temple, the burden of our responsibility shifts. For when we walk in the light, the question is no longer whether we will obey, but why we wish to obey. So the governing principle shifts from simple obedience to the much more complex question of the law of one’s own being, and whether the obedience one chooses will enslave or make one free. It seems paradoxical that in the end we will discover there can be no freedom without obedience, but in this life’s beginning, obedience and freedom seem ill at ease with each other, and they remain so until obedience becomes a simple, unpretentious expression of charity.
Let me explain. If one is free to choose, to do, and to be, three factors must be present. Both the first and the second are integrity. The first is that one must not be for sell, for as soon as another can discover and supply the price, one finds himself in the slave market where he is bought and sold. Second, one must not be afraid, for as soon as another can discover what causes one to fear, the other becomes the master of the body as well as the mind of the one who is intimidated. Even if one can be neither bribed nor intimidated he cannot be free if he does not know what to do. Integrity is not enough. The third factor is that one must have sufficient correct information to make a correct decision. Without such information one may be free to guess, but he cannot be free to choose.
If freedom is considered in that light, it seems virtually impossible for anyone in this world to be free. But freedom is possible, as the Saviour explained when he said simply, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Sufficient truth is not available except within the testimony of Christ. Then we are free indeed, as Abinadi was free, or as the Prophet Joseph was free. Free to be oneself, to act in accordance with the laws of one’s own being, and to fulfill the covenants one made with the Father at the Council. If one is free to do that, one is free indeed.
As far as I can tell, “freedom,” as I have just described it, and “having a broken heart” mean precisely the same thing. Let me tell you why I think that is true, and why it is so important.
The Hebrew word translated “broken” means shattered–like an earthen pot which tips off a shelf, falls to the ground and shatters so there is nothing left which can be called a pot. So what is a broken heart? It is the now shattered motives, both rational and emotional, with which I once drove my Self, and with which I once justified all my attitudes and actions. It is a shattering of all of my old contrivances to possess and to become. And that breaking doesn’t come easily. And when it comes, it isn’t painless. It is the product of becoming acutely aware of the law of one’s own being, and then of sincere repentance, removing from oneself every inclination which is in violation of that law.. One must turn away from sin, turn toward the Saviour, offer him our sins, let him take them, and let him purge the uncleanness from our souls.
The “turning” is the key. When the Way of our lives leads from motive to purpose, then on to advancement, then to power and recognition, we accumulate titles and regalia as we “become.” We deck our Selves with the evidence of our success and adorn our Selves in their robes and uniforms and masks. Then we secret our BEing within, defining and redefining our “Self” by the clothes and hats we wear. As we seek security by hiding behind the power and glory of our pretended Self, its regalia becomes like a stiff and bristly hide. We wear it to cover our vulnerability to want and to fear. But the vulnerability is still there and it is very real. It is the masks and the regalia which are the fictions–like a false god whose only existence is enshrined in our own insistence that we want to worship it. We pile on the robes of our dignities until we are so obscured by them that we sometimes cannot even find ourselves under the weight of all that we have defined as our Selves..
These masks, robes, and regalia with which one seeks to cover his vulnerability are part of what is called the “vain imaginations of the heart.” I think it is that imagination which must be broken, shattered, until it falls about our feet, leaving us utterly exposed, wholly naked, and entirely vulnerable before the Lord.
May I tell you a short story.
One day I dropped in on my daughter Dawn and her family. Little two-year-old Chelsea was in the tub having a bath. She heard my voice and came running into the living room to meet me. “Grandpa,” she shouted, all dripping wet, holding out her arms, wanting to be picked up and hugged. As I held her, wetness and all, I understood what it means to be like a little child in the Kingdom of God. The little girl in my arms was completely, simply, Chelsea. She needed no clothing to define who she was. At that moment she was only herself; trusting, but not noticing she trusted; vulnerable, but unaware of her vulnerability because it did not concern her; loving, and finding fulfillment and identity in the moment of her giving her love. In her unabashed dripping-wetness Chelsea was wholly free to be herself–to express her love–to BE the expression of her love.
I suppose we are all like that. When we are stripped of all the masks and facades of the artificial needs and fears by which we define our Selves, then we may kneel naked, vulnerable, and unashamed before our loving Heavenly Father. When one is childlike in that nakedness, he is free. He knows and loves the voice of Him by whom he walks. Nothing can bribe him because in his Saviour all of his needs are satisfied. Nothing can threaten him because in the arms of his Saviour he can find no fear. He may not have all the information he needs all the time, but his Friend has, and one can always ask when one does not know. When one is naked in that way, one may begin to know as he is known and see as he is seen. Only when one is comfortable with that kind of nakedness may he be clothed in a “robe of righteousness” and become one who may “inherit the kingdom of God.”
I suspect when that happens, the question of one’s obedience will become moot because the question of his motive will have no practical meaning. Obedience will simply be one of the fruits of love, and his absolute obedience the simple expression of his absolute freedom.
If that, or something like that, is what it means to have a broken heart, then in that, as in all things, we may look to the Saviour as our guide and exemplar. “Be of good cheer,” he said, “for I have overcome the world” — then he let himself be taken to the Jewish and Roman courts where he was rejected, spat upon, and beaten; then to the cross where he suffered death. He was God; he didn’t have to put up with that. But by doing so he proved, as he said, he had “overcome the world”. I know the phrase means more than what I am about to write, but I suspect it means this also: He was free from all of the bribes or fears this world could throw against him. He knew the covenants he had made with his Father and he understood what he must do to fulfil those covenants. His permitting them to take him to Golgotha declared his freedom, and thus validated his sacrifice to all eternity.
Now, I ask, “What must I do? How can my sacrifice be in ‘similitude’ to his?” As I consider his sacrifice, I come to believe that I must do, in my weak and finite stumblings, what my Saviour did in his infinite power and love. Upon my cross I must sacrifice a broken heart and thereby overcome the world. If I can make that sacrifice, then I may begin to become prepared to sacrifice a contrite spirit also.
That brings us to the next question: What does “contrite spirit” mean, and how may I sacrifice that to the Lord?
The Oxford English Dictionary gives two definitions for “contrite,” the first is literal and the second figurative.
The figurative one suggests repentance in much the same way “broken heart” suggests repentance: That is, “Crushed or broken in spirit by a sense of sin, and so brought to complete penitence.” Similarly, it says “contrition” connotes “the condition of being bruised in heart; sorrow of affliction of mind for some fault or injury done; especially penitence for sin.”
While those ideas work well in the context of “a sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit,” they don’t say much. If read that way, “broken heart” says all there is to say, and “contrite spirit” only says it again for emphasis. I still don’t much believe in redundancies, especially when it seems to leave an emptiness in the place where I would expect some truth to be. So I go back to the OED and look at the literal meaning.
The word “contrite” is derived from a Latin word, contritus, which is a compound of con meaning “together,” and terere, meaning “rub, triturate [grind to dust], bray [grind to powder], grind.” Therefore, OED says, the literal definition of “contrite” is to be “bruised, crushed; worn or broken by rubbing.” It adds that “contrition” means, “the action of rubbing of things together or against each other; grinding, pounding or bruising, so as to comminute [reduce to small particles] or pulverize.”So the literal meaning of contrite has to do with taking something large, then bruising it, beating it, grinding it, until it becomes something very small, like powder. In one important respect that is not the same as “broken.” In “broken” there is a necessary force which effects the breaking, but that force might be internal (such as being too hot, too cold, or too heavy) as well as external. However, in “contrite” the force must be external. Nothing can grind itself. In order to have a contrite spirit, there must be a grinder as well as a grinded.
The word “spirit” is wonderful. In Psalms, David wrote, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalms 34:18) In Strong I learn that the Hebrew word translated “spirit” means wind and breath, as in the phrase “breath of life.”
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says, “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (D&C 59:8) For the meaning of that word “spirit” we go again to the Oxford English Dictionary: “The animating or vital principle in man, that which gives life to the physical.” I like that. What I think those two definitions mean to this discussion is that it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about the spirit person which inhabits the physical body and thereby gives it life, or whether we are talking about the aura of light which IS–which pervades, surrounds, and defines our person and personality. Either way, the word “spirit” means the essence of what we are: the thing which is the Individual, and which has been from the beginning of eternity and will continue until its end (having neither beginning nor end) It is that “spirit,” made “contrite,” which must now be sacrificed if one is to “inherit the kingdom of God.”
At first thought it seemed to me that after I had sacrificed a broken heart, there wouldn’t be much of me left. If all my masks, facades, and regalia were gone, then all that would be left is just my naked Self–the thing I am, my BEing. That’s a lot! It’s a thing wonderful and worthy to be placed upon the altar of God! Right? Hogwash! That Self of mine might be stripped of its pretended decorations, but it still knows how to be angry, contemptuous, Self-righteous and condescending. It may not be bribable for money or power, but it can still judge others with a wilful and crooked eye. My Self has become like Job was in his beginning: Upright, obedient, giving God the credit for all the wonderful things I am, and doing daily obeisance lest I or my children should become anything less than that. I sort of believe that when I get that way I probably could use troubles and comforters like the ones Job was blessed with, in order to discover that it is my precious sense of Self which now must be placed upon the sacrificial altar.
But how to do it? That’s not such a hard question because its answer is everywhere in the Scriptures. Even I know that. Most succinctly it is in the Sermon on the Mount and Moroni 7; most beautifully in the Book of Job and the Gospel of John.
Both Job and John write first of the preexistence, then bring us to this world. They walk us through the principles and the ordinances that take us to the veil and beyond, concluding, I believe, with the final sacrificial offering of a contrite spirit.Job’s experience before and at the veil is vividly described, but the sacrifice which followed is told so simply that it almost evades detection.
“Then Job answered the LORD, and said….I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes….And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before (Job 42:1,5,6,10).”
The same elements found in the conclusion of Job are also in John, but instead of only six words (“when he prayed for his friends”), John’s discussion of that principle consists of almost the entire last half of his Gospel, from the time Jesus reached behind the veil to bring Lazarus back into his presence, until the Saviour ascended to the presence of his own Father.
I believe that if one wishes to know the meaning of “contrite”–that is, to identify the grinders as
well as the grinded –the Gospel of John is the best place to look. I have supposed that one of John’s objectives may have been to teach us what our own ultimate sacrifice must be.
I can’t know, of course, but it occurs to me that may be the reason why the Gospel of John is the only gospel which does not contain an account of the Saviour’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration or of his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. If John’s purpose was to walk us through the covenants and ordinances and say: “This is how the Saviour did it, so you will know how to do it too”–If that was his intent, he may have deliberately left out of his story the Saviour’s experiences which we could never replicate, even in our weak and time-bound way, but carefully described for us the kind of contrition which led to the Saviour’s final sacrifice and ultimate exaltation.
John is the only one of the four gospels which concludes the Saviour’s life by giving us the words of his discourse to his Apostles about love and unity, and of his great “High Priestly Prayer” which is our best key to understanding the meaning of his (and perhaps our own) ultimate and final sacrifice.
Somehow the notion of playing leap-frog through John to illustrate my point seems to me to be a sacrilege. If it seems so to you, too, pick up your Bible and read it in its entirety, but also please notice the parts I have called attention to.
Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus….Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died….Jesus wept….he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes….Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles….Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
…took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord….The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again….But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him…Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end….So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you….And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another….Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me…If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever…He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you…They hated me without a cause (various passages throughout the Gospel of John).
Do you see in that what I see there: The Saviour is telling them that he and they are going to die, but their death is incidental to the sacrifice he requires of them, which is that they love one another, and with that same love, they must love all of His other children as well.
A contrite spirit is one which is bruised and ground until only light/love is left. And it is that light/love which, in the end, we must place upon the altar of God. The first consequence of making that sacrifice would be a unity of spirit which only those “of a celestial glory” could experience. When that idea occurred to me, the Saviour’s prayer in John 17 took on a new and beautiful meaning:
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17).
To be one they must BE charity in a this-world environment where charity is alien and love is bruised, despised, hated. Where the evil one who asserts the claim that hie is “the god of this world” and his servants try to grind upon those who have charity and make them as dust–an objective diametrically opposed to God’s. At the conclusion of his beautiful discourse to the Twelve, and immediately before he began his “High Priestly Prayer” the Saviour said to his Apostles,
33 These things I have spoken to you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
That is important, in fact, it may be the key to understanding everything else he said then. As, when one sacrifices a broken heart he obtains freedom in its place, so, when one sacrifices a contrite spirit, what he gets in its place is peace. If we are to have freedom we must sacrifice everything which would make us unfree. If we are to have peace we must sacrifice all of ourSelves which is alien to peace, leaving no part of our Selves except THAT WE LOVE.
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
My musing on these ideas has brought me to the angels’ announcement of the Saviour’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
As I understand it, there are, in the alien world in which I live, only two sacrifices which I can make which will be acceptable to the Lord. The first, under the careful tutelage of the Holy Ghost, is to let my heart be broken–to permit my Saviour’s love to shatter every pretended and acquired criterion by which I define mySelf: my masks, facades, ambitions; and the regalia with which I adorn mySelf. I can do that only if I know the voice of my Shepherd; and if I know what has value and what does not, and know that–as there are more for me than there can ever be against me–I need never be for sale and I need never be afraid. My Saviour was stripped of all he had until there was only one decision left to be made: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” After having forsaken all else his sacrifice was culminated upon the cross. My sacrifice of a broken heart must be no less: To do only the will of the Father, in the way I live, and the way I die.
The second sacrifice, contrite spirit, is all of me that’s left over after I have sacrificed a broken heart. I understand that in this sacrifice my Self must not be discarded in the way its regalia was in the previous sacrifice, but that Self must be made clean and pure, as through a refiner’s fire. It must be bruised and beaten (“persecuted” is one of the words used in the Beatitudes) until it is small like a grain of salt, then pulverized until there is nothing left of its substance except the pure light/love from which it was created, until it is in perfect accord with the law of my own being.
Like my Saviour, who, within this environment of utter rejection, extended himself from eternity to eternity, conquering death and hell by the power of his love, I must do the same: not from eternity to eternity, but only within the limits of the tiny sphere of the light which is me. In this world whose god is not the Lord, I must lay aside all evil, learn to cherish good until I have tasted of the Saviour’s love. Having tasted, and thus having known, I must love others as he loves me, that I may become holy, without spot, immersed and clothed in the glory of his light.
Ezekiel understood all that, and he wrote it very well:
24 For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
29 I will also save you from all your uncleannesses…(Ezekiel 36:24-28).
6 Wherefore, [Father Lehi might have added] redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
7 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 2:6-7).
But I am weak of heart and feeble of spirit, and am not sufficient to come unto Christ without a great deal of practical help. That help was guaranteed to me when Adam and Eve wisely and courageously partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Their heritage to me was the promise to me that I could, by rich experience, learn how to offer my own sacrifice which will, by the Lord’s grace, bring me home to him.
You will recall that “Contrite” means to rub together, to grind into something very small. Well, I can’t grind myself, I need some grinders to assist me, or I cannot become little like dust. I can only be there, someone else has to do the grinding. Knowing that need, my Heavenly Father has, in his kindness, provided me with three kinds of “grinders”
The first, of course is the Holy Ghost which teaches me, and leads me in and out of all sorts of bruising experiences.
The second are my “enemies” (whom I must learn to love) who knock me about and rub off my roughest edges. They are both devils and people, whoever seeks to stand between me and the fulfillment of my covenants with my Heavenly Father. Among my “enemies” are also the otherwise “nice guys” whose actions give me the excuse to feel upset, angry, or vindictive. The world seems to be so well supplied with these sorts of “enemies” that my happening upon them is an every day occurrence. They are important, but so plentiful that I’m afraid I don’t think of them as being very precious.
The third are precious–they are very precious in deed! They are my friends who let me practice on them, and who don’t get upset when I don’t get it right. It is they who teach me the meaning of charity. I believe the greatest kindness a friend can do for me is not to love me in return, but to permit me to love him. How else could I ever learn, by experience, the unbounded joy which charity can bring. It would be jolly hard to learn anything about love if I had no dear friends whom I could love. Thank you for being that kind of friends.
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
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 2:6-7).
The reason that is so is explained in Third Nephi where the Saviour says:
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.
21 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 9:19-21).
Last week I said something about a meaning of a broken heart. This week I wish review that, then continue with a comment about the nature of a contrite spirit.
Consider a clay pot, tall and beautifully turned, slender at the bottom and top, gentle and gracious in its slope, and movement. It sits, not too precariously on a shelf, but the shelf is not quite true and slopes a bit, or the pot’s bottom is not quite flat or smooth, and its a bit top-heavy. A door slams too hard. A stiff wind blows through an open window, or someone lifts his head and bumps the shelf. One can’t actually assert that there were no external force which caused the pot to fall; one can’t say that the pot fell all by itself without assistance. But neither can one say that it was entirely the fault of the door, or the wind, or the careless head. If the pot had had a larger or flatter base, or a lower center of gravity, or had not been so heavy, it would not have fallen, and it would not now lie broken upon the floor, no longer distinguishable as a pot.
A “broken heart” is like that. There is an environment in which one lives, of course, and that environment effects what the “heart” does. But the environment is not sufficient to break the heart. The breaking is a result of the heart’s response to the environment, but also a consequence of its own nature, the way it sits on the shelf. At the risk of carrying the simile too far, let me just say that in the phrase, “a broken heart and contrite spirit,” breaking is something that the heart does of its own volition, external pressures do not force it to break.
As I pointed out last week, to have a broken heart is to strip oneself of the masks and regalia with which one wished to re-define oneself. To do that successful, one must do it alone. One may receive and accept assistance from others, but he may also resist and refuse the help. The “other” is never the major factor in one’s change. If one is to have his heart broken, it must happen within oneself, by oneself (with the help of the Spirit), and in anticipation of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s promise:
36 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26, see also, 11:19 and 18:31)
As I understand it, our Father in Heaven requires from each of us to make the same kind of sacrifice as the Saviour made — not anything like the same in power or magnitude, but in similitude. It would be absurd to suggest that one’s sacrifice might have the same infinite and eternal consequences as the Saviour’s, but it is not absurd to suggest that the sacrifice which is expected of me, must be as nearly like the Saviour’s as I am able to make it. By that I mean that just as the Saviour sacrificed all that he had and was, so I must also. Otherwise, my sacrifice will not be in similitude to his. On the cross he was mocked, despised, and (in this world’s terms) reduced to nothing. This he did in fulfilment of the covenants he had made with his Father. With a broken heart we do the same. Perhaps one’s covenant with the Father did not require that one relinquish all the power, wealth, and reputation one gathers to himself in this world, but it does require that he be willing to do so, and that he does not try to define and preserve his Self by the things which he will leave behind when he goes into the grave. The Saviour who hung upon that cross was the Great God of Heaven, The Creator of All Things, the Father and King of Israel. Jesus’s being stripped, mocked, and crucified did not alter who and what he was. But, in contrast, the Jewish High Priest who ordered the Saviour’s death, who was clothed in the majesty and power of his worldly office and wealth, was not exalted by his dress, titles, or recognitions. He was neither god nor king, nor, as for as I can tell, will he be heir to either.
So we, like the Saviour, must remove all our regalia, and be as naked before God as Christ was on the cross. Then we may be defined in accordance to the law of our own being, and thus, may sacrifice that stripped and “broken heart” upon the altar of God.
Ezekiel wrote of a “new heart” and a “new spirit;” the Saviour spoke of a “broken heart and contrite spirit.” I suspect they are the same. To receive a broken/new heart one must be changed from within. That is, the force which causes the change must come from within. But the opposite is true with a new/contrite spirit. In that case, the cause of change must come from without.
That brings us to the next question: What does “contrite spirit” mean, and how may one sacrifice it “in similitude” of the sacrifice of the Son, to the Father?
The Oxford English Dictionary gives two definitions for “contrite,” the first is literal and the second figurative.
The figurative one suggests repentance in much the same way “broken heart” suggests repentance: That is, “Crushed or broken in spirit by a sense of sin, and so brought to complete penitence.” Similarly, it says “contrition” connotes “the condition of being bruised in heart; sorrow of affliction of mind for some fault or injury done; especially penitence for sin.”
While those ideas work well in the context of “a sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit,” they don’t say much. If read that way, “broken heart” says all there is to say, and “contrite spirit” only says the same thing a second time. I still don’t much believe in redundancies, especially when the second leaves an emptiness in the place where I would expect some truth to be. So I go back to the OED and look at the literal meaning.
The word “contrite” is derived from a Latin word, contritus, which is a compound of con meaning “together,” and terere, meaning “rub, triturate [grind to dust], bray [grind to powder], grind.” Therefore, OED says, the meaning of “contrite” is to be “bruised, crushed; worn or broken by rubbing.” It adds that “contrition” means, “the action of rubbing of things together or against each other; grinding, pounding or bruising, so as to comminute [reduce to small particles] or pulverize.”
So the literal meaning of contrite has to do with taking something large, then bruising it, beating it, grinding it, until it becomes something as small as dust or powder. In one important respect that is not the same as “broken.” In “broken” there is one or a combination of forces which cause the breaking, but that impetus is largely within oneself. However, in “contrite” that force is always and must always be, external. Nothing can grind itself to dust. In order to become dust there must be something else which does the grinding. So it is with a “contrite spirit.” The contrition comes from forces outside oneself.
The word “spirit” is wonderful. It means exactly what one would expect it to mean. In Psalms, David wrote, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalms 34:18) For the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “spirit” we go to Strong and learn that the word means wind or breath, as in the phrase “breath of life.”
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says, “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” (D&C 59:8) That’s simple English, so we can go to back to the OED and read, “The animating or vital principle in man, that which gives life to the physical.” I like that. What I think those two definitions mean to our discussion is that it does not matter whether we are talking about the “spirit” as the spirit person who inhabits the physical body and thereby gives it life; or whether we are talking about the aura of light which IS–which pervades, surrounds, and defines our person and personality. Either way, the word “spirit” means the essence of what one is: the thing which is the Individual, and which has been from the beginning of eternity, and will continue to be forever. It is that “spirit,” made “contrite,” which one must sacrifice if one is to “inherit the kingdom of God.”
I think it is important to notice that it is not “the spirit” which is to be sacrificed. Rather it is a “contrite spirit.” That is, it is the ground down, powered remains of one’s spirit which must be placed upon the sacrificial altar .
When I first considered what it meant to sacrifice a broken heart, to strip myself of all my artificial masks, and pretended glories, and the “vain imaginations of the heart;” I thought, “Surely, that is all there is!” Such a sacrifice leaves nothing except one’s naked Self — what one really is, one’s Being, a thing now made pure and beautiful. That’s a lot! It’s all of me. It’s a thing wonderful and worthy to be placed upon the altar of God! Right?
That Self might be stripped of its pretended decorations, but it still knows how to be angry, contemptuous, Self-righteous and condescending. It may not be bribable for money or power, but it can still judge others with a wilful and crooked eye. This Self has become like Job was in his beginning: Upright, obedient, giving God the credit for all the wonderful things of life, and doing daily obeisance lest he or his children should unwittingly do something wrong. When one gets to such a high state of perfection, then one really needs troubles and comforters somewhat like the kind Job was blessed with. Otherwise how is one to discover that it is his precious sense of his righteous Self which now must be ground to dust before it can be placed upon the sacrificial altar.
But how to do it? That’s not such a hard question because its answer is everywhere in the Scriptures, most succinctly it is in the Sermon on the Mount and Moroni 7; most beautifully in the Book of Job and the Gospel of John. Both Job and John write first of the preexistence, then bring us to this world, then walk us through the principles and the ordinances which take us to the veil and beyond. The three synoptic gospels tell of Gethsemane and the Saviour’s sacrifice there, but the Gospel of John replaces that part of the Saviour’s story by his walk with his Apostles when he taught them to love one another and by his prayer that they would always be one.
The Saviour is explaining to the Twelve that he and they were going to be put to death, but their death is incidental in comparison to the real sacrifice he require of them, which was that they love one another — but not just each other — they must love everyone else as well. To be one they must BE charity. Another way of saying that is that they must live the Law of Consecration. They must be the very personification of charity, even in the this-world environment where charity is alien and love is bruised, despised, and hated.
Job was taught the same thing. His experience before and at the veil is vividly described, but the sacrifice which followed is told so simply that it almost evades detection.
Then Job answered the LORD, and said….I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes….And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:1,5,6,10)
The same elements found in the conclusion of John are also in Job, but while John’s discussion of that principle expands to almost the entire last half of his gospel, from the time Jesus reached behind the veil to bring Lazarus back into his presence, until the Saviour ascended to the throne of his Father, in Job it consists of only six words (“when he prayed for his friends”),
What does that have to do with contrite? Everything. You will recall that “Contrite” means to rub together, to grind into something very small. Well, I can’t grind myself, I need some grinders to assist me, or I cannot become little like dust. Someone else has to do the grinding. Knowing that, my Heavenly Father has, in his kindness, provided me with three kinds of others who can grind away at my pride.
The first, of course, is the Holy Ghost which teaches me, lets me in and leads me out of all sorts of bruising experiences.
The second are my “enemies” (whom I must learn to love) who knock me about and rub off my roughest edges. They are both devils and people, whoever seeks to stand between me and the fulfillment of my covenants with my Heavenly Father. Among my “enemies” are those whose actions give me the excuse to feel upset, angry, or vindictive. The world seems to be so well supplied with these sorts of “enemies” that my happening upon them is an every day occurrence. They are important, but so plentiful that I’m afraid I don’t think of them as being very precious.
The third are precious in my eyes–they are very precious in deed! They are my friends who let me practice on them, and who don’t get upset when I don’t get it right. It is they who teach me the meaning of charity. I believe the greatest kindness a friend can do for me is not to love me in return, but to permit me to love him. How else could I ever learn, by experience, the unbounded joy which charity can bring. It would be jolly hard to learn anything about love if I had no dear friends whom I could love. (Thank you each for being that kind of friend.)
A contrite spirit is one which is bruised and ground until only love/light is left. And it is that love/light which, in the end, we must place upon the altar of God. The first consequence of making that sacrifice is the oneness the Saviour spoke about, a unity of spirit which only those of a celestial nature can experience.
Like my Saviour, who, within this environment of utter rejection, extended himself from eternity to eternity, conquering death and hell by the power of his love, I must do the same: not from eternity to eternity, but only within the limits of the tiny sphere of the light which is me. In this world whose god is not the Lord, I must lay aside all evil, learn to cherish good until I have tasted of the Saviour’s love. Having tasted, and thus having known, I must love others as he loves me, that I may become holy, without spot, immersed and clothed in the glory of his light, that I might have peace.
So the sum of it is this: As when one sacrifices a broken heart he obtains freedom in its place, so, when one sacrifices a contrite spirit, what he gets in its place is peace. If one is to have freedom, one must break everything which would make himself unfree. And, if one is to have peace he must have grinded away every part of him which is alien to peace, leaving no part remaining except charity. That person of charity is what one places, as an peace offering, upon the altar of his God. And the offering is acceptable.