The evening before the Lamb of God was to be crucified for the sins of the world and hours before He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus was sitting with his Apostles in a “large upper room” (Mark 14:15). It was here that He first instituted the sacrament: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples,” (Matthew 26:26). Then He said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” 1 Corinthians 11:24). Then, “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). Thus, the purpose of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is to look back and remember Jesus the Christ and what He has done for each of us. Everything points “to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice [is] the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:14). Blood sacrifices looked forward; the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper looks backward, and the central act—the atonement of Jesus Christ—is right in the middle—the meridian of time.
In the previous two articles about the law of sacrifice, we have discussed how the law was used anciently to teach God’s children to look forward to this “great and last sacrifice.” With the Savior’s ultimate sacrifice, the law of Moses was done away. The law of Moses, however, “is not the same thing as the law of sacrifice” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Law of Sacrifice,” Ensign, Oct 1998, 7). The Savior said after His resurrection from the dead, “And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood . . . [but] ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20). Hence, what we sacrifice has changed; that we sacrifice, and the reasons why we sacrifice have remained the same.
The word sacrifice means to make holy. It also means “To surrender or give up (something) for the attainment of some higher advantage or dearer object” (Oxford English Dictionary, “Sacrifice”). Or, as Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Bruce R. McConkie put it, “Sacrifice involves giving up the things of this world because of the promises of blessings to be gained in a better world” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. “Sacrifice,” Bookcraft: 1966).
But what is a broken heart and a contrite spirit? A broken heart is the opposite of a hard heart. The image of a hard heart is used in the scriptures to denote pride. Hence, a person with a broken heart is one who is humble. The word contrite means repentant. A person with a contrite spirit is one who has an awareness of his or her guilt. This person remembers the things he or she has done wrong, but because the person is repentant, he or she strives to change and be better than before. This person knows that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, he or she can overcome all obstacles.
To have a broken heart and a contrite spirit therefore means we are willing to submit to God. We are willing to submit to God as Christ was willing to submit to His father. The Savior said, “And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men, even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil” (3 Nephi 27:14).
God loves us. He wants us to come unto Him. The law of sacrifice tests us and assists us in coming unto Christ (M. Russell Ballard, “The Law of Sacrifice,” Ensign, Oct 1998, 7). Another Apostle of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, has taught: “Our highest sense of sacrifice is achieved as we make ourselves more sacred or holy. This we do by our obedience to the commandments of God” (“Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 88). Hence, “the sacrifice changed from the offering to the offerer” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Law of Sacrifice,” Ensign, Oct 1998, 7).
Sacrifice is therefore a wonderful blessing. Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith 6:7). In other words, sacrifice gives us faith, and with faith we can receive salvation. It is not always easy to give up something we want, especially when we can’t actually see the end results. But I testify that it is worth it in the end. Sometimes we must take a few steps into the darkness in order for the light to turn on and go before us. That’s faith. And sacrifice takes faith.
I end with one of my favorite quotes on the law of sacrifice: “Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!” (Neal A. Maxwell “ ‘Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,’ ” Ensign, May 1995, 68).