We generally focus on the positive aspect of growth in the kingdom, the gaining of a testimony or the learning of new talents and abilities. These things are necessary and wonderful, but they are also the back end of a process that often starts with having to tear down something else in order to build something better.
The need to be broken
The need to break something down in order to build something better is not a foreign concept to us. When you have a wild horse that needs to be taught how to be ridden, you have to break him. To break a horse is to teach him to be tame so he can be led and is safe to ride.
When a recruit enters the military they have to go to basic training. The purpose of basic training is to break the new soldier down so they are able to accept the training and commands of their superior officers. It is a vital part of becoming a good soldier.
Even in cooking and metallurgy you have to break things down before you can make anything of worth. If you want to bake a cake you can’t just throw in some kernels of wheat with some eggs (in their shells) with some milk and expect to get a cake. If you want to make a ring you have to melt down the metal then refine it, shape it, then combine it with other things to produce the final product.
Most things of beauty require that something be broken down before something of great value can be made of the refined materials. Our experiences in the kingdom of God are no different.
Our grand example
As in all things, Jesus is our great example. Spiritually he was perfect. He never once committed sin, which is defiance or rebellion against eternal law. He was the only one who never broke a commandment by even a tiny bit. Yet even Christ had to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy gave a talk in the October, 2007 General Conference on this subject. He said:
The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.
Let’s look at what a broken heart is. He says it “is an eternal attribute of godliness.” To be broken hearted means to have our heart “completely open to the Spirit of God,” and that we “recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are.” What it does not require is that we be guilty and sinful in order to have a broken heart. Christ, who was perfect, had a broken heart. To have a broken heart is an attribute of the godly or righteous individual.
Elder Porter then finishes his description of those who are brokenhearted by saying that by sacrificing our pride (“in all its forms”) we become malleable or shape-able clay in the hands of the Master.
What is involved?
To break us down requires that we be willing to give up anything and everything that would prevent us from experiencing the exalting training needed for us to return to our Father in Heaven.
Since I am writing this I will confess one of my weaknesses so I don’t have to name one of yours. I have suffered for many years with a false notion that I can become good without the Savior’s help, without his atonement. If you have spent much time around children you have probably heard it expressed this way, “I can do it myself!”
Having to admit that I cannot do it myself makes me chafe and causes me to kick against the pricks. My personal pride prevents me from admitting that I don’t have the capacity to will myself into perfection, though heaven knows I’ve tried enough times. Like most of our sins, when we state our rationale for why we sin, we usually come off sounding pretty lame.
As long as I am busy fighting the Savior’s sacrifice in my behalf, I cannot be the beneficiary of that sacrifice. I cannot change. I cannot grow. And as often as not, I dig myself into my own hole a little deeper. Only when I own up to my own limitations and acknowledge that the Savior is the source of my only real strength, can I receive the strength from Him, through the Spirit, to make the needed changes in my life.
We often think that those who go to hell in the end are those who are truly bad people. But what is the difference between someone who deliberately commits sin and the person who refuses Christ’s atonement in their behalf. Either way, if we don’t accept His atonement and take advantage of its cleansing power, hell is a guaranteed pit stop along our path to resurrection. The only ones who can avoid spending time in hell are those who repent and allow the grace of God to help them become better people through Christ’s atonement.
The universal need
None of us are without a need to be changed by the grace of God. All of us need to have our weaknesses turned into strengths. We all need to give up our desires for sin and willingly submit to Christ’s commandments. None of us are immune from pride, the universal sin. We are all willful in our own way and in varying degrees. Becoming brokenhearted will teach us how to submit to the influence of the Spirit.
There isn’t one of us who cannot be made spiritually perfect in the Lord’s own due time and in his own way. The path to that perfection must first begin by breaking us of our bad qualities and learning better ones. We must learn to love, serve, give, and be more concerned for the welfare of others than we are for ourselves. We must learn to be totally honest, develop integrity, and become more in tune and sensitive to the influence of God’s Spirit.
In Alma 32:14 the people are taught that deliberate humility, rather than forced humility brings the greater blessing.
14 And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?
We each have a choice. We can choose to be malleable, to be willing to submit to the changes the Lord requires of us, or we can resist it until the day comes it is forced upon us by way of outright punishment. We choose which blessing we want. We are all broken. The Lord wants to help us fix what is broken. How blessed are those who willingly approach the Lord and seek His help in making our weaknesses become our strengths.
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Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.