A Broken Heart, a Contrite Spirit, and Godly Sorrow

“A Broken Heart, a Contrite Spirit, and Godly Sorrow,” The Divine Gift of Forgiveness Teacher Material (2021)

“A Broken Heart, a Contrite Spirit, and Godly Sorrow,” The Divine Gift of Forgiveness Teacher Material

a young adult praying on a bench

Week 9 Teacher Material

A Broken Heart, a Contrite Spirit, and Godly Sorrow

In this lesson students will have the opportunity to explore the meanings of the terms “broken heart,” “contrite spirit,” and “godly sorrow.” Students will explain why cleanliness and worthiness in missionary service is essential. They will also hear and share testimony of the Savior’s willingness to help them as they repent and change.

Ideas for Teaching

Chapter 15

A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and godly sorrow are essential conditions of repentance.

  • You might begin class by inviting students to share what parts of chapter 15 were most meaningful to them. As students share, you could identify a truth similar to the one in the above heading.

  • To deepen students’ understanding of this truth, you could divide the class into three groups and assign each group to read one of the following passages from the chapter, looking for what it means to have a broken heart, a contrite spirit, or godly sorrow:

    1. The sixth paragraph of the chapter and the bolded definitions that follow

    2. Paragraphs 14–15 (which begin “Sin would be …”)

    3. Paragraphs 2–3 of the section “Godly Sorrow,” which share a statement by President Ezra Taft Benson

    Invite students to share what they find.

  • Consider displaying the accompanying images of Jesus with little children and a tree bending in the wind (or similar images you find).

    Christ and the Children, by Harry Anderson
    tree bending in the wind

    Then watch the video “A Broken Heart, Contrite Spirit, and Godly Sorrow” (3:58). Invite students to share what they learn from the metaphors of little children and a tree in the wind that Elder Andersen uses to teach about these “three beloved friends.”

    You could then ask one or more of these follow-up questions:

    • In what ways do these three friends (a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and godly sorrow) help us on our journey toward being forgiven? How are the three things connected? How are they different?

    • How can these “beloved friends” influence our relationship with Jesus Christ? How do they help us to be more than just cleansed from our sins?

    • How can we invite these friends into our lives?

  • To add to your discussion about having a broken heart and a contrite spirit, you might read 3 Nephi 9:20–22 as a class. For context, you might explain that the Savior spoke these words to the descendants of Lehi during the three days of darkness after His death. He announced to the people that now instead of animal sacrifices, they should offer their broken hearts and contrite spirits. You might then share and discuss the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “The real act of personal sacrifice is not now nor ever has been placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal that is in us upon the altar—then willingly watching it be consumed! Such is the ‘sacrifice unto [the Lord of] a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ (3 Nephi 9:20.)” (Meek and Lowly [1987], 94).

  • To add to your discussion about godly sorrow, consider reading 2 Corinthians 7:9–10 together and then talking about the differences between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. As an illustration of worldly sorrow versus godly sorrow, you might use the conversation between Kim and her bishop from the section “A Young Woman Preparing for Marriage.”

  • Testify (or invite students to testify) of the blessings of having the three friends with us on our journey toward forgiveness.

Chapter 16

To qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, missionaries need to be worthy and clean before the Lord.

  • To help everyone in your class feel the applicability of this chapter, you might remind them that prophets have encouraged every member of the Church to become missionaries and help gather Israel. (See, for example, David A. Bednar, “Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 44–47; Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” [worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018], supplement to the New Era and Ensign,; and Russell M. Nelson, “Sisters’ Participation in the Gathering of Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 68–70.)

  • Invite students to imagine they are being called to serve the Lord as a missionary, starting in one month. What would they do to prepare? Consider reviewing some of the choices Elder Andersen made in preparation to serve a mission when he was young (see paragraphs 4–7 of chapter 16, which begin “The Lord provided …”). Consider also reading paragraphs 9–10 (which begin “In all of your preparation …”). Help students identify a truth similar to the one stated in the section heading above.

  • Ask students why they think it is essential to be worthy and clean if we want to help in God’s great work of gathering Israel. You could watch the video “Stay within the Lines” (5:10) to help deepen your discussion.

  • Alma preached to the people of Zarahemla at a time when they had great need to repent. Examine your own heart as you read some of the questions he asked them as recorded in Alma 5:6, 14–29. You could then discuss how prayerfully studying and pondering these questions can help someone to have a change of heart.

  • Consider inviting students to share anything that was particularly meaningful to them from the two letters included in chapter 16. If students do not have much to share, you might give them a few minutes to review one of the letters and then invite them to share thoughts, feelings, and impressions they have. You might also ask what the two young men discussed in the letters came to realize and understand about Jesus Christ, His character, and His power.

The Lord will strengthen us and help us to repent.

  • You might invite students to review paragraphs 10–15 of the section “Every Missionary Needs to Be Worthy” (which begin “If you are unsure …”) and to look for promises and words of encouragement that might give hope to someone who is afraid of confessing his or her sins to a priesthood leader. Help students identify a truth such as the one stated in the section heading above. You might also invite students to testify of this truth (without divulging past sins). Ask students to share what relying on these promises has done for their relationship with and love for the Savior.

  • Consider asking one or more of the following questions toward the end of class:

    • What have we read or discussed today that you have felt strongly about or that you have a testimony of?

    • How have the chapters we discussed today helped you to better understand or know our Savior Jesus Christ?

    • What have we read or discussed today that gave you hope for the future or gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ?

  • You might also read the last three paragraphs of the chapter (which begin “If you are now …”) to end class with Elder Andersen’s testimony.

For Next Time

Encourage students to study chapters 17 and 18 in preparation for the next week. For chapter 17, you might invite them to look for the role angels can play in our repentance. You could also encourage them to reflect on how their repentance may affect their ancestors and descendants. For chapter 18, you could invite students to consider how honesty or dishonesty can affect their efforts to repent and be forgiven.