It’s pretty much useless to read the scriptures unless you read them with the same spirit that inspired the authors to write them, namely the Holy Spirit. As a follower of Christ, it should be the goal of every Christian to have the Holy Spirit with them always. This is impossible to do unless you know how to tell if you have the Spirit. So how do you know? The easiest indicator is your feelings. Are you happy? Are you at peace?
“And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.”
If you are feeling anxious or angry or any other negative emotion, you most likely have lost the Spirit. So, how do you get it back?
“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, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”
(3 Nephi 9:20)
Having our hearts broken is the natural consequence of losing something we desire. This is what happened to the poor people who Alma met that were “cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel.” (Alma 32:2) Alma said something rather interesting to this group of people:
“And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. 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?”
Here we see that it is possible to humble ourselves without being “compelled.” Alma tells us that those who do so are “more blessed” than those who don’t. Why do you suppose this is? Alma’s words seem fairly stern to a group of people who had lost everything. They were poor and destitute of wealth and had just lost the last thing that they loved: their place in the house of worship. While it’s obvious that Alma had sympathy on these people, he also let them know that if they had humbled themselves earlier, they would have been better off in the long run. The Christian writer C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
So why do we often wait to repent when we know that the sooner we turn to righteousness, the sooner God can bless us? If God is not blessing us, do we take our sorrows to him? And are we willing to accept the solution he offers, even if it doesn’t make sense? This is what it means to have a contrite spirit. It means you realize that you made a mistake and you’re willing to ask God what you should do to change. But not only do you ask him how you should change, but you actually attempt to change or repent.
If we have this humble attitude towards God, the Spirit will draw close to us and we will feel the peace and joy it brings. If we make a habit of running to the Lord when we’re feeling out of sorts and then implementing the changes he inspires us to make, the Spirit will attend to us more and more until at last we become holy as our Father in Heaven is holy.