Faith and repentance through Jesus Christ’s Atonement is commonly referred to as being at one with God. Before Christ’s mortal sojourn, it was always the intention of the chosen people of God, the House of Israel, to keep themselves at one with God– as individuals, as families and as a community. This was performed through sacrifices and offerings at the altar in the temple courtyard. A few of the common offerings performed included: burnt offerings (for devotion and worship, and for seeking forgiveness for unintentional sins); grain offerings (for thanks); sin offerings (for forgiveness from specific sins); guilt offerings (for forgiveness from unintentional sins requiring restitution); and peace offerings (for worship and asking for blessings). When Lehi left Jerusalem with his family, he did not forget the practice of sacrifices and offerings in his attempt to keep his small family group at one with God.
In 1 Nephi 2:7, he builds an altar to make an offering as soon as they are far enough away from the city, and into the first leg of their journey. This may have been a peace offering, placing themselves into God’s hands and seeking His guidance. A little later in 1 Nephi 5:9, when his sons returned with the brass plates, Lehi offered burnt offerings (maybe after Nephi recounted to him some of his struggles with Laman and Lemuel), seeking forgiveness for them not being cooperative the whole time. Similarly in 1 Nephi 7:22, when the boys returned from another errand back to Jerusalem, Lehi again offered burnt offerings; maybe this time realizing that this journey into the wilderness isn’t going to be a nice walk in the park, and that surely each one of them will at some time or other be guilty of unintentionally (or intentionally!) going contrary to God’s wishes. These offerings were active demonstrations of their devotion to God, and their desires to follow Him as best as they could.
Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, some six hundred years after Lehi’s journey began, we no longer have to concern ourselves with sacrifices and burnt offerings. Instead, He has asked that we come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 3 Nephi 9:19-20). We don’t need to build an altar for our offerings in our backyards; our devotion to God and our desires to follow Him, are demonstrated when we are on our knees in humble prayer. Every morning and night, and often times in between, we can keep ourselves aligned at one with God, by seeking His guidance and asking His forgiveness in our own personal prayers.
As Lehi’s family renewed their dedication to God with sacrifices and offerings, we are able to do the same by coming to Him with a broken heart in prayer. When we speak of one as being hard-hearted, his heart has been turned away from others and is focused selfishly upon himself. If he were to humble himself, go to God in prayer with a broken heart, it would be as if he made his burnt offerings at the altar. If you happen to find yourself with a hardened heart one day, break it open with humility, and put yourself again…at one with God, just as Lehi continually attempted to do for his small family in the wilderness.