“One of the great blessings of the restored gospel is the privilege of entering into sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven - covenants made binding by virtue of the holy priesthood. When we are baptized and confirmed, when brethren are ordained to the priesthood, when we go to the temple and receive our endowment, when we enter into the new and everlasting covenant of eternal marriage - in all these sacred ordinances, we make solemn commitments to keep God’s commandments.”1 This statement by Joseph B. Wirthlin emphasizes the connection between the priesthood of God, which was the topic for the youth in June, and ordinances and covenants, which is July’s topic.
Sometimes I wonder if we fully appreciate the significance of the covenants we make. I also wonder if we underestimate the power that comes from making and keeping covenants. James E. Faust said, “Covenants are not simply outward rituals; they are real and effective means of change.”2 Since this life is the time we have to prepare to meet God,3 then this life is really all about change. Think about what it means to be baptized. We are committing to change. We are promising that we will go forward a better person, trying harder to do what is right, willing to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”4 We take upon ourselves the name of Christ, which means we will try to be like Him. That is a commitment we renew each time we partake of the sacrament.
After baptism, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. What an incredible gift! I believe it is the second greatest gift that our Heavenly Father gives us. The greatest gift, of course, is His Son! It is through the Holy Ghost that we receive a remission of our sins – not just at baptism, but each week as we worthily take the sacrament. David A. Bednar recently taught that “receiving the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost in our lives creates the possibility of an ongoing cleansing of our soul from sin. As members of the Lord’s restored Church, we are blessed both by our initial cleansing from sin associated with baptism and by the potential for an ongoing cleansing from sin made possible through the companionship and power of the Holy Ghost—even the third member of the Godhead.”5
Do we fully appreciate the gift of the Holy Ghost, especially when we are trying to make necessary changes to bring our lives into better alignment with our Heavenly Father’s will? D. Todd Christofferson gave us this impressive list of things the Holy Ghost does for us.
- The Holy Ghost is the messenger of grace by which the blood of Christ is applied to take away our sins and sanctify us.
- The Holy Ghost is our comforter, our guide, and our companion.
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit are testimony, faith, knowledge, wisdom, revelations, miracles, healing, and charity, to name but a few.
- It is the Holy Ghost that reveals how you may clear the next seemingly insurmountable hurdle.
- It is by the Holy Ghost in you that others may feel the pure love of Christ and receive strength to press forward.
- It is the Holy Ghost that confirms the validity and efficacy of your covenants and seals God’s promises upon you.6
Some of God’s promises are that He gives us “empowering blessings” and the “endowment of faith” when we keep our covenants and through priesthood ordinances we are “endowed with power from on high.” Change is nearly impossible without power from on high! Change is also highly unlikely if we do not know we have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to help us. James E. Faust said, “Ordinances and covenants help us to remember who we are and our duty to God. If we honor them, He will give us added strength.”2
Consider these thought provoking questions Donald L. Hallstrom asked a few years ago, “How meaningful are the ordinances in our lives? How focused are we on our covenants?” He encouraged us to “focus on the ordinances and covenants. If there are any of the essential ordinances yet to be performed in your life, intently prepare to receive each of them. Then we need to establish the discipline to live faithful to our covenants, fully using the weekly gift of the sacrament. Many of us are not being regularly changed by its cleansing power because of our lack of reverence for this holy ordinance.
“To be fully converted to His gospel … is the only sure way to have spiritual safety now and happiness forever."7
When we are fully converted to the Lord’s gospel and when we are making and keeping sacred covenants, our lives are different. The way we act, think, talk and live will be different from the world – different because we will want to be like the Savior. Robert D. Hales so beautifully said, “When we make and keep covenants, we are coming out of the world and into the kingdom of God.”8
Boyd K. Packer reminds us just how important ordinances and covenants are. He said, “Life is a homeward journey for all of us, back to the presence of God in his celestial kingdom. Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into His presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.”9
Linda K. Burton taught, “Making and keeping covenants means choosing to bind ourselves to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. It is committing to follow the Savior. Covenant keeping is one way to express our love for the incomprehensible, infinite Atonement of our Savior and Redeemer and the perfect love of our Father in Heaven.”10
I hope we will all accept Sister Burton’s challenge to “evaluate how much we love the Savior, using as a measure how joyfully we keep our covenants. … Go forth with faith, cheerful hearts, and a great desire to be covenant keepers. This is how we demonstrate our love for our Father in Heaven and our Savior.”10
1. True to the Truth - Joseph B. Wirthlin
2. Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart - James E. Faust
3. Alma 34:32
4. Mosiah 18:9
5. Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins - David A. Bednar
6. The Power of Covenants - D. Todd Christofferson
7. Converted To His Gospel Through His Church - Donald L. Hallstrom
8. Modesty: Reverence for the Lord - Robert D. Hales
9. Covenants - Boyd K. Packer
10. The Power, Joy and Love of Covenant Keeping - Linda K. Burton