In a memorable object lesson, President Russell M. Nelson selected the waiting room of the Salt Lake Temple as the location for his first public address as Church president to the membership at large.
In the Jan. 16 televised address at which the new First Presidency was announced, the new Church President made clear the reason for that choice.
“As a new presidency, we want to begin with the end in mind,” he explained. “For this reason, we are speaking to you today from a temple. The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a House of the Lord, sealed as families — faithful to the covenants made in a temple — that qualify us for the greatest gift of God, that of eternal life.”
The power to be found in making sacred covenants was reflected in President Nelson’s address, when he uttered what, since then, is already becoming something of a catchphrase around the Church: “Keep on the covenant path.”
He declared, “Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual privilege and blessing available to men, women and children everywhere.”
Those who worship God and strive to obey and honor Him are known as His covenant people. Covenant making has been an essential part of His dealings with men and women from the days of Adam and Eve and their posterity on down through the ages.
A covenant, of course, is “a sacred agreement or mutual promise between God and a person or a group of people” (see Gospel Principles, p. 81). In making such a covenant, we pledge to obey certain commandments; in return, He promises one or more blessings.
Though people can and often do violate covenants they have made, God will never go back on His promises. He has declared, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10).
From the time we embrace the gospel and are baptized — as early as age 8 — we enter into covenants.
Each week, as we listen to the sacrament prayers, we are reminded of the covenants we have made: We have promised to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, to always remember Him and to keep His commandments. In return, God promises that we will always have His Spirit to be with us.
So much is contemplated in the actions of taking His name upon us and keeping His commandments!
The prophet Alma, when he taught and baptized his followers at the waters of Mormon, gave instruction about covenant making in words that are just as applicable to us in this latter-day gospel dispensation.
Beginning with verse 8 in Mosiah 18, we learn that the covenant of baptism entails these elements:
• We enter into the fold of God and are willing to be called His people.
• We bear one another’s burdens that they may be light.
• We mourn with and comfort those who are afflicted.
• We stand as witnesses of God at all times and places for as long as we live.
• We serve Him and keep His commandments.
The blessings promised to us for keeping this covenant are that we will be “redeemed of God,” that we will “be numbered with those of the first resurrection,” that we will have eternal life and that the Lord will pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us (see verses 9 and 10).
In fulfilling the covenants made at baptism, we eventually qualify to enter the House of the Lord, His holy temple. There, we make further covenants. These covenants encompass the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and include the ordinance of eternal marriage and endless sealing to our posterity, a welding link that connects generations across time.
“The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there,” President Nelson said in his Jan. 16 address, “are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary. Your worship in the temple, and your service there for your ancestors, will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace, and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.”
We read from the account in Mosiah that these waters of Mormon were “beautiful to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (verse 30). Likewise, we can cherish the temple as the place where we entered into sacred covenants and received saving ordinances.
Even our youth, though not yet old enough to receive their own endowment, can experience the sacredness and beauty of the temple as they participate more frequently and fully these days than ever in the performance of baptisms for the dead.
In urging us to stay on the covenant path, President Nelson was mindful of those who have strayed from it.
“If you have stepped off the path,” he said, “may I invite you, with all the hope in my heart, to please come back! Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this, the Lord’s Church. You and generations yet unborn will be blessed by your actions now to return to the covenant path.”
Let this historic occasion be a time of renewal for each of us: a reinvigorated determination to stay on the covenant path or, if need be, to return to it.