Ordinances and Covenants

Because we live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, we have the great blessing of having the saving ordinances of the gospel available to us.  They include baptism, confirmation, the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Also included for men is ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood.  True to the Faith teaches, “All the saving ordinances of the priesthood are accompanied by covenants.”1  “Ordinances and covenants help us remember who we are.  They remind us of our duty to God.  The Lord has provided them to help us come unto Him and receive eternal life.”2 

I think it is very significant that the first thing Russell M. Nelson said to the members of the Church as our new prophet was, “Keep on the covenant path.  Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.”3

As we discuss baptism and the ordinances of the temple, think of the spiritual blessings that have come into your life as you have kept and continue to keep the covenants you have made with the Lord.

Baptism is the first essential step we make on the covenant path.  President Nelson said, “Covenants made at baptism and renewed when we partake of the sacrament fortify our courage and commitment to the truth. … With that kind of courage, we literally have nothing to fear.  We know that while we will experience incessant opposition, we are also protected by His divine promise.  This scripture is offered to each one of us:  ‘Be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.’ (D&C 98:14)”4  

When we are baptized, we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to keep His commandments and to do His will, or in other words, to serve Him.  To have our commitment to the truth fortified as we renew our baptismal covenants by worthily and intentionally partaking of the sacrament is an incredible spiritual blessing.  When we are baptized, we also make the commitment to “stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”5   Can you see the spiritual blessing of having our courage fortified as we strive to fulfill that commitment?

Some of us made our baptismal covenants a long time ago.  Yet each week we are privileged to renew those sacred covenants.  Spiritual blessings are available to us as we continue to keep our baptismal covenants.  As we take the sacrament, we renew our commitment to always remember the Savior.  One powerful spiritual blessing is that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion.  Oh how we need the Holy Ghost as we continue on the covenant path!

To continue on the covenant path, we need what President Nelson calls a heartfelt commitment to endure with the Savior.  “Baptism is an extremely important ordinance. But it is only initiatory.  The supreme benefits of membership in the Church can only be realized only through the exalting ordinances of the temple.  These blessings qualify us for ‘thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers’ in the celestial kingdom.”6 

Most recently, President Nelson said, “The Savior invites all to follow Him into the waters of baptism and, in time, to make additional covenants with God in the temple and receive and be faithful to those further essential ordinances.”7

Explaining the blessings of those further essential ordinances, President Nelson said, “Temple ordinances, covenants, endowments, and sealings enable individuals to be reconciled with the Lord and families to be sealed beyond the veil of death. Obedience to temple covenants qualifies us for eternal life, the greatest gift of God to man. Eternal life is more than immortality. Eternal life is exaltation in the highest heaven—the kind of life that God lives.”8 

And at the dedication of the St. Louis Missouri Temple, he taught, “In the temple we make covenants not only with one another but with God.  He fixes the terms, which we are free to accept.  He offers principles and ordinances, which we receive by covenant.  This places each of us under strong obligation and responsibility to honor that commitment.  You need not fear such a pledge, however, because it is never a sacrifice on your part or on mine.  Quite to the contrary.  Obedience to a divine covenant qualifies each of us for great blessings and joy beyond our present comprehension.”4 

Joy beyond our present comprehension—that is quite an amazing spiritual blessing!  President Nelson reminds us, “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.  Joy comes from and because of Him.  He is the source of all joy. … Just as the Savior offers peace that ‘passeth all understanding,’ He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. … His joy is constant. … How, then, can we claim that joy?  We can start by ‘looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith’ ‘in every thought.’  We can give thanks for Him in our prayers and by keeping covenants we’ve made with Him and our Heavenly Father.  As our Savior becomes more and more real to us and as we plead for His joy to be given to us, our joy will increase. … Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours.”9 

In his last moments with his daughter Wendy, in what he called his farewell daddy-daughter conversation, it is obvious the importance President Nelson places on covenant keeping.  He shared this, “I held her hands and told her how much I loved her and how grateful I was to be her father. I said: ‘You married in the temple and faithfully honored your covenants.  You and your husband welcomed seven children into your home and raised them to be devout disciples of Jesus Christ, valiant Church members, and contributing citizens.  And they have chosen spouses of that same caliber.  Your daddy is very, very proud of you.  You have brought me much joy!’  She quietly responded, ‘Thank you, Daddy.’  It was a tender, tearful moment for us.  During her 67 years, we worked together, sang together, and often skied together.  But that evening, we talked of things that matter most, such as covenants, ordinances, obedience, faith, family, fidelity, love, and eternal life.”7 

Death has a way of bringing what is truly important to the forefront.  While it tests us to the core, it seems to put things in perspective.  Our covenants truly are things that matter most!  There is an indescribable peace that comes from knowing you have made and are keeping sacred covenants with God.  Surely peace and joy are tender spiritual blessings that come to us as covenant keepers. 

Consider these spiritual blessings President Nelson describes that come from making covenants.  “With each ordinance is a covenant—a promise. A covenant made with God is not restrictive, but protective. Such a concept is not new.  For example, if our water supply is not clean, we filter the water to screen out harmful ingredients.  Divine covenants help us to filter out of our minds impurities that could harm us.  When we choose to deny ourselves of all ungodliness, we lose nothing of value and gain the glory of eternal life.  Covenants do not hold us down; they elevate us beyond the limits of our own power and perspective.”8  

The analogy of keeping our water supply clean by continually filtering out impurities is so applicable to the temple.  We all need the ongoing purification that regular temple attendance offers.  It is not meant to bless us only once.  It can be a constant blessing to us, while also blessing our ancestors and others for whom we do the proxy work.  President Nelson stated, “We know that our time in the temple is crucial to our salvation and exaltation and to that of our families.  After we receive our own temple ordinances and make sacred covenants with God, each one of us needs the ongoing spiritual strengthening and tutoring that is possible only in the house of the Lord.  And our ancestors need us to serve as proxy for them.”10

One of the spiritual blessings our temple covenants can give us is eternal perspective.  President Nelson said, “[Eternal] perspective helps us to maintain fidelity to covenants made.  President Boyd K. Packer emphasized that ‘ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into [God’s] presence.  To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.’ … One day we will meet our Maker and stand before Him at Judgment.  We will be judged according to our ordinances, covenants, deeds, and the desires of our hearts.  Meanwhile, in this world smitten with spiritual decay, can individuals prepared for temple blessings make a difference?  Yes! Those Saints are ‘the covenant people of the Lord, … armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.’  Their example can lift the lives of all humankind.”8 

President Nelson has said, “The greatest compliment that can be earned here in this life is to be known as a covenant keeper.  The rewards for a covenant keeper will be realized both here and hereafter.”11

We can be those examples!  We can be covenant keepers!  As we stay on the covenant path, we can be a shining light in this ever-darkening world. 

Many years ago during a speech given at a graduation ceremony, President Nelson issued the following invitation.  It is an invitation we all would be wise to accept.  As we do, we will more easily recognize the spiritual blessings and privileges promised to covenant keepers. “Whoever you are and wherever you go, I invite you to come to the outstretched arms of Jesus.  Wherever else you think you may be going, come unto Him first.  You will find your greatest success and happiness when yoked with Him.  In His love, your precious families can be linked together forever, according to the eternal ordinances and covenants that He has established.  I invite you to learn of Him, to follow Him, and love Him as I do.”12

References:

  1.  True to the Faith:  Covenant

  2.  True to the Faith:  Ordinances

  3.  As We Go Forward Together – Russell M. Nelson

  4.  Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pg. 71

  5.  Mosiah 18:9

  6.  Endure and Be Lifted Up – Russell M. Nelson

  7.  “Come, Follow Me” – Russell M. Nelson

  8.  Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings – Russell M. Nelson

  9.  Joy and Spiritual Survival – Russell M. Nelson

10.  Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints – Russell M. Nelson

11.  Covenants – Russell M. Nelson

12.  Love of the Lord in Language and Living – Russell M. Nelson

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