Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Farewell Talk

The Power in Covenants  9-18-2011
To start off, I would like to go through the Who, What, Where, How and Why of covenants, to get a better idea of what covenants are all about.
What is a covenant?  "An agreement between God and His children. We do not act as equals in the agreement. God gives the conditions for the covenant, and we agree to do what he asks us to do. God then promises us certain blessings for our obedience. We receive ordinances by covenant. When we make such covenants, we promise to honor them. The Lord’s people are a covenant people. We are greatly blessed as we keep our covenants with the Lord." -Preach My Gospel, pg 70.
In short, a two-way promise.
Who makes/receives covenants? God in his own good pleasure makes the terms of covenants, we as people accept them. God wants every single human being to receive every covenant available. These are all at least in a spiritual context- sometimes, even in the scriptures, covenants are made between people, nations, etc. 
So the next question you might ask is, what are the different covenants that we in today’s church accept?
Briefly, there are different covenants we make connected with different ordinances of the gospel. Like baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, receiving the priesthood for men, temple ordinances, and the crowning ordinance of temple marriage.
First, there’s the covenant accepted at baptism.
The baptismal covenant is SO huge we’ve been instructed to renew it every week. Every week! We are not asked to renew our temple covenants. Every time we go to the temple after our first trip is for someone else. Do we, as saints, fully grasp the gravity of the sacrament, seeing as we re-commit ourselves to baptism every week? Every time we eat the bread and the water, we are reaffirming our dedication to keep the promises we made at baptism. If you listened to the sacrament prayers, you noticed that the promises we made are:
-The promise to be willing to take upon the name Jesus Christ
-To always remember him, ‘him’ being Jesus Christ
-To keep Jesus’ commandments
And in return, he promises us that we will always have his spirit to with us. Can you imagine that?—having the Holy Ghost with us at ALL times. Now that is an extraordinary promise, filled with tremendous power. If we had the Spirit with us at all times, imagine the things we would say, the things we would think, the things we would be more compelled to do, in sum, who we would become.
On that note of baptism and sacrament, I would like to turn to Mosiah ch. 18 we read kind of the “preliminary” steps to baptism. Read, starting in verse 8-10.
Remember, technically having these characteristics is not the covenant of baptism. What this is saying, (to me at least,) is that if this sounds like the kind of person you desperately want to become, go ahead and be baptized, go ahead and show your willingness to keep the commandments, to receive the spirit more abundantly. And I think this would be a fantastic self-check list before we take the sacrament each week—ask yourself, “in this upcoming week, will I try harder to be this kind of person?” The kind of person who mourns, comforts, lightens each others burdens, deserves to be called one of his people?
I see Alma’s teachings as a call to action—because I think that too many times in the church we look at baptism as the day in your life when you said “Okay, I will not break the commandments. I will not do bad things.” And each time you take the sacrament, you could see it as a re-dedication to not do bad things. Which is great and all, but if you look at life with the perspective of “stay out of trouble, and die,” you run the risk of not finding happiness. That’s where Alma’s “checklist,” so to speak, comes in, because it’s not a list of don’ts, it’s a list of do’s. It’s a list of helping other people. Sacrament is integral in the repentance process, and then saying “all right, I’m going to do way better this week.”It’s saying “I am going to be more like the person alma describes.”  And if THAT isn’t a fulfilling lifestyle, I don’t know what is.
But how do you receive power from renewing your baptismal covenant, and how do we receive power from the “checklist” of mosiah 18? Of being the kind of person who mourns with those who mourn, comfort those who need comfort and things like that?
In 3 Nephi 12 and in Matthew 5, we read of the beatitudes.  We read “Blessed are they who…come down into the depths of humility and be baptized.”
“yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Are these beatitudes not directly related to the covenants and ordinances of baptism and sacrament? I DARE you to tell me that the gospel doesn’t make sense after reading these chapters.  I don’t think I could define the sacrament any better than what is said in verse 6 of Matthew 5 and 3 Nephi 12. Read the beatitude again.
And do you think that the Lord doesn’t live up to the promises he gives us? No! There is so much POWER in these covenants! It’s all there, waiting for us to do our part.
Where are covenants made and kept? Short answer, Covenants are made at the waters of baptism, renewed wherever we partake of the sacrament, and in sacred temples. Now if I may, I would like to throw in my 2 cents for how awesome the temple is. IT’S AWESOME. Whether you’re endowed or not, the house of the Lord is still a house of Holiness, a house of prayer, a house of peace, and for me, a house of perspective. Because it is there where you gain a more educated sense of what is actually meaningful in this life. I think we would all benefit from more visits to that truly holy edifice.
Interesting little side story, I was asked to give this talk on the power of covenants like 2 weeks ago, which was great, and last Sunday was when I really sat down and tried to dive into this topic. I sat down in front of the scriptures and an open word document, for at least an hour most days of this week, and literally got no where in my talk construction.  I would sit there gazing at the bible dictionary, or a talk from an apostle and get nothing, until I would go to mormon.org  and watch like twenty I’m a Mormon videos and be like “welp, time for bed!”
That is until Friday evening, me and my parents took a trip to the temple. The next day, I sat at the computer and miraculously everything just came together. I had like twenty ideas at once it was awesome. And do you know why? I think it was because in the temple you do these ordinances for the deceased, during which you are reminded of your covenants sooo much. I think that’s why we can leave the temple feeling the strength of added spiritual power, because we were reminded of the covenants we made.
How  are covenants made and kept? Covenants are made through priesthood authority, usually connected with ordinances, and kept through obedience. Ideally, in every waking second of our lives. I’ll say to you right now—if you view mormonism as “this thing you do on the  weekends,” you are on a extremely dangerous path. And these are the kinds of questions we can be asking ourselves—how dedicated AM I to the covenants I’ve made? Just on Sundays? While I’m reading the scriptures? Or are we trying to always remember Jesus Christ like we did in the sacrament ordinance? The power from these covenants come from Heavenly Father, conditional upon our exactness. That’s why it’s a covenant—because two different parties are making promises. And in regard to our relationship between ourselves and Heavenly Father, I don’t think He is the one who will ever come up short. Prove the Lord in all things. Come, obey, and partake of the blessings of your covenants.
Why do we have covenants, why do we need covenants?
It is because covenants are there to lift us up. To constantly be bringing ourselves to something higher, to progress into eternal, celestial, even exalted beings. Covenants are not just something nice to have in this life. They are a gift given to us from God in this life, but they are eternal in nature. And in many ways, we don’t get to fully see all of the blessings that come from covenants in this life. For example, look at the “new and everlasting covenant” of marriage. Anyone can get married in this life, but it’s only through temple marriage, temple covenants, where that marriage will last in the hereafter. And in making covenants, God doesn’t promise us a happy-go lucky existence in mortality, in this fallen world. A lot of the blessings are reserved for eternity.
In conclusion, I would like to recount the story of the some of the most dedicated covenant keeping people I’ve heard of, the Converts of Ammon and Aaron, or the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s. These lamanites, Once being a wicked, violent and murderous people, through the mercies of Christ they had been converted to the truth and held fast in their faith of the forthcoming Messiah. When other Lamanites threatened to attack this people, rather than returning to their murderous ways, their king made a proclamation to people, saying: Alma 24:16-18, then read 21-22.
When it came to breaking the covenants this people had made with God, they would rather die.
Brothers and sisters, let us be more like the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s. Let us keep our covenants, no matter what. Heavenly Father is willing to grant us so much power and strength as we do so. The power to endure and enjoy this life, and to receive blessings in the hereafter. God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments. Let us do so, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.