What is a covenant and why is it an important concept of religion? In secular language, a covenant is an agreement between two or more individuals. In a religious context, a covenant is a two-way promise made with God. Heavenly Father fixes the terms of the contract as well as the blessings to be received as we strive to keep our promises. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). At baptism we covenant to serve the Lord and keep His commandments. When we partake weekly of the sacrament, we renew that covenant and declare our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. We become His sons and daughters. We promise to always remember Him and to stay worthy, through repentance, of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In return, God promises us eternal life—the greatest of all the gifts of God—which is to continue in progression to receive all that the Father has. God promises that we may become joint heirs to the blessings of an eternal family, as promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity. Thus, celestial marriage is the covenant of exaltation, which is the highest kingdom of God. I find Reasons to Rejoice in my destiny as a son of God. With inexpressible gratitude, I renew my covenants with Him each week.
Who likes to WAIT? “Waiting” recalls exasperating images of standing in a long queue at the post office or returning an item at Walmart. But I’ve been thinking about a different kind—a good kind of waiting spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “I will wait upon the Lord” (Isaiah 8:17). Making this verse personally relevant, I ask—What does it mean to WAIT upon the Lord? (1) I will wait upon the Lord like a server “waits” on a table in a restaurant. The server vigilantly watches the needs of his guests. When water glasses need refilling, he quickly steps up with a pitcher. He delivers piping hot food and clears away empty dishes afterward. He watches and attends his guests’ every need. I can WAIT upon the Lord by vigilantly observing and attending the needs of those around me. Waiting upon the Lord is to serve His children. (2) Waiting can also mean patience. The Lord’s answers come in His perfect timing, not always immediately. But I know that God loves me. He knows what is best for my growth and development better than I do. He is shaping me to become like Him. I am learning to trust His curriculum and His perfect love. I will WAIT upon the Lord in quiet service to others, and I will WAIT in patience for answers to my prayers.
What would make the world a better place? Some might seek a political answer. But my answer would be GOOD PARENTING. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” (William Ross Wallace). This “hand” includes both parents. Children need mothers whose highest priority is to be in the home fulltime (if at all possible) to teach, train, and lovingly minister to their young ones. Children need fathers who assume their divine stewardship to provide the necessities of life and teach their children correct principles. As parents provide a loving home environment, children will thrive and grow. The Lord has commanded parents to “bring up [their] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40). This includes teaching them to understand the doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live” (https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng).
When parenting our teenagers I used to ask myself: Am I doing enough to prepare them for the challenges ahead? Is our family prayer and scripture study making a difference, when their body language doesn’t always evidence it? Am I loving them unconditionally, teaching them effectively, laughing with them agreeably, and modeling behavior commendably? Consider this example of how our efforts really DO make a difference, even when we can’t measure them immediately from external cues. “People are like hyacinth bulbs. All we can do is make a good place for them to grow, but each person is responsible for doing his own growing in his own time” (Torey Hayden). Sometimes growth is a very silent thing, like what happens when we store hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator waiting for the planting season. It doesn’t look like growth is taking place at all. Our children are like that. We can’t always tell growth is happening, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. In fact, providing a milieu of respect, love, and learning in the home is the perfect soil for development. Silent, imperceptible growth is taking place deep inside which will one day unfold into lovely blossoms. Our children will learn from what they see in the examples around them, how much they feel our love, what they hear, and what they experience as we teach and model correct principles.
Have you ever winced with regret at a poor choice—something you should not have said or something you should not have done? Or have you ever neglected to do something that impaired your spiritual growth and peace? Certainly we all have. The good news is that because of Jesus Christ’s infinite Atonement, He made it possible to follow the pathway of complete repentance. Repentance is essential to our temporal and eternal happiness. Repentance is more than just acknowledging wrongdoings; it is a change of heart and mind. It is turning to God. One of my favorite verses of scripture is the Lord’s promise that, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is designed to nourish, sanctify, and heal the imperfect soul. The Church is filled with people who are trying to keep the commandments, but haven’t mastered them yet. “If you expect to find perfect people here, you will be disappointed. But if you seek the pure doctrine of Christ, the word of God ‘which healeth the wounded soul,’ and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, then here you will find them. In this age of waning faith—in this age when so many feel distanced from heaven’s embrace, here you will find a people who yearn to know and draw closer to their Savior by serving God and fellowmen, just like you. Come, join with us” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf).
“Strike one…Strike two…Strike three—you’re OUT!” bellowed the umpire. I watched as the dejected batter slung away his bat, slumped onto the dugout bench, and buried his face in his hands. In spite of his best effort and most powerful swing, he lost the game for his team because of a slight error of visual judgment. How grateful I am for a loving Heavenly Father who has made provision for my inevitable errors in mortality through the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. Those words, “You’re OUT” are never spoken to God’s children. Through repentance and an earnest desire to do better, we are given a clean slate to try again. “How merciful is our God unto us…He stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long…As many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God” (Jacob 6:4). God is patient and long-suffering. He gives me multiple chances to turn and come back when I make a mistake. “One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final” (Thomas S. Monson). No matter what challenges or disappointments are tossed in my path, no matter how many times I stumble along on my mortal journey, I promise to get back up and try again. Nelson Mandela said that “a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.” I trust that Christ’s atoning power will cleanse and empower me.
The word hope is sometimes misunderstood. In our everyday language, the word often has a hint of uncertainty. For example, we may say that we hope for a change in the weather or a visit from a friend. That kind of hope is merely a wish. But in the language of the gospel the word hope is sure unwavering and active. Prophets speak of having a “firm hope” and a “lively hope”. In this context “hope is the confident expectation of and longing for the promised blessings of righteousness.” The scriptures often speak of hope as anticipation of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. When we have hope, we trust God’s promises. We have a quiet assurance that if we do the works of righteousness, we “shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). This kind of hope puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face. This kind of hope makes me want to get up every day and try again. This kind of hope gives me great Reason to Rejoice.