‘Covenants connect us to heaven’ says BYU President Kevin J Worthen

Credit: Mark A. Philbrick
Credit: Mark A. Philbrick, BYU
Credit: Aaron Cornia/BYU
Credit: Aaron Cornia/BYU
Credit: Aaron Cornia/BYU
Credit: Savanna Sorensen/BYU


“Gospel covenants open up the powers of heaven,” said BYU President Kevin J Worthen during a keynote address delivered in the Marriott Center during BYU Women’s Conference on May 1. “And they open up those powers both for those who make and keep those covenants — and for those whom they love”

Drawing from the conference’s theme, “… my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord …” found in 2 Nephi 11:5, President Worthen spoke of the important partnership individuals enter into with God through covenants.

Recounting the experience of the people of Ammon in the Book of Mormon who, despite persecution and the need to defend themselves, kept their covenant with God to not “take up arms against their brethren,” or “even make any preparations for war,” President Worthen spoke of the power of making and keeping covenants.

“There is perhaps no written account that more vividly illustrates the eternal power and impact of covenants, or that more impressively reminds us that such power will often come as the result of sacrifice — real sacrifice that is much more than symbolic or superficial,” President Worthen said.

Although the specific covenant that the people of Ammon entered into with God was unique to them and their situation, the overarching principle regarding covenants reaches all of God’s children throughout the history of the world, he taught.

“Covenants are central to God’s plan for us,” he said. “They were part of His plan from the outset. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that even before the organization of this earth, covenants were made in heaven. In light of that long history, one might suppose that we will continue to make covenants in our next sphere of existence.”

President Worthen asked and then discussed three simple questions:

What are covenants?

“In the legal world a covenant is simply a mutual promise parties make to each other to do or refrain from doing something,” he said. “It is a contract. … Gospel covenants are mutual promises made between God and His children.”

But there is at least one key difference between a legal covenant and a gospel covenant, he taught.

“In the legal world, covenants are usually the result of protracted negotiations — a matter of give and take — hammered out over time in a series of meetings. By contrast, as the Bible Dictionary notes, when a covenant is made between God and His children, the two parties to the agreement do not stand in the relation of independent and equal contractors. God fixes the terms, which man accepts.”

God does not impose His covenants on any of His children, rather, they are effective only if a person accepts them of his or her own free will and choice.

“The fact that God determines the terms of the everlasting covenant without negotiating them with us is not an indication that He is trying to extract unfair promises from us,” he said. “It is instead a reflection of two other more important differences between most legal covenants and contracts and gospel covenants.”

Unlike people who enter into legal contracts, God does not enter into covenants to gain something from the other party, President Worthen said. “Think about it — He already has eternal life. He already has all power, all knowledge, all joy. The fact that He does not negotiate the terms of His covenants with us is not an indication that He wants to impose His will on us, but instead it is a reminder of the reality that we really have nothing to give to Him because He already has it all.”

If a covenant is one sided at all, it is God who gets the short end of the bargain. He covenants solely for the benefit of His children. Another difference between a legal covenant and a gospel covenant is that legal contracts are by nature temporary and somewhat insecure, he taught. “By contrast, the covenants that God offers us are ‘everlasting.’

“We can be sure that God will not walk away from His promises to us merely because He may have found a better bargain, or determined that circumstances have changed, or that we are not worth the hassle,” President Worthen said. “Unlike earthly legal promises, His covenant promises are eternal and enduring, operable ‘at all times, and in all things, and in all places.’ ”

How does keeping covenants help in eternal progression?

Making and keeping eternal covenants with God gives individuals the opportunity to complete their faith through action.

“By entering into a promise to do something to demonstrate our faith and then by following up on that promise, we complete our faith, thereby making it a live, operative power in our lives,” he said.

By entering into and keeping gospel covenants, individuals are able to focus on the future, looking forward with strength to meet trials and challenges. Covenants enliven and strengthen faith, giving individuals the eternal perspective they need to overcome their past and present difficulties, he taught.

How can individuals increase their ability to keep their covenants so the powers of heaven is more available to them?

“One of the best ways we can strengthen our ability to keep the covenants we have made is to reflect on those covenants often enough to make them an active, ongoing part of our lives,” he said. “In that regard, we would do well to take greater advantage of the wonderful opportunity we have each Sunday to partake of the sacrament. I believe that many of us underestimate both the importance of that sacred ordinance and the power that can come from greater focus on it.”

When members partake of the sacrament they are able to witness to the Father that they remember all the covenants they have made and are willing to enter into those covenants again.

“If we come to more fully understand and abide by our covenants, it will greatly change our lives,” President Worthen said. “Moreover, the positive effects will not end with us. Others will be directly impacted as well.” @marianne_holman

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