Menu
In the News

Sarah Jane Weaver: What President Nelson taught me about the power of covenants during times of loss, uncertainty


Sarah Jane Weaver: What President Nelson taught me about the power of covenants during times of loss, uncertainty

During a special devotional broadcast to Latter-day Saints in Europe, President Russell M. Nelson said that at a time when some feel that religion is dying in Europe, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “an unparalleled future” because of its faithful members.

“You have access to the power — God’s power — that will literally change the future of Europe,” he said during a special Europe Area devotional, broadcast Sunday, Jan. 23. “As you keep your covenants with increasing precision, you are the hope of Europe and you are the hope of Israel.”

As I listened to the devotional — recorded at headquarters in Salt Lake City and broadcast to 48 European countries in 22 languages — I was filled with great optimism for the Church in the area.

Read more: The Church has an ‘unparalleled future’ in Europe, President Nelson tells Latter-day Saints from 48 European countries

While recording the broadcast, President Nelson spoke of “resilient, faithful, covenanted European Saints” who are a great strength to the Church. The words jumped out at me as I followed along because President Nelson’s text read “resilient, faithful, converted European Saints.” While giving the address, our Prophet changed the word “converted” to “covenanted.”

When asked about the change, President Nelson simply said: “I like ‘covenanted’ better, don’t you?”

“Convert” means to change. “Covenant” means to pledge or promise.

As I thought about the words, I too liked “covenanted” better. Converted implies faith, covenanted makes faith an action.

President Russell M. Nelson addresses members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 48 countries in Europe during a special devotional broadcast Jan. 23, 2022.

President Russell M. Nelson addresses members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 48 countries in Europe during a special devotional broadcast Jan. 23, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Nelson explained what that meant in nations where secularism is flourishing. Just two months after his address, some of those nations would be faced with war — and its residual impact on families, refugees, economies and stability.

The gathering of Israel — foretold throughout scripture — is occurring right now in every nation — including the nations of Europe, he said. That may seem counterintuitive, he continued, in countries where a relative few are carrying the weight of local Church leadership.

“I know, as do many of you, that the power of Jesus Christ will heal us, strengthen us, comfort us and renew us,” he said. “I understand, with you, the power of His priesthood and its ordinances. When we participate worthily, they allow us to tap into the very power of God. You and I know the power that comes from exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. The power of the Lord always has exceeded — and always will exceed — the power of any diabolical mischief that Satan can muster. As you believe in Jesus Christ and try to follow Him faithfully, His healing and strengthening power will help you move the mountains in your life.”

The message must carry more weight now for the “resilient, faithful, covenanted European Saints.”

I remember watching President Nelson — during another time of hardship and loss — when he visited Paradise, California, in early 2019.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks over a destroyed chapel with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, in Paradise, California, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, two months after the Camp Fire destroyed more than 18,000 homes and businesses.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks over a destroyed chapel with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, in Paradise, California, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, two months after the Camp Fire destroyed more than 18,000 homes and businesses.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

Just two months earlier, the Camp Fire — the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history — had destroyed Paradise. More than 18,000 structures in the town were lost to the fire; of the 1,399 homes of Church members on the Paradise Ridge, only six remained.

“We can hardly comprehend the tragic losses that you have sustained — loss of life, loss of homes, loss of jobs, workplaces and much, much, more,” said President Nelson during a special conference held for members of the Chico California Stake, which included two units in Paradise. “The accounts of your suffering are exceeded only by the accounts of your ministering.”

President Nelson’s words were delivered just two days after the death of his daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield to cancer.

“We mourn the loss of our second daughter,” said an emotional President Nelson in an interview after surveying the ashes of Paradise. “Fathers can’t [lose a child] without feeling a deep sense of grief. And yet there is nothing we would rather do than to try to be of help to others.”

Read more: Hope in Paradise — What Latter-day Saint victims of devastating California fire are doing to move forward

President Nelson recounted the story of Horatio Spafford, a real estate investor who lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871. After his 4-year-old son died of scarlet fever, Spafford sent his wife and four daughters to England, thinking a vacation would do the family good. Before he could join them, however, he received word from his wife that the ship had sunk and claimed their daughters. “Saved alone,” she wrote. “What shall I do?”

President Nelson said Horatio immediately set sail for England. As he passed over the spot where the shipwreck had occurred, he wrote down the words of comfort and hope that filled his mind. Those words became the text for the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul.”

The choir at the stake conference sang the special song, with an additional verse written by Sister Wendy Nelson, which President Nelson shared as part of his message. Like his message to Europe during another time when much is lost, President Nelson turned his thoughts to covenants.

He read the additional verse of the song with deliberateness.

My future is bright, as my covenants I keep.

My covenants with God give me power

To rise from the ashes and grief of the past,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

What a powerful message, from a Prophet who had just lost his daughter, to the Latter-day Saints in Paradise who had also lost much — and to “resilient, faithful, covenanted European Saints” for whom faith is an action.

— Sarah Jane Weaver is editor of the Church News.

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed