Covenants are evidence of Heavenly Father’s love for His children, taught Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, former Young Women general president, at an Ensign College devotional June 1. “There is power and there are great blessings which come from being among God’s covenant people.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defined covenants as “divine agreements” in which “God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments.”
Being bound to God through covenants is the only possible way to return to Him and receive exaltation.
“Think of it! God invites us to come out of our worldly sphere and to enter His sphere through covenants,” Sister Oscarson said. “We are invited to join Him, to partner with Him in our salvation and in the salvation of all of His children.”
Love is at the heart of making covenants.
When Sister Oscarson’s daughter Emily was engaged to be married, she wanted to move closer to her fiancé. Sister Oscarson and her husband approved of Emily’s plan, on the condition that her fiancé would never spend the night at her apartment.
Emily and her fiancé kept their promise, were married in the Dallas Texas Temple and are now the parents of six children. Emily has since told her parents that the promise was the best thing they could have done and was a great blessing to her and her fiancé in their courtship.
Similarly, Heavenly Father sees the dangers of earthly life and understands the possible risks to our happiness and salvation. Anxious for the happiness of His children, “He asks us to promise Him certain things that will help prepare us to return to Him someday,” Sister Oscarson explained.
Making a covenant with God can begin as early as age eight during the ordinance of baptism, demonstrating a willingness to enter His kingdom and keep His commandments.
“I think it is significant that this is the only ordinance, that with its associated covenant, we are invited to participate in and renew every single week for the rest of our lives through the ordinance of the sacrament,” Sister Oscarson observed. “Because Heavenly Father loves us, He provides for us a way for us to remember, renew, and recommit to the covenants we make at baptism, weekly.”
The recent “unusual” participation in the sacrament brought about by the pandemic has reminded Sister Oscarson to not take it for granted.
The most sacred and binding covenants are made in temples. “Temples are the spiritual centers of our Church and represent, again, the great love which our Father has for us,” Sister Oscarson said. “The promises we make are more specific, more detailed, more binding. The promises from the Lord are more glorious, more splendid, and promise us the glory of eternal life.”
Elder Carlos E. Asay, the late emeritus General Authority Seventy, taught that the ordinances of the endowment are “an exchange of love between God, Our Father, and us. We know that the Only Begotten Son, even Jesus the Christ, ‘so loved the world that he gave his own life, that as many as would believe might become the sons of God’ (D&C 34:3). Thus, every commandment, every ordinance, every covenant, every law, every ‘thou shalt,’ every ‘thou shalt not,’ and every teaching received from Our Father in Heaven and His Son, our Savior — especially those received in the House of the Lord — is an expression of divine love.”
Sister Oscarson’s late sister-in-law, also named Bonnie, once shared a story from her teenage years when she and a friend were invited to attend a party in high school, a party that “sounded like it was going to be a little on the wild side.”
“They both went to their parents to ask if they could go and (her friend) Grace was given permission,” Sister Oscarson recounted. “However, when Bonnie approached her parents, they must have been aware of the circumstances surrounding this party and they told Bonnie no, she couldn’t go. When Bonnie reported this to her friend, Grace began to cry.”
Grace said, “I wish that my father loved me enough to tell me no, sometimes.”
A kind and loving parent sets boundaries and gives guidelines to provide their child with safety, protection and help to avoid those things which might bring harm, Sister Oscarson said.
“The Lord loves us enough to say ‘no.’”
“And He doesn’t just say, ’No, don’t do that,’” Sister Oscarson explained. “He also helps us know what we should be doing instead. He loves us enough to provide guidance, instructions and directions.”
The temple is a place to receive loving instruction from a concerned Father. “We are asked to make commitments and promises of how we will live our lives, what commandments we are to keep that will offer protection and blessings, and what our focus and priorities should be if we want to gain an eternal reward and receive ‘all that the Father hath.’”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “every time we make a covenant with Him, He endows us. We promise to do certain things, depending on the ordinance, and He promises special gifts in return — wonderful gifts, unspeakable gifts, nearly incomprehensible gifts.”
One of those gifts is the qualification for heaven’s help. “We can ask for and receive help from our heavenly partner because we are in a partnership with Him,” Sister Oscarson said.
She believes that “as we keep our covenants by being obedient and keeping the commandments, that we have the right to ask for gifts of the Spirit as we need them. … I believe that the Lord wants to bless us with every gift that will help us succeed in this life, and sometimes we need to earnestly seek those gifts according to His will.”
Keeping covenants can have a transformative effect, leading the covenant keeper to become more like the Savior, Jesus Christ. “We can become righteous men and women who can change the world for good.”
President Russell M. Nelson 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. Scripture declares that ‘ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, … and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven … [and] dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness’ (Mosiah 2:41).”
Covenants are a sign of the great love and concern which our Heavenly Father has for each and every one of His children. They are individual and personal, and He cares deeply that they are understood and kept, Sister Oscarson said. “In return, we can be certain that He will live up to His promises to us and those promises are so grand, so glorious, so magnificent that we cannot begin to comprehend them.”