Become covenant leaders, Sister Elaine S. Dalton invites BYU-Idaho students

Former Young Women’s general president teaches students how to lead with the power of their covenants

Agnes Caldwell, a 9-year-old pioneer, was part of the Willie handcart company in 1856, walking and walking despite exhaustion and pain on the handcart’s trek to Utah.

One day, along the journey to establish Zion, relief carts came to give rides to the sick, injured and elderly. Determined to get a ride, Caldwell ran after the relief carts until a driver asked her if she’d like to hop in his cart.

Caldwell wrote in her own words:

“At this he reached over, taking my hand, clucking to his horses to make me run, with legs that seemed to me could run no farther. On we went, to what to me seemed miles. .... Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped.

“Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon.”

In a BYU-Idaho devotional on March 12, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, former Young Women general president, spoke of the power found in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and the need for Latter-day Saints to prepare to be covenant leaders.

Sister Elaine Dalton addresses BYU-Idaho students during the weekly devotional on March 12, 2024, in Rexburg, Idaho. | Lauren Bushman

“Like Agnes, you may even be asked to run to the point of exhaustion, but in doing so, the warmth of the Lord’s love and infinite Atonement will enable and empower you for the gospel work you are here on earth to accomplish,” said Sister Dalton.

The foundation of identity

Understanding the truth about one’s eternal identity is crucial to preparing to become a covenant leader, taught Sister Dalton. Not only did all people on earth live with Heavenly Father in a pre-mortal realm, but coming to this world was a decision made in trust and love for God’s plan.

Each spirit that followed God’s plan in the pre-mortal world made a solemn promise that they would continue in relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and fulfill a divine purpose in this physical world.

Said Sister Dalton, “There and then you decided that you would lead others in a superlative cause — the cause of Christ.”

With the gift of the Holy Ghost and the Lord’s promise that He will “be on your right hand and on your left” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88), students have the privilege and responsibility to be covenant leaders.

Students sitting in a BYU-Idaho auditorium listening intently to the speaker
Former Young Women General President Elaine S. Dalton speaks at BYU-Idaho devotional on March 12, 2024, in Rexburg, Idaho. | Michael Lewis

What is a covenant leader?

A covenant leader, among other things, is one who lives as Jesus Christ lives and one who is sensitive to the holy spirit and acts as an instrument in God’s hands, Sister Dalton said.

She shared a lesson she learned from the late Church President Thomas S. Monson while serving as the Young Women general president. Seeking counsel on a matter that concerned her, she turned to President Monson. He responded by taking her to a corner of his office where a beautiful painting of the Savior hung on the wall.

“He relayed that this was his favorite painting,” Sister Dalton continued, “As he and I stood looking at the painting he said: ‘Whenever I have a problem and don’t know what to do, I look over here and pray. Then I listen ... and when the Lord tells me what to do, I go and do it.’”

A covenant leader is one who has made baptismal covenants and continues to access God’s power through the temple. A covenant leader remains unspotted from the world, walks in confidence and purity and leads “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41).

A covenant relationship with Christ means faithful followers will be able to lead with the power of godliness and will never be alone. Covenants bless individuals, families and communities beyond imagination, testified Sister Dalton.

“Don’t we all need this kind of power in order to navigate successfully and happily in these turbulent times? This is the kind of power Alma and the sons of Mosiah possessed. This is the power of Paul, and Abish, and Shadrack Meshack and Abedigo, and this is the kind of power that you and I can possess.”

Sister Elaine Dalton standing at a podium addressing students of BYU-Idaho
Sister Elaine Dalton addresses BYU-Idaho students during the weekly devotional on March 12, 2024, in Rexburg, Idaho. | Lauren Bushman

Christ at the center

Finally, a covenant leader is “familiar with the character of Christ,” explained Sister Dalton. Christ is at the center of every covenant, therefore covenant leaders learn of His words through the scriptures, pray unto Him and follow His counsel.

Just as a yoke binds two oxen to pull a heavy load in unison, covenants bind Latter-day Saints to the Savior. “He bears our burdens and our sorrows and our heart aches and our infirmities. He will carry the load if it gets too heavy. He will make up the difference,” Sister Dalton expanded.

Powerful leaders yoke themselves to Christ by making and keeping sacred covenants.

Closing her remarks, Sister Dalton expressed confidence in the students as they prepare now to become covenant leaders.

“May each of you be blessed in your preparation to become His covenant leaders in these latter days. May you always remember who you are, prepare to be guided by the Holy Spirit, take His yoke upon you and, like Agnes Caldwell, reach up and take the Master’s hand.”

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