Monday, July 30, 2012
On covenant making
My instant thought (which caused me to stop listening for a moment) was, “I have?”
Over the years I’ve had the chance to study my blessing repeatedly. And I have pondered on that particular sentence. As I have considered it, I realized that the Lord (through the patriarch) must have had a broader definition of covenants than I did.
We teach our children that a covenant is an agreement we make with God, and that it is often accompanied by an ordinance. For instance, when we are baptized, we make promises associated with obedience, taking the Lord’s name upon us, caring for one another, and so on. But in a broader context, we may make many covenants with the Lord.
I remember my brother mentioned to me several years ago something he learned in LDS leader training at the Philmont scout ranch. He was taught (by whom I can no longer remember) that one of the values of the scouting program in the lives of young men is that it can teach them about covenant making and keeping, as they work through requirements for a particular rank or merit badge. They agree to do something and then must follow through with the doing. We can learn a similar pattern in our temple worship where covenant making precedes learning new knowledge.
I wrote recently about the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s and their covenant to bury the weapons of their rebellion. Actually their covenant was to repent of their murderous ways, and the token of that covenant was the burying of the weapons. By burying the weapons, they placed a fence between themselves and the covenant they desired to keep.
Someone learning about the church may covenant to keep the Word of Wisdom before he is actually baptized. A young person (or an older person!) may make a personal covenant with the Lord to avoid certain kinds of movies or websites. A person may make a covenant with the Lord to study the Book of Mormon in hopes of gaining a testimony of that scripture and the truth it contains. We may make covenants as we strive to overcome the natural man, as we study the scriptures and the spirit whispers ways in which we can draw nearer to God, as we listen to prophetic counsel in General Conference and redirect our lives.
I remember as bishop when a member of my ward came to me. It was clear he had something on his mind, and I was a little nervous, since he was acting as if he were about to confess serious sin. He did want to confess and to commit to do better. But his “sin” was not grave; it did not threaten his membership status in any way. But he felt a conversation with his bishop would help him to make a real commitment to change. He did not make a covenant with me, his bishop, but he did tell me of his commitment to the Lord to behave differently.
One of my commenters on my post about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis pointed out that many members make individual covenants that others may never know anything about, and I believe this is true. I believe that when we honor our baptismal covenant by mourning with those that mourn, sharing one another’s burdens and comforting those that stand in need of comfort, we can help one another to honor covenants each has made, even personal covenants along a personal path to our Father in Heaven.