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Editor’s Note: Our friend and longtime Meridian writer Larry Barkdull passed away. To remember and honor him this is one of a series of his past articles that we are republishing regularly.
Safety in the New and Everlasting Covenant
The New and Everlasting Covenant is the first pillar of Zion. The Covenant is the most glorious ever revealed. It contains the greatest hope and the most impressive promises of anything found on earth or in heaven. By abiding its terms we can escape Babylon, flee to Zion, and forever abide safely in the embrace of our Eternal Father. Of the many blessings that flow to people who make and keep the Covenant, one of the most astonishing is the blessing of safety.
No Safety in Babylon
Despite its propaganda, Babylon is neither a safe nor a nice place, and neither are its people. Those who are foolish enough to reside in Babylon are prone to dangers and adversities without the benefit of armor.
In Babylon, idolatrous people worship other gods, so when trouble strikes, they are left alone to suffer and face overwhelming challenges. The harsh philosophy of Babylon is one that is godless, self-serving, competitive and lonesome-anti-Christ.[i]
People in Babylon fare “according to the management of the creature,” prosper according to their genius, and conquer according to their strength. They assume no accountability to God; therefore they feel that they can do whatever they please without consequence.
In Babylon, people succeed or fail alone. They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (the power of hope in Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, the holy priesthood, and gifts of the Spirit), and they label the humble followers of Christ as frenzied captives bound by false traditions.[ii] When the people of Babylon are faced with trouble, they receive neither aid from Babylon nor respite from her unmerciful and unrelenting attacks. Amazingly, many people insist on living in Babylon and embracing that lifestyle, all the while considering themselves safe.
A scan of the scriptures proves that safety is only found in the Covenant. Does that mean a person of the Covenant will not suffer? Of course not. Suffering is part of the testing process for every mortal being. But by abiding in the Covenant, we understand that our afflictions are consecrated for our gain.[iii] That is, they are sanctified and therefore changed in purpose. No longer are they merely an adversity, rather they are counted as a sacrifice; and, sacrifice, we are taught, “brings forth the blessings of heaven.”[iv]
When Zion people suffer, they are safe in the Covenant. Their affliction will not damage them; it will serve to exalt them: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose [his Covenant].”[v] Whereas a non-covenant person suffers for the purpose of leading him to Christ, a covenant person suffers for “Christ’s sake.”[vi] Among other things, this means that Jesus (because we are bound to him in the Covenant) will stand beside us, suffers with us, and help us to overcome. In the Covenant, Zion people are never left alone.
Thus, it is in the Covenant that our afflictions are consecrated for our eternal welfare. Nephi put it this way: “But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”[vii]
Safety through Consecration in the Covenant
Consider that the work and the glory of God are to raise us to immortality at the highest level called eternal life.[viii] To that end the Father provides us the Atonement of his Son. The New and Everlasting Covenant emerges from the Atonement and makes us partners with Jesus in all things, both the easy and the difficult.
By means of the Covenant, we are yoked with the Savior to inseparably face every eventuality. In this relationship, we pledge to each other all that we have and are, and therefore, we are entitled to draw upon the resources of the stronger partner for any eventuality. In every way, we are one in the Covenant; neither are we divided nor are we alone. Now, because of our covenantal relationship, life’s adversities are consecrated to the Lord for the welfare of our souls.
Consecration is an inclusive law that requires that we consecrate everything to the Lord, which by definition would include our difficulties. Think of it this way. When you marry would you exclude your problems from the vows you make to your spouse? Marriage partners bring everything they have and are to the relationship, and they work through things and make decisions together. Their joint consecration makes them one, and therefore there is no division of resources. They pool everything so that they might face life together.
A marriage that does not tolerate the partners’ individual problems is not strong and is at risk of failure. But a marriage in which the partners are equally yoked, in which the resources are unselfishly and totally pooled, will survive any storm. So it is with the Lord and us. In the Covenant we bring all that we have to the relationship, including our problems, and we use the sum of our resources to face life together with the Lord.
That is exactly what the Lord wants. It is by facing difficulties together that strong relationships are forged. It is by facing opposition that we discover how deeply loyalties run. As we walk hard roads together, we discover things about each other that we could not learn otherwise. We come to trust and love each other. We find that together we are stronger than when we are apart. We learn to rely on the relationship, and we never want to step away from it. By experience, we discover that in the covenantal relationship, we are absolutely safe.
Adversity, therefore, becomes an important solidifying agent for the covenantal relationship. By means of adversity, the agreement made at the outset of the Covenant by the baptismal ordinance becomes an unbreakable weld. This could be said of the marriage relationship. The yes spoken as a vow to form a marriage is only as good as the yes spoken as a vow every day thereafter. A marriage would be of little worth if one spouse were to leave the other or to let him or her down. Just so, the Covenant would be of no worth if God were to abandon us and allow us to face trouble alone.
President George Q. Cannon said:
No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. We have found that God. We have made Him our friend, by obeying His Gospel; and He will stand by us.
We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed.We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments.[ix]
The Great Discovery
One of the monumental discoveries of our taking and abiding in the Covenant is this: God will take care of us. The Lord’s intention is to exalt us in the Covenant, not to destroy us; he uses adversarial situations to build faith rather than to confuse us. He is an omniscient God of consistency, power, mercy and love. Therefore, in the Covenant with him we are absolutely safe.
One of the greatest demonstrations of the safety of the Covenant is that of the ancient Israelites.
…This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, [so that] they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.[x]
The Lord never forsook them. He was with them both day and night. He constantly instructed them. He provided manna and water to sustain them. For four decades of wandering, they lacked nothing! Amazingly, neither their clothing nor their shoes wore out. The Israelites had experienced the safety of the Covenant.
At the end of Jesus’ life, just before he entered Gethsemane, he reminded his apostles of their early missions when he had purposely placed them in a condition of lack to teach them of their safety of the Covenant. He accomplished this lesson by sending them out with neither purse nor script.
Now looking back he asked them: “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.”[xi] As much as the apostles needed firsthand experience with the Covenant’s safety, so do we. When we lack, we can go to the Lord, and because we are one with him in the Covenant, he will take care of us. We are safe.
Examples of Safety in the Covenant
Lehi abandoned everything to make an extraordinary journey through the harsh wilderness, and he was kept safe in the Covenant.
Likewise, the Brother of Jared found safety in the Covenant. After an arduous journey to the seashore, he committed his people into the safekeeping of God and launched eight vessels toward an unknown destination. For three hundred and forty and four days, they were driven forth by a furious wind upon the water. They were tossed upon the waves, crushed by mountainous waves, buried in the depths of the sea, and cast about by great and terrible tempests-and yet they were safe in the Covenant they had made. “No water that could hurt them.”
The Lord was ever with them: “When they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters…. No monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually.” They had made the Covenant and they were safe in it. “And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.”[xiii]
Abraham lay bound upon the altar, but he was safe in the Covenant. The Lord delivered him. His wife was taken from him twice, but she was safe in the Covenant. Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, but he and his son were safe in the Covenant.
Lazarus was dead for four days, but he was safe in the Covenant. On that occasion, the Savior focused the attention of Lazarus’s sister, Martha, on Jesus’ true identity, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believeth thou this?”[xiv] It is a question that each of us must answer: Do we believe-really believe-in this Jesus with whom we have made the Covenant? Will we believe, even with the stark reality of death staring at us, that we are yet safe?
Alma’s people escaped their Babylon, made the Covenant with the Lord, and abided in it at every hazard, even when they were in captivity. “And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.”[xv] Alma’s people had no misgivings; their faith in the Lord and his Covenant were verified. They were, and always had been, safe in the Covenant.
An incident in Jesus’ ministry demonstrates safety in the Covenant. The exhausted Lord set out in a boat by night with his disciples. “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”[xvi]
The Lord’s question feels like a rebuke. He might have said, “We have entered the Covenant together, haven’t we? That means that I am with you-always! Why, then, are you afraid? Where is your faith? Don’t you know yet who I am and what to expect of me?”
In the Americas the resurrected Jesus taught the Nephites then same lesson he had taught his disciples in Jerusalem: “Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?…Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.”
In other words, neither the fowls of the air nor the lilies of the field have entered into the Covenant with the Father, and yet he takes care of them.
Because you have taken the Covenant, are ye not much better than they? Are you not entitled to much, much more? If you believe this then “why take ye thought for raiment?…. if God so clothe the grass of the field…even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”[xvii] In other words, do your part and I will do my part. We are in this together. You are safe in the Covenant!
Finally, consider the stripling warriors. These were young men, who had taken the Covenant, were suddenly thrust into a new and dangerous environment that required enormous faith. “They never had fought, yet they did not fear death.” How had they achieved this level of courage? Helaman described their bravery as the greatest he had ever seen among the Nephites. They had learned it at their mothers’ knees. Evidently, the concept of safety in the Covenant had been drilled into them so well that they “did not doubt [that] God would deliver them.”
When Helaman asked them, “What say ye, my sons, will ye go against [the Lamanites] to battle?” they answered, “Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth.” They knew who the Lord was, and their faith was in the power and safety of the Covenant: “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” Helaman reported the result: “To my great joy, there had not one soul of them fallen to the earth; yea, and they had fought as if with the strength of God; yea, never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength.”[xviii] They drew upon the power of God, which was available to them in the Covenant, and they were safe.
For Zion people, the lesson of safety is of ultimate importance. Only faith that the Lord is near and that he will never leave us can provide sufficient confidence to leave behind Babylon, as have other people of great faith, and throw ourselves wholly upon the tender mercies of the Lord.
Only faith in the Lord and his promises can help us break from telestial law and embrace celestial law, which makes little sense in a telestial world. But if we will have the courage to sever ourselves from Babylon and allow the Covenant to make of us Zion people, we will make the discovery of a lifetime: We are absolutely safe in the Covenant-safer than we have ever been or felt before.