We sometimes incorrectly think of our covenants as fragile things that will break at the first sign of challenge or setback. But nothing could be further from the truth. Covenants are cords of iron that are stronger than the bonds of death itself. We must learn to trust in their enduring power.
When we talk about covenants as a two-way promise between man and God, we sometimes inadvertently reinforce this assumption. It is true that when we enter into a covenant with God we take upon ourselves an obligation to follow God and serve Jesus Christ. But the notion that covenant blessings only begin when we are fully obedient to our covenant or that those blessings shut off the first time we sin is false.
Indeed I believe this is one of Satan’s most cunning deceptions to cause faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to live in fear and anxiety rather than the “perfect brightness of hope” that we need as we proceed on the covenant path (2 Nephi 31:20).
As Elder Klebingat explained:
Whenever the adversary cannot persuade imperfect yet striving Saints such as you to abandon your belief in a personal and loving God, he employs a vicious campaign to put as much distance as possible between you and God. The adversary knows that faith in Christ—the kind of faith that produces a steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles—goes hand in hand with a personal confidence that you are striving to choose the right. For that reason he will seek access to your heart to tell you lies—lies that Heavenly Father is disappointed in you, that the Atonement is beyond your reach, that there is no point in even trying, that everyone else is better than you, that you are unworthy, and a thousand variations of that same evil theme.
As long as you allow these voices to chisel away at your soul, you can’t approach the throne of God with real confidence.
Covenant blessings are there precisely because God knows that we will not be able to live up to our potential. He knows we will sin. He knows we will doubt. He knows our hearts will at times wander away from him. He offers us a “steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles” that flow not when we are perfect or fully obedient, but merely when we are “striving to choose the right.”
I really loved how Sister Jean Bingham recently described covenants as a harness that prevents us from falling.
The spiritual equipment that keeps us from being broken on the rocks of adversity is our testimony of Jesus Christ and the covenants we make. We can rely on these supports to guide and carry us to safety. As our willing partner, the Savior will not allow us to fall beyond His reach. Even in our times of suffering and sorrow, He is there to lift and encourage. His power helps us recover from the often-devastating impact of others’ choices. However, we each must put on the harness and make sure the knots are securely tied. We must choose to be anchored to the Savior, to be bound to Him by our covenants.
What matters most then is not whether we fall. Indeed, that is inevitable. What matters is that we remain securely anchored to the Savior. our covenants tie us to him with a secure knot. We can have confidence in the power of his enduring love for us.
As President Nelson recently explained: “Because God has hesed for those who have covenanted with Him, He will love them. He will continue to work with them and offer them opportunities to change. He will forgive them when they repent. And should they stray, He will help them find their way back to Him.”
We sometimes forget that Christ is the good shepherd who promised to go after the missing sheep who strays. He promised to search us out and to carry us on his shoulders back to the fold. We cannot wander too far for the tender mercies and reach of the Savior. He also extends the same love and protection to the 99. When we are in a covenant with God and Jesus Christ, we are part of his flock and he will not let us go. As the Savior promised, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12: 32).
The covenant that God offers to us is called “new and everlasting.” It is everlasting because it is the same promise that was set out from the foundation of the world even before we came to this world. But it is also everlasting because of its enduring power and strength. Nothing can separate us from this covenental love of God. As Paul declared:”For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I believe this is also true for the covenental bonds we enter into with our spouse in holy temples and the bond that ties us to our children. Prophets and Apostles have repeatedly taught of “the binding ties of the sealing ordinance.” As President Nelson explained, these ordinances create “lateral” bonds between family members just as we form “vertical” bonds with God. These covenants are meant to endure trials, setbacks, disappointments, and all manner of challenges. We need to have confidence and not fall apart when we encounter these things. We need to trust in the power of our covenants to endure.
Ultimately, if we are in covenant with God, we can have full confidence. So long as we press forward “with a steadfastness in Christ” feasting on his words and radiating his love, we are assured that we will have eternal life. God’s promises are sure and steady.