Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Children of the Covenant

                Covenants are agreements or promises we make with Heavenly Father as we participate in the ordinances of the gospel.  God sets the specific conditions of the covenants, and we can choose to accept or reject those conditions.  If we accept His conditions, He promises to bless us as we obey them.  We are better able to honor our covenants and received the promised blessings as we increase our understanding of covenants.

                Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the importance of covenants.  “One of the most important concepts of revealed religion is that of a sacred covenant.  In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties.  But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant.  It is a sacred promise with God.  He fixes the terms.  Each person may choose to accept those terms.  If one accepts the terms of the covenant and obeys God’s law, he or she receives the blessings associated with the covenant.  We know that `when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated’ (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21).

                “Through the ages, God has made covenants with His children.  His covenants occur throughout the entire plan of salvation and are therefore part of the fulness of His gospel.  For example, God promised to send a Savior for His children, asking in turn for their obedience to His law.  In the Bible we read of men and women in the Old World who were identified as children of the covenant.  What covenant?  `The covenant which God made with [their] fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’

                “In the Book of Mormon we read of people in the New World who were also identified as children of the covenant.  The resurrected Lord so informed them:  `Behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham:  And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.’

                “The Savior explained the importance of their identity as children of the covenant.  He said, `The Father having raised me up unto you first… sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant.’

                “The covenant God made with Abraham and later reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob is of transcendent significance.  It contained several promises, including:  [1] Jesus the Christ would be born through Abraham’s lineage.  [2] Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to an eternal increase, and also entitled to bear the priesthood.  [3] Abraham would become a father of many nations.  [4] Certain lands would be inherited by his posterity.  [5] All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed.  [6] And that covenant would be everlasting – even through `a thousand generations’ (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalm 105:8).

                “Some of these promises have been fulfilled; others are still pending….  Some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, prophets knew that the Abrahamic covenant would be finally fulfilled only in the latter days.

                “To facilitate that promise, the Lord appeared in these latter days to renew that Abrahamic covenant.  To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Master declared:  `Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins – from whose loins ye are … my servant Joseph.  …

                “`This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham’ (Doctrine and Covenants 132:30-31).
                “With this renewal, we have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel.  We have the right to receive the fulness of the gospel, enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, and qualify for God’s greatest blessing – that of eternal life.

                “Some of us are the literal seed of Abraham; others are gathered into his family by adoption.  The Lord makes no distinction.  Together we receive these promised blessings – if we seek the Lord and obey His commandments.  But if we don’t, we lose the blessings of the covenant…. 

                “Ours is the responsibility to help fulfill the Abraham covenant.  Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world.  That is why priesthood duty includes missionary work….

                “The Book of Mormon is a tangible sign that the Lord has commenced to gather His children of covenant Israel.  This book, written for our day, states as one of its purposes that `ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel … is already beginning to be fulfilled….’

                “Indeed, the Lord has not forgotten!  He has blessed us and others throughout the world with the Book of Mormon.  One of its purposes is for `the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.’  It helps us to make covenants with God.  It invites us to remember Him and to know His Beloved Son.  It is another testament of Jesus Christ.

                “Children of the covenant have the right to receive His doctrine and to know the plan of salvation.  They claim it by making covenants of sacred significance.  … They keep the covenant by obedience to His commandments….

                “At baptism we covenant to serve the Lord and keep His commandments.  When we partake of the sacrament, we renew that covenant and declare our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.  Thereby we are adopted as His sons and daughters and are known as brothers and sisters.  He is the father of our new life.  Ultimately, in the holy temple, we may become joint heirs to the blessings of an eternal family, as once promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity.  Thus, celestial marriage is the covenant of exaltation.

                “When we realize that we are children of the covenant, we know who we are and what God expects of us.  His law is written in our hearts.  He is our God and we are His people.  Committed children of the covenant remain steadfast, even in the midst of adversity.  When that doctrine is deeply implanted in our hearts, even the sting of death is soothed and our spiritual stamina is strengthened…” (“Covenants,” October 2011).  

                I was eight years old when I was baptized and made my first covenant with God.  I knew that I had done something good in becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I did not fully understand the covenant I made.  I probably do not fully understand it now, but I do understand more than I did as a child.  I renew my baptismal covenant every Sunday when I partake of the sacrament emblems, the bread representing the body of Christ and the water representing His blood.  This renewal became more and more important to me as I matured in my knowledge and understanding.  Partaking of the sacrament has become something that I do not miss unless I am too ill to attend sacrament meeting.

                I made other covenants when I went to the temple as a young adult, and I renew those covenants each time I act as proxy for someone else.  I recently had the opportunity to act as proxy for my sister-in-law who grew up in the Church but did not remain active.  For whatever reason, she chose a different way of life.  She has been on the other side of the veil for over a year now and most likely learned why the temple ordinances are important.  By doing her temple work for her, I gave her the opportunity to choose or reject the covenants I made in her name.  If she accepts, she receives the blessings; if she rejects, she lose those blessings. 

                My covenants with God are very important.  I think of them daily and remember to keep them.  I know that Heavenly Father loves me and that I can trust Him to keep His part of the covenant.  I love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and I desire to please Them; therefore, I keep the covenants I made with Them and look for the promised blessings.

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