covenant
Week 21 is scheduled for study May 20-26, 2024. Entering into priesthood covenant status with God is a privilege. We should expect blessings and miracles in our life.

Day 1

Mosiah 18:1-17 – When I am baptized, I make a covenant with God.

With the help of my good wife I am seeing the baptismal covenant in a whole new way. Below are the verses in question. The underlined parts are what we agree to do, and the bolded parts are what God agrees to do. I’ll discuss these two lists in a couple of moments.

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts. (Emphasis added)

Here is the same list, but in actual list form. It may be easier to think of them in this format.

We agree to:

Come to the fold (think church) of God, and be called his people.

We are willing to bear one another’s burdens so they become light.

We are willing to mourn with those that mourn.

We are willing to comfort those that are in need of comfort.

We promise to stand as witnesses of God at all times, in all things, and all places that we may be in, until the day we die.

God agrees to:

He will redeem us.

We will be numbered with those of the first resurrection. Those of the first resurrection are those who inherit eternal life, which is God’s life, the kind of life He lives.

He will pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us.

How are covenants so helpful?

There is a perspective in the Church that we don’t often talk about, but it is very important that we are aware of it. We know from the outset that not all of God’s children will choose Him and want to live with Him in the eternities. This is why God has had Jesus make other kingdoms. The Terrestrial and Telestial kingdoms serve the purpose of housing all those children of God who chose, by their behavior in mortality, a path that didn’t lead them back to God. Though they recognize that they won’t be able to see God’s face ever again, He has provided a place for them where they will be as happy as they can be for the rest of eternity.

The happiness in these two kingdoms is limited by the choices of the individuals living within those kingdoms. If they had chosen differently their ability to be happier would also have increased exponentially. But it is what it is. We each make our choices and will live with those choices forever. We all fully understood this before ever coming to earth. To be redeemed means to be cleansed from sin and stain, enabling us to return to God’s presence just as clean and pure in heart as He is. This is what it means to become like Christ. The baptismal covenant promises us that those who make that covenant, that bond with God can be redeemed. There is no redemption for those who learn of God’s plan for our salvation and choose to opt out.

Note that making this covenant doesn’t guarantee us redemption. It only guarantees us that we can be redeemed if we live a life that warrants such a redemption. That means we must do additional things to be forgiven for our sins and to become like Christ.

No covenant is needed to go to either the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdoms. Only those who plan on returning to the presence of God, to share in His joys for eternity need make covenants. So what does making the covenant do for the person who makes it?

First of all, the covenant of baptism isn’t something we make up. The conditions of the covenant are given to us from God. Along with the promises we make are the promises He makes in return. Look back at what we plan on doing for our part of the covenant. There are five specific things we agree to do. In return there are three things God promises to help us in our journey back home. Again, note that ANYONE can do the five things we promise in our part of the covenant. But only God can do for us what He promises for His part of the covenant. And what He promises makes it possible for us to return home to live with Him again.

What covenants aren’t

Covenants aren’t checklists. They aren’t a list of things we need to do or not do. Covenants are designed to change the kind of people we are from one kind of person into another kind of person. This happens when we learn that certain behaviors are learned and internalized over time. As an example, we are told to go ministering to others. At times it can be very difficult to see ministering as anything beyond a checklist of behaviors and duties to perform. But the purpose behind the call to minister to one another is to help us learn how to put the needs of others before our own needs or desires. When we learn the purpose behind ministering we become Christlike in our attitudes and behaviors. At that point no checklists are needed. Helping others and showing unbounded kindness becomes second nature to us.

On the surface most covenants, because they list behaviors like a contract does, we tend to see them as checklists, which, when completed we expect that our obligation has been filled. Not true when it comes to covenants. The behavior is only a means to an end. What God is looking for is a change of attitude and behavior that becomes so natural that we no longer need to be told to be good, we just are by nature.

Look back at the list of behaviors we accept when we covenant to be baptized. Each and every one of these behaviors, when practiced daily, slowly transform us into Christlike people. These are the most basic behaviors God can give us, the easiest things we can be assigned to do that will ennoble our soul and raise our ability to love in a Christlike manner. All of these promises are processes that happen over time. This might be why there is no such thing as a deathbed repentance. Enduring to the end of our mortal lives is a really big part of us having the time to practice being like Jesus in our attitudes and behaviors.

Why is the last promise so important?

God promises us three things when we get baptized. He will redeem us – think forgive us of our sins when we seek forgiveness. He will exalt us, which is what happens to those in the first resurrection. And finally, He will pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon us. Being forgiven happens in this life, being exalted in the next, and having the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, more abundant in our lives happens throughout both.

The purpose of the third member of the Godhead is to be our Celestial tutor. He teaches us by revealing truth to us. He opens our eyes to help us see beyond what our physical sight, and current way of thinking can show us. We learn to understand in new ways, to comprehend spiritual things that cannot normally be understood by mortals. He leads us to Christ so we can be forgiven. And He changes our hearts, our attitudes, our propensities, and our desires so that we live higher and holier lives (to borrow a popular current phrase).

It is eternally important to have the Spirit present in our lives in any capacity. But to be promised that His influence will be poured out more abundantly upon us is truly a pearl of great price. That means there is no price we can pay to be worthy of such a blessing. This is a prime example of the grace of God. He blesses us far beyond what we actually deserve, just because He loves us.

The following thought is all mine. It is not church doctrine – only what I believe. The Holy Ghost has been present in every generation of time. That means since Adam and Eve first set foot outside of the garden of Eden. But how His work has been related to each generation has changed as far as I can tell in this last dispensation. Even though the Holy Ghost speaks to and influences every culture and person on earth to the extent they will listen to Him, those who make a baptismal covenant with God actually receive His companionship as a gift. We get His company and guidance in greater amounts than are available to anyone else on earth.

I find it interesting that there is no discussion that I know of in the scriptures about the companionship of the Holy Ghost. That seems to be a final dispensation blessing. Even in the Book of Mormon, the people are promised the Holy Ghost in greater abundance, but we have no record of His companionship being given through priesthood ordinance. That seems to be a last dispensation privilege. And what a privilege it is!

Day 2

Mosiah 18:17-30 – God commands His people to gather, organize, and be united.

The subject of today’s lesson is about the need for an organized church. Let’s take a quick look at what happens to people when they are invited to do things on their own, verses doing things with others. I will use online courses, specifically MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). MOOCs are open to pretty much anyone who wants to take the course. With that said, how many people who sign up actually complete their courses? Would you be surprised to hear that the average completion rate is about 15%? While come universities have managed to report figures as high as 40% completion rate, others claim a 96% dropout rate. For almost the last 10 years the 15% completion rate has held pretty steady. (I got these stats, and the image with this lesson from Elite Content Marketer)

covenantA study came out that looked at why people don’t finish what they start when it comes to these courses. In the accompanying image it shows the areas in which people require more engagement to make finishing what they started more attractive and doable emotionally. To be honest, I did not look up the stats on what helps people stay in their church, but I’m guessing that the same areas of involvement apply in both situations. Those who don’t believe in organized religions tend to lose their faith in God and don’t expend the same kind of effort to be and do good that those who belong to an organized religion do. (Yes, there are always exceptions to these rules and assumptions, but they are just that, exceptions.)

Belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acts as a positive influence to encourage us to participate in the work of salvation for both our self and for others, because we are alongside other like-minded people. Have you ever noticed that those who don’t feel included in your Branch/Ward are the ones who drift into inactivity? We don’t find those who are inactive attending the temple, partaking of the sacrament each week, reading the scriptures daily, or having daily prayer or weekly home evening. We need each other. We need encouragement to continue on doing what the prophets encourage us to do.

We cannot overstate the importance of the social aspect of the church. While it is true that our salvation is an individual thing, having the strength to do what is required of us to do, and to become like we need to become in large part requires other people. How easy is it to minister to others without others to minister to? The church provides a framework for us to practice so many of the attributes and habits we need to learn to become better people. This is why it is so important that we are inclusive in our thinking. Our personal strength, as well as the strength of the church as a whole comes from our ability to work together as a community in a common cause.

The gospel of Christ is all about building a celestial community. Celestial people don’t live alone. The aim of the celestial person is to care for others – to seek for their happiness. That concern for others is part and parcel of God’s personality and of His expectations for His children. We cannot become united as God wants us to be without intimate associations with each other. We need to know who is having difficulties, who needs help, who can offer assistance in a particular area of life, and how we can strengthen and support each other. This is what it means to become knit together as the scriptures say. Generally speaking, those who become the most involved in the lives of others are the ones who become the strongest in the faith.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “It takes a community to raise a child.” Well that truth also applies to how each of us becomes a celestial citizen. It is through the community we call church.

Day 3

Mosiah 21-24 – God helps me carry my burdens.

Today I ask for your forgiveness. I would like to address a pet topic of mine. It ties into today’s lesson, but is sort of off to one side. My bad. I would like to talk briefly about Abinadi and his prophecies to the people of Noah.

Here is Abinadi’s original prophecy found in Mosiah 11.

20 And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord—Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.

21 And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies.

22 And it shall come to pass that they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of my people.

23 And it shall come to pass that except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God.

24 Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me I will be slow to hear their cries; yea, and I will suffer them that they be smitten by their enemies.

25 And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions; and thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me.

It is important to note the conditions the Lord gives the people. They must “repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God.” If they don’t, He will not hear their cries when they are afflicted by their enemies. But if they repent now they won’t be brought into bondage. Repentance now would save them from being in bondage to the Lamanites.

Two years later Abinadi comes back in chapter 12. The people still haven’t repented. This time the Lord has more specifics about how the people will be punished. Now it is no longer an “if you don’t repent” situation. They were warned. They did not repent. Now their fate is sealed no matter what they do. They can still repent, but this time the Lord will be slow to hear their cries. All of the people will still be punished because they did not repent when given the opportunity to receive God’s grace for their indiscretions.

And it came to pass that after the space of two years that Abinadi came among them in disguise, that they knew him not, and began to prophesy among them, saying: Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying—Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.

Yea, wo be unto this generation! And the Lord said unto me: Stretch forth thy hand and prophesy, saying: Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.

And it shall come to pass that the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord.

And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I will cause that they shall howl all the day long.

Yea, and I will cause that they shall have burdens lashed upon their backs; and they shall be driven before like a dumb ass.

And it shall come to pass that I will send forth hail among them, and it shall smite them; and they shall also be smitten with the east wind; and insects shall pester their land also, and devour their grain.

And they shall be smitten with a great pestilence—and all this will I do because of their iniquities and abominations.

And it shall come to pass that except they repent I will utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth; …

These eight verses are only a summary of what Abinadi told the people. At the end of verse eight it tells us “And many things did Abinadi prophesy against this people.” Mormon’s telling of this story doesn’t include most of the story. We don’t hear anything about the wild animals eating their rotting bodies, the hail, famine, and pestilence that was also visited upon the people.

Often people ask why Alma’s people were made to suffer like Limhi’s people when Alma’s people repented. The verses above tell us why. All the people were told to repent, but didn’t. So all the people were promised that they would be brought into bondage and made to suffer in particular ways. The Lord still left repenting on the table, but He said that He would be slow to hear their cries, and slow to deliver them, because of their disobedience. So both parties, the people of Alma and the people of Limhi were brought into bondage and made to suffer, just as Abinadi told them they would. The lesson here (and this brings us back to today’s lesson) is that Alma and his people had a much less severe time repenting and being rescued by the Lord than Limhi’s people, because Alma’s people repented and stayed faithful to the Lord. Limhi’s people were stubborn and it took grinding their faces into the dirt through three wars before they finally gave in and turned to God for their deliverance.

Alma’s people were delivered by a miracle. I’m guessing it was because of their faith and obedience. Limhi’s people were delivered by inspired men who gave them hope, and because of their repentant lives the Lord delivered them from the Lamanites. Both groups were delivered by God, but in two very different ways.

What about us?

Alma and his people were good people. They had repented too late to avoid bondage, but they were on the right track. Here is Mosiah 23:21.

21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.

Alma’s people were placed into bondage by Amulon, one of the priests of Noah. Amulon hated Alma and deliberately found ways to make them suffer. After a period of trial and suffering the Lord had this to say to Alma in Mosiah 24:13-14.

13 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.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

Here is an important point. The Lord did not put these people into bondage. They did that to themselves for their wicked behavior earlier. But the Lord specifically states that He wants this people to be able to witness to others that God visits His people in their afflictions. We read throughout the scriptures that if we turn to the Lord He will make our burdens lighter. In the case of Alma and his people this was literally true. The burdens themselves were not made less heavy, but the people were given strength they didn’t have before so that the burdens could be carried with ease.

When we experience burdens in life, whether of our own doing or just because burdens are a part of this life, the Lord delights in coming to the aid of His obedient children. We just need to turn to Him and seek His relief. He decides how that relief will come, when it comes, and through whom it comes. But the relief always comes. These passages should give us hope for our own times of heartache and trial.

Day 4

Mosiah 23:21-24; 24:8-17 – I can trust the Lord.

When I read today’s title I was tempted to just write – “I can. You can. We all can.” I was going to write that and then go on to the next lesson. It was then that it occurred to me that even the wicked could have trusted in the word of the Lord, because everything they were told would happen by Abinadi did. Whether we choose to be good or choose to do as we please, the word of the Lord is trustworthy at all times, for He cannot lie. Even if we don’t put any faith in His word, it won’t change the outcome. What God says is always and forever the truth and can be relied upon.

Personal Study

Teach truth from the scriptures and latter-day prophets.

How do you know if what you are teaching is the truth? I believe that is an important question each of us should be asking our self when we need to teach a class. My answer is to compare my understanding with what is actually written in the scriptures. I also look for the words of the living prophet.

We need to be aware that the Brethren, though inspired and prophets in their own right, don’t always agree on certain points of doctrine. These points are doctrine where the Lord has not yet revealed His position on the subject. There is no official belief for the church. For example, on the question of progression in the eternities, there are as many apostles who believe, and taught, that we can progress from kingdom to kingdom as there are apostles who believe that whatever kingdom you are resurrected into is where you stay. The Lord simply hasn’t told us one way or the other. As a result, those who believe the first group only quote those apostles, as though that is the church’s official opinion. And those in the other camp only quote their apostles, as though that is the official church position.

If it is in the scriptures the doctrine is safe. So try not to teach doctrine that you can’t back up with the scriptures – in context. Then use the words of the prophets to back up the doctrine in the written word. If you do this you will always be safe from teaching false or questionable doctrine. And don’t forget that we are accountable for all that the living prophet teaches us, even if it is different from what a past prophet taught. The Lord holds us accountable for the teachings of His living oracle.

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BoM21-2024 – We Have Entered Into a Covenant With Him