Note: Almost three months ago on September 25, I gave a talk in Church about the power of covenants so I decided to share a slightly modified version here.
On September 25, 1993—29 years ago—I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But it was a rather unusual baptism. Much like any family event, trying to find a day that everyone could come was hard. We settled on that day, which was a Saturday, and invited all our family up to Huntsville to celebrate.
Most extended family members came from 45 minutes to an hour away, which is important to the story.
We had just barely moved to Huntsville so we were rather new in our congregation, which could be important to the story.
The whole family showed up to the Church at the appointed time and…the doors were locked.
Someone made a quick phone call to the bishop. One of his kids answered (ah, the ancient days before cell phones). “I’m sorry, he can’t come to the phone right now; he’s out mowing the lawn.”
A frantic response, “Um, could you please get him on the phone anyway.”
The bishop, with all the many things on his mind, had forgotten it was my baptism day. There was nothing set up, the font was not filled, and the Church was still locked.
Two options: We could start filling up the font and wait for about 3 hours for the baptism. This would mean that several of my family members would not be there because they had to be back for other obligations.
We could also figure out…something else. A few phone calls around revealed a family in the ward who had not yet closed down their pool for the summer. By not yet closed down, they were no longer heating it, but it was still…usable.
Fall weather is wonderful and delicious but it is not necessarily the weather you want solar heating your pool.
The decision was left to 8-year-old Lizzie (or at least that’s how I remember it).
It seemed the best option to have my family there was to use the swimming pool. So we piled into our cars, headed to the members’ home in our ward, and set up shop in the family room—never mind that the parents weren’t actually home and one of the teenagers was making the arrangements.
Nevertheless, the show must go on.
After the talks and the music, we headed out to the poolside baptism. I was so worried about how cold it would be. My dad stepped in first and likely said it wasn’t that bad. We readied everything by the side of the pool, and I stepped into the frigid pool. I was quickly baptized and out of the water I sprang to be wrapped in a towel. There were no fuzzy feelings or a sense of warmth as I made that covenant and promise—just shivering and chattering. Very much like the pioneers who cut ice to get baptized, I’m sure.
Alas, I had been baptized, received the gift of the Holy Ghost shortly after, and on my way I went having made my first covenant.
But as a child, I didn’t have a great understanding of a few things. For years, I wondered if my baptism was really valid. All I had ever seen, all I had ever known, was that you got baptized in the font at the Church. And that is what I thought baptism meant. And because it had been different for me, and because I didn’t feel anything warm, I didn’t think I had been properly baptized.
It took time and a better understanding of the gospel to know that the validation of a baptism includes the authority of the person baptizing and it also includes the covenant—or promise—that is made.
Sister Jean Bingham reminded us of this covenant in the April 2022 general conference, “Those who have been baptized covenanted on that never-to-be-forgotten day to take Jesus Christ’s name upon them, to always remember Him, to keep His commandments, and to serve Him to the end” (Covenants with God Strengthen, Protect, and Prepare Us for Eternal Glory).
It is not the water temperature that matters or if our covenant experience is like everyone else’s. It is of course important that the authority is clear and true. But the lasting value personally is the promises that we make to God and the associated blessings He promises in return—forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Bingham also taught: “Those who make further covenants in the temple receive powerful promises conditioned on personal faithfulness. We solemnly promise to obey God’s commandments, live the gospel of Jesus Christ, be morally pure, and dedicate our time and talents to the Lord. In return, God promises blessings in this life and the opportunity to return to Him. In that process, we are given, or endowed with, the power to discern between truth and error, between right and wrong, amid the confusing and negative voices that bombard us. What a powerful gift!”
When I was 20 I was preparing to serve a mission. Due to what turned out to be a fluke medical issue, my call was held up for a few weeks, which entirely changed my plans. Where I had planned to leave on my mission soon—hopefully at the same time as my brother who had submitted his papers at the same time—things changed. I received my call and was not going to leave for Brazil for 4 months.
I had already quit my job at BYU, moved all my stuff home, and had not registered for classes. I decided to try and get another semester in before my mission, even though it meant I would have to take my finals early. I made a call, got my job back, and needed to be back in Provo the following week. This meant that week would also be the best week for me to receive my endowment (a temple blessing)—for which I had been preparing for months—before I went back to school. As I headed to the temple with my parents and brother who received his at the same time, I had my car all packed up and ready to go so that afterward I could head down to Provo to start my job again and find a place to live.
While I HAD been preparing, at the time temple preparation was not as clear or as helpful as it is now—or even as it could be if we used all the resources available to us in teaching about the temple. My experience was not exactly what I hoped it would be and I didn’t have a lot of the amazing feelings that others have had. It was a stressful day anyway, and thankfully my mom offered to go to the temple with me again the next week to help with the newness.
But the promises I made with God were important and they were real and they are everlasting. I attended the temple nearly every week during those four months before my mission, so I could better understand and remember the promises I had made and that were made to me. And I have since attended the temple many, many times. The temple can be a sacred place of peace. When we come to the temple, we bring peace with us, we seek peace, and as we leave, we try to take peace to the world.
There are times when I feel peace and receive answers.
And there are also times when I feel nothing or feel frustrated or leave with more questions than answers. But every time I leave the temple, I recommit myself to be a better person—to live my covenants: the promises I have made.
I feel grateful that some aspects of the temple ceremonies have changed, as the First Presidency indicated in 2020, “to help members better understand and live what they learn in the temple.”
The First Presidency also noted that changes have happened many times, so I am hopeful that the future will bring many more changes that reveal more truths and help us more fully understand the temple and our covenants.
Sister Bingham encouraged, “You who have already received the blessings of the temple, don’t let detractors or distractions pull you away from eternal truths. Study and ask trusted sources for greater understanding of the sacred significance of the covenants you have made. Go to the temple as often as you can and listen to the Spirit. You will feel sweet reassurance that you are on the Lord’s path. You will find the courage to continue as well as to bring others with you.”
As many of you are aware, I recently entered into a new covenant with God and with Steve.
So I’d like to share a bit about that.
I love the Salt Lake Temple.
I am a fourth great-granddaughter of Brigham Young. The temple and all it means is part of my heritage. Many generations of my family members have been sealed together in that temple. My grandparents served in that temple for ten years. I have worked for the Church for 13 years and until we had work from home opportunities, walked by it to every work day. That temple became a place of peace and refuge as I served there nearly every week. I have helped in assignments to clean the building and been through the basement up to the Assembly room.
So it’s no surprise that my entire life, my desire was to be sealed in the Salt Lake Temple.
However, I was not married or even dating anyone when the renovation for the temple was announced. I was saddened and heartbroken at the thought that if that event occurred in my life, the possibility that the Salt Lake Temple would not be an option for me was, simply put, devastating.
I am sure that many others felt the same way. Many tried to reassure me (as I’ve even tried to reassure you today) that it is the promises that we make in the temple that are important—and that is most certainly true. But it’s still not easy to accept disappointments—and I didn’t even know at the time that it would become one for me! It was then almost ironic when two years ago, my work assignment changed so that I manage communications for Temple Square, including the communications around the renovation efforts, so even my daily work is dealing in the details of the Salt Lake Temple—a reminder of the work to be done and the LONG years ahead.
And then, unexpectedly, last year I started dating someone and things started to become more serious. As I contemplated what that would really mean if things moved forward, I just hoped maybe he had a favorite temple to make up for it!
And he does—but of course it was the Washington, D.C. temple which was also still closed and logistically was not realistic to consider.
The reality of moving forward meant that we would need to choose another temple. There was still a pang in my heart about that.
But what both of us really know is that it was the power of the promises—the covenants we made—that were most important. So we chose another temple. And as I think about it now, the other details of place and timing haven’t mattered as much to me anymore as earnestly trying to better understand and keep these new promises I made.
As shown through my baptism, endowment, and sealing, our covenant experiences may not always be what we imagine or expect. They may be different than what others experience. This can be similar to our gospel experiences that are often different from what we imagine or expect.
And our covenant journey—the path we are on that leads us home—is not exactly easy.
But the power and blessing of the covenants we make are what I find to be real and enduring.
In our covenants we find so many blessings. Among them:
Power. As President Nelson said in his most recent Liahona message, “Every man and every woman who participates in priesthood ordinances and who makes and keeps covenants with God has direct access to the power of God.”
Hesed. Or joy and mercy as President Nelson explained:
“Once we make a covenant with God, we leave neutral ground forever. God will not abandon His relationship with those who have forged such a bond with Him. In fact, all those who have made a covenant with God have access to a special kind of love and mercy. In the Hebrew language, that covenantal love is called hesed (חֶסֶד).
“Hesed has no adequate English equivalent. Translators of the King James Version of the Bible must have struggled with how to render hesed in English. They often chose “lovingkindness.” This captures much but not all the meaning of hesed. Other translations were also rendered, such as “mercy” and “goodness.” Hesed is a unique term describing a covenant relationship in which both parties are bound to be loyal and faithful to each other.
“A celestial marriage is such a covenant relationship. A husband and wife make a covenant with God and with each other to be loyal and faithful to each other.
“Hesed is a special kind of love and mercy that God feels for and extends to those who have made a covenant with Him. And we reciprocate with hesed for Him.”
Love of God. When we make covenants, we feel heavenly love.
In Primary singing time this past year, we discussed the book of Psalms and how they are often songs of praise and joy and love for God. We had the children respond to the prompts, “I love God or Jesus because…” or “Jesus helps me…” I put their comments together as our own Psalm.
Praise to the Lord
for He is nice and He helps people.
The Lord gave us this earth.
He gave temples and churches.
Praise God because he cares about us.
He is our helper when things are hard
and when we feel sad.
He helps me overcome death.
We love Jesus because He loves us.
He gives us all things
He gives us trains and hide and seek.
Oh how we love Jesus because He loves us.
And Jesus helps me be good and happier.
Praise to the Lord.
Belonging. Elder Gerrit Gong taught, “To belong with God and to walk with each other on His covenant path is to be blessed by covenant belonging….Covenant belonging gives us place, narrative, capacity to become….. the blessings of covenant belonging come when we follow the Lord’s prophet and rejoice in temple-covenant living, including in marriage…. As “me” becomes “we,” we grow together. We grow old together; we grow young together. As we bless each other across a lifetime of forgetting ourselves, we find our hopes and joys sanctified in time and eternity.
Safety. Sister Bingham taught, “We are assured of safety when we look to [Christ’s] light and maintain the integrity of our covenants.”
Presence of angels. Our covenants bind us to the Savior and to those who have gone before. Years ago, when I was in a very frightening place mentally and emotionally, I called on the strength of those who had gone before me to be with me. I asked for the help of angels. And I felt their power. I knew that there were many more who were waiting for me to perform covenants in their behalf and I had strength to carry on. As the Lord promises in Doctrine in Covenants 84:88, “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”
Presence of the Lord. God has promised He will be with us. As we have been reminded in our studies of Isaiah the past few weeks:
- Thou art mine
- I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction
- Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed
- I will strengthen thee
- I will help thee
- When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee
- I will preserve thee
- I will not forget thee
- With great mercies will I gather thee
- With Everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee
- The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from me, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed
Joy. Again from Sister Bingham, “As we choose to make covenants with Heavenly Father and access the power of the Savior to keep them, we will be blessed with more happiness in this life than we can now imagine.” There is so much joy in covenant making and keeping. As Steve and I entered the Sealing Room six weeks ago, I was overwhelmed with love. The room was filled with people who have also covenanted to God and made promises of peace and promises to love and serve. It was a sacred moment to spend together and to promise that we would be loyal and faithful to each other. And as we spent time with family and friends throughout the day, there was so much joy in being surrounded by all those I love so much. There is joy in covenant making and keeping.
In Primary a few weeks ago, I showed a slideshow of pictures from our wedding while we sang I Love to See the Temple.
Tears flowed from several teachers. The JOY!
And I showed a picture of Steve’s friends throwing him in the air. The laughter of the children was beautiful and infections and joyful.
And then I showed a picture of my friends throwing me in the air. The children fell to pieces. The giggling, the happiness, the laughter. That was joy.
The joy of celebrating covenants.
In the Book of Mormon, when Alma is baptizing at the waters of Mormon, he invites those to remember the covenant “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.” (Mosiah 18:8-9)
When the people heard of this opportunity to enter into this covenant, “they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”
I hope we can all be filled with that joyous desire. I pray all of us will more closely examine the promises we have already made and seek to understand them better. I encourage those who have not been baptized or received your endowment or been sealed to prepare for that covenant. I pray that all of us will make time to be in the places where we are reminded of the promises we have made—such as being in Sacrament meeting and attending the temple. And I hope we can all find the joy in seeking out our ancestors and allowing the blessings of the covenant to come to them and letting Christ bind all of us together.