Sister Nelson Challenges BYU Women’s Conference Attendees to Keep Covenants
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Nothing is more important than making and keeping sacred covenants.
- Service is a better cure for stress than any vacation or spa.
- Select a 21-day period to make a sacrifice of time in the temple and doing family history work.
“It can feel like Christmas every day if we truly receive the gift of our covenants—every day.” —Sister Wendy Watson Nelson
Covenants are a gift from God designed to get all safely back home to Him, Wendy Watson Nelson told some 15,000 women during BYU Women’s Conference on April 30. “Despite any anguishing life situation we presently might be in, it can feel like Christmas every day if we truly receive the gift of our covenants—every day.”
Sister Nelson, former professor of marriage and family therapy at BYU and wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke during the opening address at the annual event, cosponsored by the Relief Society and BYU.
After a welcome from Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, and BYU President Kevin J Worthen, an “instant choir”—a choir consisting of attendees to the conference—provided a musical number.
In her remarks, Sister Nelson shared what it means to be a “woman of covenant” within the context of the current days. She focused on family history work, temple work, and service, drawing from this year’s theme found in 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon: “My soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord.”
“There is nothing more important than making covenants with God and then keeping them with increasing precision,” Sister Nelson said, “because making covenants with God calls forth the divine within us. And keeping our covenants with God allows Him to pour His divine power into us.”
As women understand the gift of their covenants—and the power of God that flows through them—they, like Nephi expressed in the Book of Mormon, will truly delight in the covenants of the Lord, she taught.
Sharing how family history and temple work has played an important role for good in her own life, Sister Nelson invited others to join in the joy she has found.
“I’ve felt the unmistakable urgency of those now living on the other side of the veil who are desperate to make covenants with God—now,” she said. “After all of that, I’ve come to the following conclusion: when it comes to making and keeping covenants with God, nothing is more important. And nothing is more filled with power.”
Sister Nelson spoke of an email she received from a woman who needed help putting together a presentation for her ward. The Relief Society sister was asked to speak on the topic of “stress,” and in preparation she had gathered responses to a survey, including 75 women.
“As I read the survey responses, these young wives and mothers reported they were experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, and marital intimacy problems,” Sister Nelson said. “They listed as the cause of their problems school, finances, lack of sleep, housework, homework, feelings of failing at everything, and an inability to balance all of their responsibilities.”
Wondering how to respond in a way that would really make a difference for the women, Sister Nelson thought of her experience doing temple and family history work.
“As I thought about [the sister’s] difficult assignment, my experiences with family history and temple work filled my mind,” she said. “As counterintuitive as this may seem, I felt compelled, in a way I could not deny, to encourage [the woman] to offer a 21-day experiment to her Relief Society sisters.”
The experiment included making a sacrifice of time to the Lord by increasing their time in family history and in temple work.
“Sisters, my suggestion to a group of overtaxed, exhausted young mothers may seem counterintuitive—and the results highly improbable,” Sister Nelson said. “It may even seem cruel to ask a woman who feels as though she’s barely surviving to make a sacrifice of time to the Lord. But these young mothers proved that it works.”
While the world tells women that the very best way to be rejuvenated is by taking a vacation, visiting a spa, or going on a shopping spree, Sister Nelson spoke of the rejuvenation that comes through serving—especially if they are able to delight in that covenant together with other women.
“Why?” she asked. “Because when covenant women keep their covenants, they have greater access to the power of God.”
Sister Nelson invited listeners to try that same experiment—by Christmas—by selecting a 21-day period of time to make a sacrifice of time to the Lord, increasing time spent in the temple and doing family history work.
“Just as keeping our covenant of sacrifice will bring the power of God to our lives, I’ve learned from covenant women that the power of God also flows to them when they keep their covenant of service.”
Sharing the experience she had as the women’s conference chairwoman, Sister Nelson spoke of the process of integrating a service project into the conference.
“Sixteen years later, I am even more convinced that weary covenant women are revitalized as the power of God flows into their lives when they keep their covenant of service.”
As women keep their covenants, they also have access to angels as their associates.
“As we keep our covenants, we can ask for angels to help us,” she said. “Literally. … I’m not talking praying for fantasy angels with wings to magically fairy-dust our problems away. I’m not talking about praying to angels. I’m talking about praying to your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, for those on the other side to be dispatched to assist you. Perhaps a loved one or two could be sent to help you with whatever you need.”
In addition to help, covenants provide perspective. Sister Nelson reminded listeners that all women through the ages have made the same covenants with God that women make today.
“The very fact that temple covenants and ordinances seem so different from our Sunday worship meetings is just another testimony of their truthfulness,” she said. “They are ancient!”
But just as the covenants have blessed women who have lived in the past, so do they for women today.
“My dear sisters, as covenant keepers, our covenants change everything in our lives—for the better,” she said. “They change our identity and ultimate destination. They change the road we’re traveling on through this life because now we’re on the covenant path that leads back home! And no GPS of the world can ever find that road.
“As covenant keepers, what we want out of life; what we are willing to spend our time, energy, and money on; what we think is entertaining; what we think is appealing all change. As covenant keepers, our desire to be someone the Lord can count on increases exponentially, no matter what He asks us to do. As covenant keepers, how we feel about the Savior changes forever.”