The Importance of Keeping Promises

Contributed By Sister Linda S. Reeves of the Relief Society general presidency

  • 14 January 2016

“Always remember and honor the covenants you make with the Lord. … You will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and Christlike conduct will be part of your nature.” —True to the Faith

Article Highlights

  • God blesses us as we stay true to the conditions of our covenants.
  • Baptismal, priesthood, and temple covenants are more than just "important events."
  • Teach children about the importance of covenant keeping.

“As we strive to keep our covenants, our feelings of inadequacy and imperfection begin to fade, while the ordinances and the covenants … come alive.” —Linda S. Reeves of the Relief Society general presidency 

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One of my favorite children’s books (and perhaps one of yours) is Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. Maysie, a lazy mother bird who is tired of sitting on her egg, wants a vacation. Horton, a full-sized elephant, passes by and Maysie, sitting on her unhatched egg high up in a jungle tree, begs Horton to take her place. She promises that she “won’t be gone long. … I give you my word.” Reluctant at first, Horton agrees.

Horton nearly freezes through winter, is mocked and deserted by friends, captured by hunters, shipped across the ocean, and is displayed across the country by a traveling circus. Throughout the entire ordeal, Horton proclaims, over and over, through every trial, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!” In the end, Horton is rewarded for his faithfulness when “something brand new”—“an elephant-bird”—hatches that looks just like him.

Early in my life, reading about Horton’s determination to keep his promise helped me to recognize the importance of keeping my commitments and promises, no matter what the challenges.

Karl G. Maeser, former prominent Utah educator and first president of what has become Brigham Young University, once shared, “I have been asked what I mean by ‘word of honor.’ I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!”

The Book of Mormon includes many examples of commitment, oaths, and covenant keeping. The prophet Nephi tells us that after Zoram, Laban's servant, “promised [and] made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth … our fears did cease concerning him” (1 Nephi 4:35, 37).

Zoram, true to his word, journeyed in the wilderness with Lehi’s family, crossed the ocean, and lived the rest of his life with them. The people of Ammon kept their oath when they buried their weapons of war “deep in the earth … [as] a testimony … that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood … , vouching and covenanting with God” (see Alma 24:12-19). Even the wicked Lamanites during Captain Moroni’s era were determined to be true to their word of honor. They refused Moroni’s lifesaving offer when they were offered their freedom in exchange for their weapons if they would take an oath never to come against the Nephites again. The Lamanite leader, Zerahemnah testified, “We will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break, and also our children” (Alma 44:8).

After returning their weapons, renewing the fight, and ending the lives of many more Lamanites, Moroni “caused that the work of death should cease again among the people. And he took the weapons of war from the Lamanites; and after they had entered into a covenant with him of peace they were suffered to depart” (Alma 44:20). Our current world is full of broken commitments, promises, and covenants which are often dismissed as unimportant or are avoided all together—in marriage, business, and other relationships. The Relief Society general presidency, along with the Young Women and Primary presidencies, have great hopes and desires that children will be taught from their earliest years about the importance of making and keeping promises, oaths, and covenants.

One of the Relief Society’s purposes is to help prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they increase faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and strengthen families and homes through ordinances and covenants.

Children may ask, “What is a covenant?” “Why do we make them?” “What are the blessings?” True to the Faith explains: “A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. … All the saving ordinances of the priesthood are accompanied by covenants. … [We make] covenants when [we] are baptized, and … renew [those] covenants each time [we] partake of the sacrament. … If you have received the Melchizedek Priesthood, you have entered into the oath and covenant of the Priesthood. The temple endowment and the sealing ordinance also include sacred covenants” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 44).

We hope and pray that the promises and covenants we make at baptism and in priesthood oaths and the covenants we make in the Lord’s temple will not be just important “events” in our lives, but sacred, lifelong, and eternal covenants and promises with our beloved Heavenly Father and Savior that will qualify us for all the blessings They have in store for us.