President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, tells of his great-great-grandparents who were among those thronging the temple to receive their temple blessings on the eve of leaving Nauvoo for their perilous trek west. In response, President Brigham Young kept the temple open late into the night to administer the ordinances (see “Eternity Lies before Us,” Ensign, May 1997, 18).
The covenants and ordinances given to the Latter-day Saints involved gospel principles of obedience and sacrifice, purity and consecration. Making these covenants helped prepare them spiritually to endure their journey to Zion.
Like the early pioneers, when we receive the covenants and ordinances of the gospel, we too begin a journey toward Zion—for Zion is not only a place, it is also a Christlike purity of heart (see D&C 97:21). President Young taught that we prepare for our journey by receiving “the ordinances of the holy Priesthood of the Son of God, which are necessary for the perfection of the Saints” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 112). These ordinances begin with baptism and culminate in the temple.
The ordinances not only help us become pure as persons but also unite us as a people. In the days of Enoch, “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).
It was in this spirit of unity that most of the pioneers came to the mountains of the American West. The Saints were organized into companies, with a covenant to keep the Lord’s commandments. Each company had its own captain, and all travelers shared equally in the resources of the wagon train so the “poor, the widows, [and] the fatherless” would not suffer (see D&C 136:6–8).
The family of Mary Goble Pay, who was 13 years of age, owned an ox team and wagon but promised to stay with two handcart companies. Though a handcart could usually travel faster than a wagon pulled by oxen, when the pioneers’ strength began to fail as early snowstorms engulfed the group, the ox team could have forged ahead. But “we had orders not to pass the handcart companies,” Mary wrote. “We had to keep close to them to help if we could.” Gospel covenants bound them to their fellow Saints, and they were “willing to bear one another’s burdens” (see Mosiah 18:8–10).
At great sacrifice, they stayed with the handcarts, helping as best they could. Mary’s sister, brother, and mother died from exposure, illness, and lack of nourishment (see “Autobiography of Mary Goble Pay,” in A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints , 106–7).
In our journey through life, some will be at the head of the wagon train, and some will be at the rear. We may not always choose our traveling companions or conditions. But making and keeping our covenants and receiving the ordinances of the gospel prepares us to assist others in our company.
How do receiving ordinances and making covenants help purify our hearts?
Why is it important that we work together in trying to establish Zion?