“Joy to the world!” “Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10; italics added). This is the season when the world celebrates the joyful advent of our Savior. It is appropriate to reflect upon the ways in which our Heavenly Father and his Son bring joy and meaning to our lives. One of these ways is through covenants.
When Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38), she was, in effect, promising, or covenanting, to do as Heavenly Father asked. Because of her covenant, her life took on a joy and meaning that she, a young Galilean girl, could never have envisioned.
The first covenant we make is the covenant of baptism. We take upon ourselves the name of Christ and commit to follow him. We renew this covenant as we partake of the sacrament. Our Heavenly Father in turn promises that his Spirit will be with us. This Spirit guides us to peace amid distress, to joy amid sorrow. The covenants we make in the temple bring further knowledge and joy.
Some of the Relief Society sisters from Ghana are among those who have found joy in keeping covenants, even under stressful circumstances. In 1989 the government of Ghana padlocked the doors of the churches and forbade Latter-day Saints to meet together to practice their religion. Persecution against Church members was great. Sisters like Faustina Otoo, however, expressed increased devotion, “I am happy to live in this time when all these things are happening. We were always told we were the pioneers here.”
Church members found ways to show their commitment. They held family devotionals; they studied the scriptures and read Church history. Sister Emma Twereboa-Kodua, a branch Relief Society president in Nsawam, Ghana, wrote, “I keep visiting the active sisters and they are all in good spirits. … I have tried to fast and pray more and better than I have ever done in all my life. My faith has increased greatly. Now things that usually irritate me no longer do, anger and frustrations no longer have the same effect on me. These are some of the blessings that I have gained during these trying times.” The restrictions on church meetings were lifted in December 1990.
• When have you felt joy in keeping the covenants you have made?
In the baptismal covenant we also promise to keep the two great commandments: to love God and our neighbors. (See Mosiah 18:8–9.) These covenants can bring us closer to God.
A young woman found that she had developed a spirit of criticism. She felt that this was hampering her spiritual growth. As she partook of the sacrament, she promised the Lord that she would not criticize anyone in her family for one week.
Each week she renewed her effort and asked for the Spirit to be with her. She overcame this weakness, though it was not easy and progress was slow. Her friends now use her as an example of one who never speaks unkindly of others.
As our covenants with God become a framework for our lives, our words and demeanor will reflect the goodness of God and the inner peace and joy he promises to those who follow him.
• How do the covenants you have made increase your understanding of Heavenly Father’s love for you?