Visiting Teaching Message:

Building Up Zion by Making Covenants and Receiving Ordinances

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    President James E. Faust tells of members who thronged 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 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.

    We Journey Together toward 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 [1997], 112). These ordinances begin with baptism and culminate in the temple.

    The ordinances not only help us become pure as individuals, but they 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 American West. The Saints were organized into companies, with a covenant to keep the Lord’s commandments. 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 Journey May Require Sacrifice

    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 an ox wagon, the ox team could have forged ahead as the pioneers’ strength began to fail when early snow storms engulfed the group. 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 made them “willing to bear one another’s burdens” (see Mosiah 18:8–10).

    At great sacrifice, they honored their covenant and stayed with the handcarts. Mary’s sister, brother, and mother died from exposure, illness, and lack of nourishment (“Autobiography of Mary Goble Pay,” in A Believing People: Literature of the Latter-day Saints [1974], 143–45).

    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. As sisters in Zion, we can work together to establish Zion.

    • How do receiving ordinances and making covenants help purify us?

    • Why is it important that we work together in establishing Zion?

    Illustrated by Heidi Darley