Keeping the Sacred Covenant of Marriage

“Keeping the Sacred Covenant of Marriage,” Building An Eternal Marriage Teacher Manual (2003), 13–18

Doctrinal Overview

The following scripture illustrates the significance of priesthood ordinances and the covenants associated with them: “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84:20–21).

Making and keeping covenants is central to becoming worthy of eternal blessings.


Obeying covenants made during sacred ordinances increases the power of godliness in our marriage.

Student Manual Readings

Selected Teachings from “Covenants and Ordinances” (38–40)

Selected Teachings from “Divorce” (73–74)

“Holy Spirit of Promise” (136)

“Covenant Marriage,” Elder Bruce C. Hafen (47–50)

Note: This lesson may take more than one class period to teach.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Ask: What can a husband and wife do to keep their commitment to their marriage covenant strong throughout their lives?

Discussion. Invite students to read and discuss the definition for “covenant” in the Bible Dictionary “Covenant” (p. 651). The following questions may be helpful:

  • How would you define covenant?

  • Who sets the terms of a covenant with God?

  • What do covenants have to do with principles and ordinances of the gospel?

  • In what ways do covenants help us live the gospel?

Explain that in a covenant between God and man, both parties take on obligations and both parties receive a benefit. Draw the following chart on the board, including the bold headings only. Ask students to suggest what to write in each column.

Obligation and Benefit image

Analyze and discuss Doctrine and Covenants 84:20–21.

Regardless of our enthusiasm or sincerity, the blessings of eternity are available to us only as we receive the ordinances and keep the covenants associated with them.

Share the following statement: “In the Church the word ordinances usually refers to rites and ceremonies that the Lord has given us for our salvation, guidance, and comfort. … These ordinances are physical actions that symbolize spiritual experiences. By taking part in them we receive the spiritual power we need to change our lives” (Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B [2000], 27).

Draw the following diagram on the board:

Man Woman Contract image

Invite students to interpret the diagram as it relates to civil marriage, and discuss their answers. (For example, the arrows could represent the love and support marriage partners give each other, and the line could represent their obligation to each other.) What authority is needed to make a civil marriage valid?

Draw a second illustration as follows:

God Man Woman Covenant image

Again invite students to interpret the diagram, and discuss their answers. (The arrows reaching downward could represent God’s authority, the commandments, the Atonement, and so forth. The arrows reaching upward could represent the couple’s obedience and prayers.)

  • Why must eternal covenants be sanctioned by God?

  • How can we be sure that God is a party to the covenants we make?

Explain that when we enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, the union becomes far more than a civil contract. The ordinances in the temple draw us heavenward as God becomes a partner to our covenants. These ordinances can help us gain an eternal perspective of our marriage and be more committed to each other and to God.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “The ultimate Latter-day Saint priorities are twofold: First, we seek to understand our relationship to God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to secure that relationship by obtaining their saving ordinances and by keeping our personal covenants. Second, we seek to understand our relationship to our family members and to secure those relationships by the ordinances of the temple and by keeping the covenants we make in that holy place. These relationships, secured in the way I have explained, provide eternal blessings available in no other way. No combination of science, success, property, pride, prominence, or power can provide these eternal blessings!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2001, 110; or Ensign, May 2001, 84).

How can married couples keep these two priorities foremost in their lives?

Briefly review the information from the “Celestial Marriage” chart in the student manual (46).

Suggestions for How to Teach

Discussion. Read Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21.

  • What are the Lord’s blessings contingent upon? (Obedience to the laws upon which they are predicated.)

  • When the Lord promises us certain blessings as part of an ordinance we participate in, what must we do to receive the blessings?

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 136:4. In what way does walking “in all the ordinances of the Lord” help us qualify for eternal life? (As part of these ordinances, we covenant to do all the things that are necessary to enter the presence of our heavenly parents as heirs to their kingdom.)

Sister Patricia T. Holland said: “Covenants not only commit us to being unshakable in our devotion to God, they remind us God will always be unshakable in his devotion toward us. And though we may falter and make mistakes, he never falters. He never makes a mistake. He is ever faithful to us. That is the beauty and majesty inherent in the covenants we make with God” (“Considering Covenants: Women, Men, Perspective, Promises,” in To Rejoice as Women: Talks from the 1994 Women’s Conference, ed. Susette Fletcher Green and Dawn Hall Anderson [1995], 99–100; or student manual, 39).

Discussion. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how understanding and remembering sacred covenants helps keep us worthy of God’s promised blessings:

“A periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives. This review will help us see where we need to repent and change our lives to ensure that we are worthy of the promises that accompany our covenants and sacred ordinances. Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 15; or Ensign, May 1987, 14; student manual, 40).

  • What are the sacred ordinances of salvation that Elder Ballard spoke of?

  • What do we covenant with God as part of each of these ordinances?

  • What does the Lord promise us in each ordinance?

After students respond, invite them to compare their answers to the information in “Our Covenant-Based Relationship with the Lord” (student manual, 40–46). Column one shows who has authority to perform the ordinance. Columns two and three review the promises we make with God and what He promises us. Review with students the covenants leading up to eternal marriage, and invite students to mentally examine their faithfulness in keeping each of them.

Discussion. What is the best indicator that a potential mate will keep his or her eternal marriage covenants?

Help students understand that the best indicator is how well they honor their covenants now, including baptism, the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and the endowment if they have been endowed.

Review the last section on celestial marriage in “Our Covenant-Based Relationship with the Lord” (student manual, 46). Ask what we covenant to do when we marry in the temple. What does the Lord promise us if we keep our covenants? Point out the many blessings that are available to those who make and keep sacred covenants.

Suggestions for How to Teach

Student manual. There are many ways that keeping covenants can bless our lives. Turn to Selected Teachings from “Covenants and Ordinances” in the student manual (38). Read and discuss the statement by Elder Boyd K. Packer on page 47 regarding the power of the sealing ordinances to bind families.

Scripture activity. Review the following scriptures and relate them to how faithfulness brings power to protect families.

  • Mosiah 26:15–20. In what ways do you think Alma honored the oath and covenant of the priesthood?

  • Mosiah 27:14. How did Alma’s faithfulness enable him to bless his family? (He was able to pray “with much faith” concerning his son Alma the Younger that he would “be brought to the knowledge of the truth.”)

  • Mosiah 28:5–7. How did King Mosiah’s relationship with the Lord bless his family? (When his sons asked him if they could go on a dangerous mission to the Lamanites, he was worthy of asking for and receiving an answer from the Lord.) Review the account of a fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to King Mosiah (see Alma 19:22–23). Although this is not intended as a pattern for all families, it illustrates the power of the faith of one person in behalf of another worthy member of the family.

  • Alma 53:16–21; 56:45–48, 56. To what did the sons of Helaman attribute their protective power? Discuss how this kind of power is available today. How will keeping all our covenants, including those that accompany eternal marriage, increase our ability to bless our families?

Suggestions for How to Teach

Group work. Modern prophets help us understand the nature of the covenants we enter into when we marry in the temple. Turn to Selected Teachings from “Covenants and Ordinances” (student manual, 38). Divide the following questions among groups of students. Give them a few minutes to discuss the answers, and then have them present their findings to the class. (As an alternative, go through the questions as a class.)

  • President Joseph Fielding Smith (student manual, 38). What function does the Holy Spirit of Promise perform in our eternal marriage covenant? (see also Selected Teachings from “Holy Spirit of Promise,” student manual, 136).

What did President Smith teach about avoiding divorce? What did he say is the Lord’s penalty for breaking the marriage covenant through divorce? (see also Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley and James E. Faust, Selected Teachings, “Divorce,” student manual, 73).

What two other obligations did President Smith say that we accept when we marry? What difficulties might we encounter as we strive to meet these obligations?

  • Elder J. Ballard Washburn (student manual, 40). According to Elder Washburn, what aspect of the marriage covenant do many couples neglect? Why do you think this is happening? What does it take to keep this part of the new and everlasting covenant of marriage?

  • Elder Marion G. Romney (student manual, 38–39). Based on Elder Romney’s assessment, why should we take our covenants seriously? In what ways are we sometimes careless or casual about sacred covenants and ordinances?

  • Elder Boyd K. Packer (student manual, 39). Discuss Elder Packer’s warnings about common ways Latter-day Saints are enticed to break their covenants and lose promised blessings. What can we do to help assure that these temptations never cause us to lose our promised blessings?

  • Elder Robert D. Hales (student manual, 39). Why does the Lord expect us to continue to love our spouse even if there are things about our marriage that we are not satisfied with? How can the desire to honor our covenants help us in situations like this?

  • Elder Jeffrey R. and Sister Patricia T. Holland (student manual, 39). What is the power of covenants as taught by Elder and Sister Holland?

Discussion. Explain the difference between civil contractual marriages and eternal covenant marriages (see Elder Bruce C. Hafen, “Covenant Marriage,” student manual, 47–50). Illustrate the differences by drawing a vertical line down the center of the board. Label one side “Contract Marriage,” and the other side “Covenant Marriage.” Using Elder Hafen’s talk, make a list of characteristics of each type of marriage, and compare and contrast them as a class.

All married couples must deal with adversity. Couples married by civil law may lack the eternal perspective that gives power to covenant marriages.


Consider bearing testimony of how keeping your covenants blesses your marriage and family.

Assignment for Lesson 7

Give students the following family history assignment. This assignment will be due when you teach lesson 7, “Tradition of the Fathers,” normally in about two weeks.

Part 1. Do some research to learn something about events in your ancestors’ lives that can influence your own marriage and family life. Learn something you did not know before this assignment. You could read family histories written by relatives, or you could ask your parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles to tell you about events in your family history that are unusual or inspiring. Write down what you learn so it becomes part of your own family history. Describe how it can influence your own marriage and family. Be prepared to share your insights with the class.

Part 2. Talk to your parents, other family members, or family friends. Ask them if they see any similarities in mannerisms, interests, and so forth between you and your parents. Ask them if your grandparents had any of these characteristics.

Part 3. Make a list of family rules, practices, and traditions you observed while growing up. Make a second list of the rules and traditions you would like to continue in your own family. Indicate which you feel are grounded in gospel principles.

These practices and traditions could relate to chores, study, curfews, bedtimes, meals, family councils, family scripture study, family home evening, family prayer, couple prayer, father’s blessings and interviews, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, holiday traditions, Sabbath observance, missions, temple marriage, recreational activities, husband’s role and wife’s role, decision making, finances (such as payment of tithes, credit cards, debt, and budgeting), expressing affection, communication styles, problem solving, and focus on material things.