Breaking sacred covenants is a most serious matter. Elder Boyd K. Packer, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught:
“Keep your covenants and you will be safe. Break them and you will not. …
“… We are not free to break our covenants and escape the consequences” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1990, 107–8; or Ensign, Nov. 1990, 84).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell asked:
“How can we, as individual members of the Church, survive spiritually if we do not honor our covenants? How can we survive spiritually if we break outright the covenants made at the time of baptism or in the holy temples?” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 8; or Ensign, May 1988, 8).
Events surrounding the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 54 serve as an example of the consequences of breaking covenants with God.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, p. 99.
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, pp. 114–15.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 54. Those who keep their covenants will receive God’s blessings, while those who do not will receive God’s judgments.
Share the following story as related by Elder F. Burton Howard, a member of the Seventy, about a 10-hour car trip he took with his wife and young son:
“After sundown, with two hours of travel still to go, we decided to play a game. The purpose of the game was to try to get an exhausted youngster to sleep. … We said to the small boy in back, ‘Let’s play hide-and-seek.’ He enthusiastically agreed. We said, ‘Close your eyes and don’t open them until we call you. We need time to hide.’
“The game started. A front-seat passenger would crouch down in the seat and 10 or 15 seconds later would call, ‘OK.’ Our son would bound over the seat and say, ‘Aha, I found you!’ We would say, ‘Next time we will hide better. Close your eyes again.’ A minute or more would go by. Then we would call, and again he would energetically climb over the seat to find us. Finally we said, ‘We have a really good place to hide this time. It will take longer. Close your eyes and we will call you.’
“A minute, two minutes, five minutes went by. We drove along in silence. The tranquillity was marvelous. We must have traveled 15 miles before we began to whisper quiet congratulations to ourselves on the success of our devious game. Then, from out of the backseat, came the sobbing voice of a heartbroken little boy. ‘You didn’t call me, and you said you would.’
“‘You didn’t do what you agreed to do.’ What a terrible accusation. It was a defining moment in our lives. We knew that we could never play that game again” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 36; or Ensign, May 1996, 27).
Discuss the following questions as a class:
Why do you think Elder Howard described that experience as a “defining moment”?
Why is it important to keep promises and do what we agree to do?
Has anyone ever broken any promises made to you? How did you feel?
How do you feel when people keep the commitments they have made to you?
Ask students to read the section heading for Doctrine and Covenants 54 and identify someone who had broken a covenant. Share the historical background for section 54 in Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325 (pp. 114–15), and ask:
What covenant had Leman Copley entered into?
How serious is a promise or covenant made with the Lord?
What were the Saints who were coming to Ohio from New York expecting?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 54:4–5, and discuss what these verses teach about the importance of covenants. Read verses 7–9 to find what these Saints were to do. Read verses 6, 10 and look for the blessings the Lord promises to those who keep their covenants and are patient in tribulation. Discuss the value of these promises in our lives.
Share the continuation of Elder Howard’s statement:
“Church members commit to do many things. … We make covenants. … And just like that incident in the car so many years ago, we sometimes fail to do what we have agreed to do. …
“We are a covenant people. If there is a distinguishing feature about members of the Church, it is that we make covenants. We need to be known as a covenant-keeping people as well. Making promises is easy, but to follow through and do what we have promised is another matter. That involves staying the course, being constant and steadfast. It means keeping the faith and being faithful to the end despite success or failure, doubt or discouragement. It is drawing near to the Lord with all our hearts. It is doing whatever we promise to do with all our might—even when we might not feel like it.
“I once attended a funeral service with Elder M. Russell Ballard. A statement he made there has remained with me to this day. He said, ‘Life isn’t over for a Latter-day Saint until he or she is safely dead, with their testimony still burning brightly.’ ‘Safely dead’—what a challenging concept. Brothers and sisters, we will not be safe until we have given our hearts to the Lord—until we have learned to do what we have promised” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 36, 38; or Ensign, May 1996, 27–28).