The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has God’s priesthood authority to administer ordinances that are binding on earth and in heaven. Through these ordinances we make covenants with the Lord that can lead us to salvation and exaltation. These covenants and ordinances, when faithfully accepted, allow us to be cleansed from our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and become members of the Lord’s Church on earth. By making and keeping our covenants, we protect ourselves from the wickedness of the world and receive blessings reserved for those who choose to follow the Lord.
Missionaries have a sacred trust from the Lord to prepare investigators for baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Missionaries should also understand that the baptism and confirmation of their investigators is not the end goal. Newly baptized members should begin to prepare themselves to receive temple ordinances.
As investigators come unto Christ and prepare to become Church members, they must understand the covenants associated with saving ordinances and be willing to make and keep these sacred obligations.
Missionaries help those who are converted prepare for baptism, confirmation, and membership in the Lord’s Church.
Covenants and ordinances necessary for exaltation are received in the house of the Lord.
■ One of the defining moments in teaching is when you, the missionary, invite an investigator to be baptized. As the investigator makes the transition from investigator to convert, he or she must understand the sacred nature of making covenants with the Lord, as well as be willing to take personal responsibility in accepting and keeping the covenants. Gospel blessings cannot be fully received without making covenants and receiving the saving ordinances of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The first covenants converts make are when they receive the ordinances of baptism by water and by the Spirit. These and other covenants bring blessings and open the doors to salvation in God’s kingdom.
■ “[A covenant is] an agreement between God and man, but they do not act as equals in the agreement. God gives the conditions for the covenant, and men agree to do what he asks them to do. God then promises men certain blessings for their obedience.
“Principles and ordinances are received by covenant. Members of the Church who make such covenants promise to honor them. For example, members covenant with the Lord at baptism and renew those covenants by partaking of the sacrament. They make further covenants in the temple. The Lord’s people are a covenant people and are greatly blessed as they keep their covenants with the Lord” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Covenant,” 55).
God always keeps His covenants. A covenant can only become invalid if the man or the woman disobeys and fails to keep his or her part of the covenant.
■ President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, identified a major purpose for covenants: “Covenants are not simply outward rituals; they are real and effective means of change. ‘Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances’ [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 162]. We should always honor and keep sacred the saving covenants we make with the Lord. If we do, He has promised, ‘Thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal’ [D&C 42:61]” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 19; or Ensign, May 1998, 17).
■ Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “The Latter-day Saints are a covenant people. From the day of baptism through the spiritual milestones of our lives, we make promises with God and He makes promises with us. He always keeps His promises offered through His authorized servants, but it is the crucial test of our lives to see if we will make and keep our covenants with Him” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 30).
■ Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy described what it means to make covenants and keep them: “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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1996, 38; or Ensign, May 1996, 28).
■ Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that there is more to covenant making than knowing and understanding the doctrines: “Our duty lies in assisting others, through the power of the Spirit, to know and understand the doctrines and principles of the gospel. Everyone must come to feel that the doctrines of the Restoration are true and of great value. And everyone who accepts the message must strive to live the gospel by making and keeping sacred covenants and by participating in all the ordinances of salvation and exaltation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 97; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 75).
■ Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught why it is important that we live so the Holy Ghost will ratify our covenants: “Our Savior is the light of the world. We should live so that we can be enlightened by his Spirit, and so that we may hear and heed the ratifying seal of the Holy Ghost, which testifies of the Father and the Son (see D&C 20:26). … We should be faithful to the covenants we have made in the name of Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 79; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 66).
■ Missionaries teach investigators the Lord’s commandments and then invite them to act on what they have learned. Investigators are invited to have faith in the Lord, repent, and make commitments to keep the commandments. This helps prepare them for their baptismal interviews, when they will be asked about their commitment to keep these commandments the rest of their lives. When investigators commit to be baptized, a standard of worthiness is required of them (see Moroni 6:1–4).
Heavenly Father loves His children and desires to bless them. Commandments bring opportunities for blessings (see D&C 130:20–21). The commandments discussed in this section are some of the commandments investigators need to understand and commit to before they are baptized. Obeying each of these commandments is essential to being worthy to be baptized. These commandments are:
Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Follow the prophets.
Live the law of chastity.
Obey the Word of Wisdom.
Live the law of tithing.
Our Sabbath day behavior is a reflection of our commitment to honor and worship God. By keeping the Sabbath day holy, we show God our willingness to keep our covenants. Latter-day Saints should set this holy day apart from activities of the world and consecrate themselves by entering into a spirit of worship, thanksgiving, service, and family-centered activities appropriate to the Sabbath. As Church members endeavor to make their Sabbath activities compatible with the intent and Spirit of the Lord, their lives will be filled with joy and peace.
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the following counsel concerning proper Sabbath observance: “There is no need for people to shop and desecrate the Sabbath day by buying things on Sunday. That is not the time to buy groceries. You have six days of the week. … You do not have to shop on Sunday. … You will not lose anything if you do your shopping the other days and do not do it on Sunday. Let this day be a day of meditation, of reading the scriptures, of talking with your families, and of dwelling on the things of God. If you do so you will be blessed” (“Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, 74).
■ Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how the Sabbath was honored in past dispensations: “Timeless truths and principles of the gospel were and are important to people of ancient and modern Israel. The Sabbath day, for example, was honored for different reasons through the generations. From the time of Adam to Moses, the Sabbath was observed as a day of rest from the labor of creation (see Ex. 20:8–11; 31:16–17). From the time of Moses to the Resurrection of the Lord, the Sabbath also commemorated the liberation of the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt (see Deut. 5:12–15; Isa. 58:13; Ezek. 20:20; 44:24; Mosiah 13:19). In latter days, Saints keep the Sabbath day holy in memory of the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10; D&C 59:9–19)” (“The Exodus Repeated,” Ensign, July 1999, 10–11).
Christ built His Church upon the foundation of prophets and apostles. Those apostles and prophets directed the Church by revelation. The Lord called Joseph Smith as the first prophet to lead His Church in this last dispensation. Those who lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today are also prophets and apostles. The President of the Church is a living prophet. We have faith in God’s chosen prophets and follow their counsel and teachings.
■ President James E. Faust described blessings that come by sustaining a prophet of God:
“Those who wish to come out of darkness and into the light must make sure they are in harmony with the inspiration and revelation which comes through our prophets, seers, and revelators. … These are the prophetic oracles who have tuned in over the centuries to the celestial transmitting station with the responsibility to relay the Lord’s words to others.
“The best way for you young people to come in closer harmony with the Savior is to sustain His living prophet on the earth, the President of the Church—in our day and time, President Gordon B. Hinckley. If we do not follow the living prophet, whoever he may be, we are in danger of dying spiritually. …
“I can testify that the process of continuous revelation comes to the Church very frequently. It comes daily” (Come out of the Darkness into the Light [CES fireside for young adults, Sept. 8, 2002], 4).
■ Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the importance of following living prophets:
“Living prophets are leading this church today. The greatest security of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes from learning to listen to and obey the words and commandments that the Lord has given through living prophets. …
“… Our spiritual safety lies in turning to the clear voice of our living prophet. If we listen to his voice and obey his counsel, we will be able to live as Christ would have us live and endure to the end so that one day we, along with our families, will return back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 19, 21; or Ensign, May 1995, 17).
God delights in the chastity of His sons and daughters and hates sexual sin. Chastity is sexual purity. To be chaste, we must be morally clean in our thoughts, words, and actions. There must be no sexual relations before being legally married. Those who are married must be completely faithful to their husband or wife. Pornography in any form must be avoided. God-given procreative power and our bodies are to be treated as sacred. Baptismal candidates are to live the law of chastity, which prohibits any sexual relations outside of a legal marriage, including homosexual relations. They are not to participate in abortions. If sexual sins have been committed, they must be repented of before the Lord can offer His forgiveness.
■ The members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared, “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).
■ President James E. Faust contrasted the lives of those who violate the law of chastity with those who live morally clean lives:
“Those who engage in physical intimacies with someone outside of marriage are likely to suffer feelings of guilt as well as deep emotional and physical hurt. Intimate relationships between men and women outside the bounds the Lord has set bring great misery, shame, degradation, and unhappiness to those involved.
“In contrast, when these sacred gifts are exercised as the Lord intended within the bounds of a temple marriage, they bring us our greatest joy and happiness. We become co-creators with God in having family and posterity. Chastity before marriage followed by fidelity after marriage is a sacred passport to self-respect and happiness for everyone” (“The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God,” Ensign, May 2003, 109).
■ Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked about the law of chastity:
“The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given his children. Its use was mandated in the first commandment, but another important commandment was given to forbid its misuse. The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan.
“The expression of our procreative powers is pleasing to God, but he has commanded that this be confined within the relationship of marriage. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that ‘in the context of lawful marriage, the intimacy of sexual relations is right and divinely approved. There is nothing unholy or degrading about sexuality in itself, for by that means men and women join in a process of creation and in an expression of love’ (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], p. 311).
“Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 99; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 74).
The Word of Wisdom teaches us to take care of our physical bodies. It teaches very specifically that we are to avoid harmful substances, including alcohol, tobacco, tea, and coffee. We must also avoid harmful drugs in any form. Investigators must obey the Word of Wisdom before and after being baptized. Those who obey this law receive blessings of health, strength, and protection against evil.
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley warned against the violation of the Word of Wisdom: “The body which you have is the temple of God. It is sacred. It is the handiwork of Divinity. You and I cannot afford, under any circumstances, to indulge in the use of illegal drugs. They will absolutely destroy you. They will take away your self-control. They will cause you to do dishonest things to get money to buy them. Stay away from those things proscribed in the Word of Wisdom—no alcohol, no beer, no tobacco. What a blessing! What a blessing is the Word of Wisdom, that the Lord would set before His Church a pattern of living which would bless our lives” (“Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign, Mar. 1999, 73).
One of the great blessings of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the privilege of contributing to the growth of the kingdom of God through paying tithing. Tithing is an ancient, divine law. For example, the Old Testament prophet Abraham paid tithes of all he possessed (see Alma 13:15).
The Lord has commanded us to give a tenth of our increase annually to help build His kingdom. Our tithes are holy to the Lord, and we honor Him by paying tithing. God promises to abundantly bless those who pay an honest tithe (see Malachi 3:10–12).
Tithing funds are used to support the ongoing activities of the Church, such as building and maintaining temples and meetinghouses, supporting missionary work, conducting temple and family history work, and many other worthwhile activities. Tithing is not used to pay local Church leaders; all local congregations are presided over by lay ministers, who do not get paid for their Church service.
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley shared why he pays tithing: “It is always a blessing to give back to the Lord just one-tenth of what He has given to us. I have a great testimony of tithing, my brethren and sisters. It has never been hard for me to pay my tithing, even in times of financial stress, because the Lord has made a promise that He would bless us if we would do so. I alone did not make that promise. The bishop didn’t make that promise. The Lord made that promise, and His is the power to keep that promise” (Ensign, Apr. 1998, 74).
■ President James E. Faust explained that paying tithing is not a matter of being rich or poor:
“The law of tithing is simple: we pay one-tenth of our individual increase annually. Increase has been interpreted by the First Presidency to mean income. What amounts to 10 percent of our individual income is between each of us and our Maker. There are no legalistic rules. As a convert in Korea once said: ‘With tithing, it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor. You pay 10 percent, and you don’t have to be ashamed if you haven’t earned very much. If you make lots of money, you pay 10 percent. If you make very little, you still pay 10 percent. Heavenly Father will love you for it. You can hold your head up proud.’ …
“Some may feel that they cannot afford to pay tithing, but the Lord has promised that He would prepare a way for us to keep all of His commandments [see 1 Nephi 3:7]. To pay tithing takes a leap of faith in the beginning, but as Jesus said, ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine’ [John 7:17]. We learn about tithing by paying it. Indeed, I believe it is possible to break out of poverty by having the faith to give back to the Lord part of what little we have” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 73–74; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 59).
■ Temple ordinances are required for exaltation. Missionaries prepare investigators to accept the first principles and ordinances of the restored gospel. Faithful Church members continue progressing in order to qualify for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. Not only have we been commanded to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, but if we are to receive all of Heavenly Father’s blessings, we must receive the ordinances offered only in the house of the Lord.
■ President Howard W. Hunter explained the need for temple ordinances: “The temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. I encourage everyone to worthily attend the temple or to work toward the day when you can enter that holy house to receive your ordinances and covenants” (“A Temple-Motivated People,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 5).
■ President Hunter emphasized that baptism is not the end goal for investigators: “All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 118; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
■ Elder Russell M. Nelson explained how proclaiming the restored gospel leads to the temple on the path to eternal life:
“The temple is the house of the Lord. The basis for every temple ordinance and covenant—the heart of the plan of salvation—is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church points to the Lord and His holy house. Our efforts to proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead all lead to the temple. …
“Temple ordinances, covenants, endowments, and sealings enable individuals to be reconciled with the Lord and families to be sealed beyond the veil of death. Obedience to temple covenants qualifies us for eternal life, the greatest gift of God to man [see D&C 14:7]. Eternal life is more than immortality. Eternal life is exaltation in the highest heaven—the kind of life that God lives” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 40; or Ensign, May 2001, 32–33).
■ President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the fulness of the priesthood is required for exaltation:
“There is no exaltation in the kingdom of God without the fulness of priesthood. … These blessings are obtained through obedience to the ordinances and covenants of the house of the Lord. …
“… The Lord has made it possible for every man in this Church, through his obedience, to receive the fulness of the priesthood through the ordinances of the temple of the Lord. This cannot be received anywhere else” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:132).
What is the significance of making covenants with God?
Why are saving ordinances associated with covenants?
In what ways do the Lord’s commandments bring joy to our lives?
What do you think investigators should be taught about temples?
Make a list of covenants you have made in your life, and ponder how they have influenced and protected you.
Practice teaching one of the topics discussed in this chapter in a family home evening setting or to a friend or roommate.
If you have not recently done so, visit with your bishop or branch president about preparing to go to the temple.
“Baptism” (pp. 21–26)
“Chastity” (pp. 29–33)
“Covenant” (p. 44)
“Prophets” (pp. 129–30)
“Sabbath” (pp. 145–47)
“Temples” (pp. 170–74)
“Tithing” (pp. 180–82)
“Word of Wisdom” (pp. 186–88)