Lesson 17: The Purpose of Covenants and Ordinances

Young Women Manual 1, (2002), 72–75


Each young woman will understand how making covenants and receiving ordinances influence her life.


  1. 1.

    Pictures 11, Baptism (62018); 12, Sacrament (62021); and 13, Temple, located at the end of the manual.

  2. 2.

    Cut a ladder out of paper, or prepare to draw it on the chalkboard, leaving room on the rungs to write.

  3. 3.

    Assign young women to read the following scriptural references: Enos 1:15–17; Doctrine and Covenants 82:10; Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–22; Moses 6:58–59; Luke 22:19–20; fifth article of faith Articles of Faith 1:5.

  4. 4.

    Optional: Write each of the three discussion questions on pages 74–75 on separate sheets of paper. Include the scripture references and the quotation that accompanies each question.

  5. 5.

    Assign young women to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.

  6. 6.

    If it is available in your area, prepare to show “Temples Are for Eternal Covenants,” in Family Home Evening Video Supplement 2 (53277).

Suggested Lesson Development


Scripture assignments

Before the lesson begins, assign the scripture references. Ask the young women to be ready to read these scriptures at the appropriate points in the lesson.

Teacher presentation and discussion

Help the young women learn how important it is to understand fully the agreements we make with others. To do this, ask each young woman to imagine that someone has offered her a job after school three days a week. The salary is good, but the employer has agreed to pay her only whenever he can.

  • Would you want to enter into this kind of agreement? Why or why not?

  • What do you need to know before you enter into an agreement with another person?

Point out that in any agreement, we should have confidence in the other agreeing party. We need to know that we can trust the other person.

When We Receive Priesthood Ordinances, We Make Sacred Covenants

Teacher presentation

Explain that there is one person we can always trust to keep an agreement. When we make agreements with this person, we know they are always fair and will never fail. Agreements with this person are called covenants, and they bring us blessings of everlasting value. This person is the Lord.


Have the assigned young woman read Enos 1:15–17.


Write the word covenants on the chalkboard. Then read the following definition:

“A covenant is a binding and solemn compact, agreement, contract, or mutual promise between God and a single person or a group of chosen persons” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 166; italics added).


  • Where can we learn the terms of our covenants with Heavenly Father?

Point out that the scriptures contain most of these terms. They explain what Heavenly Father expects from us and what he promises us in return.


Have the assigned young woman read Doctrine and Covenants 82:10. Point out that our receiving the blessings depends on our keeping our part of the agreement. We can count on Heavenly Father to be completely reliable.

Teacher presentation

Explain that many priesthood ordinances require that we make covenants with the Lord when we receive the ordinance.


Write the word ordinances on the chalkboard.


  • What is an ordinance?

Use the following quotation to help the young women understand what an ordinance is:

“An ordinance is an earthly symbol of a spiritual reality. It is usually also an act of symbolizing a covenant or agreement with the Lord” (Priesthood and Church Government, comp. John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 348; italics added).


Display the pictures of baptism, the sacrament, and a temple. Point out that baptism, the sacrament, and temple sealing are all ordinances. When we receive each of them, we show that we have made certain agreements, or covenants, with Heavenly Father.

Scriptures and discussion

Have the assigned young women read Moses 6:58–59 and Luke 22:19–20. Point out how the symbolism of the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament helps us remember our covenants.

  • Why are the covenants and ordinances of the gospel necessary? Why isn’t it enough to just try to be a good person?

Have the assigned young woman read Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–22.

Teacher presentation

Point out that every covenant and every ordinance of the gospel is for our good. Keeping the covenants and taking part in the ordinances helps prepare us to return to the presence of Heavenly Father. Making these covenants, receiving sacred ordinances, and being faithful in keeping our covenants is like climbing a ladder that will ultimately return us to our Heavenly Father.

Quotation and visual or chalkboard

Have a young woman read the following quotation. As she does, display the paper ladder or draw one on the chalkboard.

“When Jacob traveled from Beersheba toward Haran, he had a dream in which he saw himself on the earth at the foot of a ladder that reached to heaven where the Lord stood above it. He beheld angels ascending and descending thereon, and Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord there were the rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain the promised blessing—blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven and associate with the Lord” (Marion G. Romney, “Temples—The Gates to Heaven,” Ensign, Mar. 1971, p. 16).


Discuss what covenants might be considered as the rungs on the ladder. As the young women name the covenants, write them on the rungs of the ladder. It may be helpful to suggest that the young women think of the covenants that are made in connection with priesthood ordinances such as baptism and confirmation, partaking of the sacrament, ordination to the priesthood for young men, temple endowment, and celestial marriage. (You may wish to refer to Mosiah 18:8–10; Doctrine and Covenants 20:37; 20:75–79; 84:33–34, 39–40; 132:6.)

Discuss how receiving these ordinances and living according to the covenants will entitle us to “enter heaven and associate with the Lord.”

We Are Responsible for Keeping the Covenants We Make with the Lord

Teacher presentation

Impress upon the young women that when we make covenants with the Lord, we make sacred promises to “always remember him and keep his commandments” (D&C 20:77). Once we have made covenants with the Lord, we then are responsible to remember our promises and to keep them.

Personal experience

Relate the following experience of a young Samoan sister.

“After final instructions from my bishop and stake president, I entered the temple. What a glorious blessing to be inside that house! My eyes, ears, and heart opened wide to absorb its teachings. I felt the reality of each covenant I made within every fiber and bone of my body. I felt I was standing right in front of the Lord each time I made covenants with him. … It became real to me that I was surely in the world but not of it” (Sipuao J. Matuauto, “The Glorious Moments,” Ensign, Aug. 1974, p. 64).

Teacher presentation and article of faith

Emphasize that the priesthood holder who administers the ordinance actually represents the Lord. Have the assigned young woman read the fifth article of faith.

Point out that Heavenly Father knows the covenants we make. There may be times when we will feel that we are standing alone in trying to keep our covenants. But the Lord is aware of us and will be near us in our struggles to remain faithful.

Quotation and discussion

Read the following statement by an early Church leader:

“When we went forth into the waters of baptism and covenanted with our Father in Heaven to serve Him and keep His commandments, He bound Himself also by covenant to us that He would never desert us, never leave us to ourselves, never forget us, that in the midst of trials and hardships, when everything was arrayed against us, He would be near unto us and would sustain us. That was His covenant, and … we can tie to the promises that He has made” (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, vol. 1, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City: Zion’s Book Store, 1957], p. 170).

Discuss how knowing that Heavenly Father has promised to help us will strengthen our ability and our resolve to keep the covenants we have made.

The Way We Keep the Covenants We Have Made Influences the Course of Our Lives


Tell the following story to show how the covenants a girl made influenced her life.

Years ago, a young girl was baptized in a lake near her home. As she sat in her wet clothing, her father explained to her that her baptism was her first step on the way to the celestial kingdom. He taught her that she must prepare for a second step in her life, the endowment and temple marriage. He then carefully explained that when he confirmed her, she would receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift would help her keep the covenants she had made.

As she was confirmed, she made a silent promise to the Lord that she would never do anything that would keep her from taking that second step. Throughout her teen years, in her decisions and when temptations were strong, she remembered her promise. Now, years later, the mother of six children, she recalls how important that promise was in helping her stay worthy to receive the endowment and celestial marriage and begin an eternal family of her own.


Thinking about the following questions can help the young women realize how their lives will be affected by the way they keep their covenants with the Lord. You could either ask the young women to respond to each of the three questions in a class discussion, or you could divide the class into three groups and give each one a sheet of paper with a question, scripture references, and quotation (see “Preparation”). If you divide into groups, leave enough time for each group to report on the question.

Here are the questions, along with scripture references, quotations, and ideas to help you explore answers.

  1. 1.

    How is the course of your life affected if you do not make covenants? (See D&C 58:30; 132:7.) “Take two men, they may be equals in point of goodness, they may be equally moral, charitable, honest and just, but one is baptized and the other is not. There is a mighty difference between them, for one is the son of God redeemed by compliance with his laws, and the other remains in darkness” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1986], p. 97).

  2. 2.

    How is the course of your life affected if you make covenants but do not keep them? (See D&C 1:14–15; 58:29; refer to Elder Cannon’s statement on page 74.) How would life be different without the blessings Elder Cannon described?

  3. 3.

    How is the course of your life affected if you make covenants and remain faithful to them? (See D&C 54:6; Mosiah 5:7, 15.) “God … because of his love for us, condescended to make covenants with us, in order that we may be spared from failure, from sorrow, from regret, and that we may rise to the full heights of glory that are promised to those who are faithful and endure to the end” (ElRay L. Christiansen, in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, p. 46; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 51).

Lesson Application

Suggest that each young woman use the time during the sacrament to consider the covenants she has made at baptism and to plan how she can keep them more fully in the coming week.