From Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale

People disappear when they die. Their voices, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living mempry of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continut to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humour, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.

--Diane Setterfield



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Covenants - my talk from church today


Just because I'd like to put it out there...

Hello, I’m happy to be here today.

Our little one watched me prepare to give a talk in Sacrament and she really wanted to come and give a
talk as well, so I’m going to invite Jaedyn to come up and help me introduce our family.

Jaedyn can you tell the congregation the names of everyone in our family? (Jaedyn, Arren, Scottt)

Where did we move from? (Texas)

Why did we move to Louisville KY? (Dad got a job)

Can you tell us why today is a special day in the Quigley family? ( It's Jaedyn's birthday)

Last question, this is very important for the rest of my talk, how can you tell if Mommy is feeling the
Holy Ghost? Does my voice get all woarbly, too? (She cries!)

Thank you, you can go sit down now. She is such a joy to us!

So now you have been forewarned, by one who knows, I am a crier. A woarbly voiced crier.

I will let my husband fill in any details are pertinent when her gets up to speak so I can tell you about my
reaction to the invitation to speak today.

First, I was pleased to hear that it might not be a full house. I was asked to speak the second week after
we arrived in our last ward. I had a great topic and didn’t realize until that Sunday that I was speaking on
Easter Sunday. Talk about a full house! Our ward was about 400 active members on a ‘regular’ Sunday.
For Easter everyone and their dog was there. Austin is a very dog-friendly city, and my first impression
to everyone (and their dogs) was that I am a woarbly voiced, sniffily nosed, testimony crier. Our records
got read in as I was sitting on the stand that day, they had no warning. You have some warning J

My second reaction was to the topic itself. I have this little sticky note that’s been in my scriptures since
before I was married, like 9 years. It’s got a question about the New and Everlasting Covenant that I had
while studying one day. I wrote out what I knew and what I didn’t and left it there. When I was asked to
talk about covenants specifically, I thought ‘Great! Now I can finally find the answers to my sticky note
questions!’

So, trying to be methodical, I pulled out my notebooks and looked up what I already know about
covenants. I have been keeping notes from church lessons and talks and personal scripture study since
I was a Beehive and now I have many notebooks full. I found entries in 3 journals about covenants and
the definition I had written in my own words was very consistent through each. They follow the entry
for Covenant in the Bible Dictionary which says:

Read from Bible Dictionary

So the definition as I understand it and have recorded it in my journals is:

  • A two way promise between God and Man (like when we individually covenant at baptism) or Men (like when God covenanted with the Nephites in Mosiah 5)
  • God sets all the terms and consequences
  • We choose to obey or not and receive the accompanying consequence – I have a note here that ‘consequence’ is not necessarily a bad thing (like “Do you need a consequence?”) They fall into categories of Blessings, Not getting Blessings and Penalties
  • If we obey God’s terms, God will always bless us – another note that covenants have assigned and specific blessings. We know what we are getting into or getting out of our obedience, and that these blessings are promised to us by Heavenly Father.

I understand that sometimes the scriptures can be a little harder to understand, especially in the Old
Testament, but I think this scripture in Judges 2:1 where the Lord is speaking to all of Israel by the voice
of an angel is pretty clear. Starting at the last phrase, the verse says:

Read Judges 2:1 (I (the Lord) will never break my covenant with you)

I think that is SO refreshing! The Lord tells us in good ol’ Modern English he will never break his side of
the agreement. We read in Mormon 9:19 that I say unto you he (God) changeth not; if so he would
cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. and D&C 121:37 that
Priesthood power and authority are withdrawn from any who are unrighteous. Obviously, giving one’s
word and noe keeping it constitutes an act of unrighteousness, so, if God were to break his agreement
with us, he (and we) would *poof* cease to exists.

So the fact that we exist and are alive is a reason to celebrate. “Our God is an Awesome God!”

Our covenants with God are another reason to celebrate. Here is one reason why from an article titled
“His Promise”:

a covenant is about achieving mutual goals. Like when our Founding Fathers signed the
Declaration of Independence. Each person who signed the Declaration of Independence
did so as a pledge to one another to sacrifice their fame, fortune and sacred honor
if need be for the purpose of establishing a free society for themselves and their
children. , a covenant With God implies we are agreeing to work with God to achieve
a common goal. As such, we are pledging that God's goal will be our goal, that His
desires will be our desires, and that our motives and purposes will be the same as His.
Thus, when God seeks to make a covenant with us, it is He who wants us to join with
Him. A covenant is God's way of extending an invitation for us to become part of
His team, and be united with His kingdom. It is interesting to note that, even though
God is our Father and we are His children, yet He doesn't expect us to take His word
simply by virtue of His position. God, the greatest of all, is willing to swear an oath in
order to give us complete assurance that He will do what He has promised.

So there are two reasons why God enters into a covenant with His children. The first
is to give us an assurance (pledge, promise, guarantee) of His word. The second is

so that we can enter into an alliance, compact, union, and be in league with God. In
other words covenants are a way for us to work with God in helping Him establish
righteousness, building up His kingdom on earth, and assist in saving all His children,
both living and deceased.

Bonnie D Parkin explained in her Talk “Celebrating Covenants” that :

Father in Heaven knows us as individuals. The covenants we make with Him are performed one on one. President Howard W. Hunter noted: “I have always been impressed that the Lord deals with us personally, individually. We do many things in groups in the Church, … but … the most important things are done individually. We bless babies one at a time, even if they are twins or triplets. We baptize and confirm children one at a time. We take the sacrament, are ordained to the priesthood, or move through the ordinances of the temple as individuals—as one person developing a [personal] relationship with our Father in Heaven. … Heaven’s emphasis is on each individual, on every single person” (“Eternal Investments,” address to CES religious educators, 10 Feb. 1989, p. 4; emphasis added). These individual commitments made directly with our Heavenly Father are things to celebrate.

She wonders why or covenants so often feel like obligations. I think that we feel “obligated” to do
something that we don’t really enjoy. So my question to myself is how can we enjoy our covenants?

The first ideas that came to mind are:

1. Make keeping covenants a habit – Sister Parkin says The sacrament enables us to renew our
covenants. Thus, if we keep those covenants with honor and exactness, we can feel as fresh and as pure
as we did when we were first baptized. We can feel as committed to a temple sealing as we did as a new
bride or groom. Covenants keep us new. Because, just like covenant breaking, covenant keeping becomes habit forming. And in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manuel we learn that Covenant making
can help a person break away from routines of habits of the past as he clearly identifies a new course to persue and makes that commitment known to others. This arrangement becomes a fortification against the powers of opposition. The Lord seeing his willingness to make commitments imparts to him of his Spirit, which gives him strength to continue.
2. Continually learn and Share what you learn from your covenants – When, by the way did it become un-cool to get excited about something you just learned or a skill you improved upon? Never. If you if have no one else to tell, you can come to your Heavenly Father at the end of the day and tell Him “Father today I was able to help a friend with a problem (Bearing one another’s burdens is part of our part of the baptismal covenant) and it made me feel so great!” OR “ At school today I was able to stand as a witness when some classmates were asking me what Mormons believe.” Doing these kinds of things – Living your covenants and sharing your success - can be so uplifting and makes living the covenants enjoyable.
1. Find a reason to Love your covenant – Don’t keep a covenant Only because some parent or Bishop told you to, Keep your covenant because you have found a reason to Love the Lord. Maybe you love that the Lord’s Atonement gives you a second chance, or because you love the idea of becoming like God, and by keeping your covenants you are learning the skills to become like Him, or maybe you love your covenants because it’s all so easy. Every step has been laid out for you and all you need to do is follow the recipe for covenant keeping. In Sister Parkin’s talk, she tells of Mark, a high school student in her ward who recently stood in fast meeting and talked about how he was finding strength to live his covenants. He summed it up with this formula succinctly and memorably. He said, “A scripture a day keeps Satan away.”

One of the reasons I enjoy living my covenants is because I feel like I have a better understanding of
them, especially of the New and Everlasting Covenant that I had questions about. The Gospel Principles
Manuel puts it so beautifully:

The fulness of the gospel is called the new and everlasting covenant. It includes the covenants made
at baptism, during the sacrament, in the temple, and at any other time. The Lord calls it everlasting
because it is ordained by an everlasting God and because the covenant will never be changed. He gave
this same covenant to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and other prophets. In this sense it is not new. But
the Lord calls it new because each time the gospel is restored after being taken from the earth, it is new
to the people who receive it (see Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 37:26).

I agree with Sister Parkin when she said:

My covenants are an expression of my faith; they are why I stand before you today. Covenants help me focus on the big picture and not just the immediate. Covenants help me make a difference in the lives of others. My covenants are not negotiable. They make the choice of righteousness easier. I humbly pray that our covenants might become a greater source of celebration and strength in our lives; that we may walk uprightly and steadfastly, that when we most need the Lord’s hand, it will be there waiting warmly.

I bear testimony of this and of the love Heavenly Father has for us in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 comment:

Nathan Miller said...

I respect your desire to keep the covenants you have made, and it appears from your talk that you are zealous in this passion to be close to God. I admire your yearning to understand the New and Everlasting Covenant, however, your knowledge of God’s covenant seems misdirected. Maybe two questions can illustrate what I mean.

1. Do you know what verses in the Bible are Jesus’ own description of the New and Everlasting Covenant, and how His description differs from Elder McConkie’s?
2. Jeremiah 31:31-34 does prophesy that God would make a New Covenant, but do you know which book of the New Testament quotes this prophecy twice, and spends more than fifty verses explaining the New and Everlasting Covenant by comparing it with the Old Covenant?

It seems, from your talk, that you are seeking to understand God’s covenant. I hope that you have already discovered how much the Bible explains the New and Everlasting Covenant. But if you have yet to make those connections, check out http://NewAndEverlastingCovenant.com for some additional information.