1. Faith in God
We must begin by knowing enough about God to follow His guidance in the major decisions of our lives. Without confirmation that He approved of the decision, we might not have sufficient faith to endure the challenges of keeping covenants
2. What do Covenant-makers have in common? They keep their word.
- Bad Guys: “I had to pronounce the oath whereby I was to say that should I betray the organization, my flesh would burn like this saint," Buscetta (a former Mafia Boss) said. (LA Times, October 31, 1985)
- Good Guys: “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (US Declaration of Independence)
- God: “I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.” Mosiah 26:20
3. Accepting the Terms of the Agreement
Making an agreement with a bank includes terms and conditions. Generally, entering into this type of agreement means that I will not default on my obligatory payment. And if I do, certain penalties will be enforced.
Making an agreement with a spouse in marriage obligates me to perform familial duties. My spouse relies on the strength of my word as security on this agreement. Would a marriage be binding if one person didn’t agree to the terms? In today’s culture, many people avoid making a marriage covenant. It makes sense to question a person's integrity. Fear of making covenants leads to a loss of the emotional and mental security that an agreement of this nature guarantees.
Making covenants with God entails an agreement to keep his laws. “I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:9-10) In return for our allegiance, he promises us eternal blessings. Baptism is a sacred covenant with God.
4. Narrowing Your Exits
To be a covenant keeper, it is important to focus your total energy on keeping the terms of the agreement. This means that repair and maintenance are the only options - - there is no escape. "There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ.” (Boyd K Packer)
A marriage relationship is a covenant that should not be dissolved unless there is abuse. It involves two imperfect people to be sure. During their lives a process of oneness occurs. It requires time; the necessary healing and growth are complicated. If we exit the relationship prematurely, we cannot enjoy the blessings that come to those who faithfully endure. "Mature love has a bliss not even imagined by newlyweds.” (Boyd K Packer)
All relationships including our relationship with God experience a period of distancing as injuries are identified. The presence of injuries is not grounds for running away. To remain true, we must narrow and close all our exits. We can rely on God to never forsake us. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken.” (Ps 37:25)
If you have an activity that you do to avoid spending time with your spouse, it is called an “exit.” The reason for using “exits” is to minimize the pain of interacting without connecting. The best way to strengthen connection in marriage is to close the exits and focus on the healing that can only take place within a loving, committed relationship. Source: Getting the Love You Want pp. 112-113
5. Enjoying the Security of Covenants
In my life making and keeping covenants has been a fundamental aspect of my spiritual framework. At the age of 8 I made my first covenant to follow God and got baptized. I learned that each Sunday’s sacramental bread renewed that covenant. At the age of 21 I made a covenant to follow God that I consider one of the holiest experiences of my life. Shortly thereafter I made a marriage covenant with my husband and God. Learning to work together in marriage has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Combine the challenges of marriage with the tasks of pregnancy and child-rearing and I have met my match. The promise I made to God has been the reason for sticking with the task above all other reasons for staying or leaving. I have learned that my husband is also committed to staying married at a core level. The strength of our commitment gives me a sense of security that no one can touch.
The difference between ordinary folk and covenant-keepers can be illustrated in the difference between owners and tenants. A tenant uses a property but doesn’t maintain it. They may even damage the property but because they have no ownership they do not have to take responsibility. An owner is more likely to maintain and repair the property because of the value of the investment. In marriage, a covenant-keeper feels a sense of ownership and works to maintain the relationship.
To hold a strong position in life, keep the promises you have made. The Bible says, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” Eccl 5:4-5 Keeping vows and covenants strengthens your character and makes you more trustworthy.
Talk is cheap but covenants are golden.
I would like to live in a covenant relationship like the one you describe but I am afraid. Answer: It is scary to make covenants but it is easier if you have faith that God is protecting you. If you have tarnished your personal honor you may feel that no one would want to make a covenant with you. I think that if you have courageously overcome your sins and you are honest about where you’ve been and how you got out, you can make the case that you have earned the right to be trusted. If your partner feels connected to you, he or she will be able to admire your strengths and adapt to your weaknesses. But you can’t stop overcoming your weaknesses. Marriage tests you at your weakest points. It does not compensate for weaknesses. Using the atonement, God can make your weaknesses into strengths.
I have made marriage covenants but marriage hasn’t turned out the way I expected. I am not sure I want to keep my covenants anymore. Answer: Keeping covenants is hard work. It requires constantly remodeling your life and learning how to build the relationship better. I encourage you to become a marriage relationship expert by reading lots of books about staying together and making it work.
Phrase: “Covenant Keepers” - Russel M Nelson
Quotes by Boyd K Packer - source
Image: By Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons