By Eric Johnson
According to Mormonism, covenants made at baptism, the temple endowment ceremony, and the weekly sacrament service are vital for any member who hopes to be exalted and qualify for eternal increase, allowing a person to live with one’s family throughout eternity.
A Mormon becomes a member by getting baptized in the LDS Church. In a general conference talk, Apostle Robert D. Hales said that, at this event, “we ‘take upon [us] the name of Christ’ and enter ‘into the covenant with God that [we will] be obedient unto the end of [our] lives'” (“If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2014, p. 35). A church manual states, “When you were baptized, you entered into a covenant with God. You promised to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end (see Mosiah 18:8– 10; D&C 20:37).” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 23).
Each week Latter-day Saints attend the local meetings and take the sacrament, which is comprised of water and bread. It is here where they are told to repent of their sins and make covenants with God. Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson taught,
We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the commandments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 442).
In addition, those who are temple worthy make covenants with God during their visits to the temple. President Russell M. Nelson emphasized the importance of this when he wrote, “Obedience to the sacred covenants made in temples qualifies us for eternal life—the greatest gift of God to man” (“Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign Special Issue Temples, October 2010, p. 42). Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball bemoaned the fact that many of his people were not taking their covenants seriously enough:
Akin to many of the other sins is that of the covenant-breaker. The person baptized promises to keep all the laws and commandments of God. He has partaken of the sacrament and re-pledged his allegiance and his fidelity, promising and covenanting that he will keep all God’s laws. Numerous folks have gone to the temples and have re-covenanted that they would live all the commandments of God, keep their lives clean, devoted, worthy, and serviceable. Yet many there are who forget their covenants and break the commandments, sometimes deliberately tempting the faithful away with them (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 57).
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Blessings and Consequences
Keeping covenants, not just making them, is vital in Mormonism. A church manual explained that “God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 44). Another manual describes how exaltation is available only for those who keep their end of the bargain:
Receiving ordinances and keeping covenants are essential to Heavenly Father’s plan. The scriptures often refer to His people as a “covenant people.” The Lord’s blessings exceed our mortal expectations. To live in the presence of our Heavenly Father, we must receive all of the necessary ordinances and keep all of the required covenants (The Gospel and the Productive Life Student Manual Religion 150, 2004, p. 98).
Another manual says,
Within the gospel, a covenant means a sacred agreement or mutual promise between God and a person or a group of people. In making a covenant, God promises a blessing for obedience to particular commandments. He sets the terms of His covenants, and He reveals these terms to His prophets. If we choose to obey the terms of the covenant, we receive promised blessings. If we choose not to obey, He withholds the blessings, and in some instances a penalty also is given (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 81).
What Does Christianity Teach
In the Old Testament, covenants were made with the patriarch Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham. In chapter 15, for example, Abram was told that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars. Verse 6 states, “Abram believed the Lord, and God credited it to him as righteousness.” And as Hebrews 11 puts it, faith—not keeping covenants—was the redeeming factor for the Old Testament saints.
This idea continued in the New Testament, with God’s calling made on individuals to believe in His name. Salvation, the New Testament writers say, is based on what Jesus did on the cross to forgive His people from their sins. The author of Hebrews says in 9:15, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
The fact that Jesus shed His blood in this “new covenant” means that “eternal inheritance” has been fully paid for those who receive the gift. Romans 10:9-10 state, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
Do good works matter? God has laid out in His Word the importance of faithful living and following the moral teachings expected of a justified believer. However, being a Christian is not defined by what a person does but rather who the person is, which Paul in 2 Cor. 5:17 calls a “new creation in Christ.” And if you are a new creation, then who you are determines what you do. This point is made very clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 when Paul says that salvation comes by grace through faith and not works in Ephesians 2:8-9, yet he says in verse 10 that believers were created by God to do good works.
God keeps His promise even when His people fail. This is why Christians today do not make promises with God that can never be kept.