By Eric Johnson
Posted June 6, 2022
In the Saturday evening “women’s session,” Jean B. Bingham, the Relief Society General President, gave a talk titled “Covenants with God Strengthen, Protect, and Prepare Us for Eternal Glory.” The talk, printed in the May 2022 Liahona magazine on pages 66-69, was the second of five general conference talks that emphasized the “covenant path.”
Making and Keeping Covenants
Bingham began her talk by saying,
Sisters, what a joy to gather in a worldwide sisterhood! As women who make and keep covenants with God, we share spiritual bonds that help us meet the challenges of our day and prepare us for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And keeping those covenants allows us to be women of influence who can draw others to the Savior (66).
She then stated,
Those who have been baptized covenanted on that never-to-be-forgotten day to take Jesus Christ’s name upon them, to always remember Him, to keep His commandments, and to serve Him to the end. When we do these things, Heavenly Father promises to forgive our sins and give us the companionship of the Holy Ghost (66).
Unfortunately, Bingham–as do all LDS leaders–teaches that forgiveness of sins is conditioned on keeping commandments. For those who claim that Mormonism has changed its ways by emphasizing grace, not works, this statement should be very telling. Forgiveness of sins is provided as a gift, not through works, and thus the Bible rejects this heretical concept. Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear that justification (salvation) is by grace through faith and not by works. Otherwise, a person would have the ability to boast.
Other verses to support this concept include:
- Romans 3:21-22: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”
- Romans 3:28: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
- Romans 9:16: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
- Romans 11:6: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”
- Galatians 2:16: “Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”
- Galatians 2:21: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
- Titus 3:4-5: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
Many other verses could be added. Mormonism says “when you do these things,” God promises to forgive sins. The Bible, on the other hand, says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Of course, good works are important to Christian living, but these are not done as a way to qualify for eternal life. Our deserved “wage” is eternal death thanks to sin, but as Romans 6:23 puts it, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As Romans 4:4-5 state, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Faith, not works, is what is “counted as righteousness,” Paul says. Yet Bingham states,
These blessings start us on the path that, if we press forward and endure to the end, will allow us to live with Him and His Son in the celestial kingdom . . . Every baptized person has the promise of these privileges if she or he keeps the covenant made that special day (66).
According to Kevin Hamilton’s talk earlier in the day, this is a conditional statement. If a person starts on this path, continues on, and “keeps the covenant” while enduring to the end, then the glory of the celestial kingdom is possible. And so she explains the “if” part of the proposition:
Those who make further covenants in the temple receive powerful promises conditioned on personal faithfulness. We solemnly promise to obey God’s commandments, live the gospel of Jesus Christ, be morally pure, and dedicate our time and talents to the Lord (66).
If this is accomplished, she then provides the “then” part of that same proposition: “In return, God promises blessings in this life and the opportunity to return to Him” (66).
She then describes her first trip to the temple as her bishop told her about the covenants she would make. She writes,
When the day came, I participated with a feeling of gratitude and peace. Even though I did not understand the full significance of the covenants I made, I did know that I was bound to God through those covenants and was promised blessings I could scarcely comprehend if I kept them (67).
Ahh, notice the word “if” here. “If I kept them.” That is a big “if,” isn’t it? Then she said,
Keeping our covenants allows us the Savior’s power to cleanse us as we learn through experience–whether it is a minor misjudgment or a major failing. Our Redeemer is there to catch us when we fall if we turn to Him.
But wait a minute. I thought she said that she had to keep her covenants. She says Jesus is there to catch her “when we fall”? So, in other words, this appears to be an admission that she (and the rest of us) will not be able to keep any promises of keeping all the commandments. But keeping covenants ought to be possible. After all, 1 Nephi 3:7 says that “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” Moses 6:57 says that “all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence.”
On page 68, Bingham continues stating how important keeping covenants are for other family members. She said,
There is nothing more important to our eternal progress than keeping our covenants with God. When our temple covenants are in force, we can trust in a joyful reunion with loved ones on the other side of the veil. That child or parent or spouse who has left mortality is hoping with all his or her heart that you will be true to the covenants that bind you together. If we disregard or treat lightly our covenants with God, we are putting those eternal ties in danger. Now is the time to repent, repair, and try again.
Yet trying again and again is not what is needed! Spencer Kimball, the twelfth president of the church, said that “trying is not sufficient. Nor is repentance complete when one merely tries to abandon sin. . . To try is weak. To do the best we can is not strong. We must always do better than we can. This is true in every walk of life” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 163-164). In effect, trying is nothing less than an admission of failure.
What a guilt trip she puts on her listeners! If those who listen to her are not keeping all the commandments of God all the time, then their destiny may be in danger! A church manual agrees when it stated,
As husbands, wives, and children, we need to learn what the Lord expects us to do to fulfill our purpose as a family. If we all do our part, we will be united eternally (Gospel Principles, 2009, 213).
In other words, the individual Latter-day Saint must do his or her part or the family chain will be broken. On page 69, she describes the temple covenants that need to be made:
Dear sisters, above all else, stay on the covenant path to Jesus Christ! We have been blessed to come to earth when temples dot the globe. Making and keeping temple covenants is available to every worthy members of the Church.
In her conclusion, she said,
I testify that as we choose to make covenants with Heavenly Father and access the power of the Savior to keep them, we will be blessed with more happiness in this life than we can now imagine and a glorious eternal life to come (69).
While she talks about the blessings that come from keeping covenants–both in this life and the life to come–she does not explain how one is capable of finding success in keeping all the commandments all the time. She also does not provide a hint if she is even doing what she is preaching. Of course, every single woman who listened to this talk would assume that she certainly must is successful and is therefore receiving all the benefits she describes, including the guarantee for eternal ties to be eternally solidified.
If I could ask her a question, I would find out if she is keeping her covenants. Something tells me, however, that Jean B. Bingham knows she is not. Remember how she said in the second paragraph that “when we do these things, Heavenly Father promises to forgive our sins and give us the companionship of the Holy Ghost”? But when those things are not kept, condemnation is in store.
Latter-day Saint, are you assured that your sins are forgiven and that you have solidified your family times forever based on your successful keeping of your covenants? If not, when will you find assurance that your family is 100% for forever?
For other articles from this same general conference. click here.