Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Born in the Covenant
Congratulations to Luke and Carlene for the birth of their first child on the last day of August, 2006. When I told someone the name was Annie, the first question was, does she have red hair? This was a reference to Little Orphan Annie. How different it is for little Annie Williams! She is not only part of a family, but she is born in the covenant, and thus sealed to her parents for eternity.
The Church exists to help families gain eternal blessings and exaltation and help us live as families forever. One way this happens is through the sealing power of the priesthood. The temple ceremony connects families through the generations, and thus gives children an eternal perspective of who they are, a solid foundation for life. Annie is blessed to have parents joined in eternal marriage giving her the opportunity to continue in the family after this life. Thanks to her parents’ choices, Annie has access to the fulness of the gospel through the new and everlasting covenant.
These are the perilous times spoken of by the prophets of old. The messages of the prophets of today teach that families with fathers assuming an appropriate role are key to children’s success in life. Luke has taken this charge seriously, giving all his attention to his wife and daughter in their time of need. He is committed to making his wife and children the first priority in his life, and all his other life activities supportive of that role.
Annie’s parents respect her status as a child of God. They see God as our creator and our Heavenly Father, because “all men and women are literally the sons and daughters of Deity... (Joseph F. Smith, The Origin of Man). Because of this view, they treat Annie with kindness, and act constantly to guide her toward a knowledge of her heavenly home and her relationship with her Father who is in heaven. They strive to make their home much like Annie’s heavenly home, full of love and acceptance. In addition, Annie will not only benefit from the ordinances of the church, but the fellowship and teachings of the church.
Our Father in Heaven has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities. Annie will have the greatest possible opportunity to learn those lessons, develop those talents, and be of a mind to serve others, because she has a mother who has done just that. Carlene not only has prepared herself for life’s work, but knows how to prepare Annie to find her own path in life.
We know we can have our children with us throughout eternity, it is through the sealing power of the priesthood and by guiding them toward the tree of life. “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedly great joy; wherefore I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:12). This fruit is none other than “the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men, wherefore it is the most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:22).
May we all strive to be worthy of the covenants that God has reserved for our families. May we teach our children to know their Father in Heaven, by living like Him in our homes. May God bless Luke and Carlene in raising Annie; and all of you in modeling a Christ centered home in the way you teach your children through your example all the days of your life.
Our faith is tested daily as we suffer tempation, sickness, and grief. Every one of us suffers these ways. Some react to the suffering by becoming bitter and rejecting God. Others react by humbling themselves and learning to rely on God. Speaking of the second group, Jesus said, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mathew 5:3).
“And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).
We accept this baptism because we “are desirous to come into the fold of God and be called his people, and to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light... (Mosiah 18:8)
“...and are willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9).
Jesus said, “blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted” (Mathew 5:4).
You are baptized as “a witness before Him that ye have entered into a covenant with Him that ye will serve Him and keep His commandments that He may pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon you” (Mosiah 18:10).
Jesus said, “blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mathew 5:6).
As we accept these covenants we are blessed by God, but may be rejected by friends and relatives. To these Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mathew 5:10).
“And if a man be meek and lowly of heart and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity...the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:44,47).
This charity gives us the desire to fellowship with the saints, to serve others, to be obedient to the commandments, and to strive for an eternal family. We strive to live a higher law. The law of God is different from the laws of man. Jesus gave a examples: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart” (Mathew 5:27,28).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor... but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mathew 5:43,44).
If it seems hard to live the higher law, fortunately, a covenant is a two way relationship, and it is my witness that God’s promises to us make it worth the effort.
Suffering from the devastating effects of fibromyalgia syndrome, a few years ago Janeen cashed in her retirement with the schools because she was exhausted. However, she was so good at her work that they persuaded her to come back. She soon discovered that she was close to fulfilling her contract and made a great effort to continue until her regular retirement age. This was so valuable a goal that she borrowed to restore her retirement fund. She sacrificed time, energy, and money to achieve her regular retirement. This past week she was honored and remembered by her clients, students, colleagues, and family as she celebrated this long desired milestone. It was very difficult, but since she fulfilled her part of the covenant, the retirement board ensures that she receives a monthly pension for the rest of her life. The Lord has also offered a covenant to us that is worth the sacrifices necessary to fulfill our part.
God said to Abraham, “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Genesis 17:19). “...and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). To the descendants of Lehi the Lord said, “And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (3 Nephi 20:25).
Jesus makes it clear that this covenant requires something of those who accept it: that they turn away from their iniquities, receive the fulness of the gospel, and not harden their hearts against God ( 20:26-28). The reward is worth the trouble, as they will receive an outpouring of the Holy Ghost, be gathered by God to the land promised to their fathers, and become a mighty nation, overcoming all their enemies; “and with the voice together shall they sing...for they shall see eye to eye” (20:26-34).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains that this covenant is not about symbols like circumcision, but it is about faith, repentance, obedience, becoming a follower of Christ (Romans 4). This theme was reiterated by Peter, who added that this covenant is available to all who have lived on the earth, even those who hear the Gospel in the Spirit World (1 Peter 3). Abraham clarifies that through the covenants of the priesthood “all the families of the earth [will] be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11). The Lord emphasizes the importance of fulfilling the conditions of the covenant in order to receive the blessings of the covenant (D&C 132:2).
This covenant is sometimes referred to as a straight gate, or a narrow way (Matthew 7:14; 2 Nephi 9:41) requiring baptism as a symbolic acceptance of the covenant (2 Nephi 9:23-24; 3 Nephi 11: 21-38) and requiring that we endure to the end (Matthew 24:13; 1 Nephi 22:31). Like Moses, Peter told the people that this covenant would set them apart from the world, for “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2: 9; Deuteronomy 14:2). Dare to be different, dare to be clean, dare to be married, dare to live the Word of Wisdom, dare to accept a calling in the Kingdom. Accept this ancient covenant and be prepared to receive the blessings promised by the creator of heaven and earth.
Chosen of God and Precious
Throughout all the history of the earth, God has called people to receive His covenants and blessings. To ancient Israel He said, “for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).
Writing to the early Christians, Peter said, “if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious...to whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people...” (1 Peter 2: 1- 5, 9).
Joseph Smith was told that “there has been a time of calling but the day has come for a time of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy...and they shall be sanctified; and inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion” (D&C 105: 35-37).
Lehi’s last words to his posterity referred to the conditions upon which those who are called may be chosen: “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments ye shall prosper in the land” (2 Nephi 1:20).
In the beginning God created the heavens and earth and charged Adam to care for the earth. When Adam’s descendants became wicked, God sent the flood to bring about a new beginning. Then the earth was one land mass, not divided until after the flood. When prosperity came again, the people became confident in their own power. Genesis chapter 11 describes the time that God confounded their language so they would have to rely upon Him. We only have a record of one group that was chosen to stay together as family and friends, keeping their historical language intact. The Lord has compassion on them because of their faithfulness. They were brought to a land apart that had been prepared by God to be a choice land, “and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).
Moroni saw the entire destruction of his people as they chose not receive their calling. He read of the entire destruction of the Jaredites who had also been called and set apart in this covenant land. Moroni also saw our day when this land would be restored to the people of the covenant. He calls to us with these words:
“Awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded. that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled” (Moroni 10:31).