Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
One week after a recent assignment to create the first stake in Moscow, Russia, I attended a district conference in St. Petersburg. While speaking about my gratitude for early missionaries and local leaders who brought strength to the Church in Russia, I mentioned the name of Vyacheslav Efimov. He was the first Russian convert to become a mission president. He and his wife did wonderfully well in that assignment. Not long after they had completed their mission, and much to our sorrow, President Efimov suddenly passed away. He was only 52 years of age.
While speaking of this pioneering couple, I felt impressed to ask the congregation if Sister Efimov might be present. Far in the rear of the room a woman stood. I invited her to come to the microphone. Yes, it was Sister Galina Efimov. She spoke with conviction and bore a powerful testimony of the Lord, of His gospel, and of His restored Church. She and her husband had been sealed in the holy temple. She said they were united forever. They were still missionary companions, she on this side of the veil, and he on the other side. With tears of joy, she thanked God for sacred temple covenants. I wept too, with full realization that the everlasting unity exemplified by this faithful couple was the righteous result of making, keeping, and honoring sacred covenants.
One of the most important concepts of revealed religion is that of a sacred covenant. In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties. But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant. It is a sacred promise with God. He fixes the terms. Each person may choose to accept those terms. If one accepts the terms of the covenant and obeys God’s law, he or she receives the blessings associated with the covenant. We know that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
Through the ages, God has made covenants with His children. His covenants occur throughout the entire plan of salvation and are therefore part of the fulness of His gospel. For example, God promised to send a Savior for His children, asking in turn for their obedience to His law.
In the Bible we read of men and women in the Old World who were identified as children of the covenant. What covenant? “The covenant which God made with [their] fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
In the Book of Mormon we read of people in the New World who were also identified as children of the covenant. The resurrected Lord so informed them: “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.”
The Savior explained the importance of their identity as children of the covenant. He said, “The Father having raised me up unto you first, . . . sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant.”
The covenant God made with Abraham[i] and later reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob is of transcendent significance. It contained several promises, including:
Some of these promises have been fulfilled; others are still pending. I quote from an early Book of Mormon prophecy: “Our father [Lehi] hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham.” Isn’t that amazing? Some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, prophets knew that the Abrahamic Covenant would be finally fulfilled only in the latter days.
To facilitate that promise, the Lord appeared in these latter days to renew that Abrahamic covenant. To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Master declared: “Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, . . . my servant Joseph. . . . This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham.”
With this renewal, we have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel. We have the right to receive the fulness of the gospel, enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, and qualify for God’s greatest blessing—that of eternal life.
Teachings of Jesus
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
At a stake conference many years ago, I met a woman who said she had been asked to come back to Church after many years away, but could not think of any reason why she should. To encourage her I said, “When you consider all of the things the Savior has done for us, don’t you have many reasons to come back to Church to worship and serve him?” I was astonished at her reply: “What’s He done for me?” For those who do not understand what our Savior has done for us, I will answer that question in His own words and with my own testimony.
The Bible records Jesus’ teaching: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Later, in the New World, He declared, “I
Jesus also taught, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12). He also declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is the way and He is the light because His teachings light our path in mortal life and show us the way back to the Father.
Doing the Will of the Father
Always, Jesus honored the Father and followed Him. Even as a youth He declared to His earthly parents, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). “For I came down from heaven,” He later taught, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38; also see John 5:19). And, the Savior taught, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6; also see Matt. 11:27).
We return to the Father by doing His will.