2 Nephi 12 teaches us that we make peace by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The ordinances of the gospel–baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, and temple ordinances–are outward expressions of our inward commitment and covenant to serve God and keep His commandments. As we continue reading the words of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 12, 13, and 14, we see what happens when we keep our covenants and what happens when “[we] have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways.”
When we focus more on the things of the world and less on our commitment to the Lord we distance ourselves from Him. Isaiah mentioned that we go astray when our treasures, our chariots, and our idols take precedence in our lives (2 Nephi 12:7-8). He also warned us against the “haughtiness” and “lofty looks” of those who prosper and refuse to use their riches to help and lift others. Isaiah affirmed that those who fail to keep their covenants will eventually be “ruined, and…fallen, because their tongues and doings have been against the Lord.” As a result, many will be left unto themselves without the Lord or His leaders for guidance. “For behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff, the whole staff of bread, and the whole stay of water—The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient; The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. And I will give children unto them to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another…. they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths” (2 Nephi 13:1-5, 12).
On the other hand, when we keep our covenants to obey the Lord and do good we receive guidance, protection, and abundance. “Say unto the righteous that it is well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.” Our covenants protect us because keeping covenants qualifies us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. “When we have entered into divine covenants, the Holy Ghost is our comforter, our guide, and our companion” (D. Todd Christofferson, “The Power of Covenants,” April 2009). The Holy Ghost will guide us to stay on the right path and warn us against the temptations of the world and the devil. Those who heed the temptations of the devil and focus solely on the pleasures of the world will eventually find that the things they have trusted in and taken pleasure in will be taken away.
Isaiah said that the daughters of Zion “walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes” ornamenting themselves with the things of the world such as bracelets, headbands, rings, and nose jewels. They trusted in “the bravery of their tinkling ornaments” and put on the pleasing things of the world rather than doing those things which were pleasing unto God. Because of their failure to keep their covenants and stay close to the Lord, Isaiah prophesied “In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments,” leaving them exposed, unprotected, and unattached. Jeremiah put it this way: “take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord’s” (Jer. 5:10, see also Deut. 8:18-19). Our decorations and defenses should be the covenants and ordinances of the Lord.
Isaiah explained beautifully how covenants and ordinances ornament us and bind us to the Lord like a bride to a bridegroom in Isaiah 61:10: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (see also Hosea 2:19-20). Jeremiah expressed how our failure to keep these covenants is like a bride playing the harlot. “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number….thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord….Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jer. 2:32, 3:1,14).
When the daughters of Zion abandon their covenants and their Lord they are left alone and “desolate” with no one to guide or protect them. “And in that day, seven women shall take hold of one man, saying: We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; only let us be called by thy name to take away our reproach” (2 Nephi 14:1). Playing the harlot and forsaking their Lord to whom they are bound by covenant brings only misery, sadness, and destruction. The daughters of Zion realize they must align themselves to someone or something greater than themselves whose name will take away their dishonor. “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten” (Jer. 50:4-5). By entering into the covenant of baptism we promise that we will take upon us the name of Christ much like a wife takes upon her husband’s last name after entering into the covenant of marriage (see D&C 20:37).
Cherishing and strengthening these covenant relationships helps us to become “beautiful and glorious…excellent and comely…holy.” Keeping covenants invites us to have the Lord’s Spirit for “a defence” in our homes or dwelling-places and in our churches or assemblies. Keeping covenants qualifies us to enter the holy temples “for a place of refuge, and a covert from storm and rain.” President Thomas S. Monson promised, “As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified” (“The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World,” April 2011).
Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, invites each of us to enter into a covenant relationship with Him. He cleanses us and washes away our “filth” as we keep our covenants so that we may be prepared to receive Him when He comes again. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelations 19:7-8). “The symbolic bride, then, will consist of those individuals who have accepted the Lord by individual covenant” (Richard K. Hart, “The Marriage Metaphor,” Ensign, Jan 1995). Each of us must make and keep covenants to unite ourselves with our Lord and Savior. President Lorenzo Snow reminded us: “We are all dependent upon Jesus Christ, upon his coming into the world to open the way whereby we might secure peace, happiness and exaltation.…Though he has sacrificed himself and laid the plan for the redemption of the people, yet unless the people labor to obtain that union between him and them, their salvation never will be accomplished.”
Covenants are truly something to rejoice and be glad about. “Keeping covenants is true joy and happiness. This is comfort and peace. This is protection from the evils of the world.” (Barbara Thompson, “Cleave unto the Covenants,” September 2011). Keeping covenants brings happiness now and prepares us for eternal joy forever. Through our righteousness and faithfulness to our Lord and our covenants we will be purified through His atoning grace and qualified to inherit eternal glory (see Exodus 19:5-6, Titus 2:11-14). “Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life” (Mosiah 5:15, see also Romans 8:17).
*How have you been blessed or protected by keeping your covenants?
Click here for additional Book of Mormon posts.