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The Covenant Path

Steve Taylor Director of Auxiliary Services
June 20, 2023 11:15 AM

"If we listen to the promptings of the Spirit and pay attention when the prophets and other church leaders speak, like an angel from on high, we will be directed to the best things our Savior has in store for us."
As you heard from my bio, my name is Steve Taylor and my job title is Director of Logistical Support. What that means to me is I just show up every morning and see what needs to be done and I have fun doing it. I love my job and I love being at Ensign College.

My wife Betsy is here on the stand with me and I am very grateful she is here today to support me. Also, three of our four children are here today and I am grateful for that. All four of our children have attended classes here at Ensign College. Ensign College is a huge part of our lives, and we have always been grateful for our association with Ensign College. In fact, Saturday in the mail I received my new Ensign College license plates for my car. It is very exciting.

Today, I would like to tell you about my favorite place in the world – The Hawaiian Island of Maui. On the far southeast corner of Maui sits a small, laid-back town named Hana. By land there is only one way in and out of Hana. To get there you need to go on an adventure by driving what is appropriately named The Road to Hana. Somebody thought that one through.

This road is so famous you can buy a t-shirt to let everyone know that you drove and even survived the Road to Hana. It’s 64.4 miles long. It takes five to seven hours to drive out to Hana and back. The road has 620 curves and 59 one-way bridges.

The reason most visitors to Maui take the time to drive out to Hana isn’t necessarily the road itself, although that’s certainly a fun part of the trip. People choose to drive out to Hana because of the amazing scenery, waterfalls, jungles, and views that you see all throughout the drive.

As a young missionary back in the late 80’s and early 90’s in Hawaii, I was lucky enough to get permission twice to go out to Hana. However, we could only drive out there on P-day which meant we had to get back in time to do our laundry, clean our apartment, and all the other things that we would normally did on p-days. This didn’t give us much time for a prolonged sightseeing visit. Both times we went to Hana we drove as fast as possible, which is a trick since along most of the trip the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. We took pictures out the window of the car as we drove. We would get to Hana, turn around and drive back as fast as we could to get to our apartment in the city.

Back in April, Betsy and I had the opportunity to go to Maui for the first time together. We set aside one full day to take the drive out to Hana. Somehow, we came upon an app that said it would help us navigate the trip, but the price for the app was $20. I know. We decided though that we would make the purchase, hoping the app would help us have more of an adventure, see things that we normally wouldn’t see. This app was AMAZING. It was totally worth $20!

I want to tell you about the app but I don’t want you to think, “What’s up with this guy. He goes to Hawaii on a vacation and all he wants to do is tell us about an app.” I want to help you understand how truly amazing Hawaii is. why this app was so great, but I don’t want you to think “What’s wrong with THIS guy? He goes to Hawaii and all he wants to talk about is some app!” Well, let me try to help you understand how amazing Hawaii is, and not just because I went there as a missionary. The beaches, the sunrises and sunsets, the fresh air, the unbelievably great food, the laid-back feel, and the amazingly friendly and kind people are unbeatable. If you get an opportunity to visit Hawaii, and especially to Maui – go, don’t hesitate!

How was that for an endorsement of Hawaii? Ok - now I want to go back and tell you about the app. Yes, the app may seem expensive for $20 but I want to tell you why it was so great.

If your car is equipped with Bluetooth you can play the audio over the speakers in the car and everybody in the car can hear and follow along. The app uses GPS, so it knows where you are in the trip, and using that information it tells you about what’s coming up next along the road. In between instructions and information the app plays really cool Hawaiian music. The app was fun to listen to.

In between major features the narrator gives instructions on things like how to navigate the one-way bridges and even gives instruction on how to give a shaka to other drivers, thanking them for waiting and whatever. It tells you where to park for an upcoming feature, and things you will see that only locals are allowed to visit.

The app also gives you information about timing. In daylight the road can be tricky to drive even though its fun but at night it gets even trickier. The app lets you know that if you are planning to see certain attractions after 3pm, you are probably going to be driving home in the dark, so be prepared.

Another fun thing the app does is tell you about things you will not be able to see while driving. This waterfall that you are seeing can’t be seen from the car. The app instructs you to cross the bridge, park on the right-hand side of the road, safely cross the road and then walk to the edge of the cliff. That is where you can see the waterfall. Without the app we would have never been able to see that waterfall.

The app also lets you know about some features that require payment or reservations to enter. They were either businesses like a botanical garden, or a black sand beach park that requires reservations to be made at least the day before. The app tells you that if you did not make a reservation or If you didn’t want to pay, or if you didn’t make reservations or if you don’t want to pay to go into something, you should probably just keep on driving.

Finally, on the entire drive back from town from Hana, we got an extensive Hawaiian history lesson. It covered all of the wars between Hawaiian islands and kingdoms, the introduction of ships, outsiders coming to the islands for the first time, and statehood. The history lesson ended just as we got back to where we stated the tour.

On a side note, some friends of mine from Maui that I met while I was a missionary told us that when we get to Hana, for lunch we needed to go to Bruddah Hut’s food truck. It was amazing. You can see that the portion sizes were huge, and the food was among the best on the island

Similar to the Road to Hana, it’s possible to figuratively just get in a car and start traveling down the Covenant Path. You could certainly just wing it, hurry through it, take some blurry photos, and then get the t-shirt that proudly proclaims, “I Survived the Covenant Path.” However, is that really the best way to experience the Covenant Path?

In church each week I hear many references to the Covenant Path. I hear it so often I’ve started to wonder if we really understand what it means. It’s obviously more than a cute or clever saying. There’s so much more that can be gained if we truly experience the Covenant Path, rather than just using it as a catch phrase for being good. If we really want to get the most from traveling the Covenant Path, we could all use a little more direction.

If YOU were looking for an app that would help you have a better experience on the Covenant Path, what features would you expect it to have? I believe our app should provide the following six things:

1) GPS that knows where you are and what is upcoming;

2) Information about things to look for;

3) Information about how to get back to where you started;

4) Inform us about things we cannot see on our own;

5) Tell us about things that require a price to be paid; and,

6) A wrap up or synopsis of the Covenant Path.

The price we are willing to pay for the Covenant Path app depends on our own circumstances and desires. Maybe you were baptized when you were 8 years old, and it was a very easy choice for you to make those covenants. Possibly you are the only member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in your family and keeping covenants has been the hardest decision you have ever made. Maybe you’re feeling pressure from all around you to abandon your covenants despite your testimony and convictions. We all must pay a price to not only start down the path but to stay on it.

So, picture in your mind that you and I are now on the covenant path. We are traveling down the road, and based on our location on the path, we hear this:

"God provides an almost incomprehensible gift to help covenant-makers be covenant-keepers: the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift is the right to the constant companionship, protection, and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Also known as the Comforter, the Holy Spirit “filleth with hope and perfect love.” He “knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son,” whose witnesses we commit to be.

On the covenant path we also find the essential blessings of forgiveness and cleansing from sin. This is help that can come only through divine grace, administered by the Holy Ghost. “Now this is the commandment,” says the Lord, “Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day." [i]  

One evening when I was 14 years old, I was outside playing baseball with my brother. A friend of ours drove into the driveway just two houses down from ours. Being young and dumb, we ran over to his car, hopped up on the back bumper and held onto the ski rack on the top of the car. Our friend started to slowly back out of the driveway and came to a stop, ready to move forward. When I think back to this experience, it feels like when the car stopped reversing and before it went forward, those few seconds felt like they lasted about a minute.

Since this experience I’ve spoken with my brother about this, and he too felt time stop, and he heard what I heard next. As we paused there, I clearly, audibly, and distinctly heard a voice say, “GET OFF!” The voice was so loud, I looked around to see if anyone else was there in the middle of the street with my brother and me. Nope – just the two of us. I asked my brother, “Do you think we should get off?” After a brief pause, both of us looked each other in the eye and said, “No,” and then the car started moving forward.

The driver of the car thought it would be fun for us if he started to swerve the car just a little bit. While he was slowly driving forward, he started to go to the left, then to the right, then to the left, and back again. Without realizing it he must have turned have turned a little too quickly to the left then back to the right. Directly next to our house, both of my feet slipped off of the bumper, and one of my hands came off of the ski rack. Looking back I have no idea how the driver knew to stop the car right there right in the middle of the road. I stood there on the road with my hand up on the ski rack and my first thought was, “That was weird.” But my second thought was to look down. I don’t want to be too dramatic about this but when I looked down, my left ankle had broken so badly that my foot was just hanging there. I know.

My brother ran into the house and got my parents. They came running out and it took four people to lift me into the back of their car so they could take me to the emergency room. It was there that they determined that I not only broke multiple bones in my left ankle, but I had also broken a bone in my right leg. After two surgeries to set my left ankle in the right place, but without success, they had to put in a 10-inch-long rod into the bottom of my foot, up through my ankle, and up through my leg. Thankfully, that did the job.

I was in a wheelchair for a month with casts up to my hips on both legs. After a month I was finally able to get the full-length casts off and put on casts that only came up to just below the knees. I couldn’t wait to walk again. However, right outside of the store where we rented my new crutches, I tried to take my first steps, but I fell forward down onto the parking lot. In the month I was in the wheelchair I had forgotten how to walk!

Everything ended up healing properly which was great, but I don’t know if or how my life would have been different or better had I just listened to the Spirit that day. I do know that had I listened, I would not have had to go through so much pain and recovery if I had listened and obeyed. When the Spirit speaks to you, don’t just listen - act on the promptings!

Have you ever wished that there could be a way for you to get a glimpse into the future? Your future? We’ve already paid the price to have the app. If we are listening, we can receive updates on what is upcoming.

"Two years ago, I saw President Russell M. Nelson see something I could not see. On September 17, 2020, I was among those invited to a communications meeting with President Nelson. The pandemic was raging, and we suggested that President Nelson record a message of hope for Church members. He told us to “sprinkle a little fertilizer” on that idea and bring it back to him the following week.

But then, the very next day, President Nelson asked our group to meet with him again. He told us that our idea wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t right. During the night he had received the impression that he should indeed record a message—but a message for the world, not just members. He said his message should be about gratitude and include a prayer for the world. He told us the exact day and time the video should be released and even how long it should be.

I had never heard President Nelson be so specific about communication details; but as he spoke, I knew that I was witnessing a prophet act on revelation.

We assembled a team of videographers and others to fulfill President Nelson’s instructions. If this group had relied on their own expertise, they would never have recommended a video as long as the one President Nelson specified. Nor would they have suggested releasing it on a Friday, the worst day to release one.

But a prophet had spoken, and we went to work. The result was the #GiveThanks video released on November 20, 2020. And the results? Unprecedented. That video’s reach dwarfed anything the Church had ever released, especially to those not of our faith. Never in the history of the earth had so many people heard a prophet’s voice. Prophets see around corners." [ii]

 We all struggle. We all have challenges, and we all make decisions that cause us to go off course, a little or a lot. At times in our lives we either stop walking the covenant path, or we completely lose track of where the path is.

Our Covenant Path app will help us to find our way back when we need it.

“…[T]here are those who have neglected to make appropriate course corrections and now believe that they are too far from the Lord’s way to ever make it back. To them we proclaim the good news that is the gospel of redemption and salvation. No matter how terribly off course you are, no matter how far you have strayed, the way back is certain and clear. Come, learn of the Father; offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Have faith and believe in the cleansing power of the infinite Atonement of Jesus the Christ. If we confess and repent of our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be [made] as white as snow.

It may not be an easy path, and it requires self-discipline and determination, but its end is glorious beyond description. You are not doomed to a tragic end. Many are eager to assist you—your family, bishops and stake presidents, your quorum leaders, and home teachers. Of course, your greatest friend is the all-powerful Creator of the universe. It is His priesthood you bear. He understands your sorrow. He knows your grief. He and our Father in Heaven will bless, comfort, and strengthen you; They will walk beside you and carry you as you strive to right your course.” [iii]

Similar to seeing that amazing waterfall that went directly under the bridge, on the covenant path we need help to see things that we will not know about on our own.

“With permission from President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Brent H. Nielson, I relate an instructive experience.

In 2014, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson chaired the Missionary Executive Council or MEC. One day in the MEC, Elder Nelson held up his smartphone and said, “We need to put these into the hands of every missionary.” You can imagine the discussion that ensued about all the challenges missionaries with smartphones would create. But in time, the MEC began allowing missionaries in a few test missions to carry iPads or smartphones.

Every problem the MEC predicted happened. But Elder Nelson never wavered in his conviction that missionaries could be taught to use the internet righteously and that they should have smartphones. The tests continued and over the next few years, more and more missionaries received phones.

Now fast forward to January of 2020. That month, President Russell M. Nelson, now President of the Church, authorized every missionary worldwide to have a smartphone. Then, just three weeks later, the pandemic shut down the world and proselyting as we knew it stopped.

Elder Brent H. Nielson, then executive director of the missionary department, was initially concerned that baptisms might drop to nearly zero. But they didn’t. Inspired missionaries working from their apartments found and baptized 125,000 people in 2020 - largely because they had smartphones.

Says Elder Nielson: “I quickly learned that the Lord had prepared us for this day. Prophets can see around corners.” [iv]

There is a price to be paid to stay on the covenant path. Whether we pay the price with our time, our service to others, or through taking the steps to repent, staying on the covenant path does not come without a price. Our app should help us be prepared to pay that price when the time comes.

"The covenant path is not a simple checklist; it is a process of spiritual growth and deepening commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. The central purpose of every commandment, principle, covenant, and ordinance is to build faith and trust in Christ. Our determination to center our lives on Christ, therefore, must be consistent—not conditional, situational, or superficial. We cannot afford to take vacation days or personal time off from our willingness to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” Discipleship is not cheap, because the companionship of the Holy Ghost is priceless." [v]

Have you ever noticed that in life, things that you have to sacrifice for tend to be more valuable to you? When you accomplish challenging things you learn, you grow, and you are able to make your life become more Christ-like.

Finally, our Covenant Path app should give us a clear, concise overview of our trip. It is helpful to get an overall review of why we chose to get on the path, a reminder of some of the challenges, and some encouragement to keep going.

In his October 2022 General Conference talk entitled, “Overcome the World and Find Rest”, President Russell M. Nelson covers all of this for us:

"Overcoming the world is not an event that happens in a day or two. It happens over a lifetime as we repeatedly embrace the doctrine of Christ. We cultivate faith in Jesus Christ by repenting daily and keeping covenants that endow us with power. We stay on the covenant path and are blessed with spiritual strength, personal revelation, increasing faith, and the ministering of angels.”

Entering into a covenant relationship with God binds us to Him in a way that makes everything about life easier. Please do not misunderstand me: I did not say that making covenants makes life easy. In fact, expect opposition, because the adversary does not want you to discover the power of Jesus Christ. But yoking yourself with the Savior means you have access to His strength and redeeming power.”

As you make the continual strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.

My plea to you this morning is to find rest from the intensity, uncertainty, and anguish of this world by overcoming the world through your covenants with God. Let Him know through your prayers and your actions that you are serious about overcoming the world. Ask Him to enlighten your mind and send the help you need. Each day, record the thoughts that come to you as you pray; then follow through diligently. Spend more time in the temple and seek to understand how the temple teaches you to rise above this fallen world.”

Cherish and honor your covenants above all other commitments. As you let God prevail in your life, I promise you greater peace, confidence, joy, and yes, rest.

With the power of the holy apostleship vested in me, I bless you in your quest to overcome this world. I bless you to increase your faith in Jesus Christ and learn better how to draw upon His power. I bless you to be able to discern truth from error. I bless you to care more about the things of God than the things of this world. I bless you to see the needs of those around you and strengthen those you love. Because Jesus Christ overcame this world, you can too." [vi]

I testify that there IS an app to help us on the Covenant Path. If we listen to the promptings of the Spirit and pay attention when the prophets and other church leaders speak to us, like an angel from on high, we will be directed to the best things our Savior has in store for us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[i] Stay on the Covenant Path, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, April, 2021 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints..
[ii] Prophets See Can See  Around Corners, Sheri Dew, BYU Devotional, November 2, 2022.
[iii] A Matter of a Few Degrees, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April, 2008 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
[iv] Prophets Can See Around Corners, Sheri Dew, BYU Devotional, November 2, 2022.
[v] Are You Still Willing?, Elder Kevin W. Pearson, October, 2022, General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
[vi] Overcome the World and Find Rest, President Russell M. Nelson, October 2022, General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

About the Speaker

Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor was born in Ridgecrest, California, and moved to Sandy, Utah when he was 8 years old.  He currently lives in Draper, Utah.  

He served in the Hawaii, Honolulu Mission.  

Brother Taylor has worked at Ensign College for 15 years.  Originally as the manager of Food Services, and now as the Director of Logistical Support, which means he does a lot of things to help a lot of different areas of the college.  

Brother Taylor and his wife Betsy have four children, who have all attended Ensign College, and three grandchildren. His church callings have included nursery leader, primary teacher, building cleaning coordinator, Elders Quorum President, and Executive Secretary to three bishops.
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