Skips to main content

A Child of the Covenant

Justin Collings
June 11, 2024 11:15 AM
“I believe,” President Russell M. Nelson has said, that “the first thing the Lord wants you to understand is who you truly are!” [i]

 To that end, the Lord’s living prophet has provided powerful teachings about your eternal identity. Speaking to the rising generation, and, I think, also to the risen generation, in May 2022, President Nelson underscored our primary identities as a child of God, a child of the covenant, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. In my view, the second of these three identities (a child of the covenant) forges an essential link between the first and the third. Sacred covenants deepen, sweeten, and intensify our relationship with God the Father, and we express that strengthened relationship by striving to become ever more committed disciples of Jesus Christ.

 My goal today is to help you understand what it means to be a child of the covenant, how you can live your life consistently with that core identity, and what blessings flow from following the covenant path. To that end, I will speak about three covenant relationships and four patterns of covenant living. I pray that the Holy Ghost will carry eternal truth deep into your heart. I pray that the fire of the covenant will burn in your soul with mounting intensity from this day forward until the last breath of our lives.

 “Everlasting covenant,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.” [ii] On a later occasion, the Prophet explained that, before the creation of the earth and even before the council in heaven, “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself.” [iii]

As near as I can tell, these two prophetic declarations describe the earliest recorded moments of cosmic history. In one, God the Father resolved to establish laws by which His children could advance and progress and become like Him. In the other, the Members of the Godhead forged an everlasting covenant to realize that resolve.

 In those first primeval moments, our Heavenly Father’s love and mercy irrupted into the universe. [iv] Since then, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have unswervingly honored this covenant and labored tirelessly “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The Members of the Godhead are thus committed, eternally and invincibly, to fulfilling Their covenant and achieving our redemption.

 “Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time,” President Nelson has taught. “You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth.” [v] “Our Heavenly Father,” the prophet continued, “has reserved many of His [noblest] spirits . . . for this final phase. Those noble spirits are you!” [vi]

 Our Heavenly Father knew of your nobility because of your faithfulness in the premortal realm. In that prior sphere, you “developed [your] identity and increased [your] spiritual capabilities.” [vii] You “grew in intelligence and learned to love the truth.” [viii] You followed Christ our Captain and defied the dark one’s lies.

 “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, . . . And [you] overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of [your] testimony” (Rev. 12:7, 11).

 Across the ages, you were “hid from the world with Christ in God” (D&C 86:9). You “were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men” (D&C 86:9; 138:56). Now, the hour of your mortal mission is come. You have been placed on the earth in the fullness of times to fulfil your foreordination and find your personal place in our Father’s majestic plan. [ix]

 Central to that plan is the latter-day restoration of the everlasting covenant. The Lord Himself proclaimed that a core purpose of the Restoration was “That mine everlasting covenant might be established” (D&C 1:22). “I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world,” the Lord declared, “to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, . . . and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me. Wherefore, come ye unto it” (D&C 45:9-10). The Lord thus invites us all to rally round the standard of the everlasting covenant.

 How do we answer that call? We answer it simply by making and keeping covenants with God. If you have been baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are a child of the covenant and a precious heir of surpassing promises. [x] What the resurrected Savior told the Nephites is true of you as well: “ye are of the house of Israel; . . . ye are the children of the covenant” (3 Ne. 20:25-26).

 Because you are a child of the covenant, your eternal trajectory will be forever shaped by three relationships of transcendent importance:

1. Your relationship to the Author of the covenant, our Heavenly Father;

2. Your relationship to the Messenger of the covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ;

3. Your relationship to the earthly emissary of the covenant, Father Abraham.

 God’s covenants are an expression of His love (see 1 Ne. 17:40). They provide evidence of His attributes, instruments of His plan, and invitations toward a deeper, fuller, and more enduring relationship with Him. “Making a covenant with God changes our relationship with Him forever,” wrote President Nelson. [xi] “Once we make a covenant with God, we leave neutral ground forever. God will not abandon His relationship with those who have forged such a bond with Him.” [xii] “He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us.” [xiii]

 “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (3 Ne. 22:10).

 “God is in relentless pursuit of you,” said Elder Patrick Kearon. “The Father’s design, His plan, His purpose, His intent, His wish, and His hope are all to heal you, all to give you peace, all to bring you, and those you love, home.” [xiv] In that effort, He reaches out to you—lovingly and mercifully, indefatigably and eternally—with the matchless arms of His covenant love.

 He reaches most mercifully and most insistently through the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Messenger of the Covenant. “Behold, . . . the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in” (3 Ne. 24:1; Mal. 3:1).

 The revelations refer to Jesus as “the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 76:69; 107:19). Through His Atonement, we can be cleansed from our sins, healed from our wounds, and raised from death to life. As we diligently honor our covenants to follow Him—to carry His name, keep His commandments, and cultivate a Christlike character—we become His. “For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him” (Moro. 7:28).

 When King Benjamin’s people experienced “a mighty change” of heart and had “no more disposition to do evil, but” wanted “to do good continually,” they declared to their king: “We are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things, all the remainder of our lives.”

 In response, Benjamin proclaimed: “because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; . . . he hath spiritually begotten you; . . . your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:2, 5, 7).

 By making and keeping covenants—including temple covenants of obedience, sacrifice, gospel living, purity, and consecration—we invite the Savior’s power into our lives and become steadily and progressively more like Him. We thereby become “the children of Christ,” bound to Him and to our Father in Heaven by indestructible covenant ties (Mosiah 5:7). As King Benjamin admonished: “I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his . . . through [his] wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy” (Mosiah 5:15; emphasis added).

 To be a child of the covenant is to belong forever to the Savior of the world.

 Anciently, the Savior confirmed His everlasting covenant upon the prophet Abraham, the covenant that He first established with Adam and Eve.. “Abraham, Abraham,” the Savior said, “behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee . . . . I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, . . . and my power shall be over thee” (Abr. 1:16, 18). In connection with this covenant, the Lord promised Abraham posterity and priesthood, land and life eternal (see Abr. 2:7-11). He further promised that through Abraham’s seed all peoples of the earth would be blessed.

 As latter-day children of the covenant, you are part of Abraham’s posterity and heirs to these ancient promises. President Nelson recently taught that the priesthood keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith authorize God’s servants “to gather Israel on both sides of the veil, to bless all covenant children with the blessings of Abraham, to place a ratifying seal on priesthood ordinances and covenants, and to seal families eternally. The power of these priesthood keys,” the prophet marveled, “is infinite and breathtaking.” [xv]

 The revelations direct us, as heirs of Abraham’s promises, to “Go forth . . . and do the works of Abraham” (D&C 132:32). Abraham himself recorded what some of those works were: “I, Abraham,” he wrote, “. . . having been . . . a follower of righteousness, desir[ed] . . . to be a greater follower of righteousness, . . . to possess a greater knowledge, . . . to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God” (Abr. 1:1-2).

 As a child of Abraham, you too can pursue greater knowledge and seek greater righteousness. You too can strive for greater obedience and plead for further instruction. The spirit of Abraham is the spirit of daily repentance, steady improvement, and continual progression. As Abraham’s children, may we embrace that spirit as our own.

 Years ago, I composed a homey little rhyme to help me in that effort. It goes like this:

 n the scriptures every day;

In the temple when I may;

Often on my knees to pray;

On the covenant path to stay.

 Let me say a few words about these four simple patterns of covenant living.

1. In the scriptures every day.

My life has been immeasurably blessed by the simple pattern of studying the scriptures every morning—especially the Book of Mormon. I invite you to feast daily on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, not only as essential nourishment for your soul but as a sign of your covenant commitment to God.

 From its Title Page to its final verse, the Book of Mormon testifies of our Father’s everlasting covenant, as well as of Jesus Christ, whose infinite Atonement gives that covenant perpetual effect. The Book of Mormon’s declared purpose is “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon Title Page). In the phrase, “they are not cast off forever,” the word ‘they’ can refer both to “the remnant of the house of Israel” and to “the covenants of the Lord.” Neither Israel’s remnant nor God’s covenant is finally cast aside. Indeed, ours is the promised day when the remnant is being gathered and the covenant fulfilled.

  At the other end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni bears this valedictory witness of the Father’s everlasting covenant and of the Savior’s eternal mission:

 [A]wake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; . . . put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; . . . that the covenants of the Eternal Father . . . may be fulfilled. Yea, come unto Christ . . . . And . . . if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, . . . then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moro. 10:31-33; emphasis added).

 In the revelations, the Lord refers to the Book of Mormon as “the new covenant” (D&C 84:57). The Book of Mormon, President Nelson said, “stands as a sign that God will keep His covenants with the remnants of the house of Israel (see 3 Ne. 16:11-12; 29:3; Mormon 5:20; 8:21; 9:37).” [xvi] It is, as Elder Gerrit W. Gong recently observed, “evidence we can hold in our hand that Jesus is the Christ and God fulfills His prophecies.” [xvii]

 Through all the trials and adventures of my life, the Book of Mormon has been my unfailing personal iron rod—an inexhaustible fount of spiritual power.

 “When I think of the Book of Mormon,” President Nelson has testified, “I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, teach, inform, enlighten, and cheer our souls. I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of our day.” [xviii]

 I invite us all to immerse ourselves in the Book of Mormon’s wondrous pages every day throughout the rest of our mortal journeys. Doing so will both symbolize and strengthen our covenant connection to God. The power of Jesus Christ will flow into our lives as we feast on His mighty words. [xix]

 2. In the temple when I may.

The powerful covenant education that you receive in the scriptures will accelerate in the Holy Temple. Just two months ago, President Nelson encouraged us to study the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, found in Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which the prophet called “a tutorial about how the temple spiritually empowers you and me to meet the challenges of life in these last days.” [xx]

 Received by revelation, that prayer describes the temple as a place where we may be “armed with [God’s] power, [so] that [His] name may be upon [us], and [His] glory round about [us], and [His] angels have charge over” us (D&C 109:23). The prayer designates the temple “a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, and a house of God” (v. 8).

 “This list of attributes,” President Nelson taught, “is much more than a description of a temple. It is a promise about what will happen to those who serve and worship in the house of the Lord. They can expect to receive answers to prayer, personal revelation, greater faith, strength, comfort, increased knowledge, and increased power.” [xxi]

 I have received such blessings in the House of the Lord, as has my incomparable wife, Lia, who has inspired me to worship in the temple regularly throughout our life together—especially when we have been busy, when life’s pressures have seemed intense, when temples were far away, and when temple worship felt inconvenient. I invite you, as one child of the covenant speaking to another, to make regular temple worship a non-negotiable part of your journey along the covenant path. Incalculable blessings await you on the way.

On this last point, we have this powerful recent promise from the Lord’s living prophet: “My dear brothers and sisters, here is my promise. Nothing will help you more to hold fast to the iron rod than worshipping in the temple as regularly as your circumstances permit. Nothing will protect you more as you encounter the world’s mists of darkness. Nothing will bolster your testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement or help you understand God’s magnificent plan more. Nothing will soothe your spirit more during times of pain. Nothing will open the heavens more. Nothing!” [xxii]

May we all embrace this prophetic promise and claim these blessings as our own.

 3. Often on my knees to pray.

The temple is, as the revelations proclaim, “a house of prayer” (D&C 88:119; 109:8). The same can be true of your home or apartment, your closet or your classrooms. The gift of prayer is bestowed so mercifully and so universally that we can pray anywhere, anytime, and about anything. The Eternal Father of the everlasting covenant yearns to hear and bless His covenant children.

In his remarkable opening message at April’s general conference, President Jeffrey R. Holland admonished that, “Our prayers ought to be vocal whenever we have the privacy to so offer them.” [xxiii] Inspired by this apostolic invitation, I have tried in recent weeks to pray aloud multiple times each day, including, when possible, between meetings in my BYU office. Praying aloud sharpens my thoughts and quickens my faith. As I have tried to pray frequently, vocally, and from the heart, I have felt the powers of heaven stir my heart, lift my spirit, and soothe my soul. I have also had sweet experiences with silent prayer as I’ve communed with the Lord on early-morning walks or during my daily commute.

“Pour out your heart to your heavenly Father . . . ,” President Nelson implores. “And then listen!” [xxiv] “Prayer,” he promised, “opens the door to revelation,” and “revelation has no boundaries.” [xxv]

 May we all allow prayer—fervent and pleading, vocal and full of faith—to permeate all aspects of our mortal journey. As children of the covenant, we have direct access to heaven. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

 4. On the covenant path to stay.

Every covenant we make is a promise of fidelity to God—a covenant to be faithful to Him throughout our lives. That requires, in the famous scriptural phrase, that we endure to the end. “[T]he call of the gospel,” President Holland once said, is: “Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the [covenant] generations who must follow you . . . . When we join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we board the Good Ship Zion and sail with her wherever she goes until she comes into that millennial port. We stay in the boat, through squalls and stills, through storms and sunshine, because that is the only way to the promised land.” [xxvi]

 In his marvelous final message, Nephi described that celestial sea voyage this way: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Ne. 31:20).

 Children of the covenant honor the two great commandments—to love God and to love our neighbor. They press forward in faith and faithfulness. They prosper with “a perfect brightness of hope.” They abide in the presence of God’s promises. They look forward with an eye of faith to see those promises fulfilled. [xxvii] They live as though those promises had already been fulfilled—they “believe in [Christ] to come as though he already was” (Jarom 1:11). They “think celestial,” [xxviii] and they “let God prevail.” [xxix]

 My dear brothers and sisters, friends: You are such children of the covenant! You are the hope of Israel, heralds of the promised day when God’s ancient covenant is destined to be gloriously fulfilled.

 I testify that God loves you with a love that is as eternal as it is unfathomable. He has a personal, particularized plan, just for you. Unimaginable blessings await you as you press forward joyfully along His covenant path.

 Yes, there will be trials, difficulty, and opposition along the way. But in such moments—wrenching and excruciating as they can sometimes be—God will send His holy angels to bear you up.

 Concerning angels, the Book of Mormon declares that “the office of their ministry is to . . . fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father” (Moro. 7:31). I testify that they will do just that—and just for you—because you are a child of that covenant.

 Many years ago, President Holland made this promise: “In the gospel of Jesus Christ you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that. When disappointment and discouragement strike—and they will—you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection. They will always be there, these armies of heaven, in defense of Abraham’s seed.” [xxx]

 And so it is, and so will it be, until the Messenger of the Covenant returns to perform His Father’s promise and to reign as Lord and King.

I testify with Isaiah that “the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people” (2 Ne. 6:17).

I proclaim with Moroni that “the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled” (Morm. 8:22).

I exult with the Kirtland Saints: “Thanks be to thy name, O Lord God of Israel, who keepest covenant and showest mercy unto thy servants who walk uprightly before thee, with all their hearts” (D&C 109:1).

 But this is not all. I testify that I know of myself, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that God our Father lives and loves and rules on high.

[i] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 47.

[ii] Discourse, circa May 1841, The Joseph Smith Papers, .

[iii] “History, 1838-1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843-30 April 1844],” The Joseph Smith Papers, .

[iv] I first heard this formulation from Professor Terryl Givens.

[v] RMN 2013.

[vi] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 198.

[vii] Gospel Topics, “Premortality,” .

[viii] Gospel Topics, “Premortality,” .

[ix] See Steven R. Bangerter, “Foreordained to Serve,” Liahona, May 2024.

[x] See Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 36, 39, 195.

[xi] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 42.

[xii] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 37.

[xiii] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 38.

[xiv] Patrick Kearon, “God’s Intent is to Bring You Home,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xv] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xvi] Russell M. Nelson, “Identity, Priority, and Blessings,” BYU Fireside, September 10, 2000.

[xvii] Gerrit W. Gong, “All Things for Our Good,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xviii] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 162.

[xix] See Ezra Taft Benson [add cite and quote].

[xx] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xxi] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xxii] Russell M. Nelson, “Rejoice in the Gift of Priesthood Keys,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xxiii] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Motions of a Hidden Fire,” Liahona, May 2024.

[xxiv] Add cite.

[xxv] Russell M. Nelson, Heart of the Matter: What 100 Years of Living Have Taught Me (2023) 167.

[xxvi] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Abide in Me,” Ensign, May 2004.

[xxvii] I am indebted for this formulation to Elder Ahmad S. Corbitt.

[xxviii] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!,” Liahona, November 2023.

[xxix] Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Liahona, November 2020.

[xxx] Jeffrey R. Holland, “For Times of Trouble,” BYU Devotional, March 18, 1980.

About the Speaker

Justin Collings

Justin Collings was born in Bozeman, Montana and grew up in Provo, Utah. He attended Brigham Young University where he double majored in English and Italian. He continued his education by earning a PhD in History from Yale University, as well as a juris doctorate from Yale Law School.

After graduating from law school, he worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Guido Calabresi of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 2013 he joined the faculty of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, where he later served as associate dean. His research focuses on constitutional law and constitutional history as well as religious freedom. In 2022, he was appointed BYU’s associate academic vice president for faculty development. Since June 2023, he has served as BYU’s academic vice president.

He has enjoyed serving in a variety of church callings including high councilor, bishopric councilor, ward choir director, and primary music, as well as a missionary in the Italy Milan Mission.

Brother Collings and his wife, Lia, are expecting their eighth child later this summer.
Close Modal