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Conference Counsel: How to acquire and keep ‘covenant confidence’

By Ryan Comer - | Jun 15, 2024

Photo supplied, Intellectual Reserve

Elder Ulisses Soares, left, and Elder Patrick Kearon, center, visit at the conclusion of the evening session of general conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 6, 2024.

In basketball, there’s a saying that you’ll often hear a commentator use when talking about a player who is struggling. They say the player just needs to see the ball go through the net. The logic is that the player has gone so long without seeing the ball go through the net that he’s lost confidence, and if he just sees the ball go through the net one time, that will be enough for him to begin to reacquire that confidence.

From this, we learn something very important about confidence. Success matters. Confidence is established when someone, regardless of their job, is able to successfully perform a task. When they struggle to successfully perform a task, confidence diminishes. Wherever an athlete is on the spectrum of confidence, he or she can go the opposite direction in a very short amount of time, and success is a critical factor.

A question comes to mind. How do we acquire confidence in life? Especially if we have lost it? How do we ensure that we have confidence that things will work out for our good no matter what trial we may come up against?

At the most recent general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in April, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed what he called “covenant confidence through Jesus Christ.”

Elder Soares explained: “This confidence is the quiet yet certain assurance of receiving the blessings that God promises for those who keep their covenants and is so needed amid the challenging circumstances of our day.”

Photo supplied

Ryan Comer

Temples are a critical component of creating and maintaining covenant confidence and were a central theme of Elder Soares’ talk.

“Inscribed on the front of each temple is a solemn statement: ‘Holiness to the Lord,'” Elder Soares said. (Exodus 28:36; Exodus 39:30; Psalm 93:5) “These inspired words are a clear invitation that when we enter the Lord’s house, we embark on a sacred journey of learning to become higher and holier disciples of Christ. As we make covenants in holiness before God and commit to follow the savior, we receive the power to change our hearts, renew our spirits and deepen our relationship with him. Such an endeavor brings sanctification to our souls and forms a sacred bond with God and Jesus Christ, who promise that we can inherit the gift of eternal life. (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20, 24) The result of this sacred journey is that we obtain a holier and higher confidence for our day-to-day lives within our covenants made through Jesus Christ.”

I’m reminded of what President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the church shared in his latest general conference address regarding the collapse of the Teton Dam and the effect that it had on Rexburg, Idaho, where he was serving as president of Ricks College, now known as Brigham Young University-Idaho. Despite being worried, specifically about his children who he was away from and unable to immediately reach because roads were closed, President Eyring was able to put his mind at ease and sleep because he knew that all would be well. He knew all would be well because of the temple covenants he had made. That is the perfect example of covenant confidence, and President Eyring is certainly not the only one who could share a story about how making and keeping covenants has led to confidence amidst trials.

Elder Soares discussed more in depth how covenant confidence can manifest itself in our daily lives.

“It fortifies our ability to love and serve others, and it strengthens our souls to live in an unholy world that is increasingly dark and discouraging,” he said. “It empowers us to overcome the seeds of doubt and despair, fear and frustration, heartache and hopelessness that the enemy tries to drive deep into our hearts, especially when life is hard, trials are long or circumstances are difficult. A biblical verse offers sound advice for each of us as we lean into the stiff wind of today’s worldly challenges: ‘Cast not away therefore your confidence.’ (Hebrews 10:35)

“Dear brothers and sisters, those who gain genuine confidence in the covenants made in the house of the Lord through Jesus Christ possess one of the most powerful forces that we can access in this life.”

A scriptural example of someone who demonstrated covenant confidence was Nephi. Said Elder Soares:

“As we have studied the Book of Mormon in ‘Come, Follow Me’ this year, we have witnessed how Nephi beautifully exemplified the power of this type of covenant confidence through his faithfulness when he faced setbacks and challenges, like getting the plates as commanded by the Lord. Nephi, despite being exceedingly sorrowful for the fear and lack of faith of Laman and Lemuel, remained confident that the Lord would deliver the plates to them. He said unto his brothers, ‘As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.’ (1 Nephi 3:15) Because of Nephi’s confidence in the Lord’s promises, he was able to accomplish what he had been commanded to do. (1 Nephi 4:6-38) Later, in his vision, Nephi beheld the influence of this type of confidence, writing, ‘I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, … and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.'” (1 Nephi 14:14)

I recently was re-reading the early part of the Book of Mormon. Nephi and his brothers had just successfully obtained plates of brass that included a record of the Jews as well as a genealogy of their ancestors and convinced another family to join them in their departure from Jerusalem and journey to the promised land. Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel, rebelled because they wanted to return to Jerusalem, resulting in a lecture from Nephi about how Jerusalem was going to be destroyed. Laman and Lemuel tied Nephi up, desiring to leave him behind “to be devoured by wild beasts.” (1 Nephi 7:16) With the help of the Lord, Nephi broke free and proceeded to speak to his brothers again. Again, Laman and Lemuel tried to get their hands on Nephi, but this time, members of the family that had joined them convinced Laman and Lemuel to stop. They did, and then they asked Nephi to forgive them, and Nephi forgave them.

I think many people, myself included, would have been done with Laman and Lemuel at this point, if they hadn’t decided they were done with them already. After all that had happened — specifically, having an experience with an angel that helped them safely retrieve the plates — it’s very hard to imagine how Laman and Lemuel could continue to rebel against Nephi, yet they did. And it was more than just whining and complaining and a general lack of faith. They were seeking to take away Nephi’s life. It’s astonishing that Nephi had the capacity to forgive them. It seems to me that the only way this type of forgiveness would be possible is by being extremely close to the Lord, as it is obvious Nephi was. He had total covenant confidence and it showed.

Elder Soares learned a lesson on covenant confidence from a trip his wife made to the temple.

“The other day my wife came home after her worship in the temple and told me how deeply touched she was by what she experienced there,” he said. “As she entered the house of the Lord, she saw a man in a wheelchair moving very slowly and a woman walking with great difficulty using a cane, both courageously coming to worship the Lord in his house. As my wife walked into the initiatory area, she saw a sweet sister who was missing one arm — and had only part of another arm — beautifully and celestially performing any task she was given.

“As my wife and I talked about that experience, we concluded that only pure and heartfelt confidence in the eternal promises God provides through the holy covenants made with him in his house could cause those marvelous disciples of Christ to leave their homes on that very freezing day, despite their personal life circumstances.

“My dear friends, if there is one thing we could possess — and one thing we could pass on to our children and grandchildren that would help each in the tests and trials ahead — it would be confidence in the covenants made through Jesus Christ. Obtaining such a divine possession will help them live as the Lord promised his faithful followers: ‘My disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.'” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32)

In order to gain covenant confidence, Elder Soares provided a simple formula.

“It comes through humility, centering our lives on the savior, living by the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, receiving the ordinances of salvation and exaltation, and honoring the covenants we make with God in his holy house,” he said.

Again, temples are crucial.

But it’s not just going to the temple that is important. Preparation to go to the temple is as well. Said Elder Soares:

“In his closing remarks at the October 2019 general conference, our dear prophet reminded us about an important step in achieving covenant confidence, saying: ‘Individual worthiness to enter the Lord’s house requires much individual spiritual preparation. … Individual worthiness requires a total conversion of mind and heart to be more like the Lord, to be an honest citizen, to be a better example and to be a holier person.’ Therefore, if we change our preparation to enter the temple, we will change our experience in the temple, which will transform our lives outside of the temple. ‘Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.'” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45)

I think we all can find examples in our lives of how we had a better experience doing something when we were prepared for it. Preparation leads to confidence that whatever you are preparing for will go well. Thus, improving the preparation for entering the temple will lead to confidence that we will have the type of faith-building experience in the temple that we desire, and having that experience will lead to more confidence in our lives.

Sometimes we can have great experiences in the temple and experience the type of covenant confidence Elder Soares speaks of afterward, but such confidence begins to diminish as we go an extended period of time before we go to the temple again. This is why what Elder Soares said later on in his talk is so important.

“We all should be perpetually preparing to go to the house of the Lord,” he said. “One stake I know has adopted the motto ‘Home centered, Church supported, and temple bound.’ Bound is an interesting word in that it means focused on a direction, but it also means fastened to or secured by, resolved and determined, sure. So being temple bound secures us to the savior, giving us proper direction and stability while ensuring we have covenant confidence through Jesus Christ. Therefore, all of us should intentionally enhance such binding by having our next appointment scheduled with the Lord in his holy house, whether the temple is near or far away.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, it sometimes feels like attending the temple is something I do when I can make time for it, or when it fits in with everything else I have going on in my life. In reality, I know that I need to find a way to make the time for attending the temple and then build the rest of my life around that time. This weekend is the dedication of the Layton temple. To live within a half-mile of the temple is a blessing I would have never imagined growing up, and I know it’s on me to take advantage of that opportunity. But we don’t need to live within a half-mile of a temple to follow Elder Soares’ counsel. We just need to make sure that we always have an appointment and are preparing for it.

There needs to be a cycle in our lives of preparing to go to the temple, which includes scheduling a time, going to the temple and having a great experience, and then beginning the preparation for the next trip, which includes scheduling the time. This will help us to always have covenant confidence.

Continued Elder Soares:

“Our dear prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, reminds us about these vital principles by saying: ‘The temple lies at the center of strengthening our faith and spiritual fortitude because the savior and his doctrine are the very heart of the temple. Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ. His essential ordinances bind us to him through sacred priesthood covenants. Then, as we keep our covenants, he endows us with his healing, strengthening power. And oh, how we will need his power in the days ahead.’

“The savior desires that we become prepared to understand, with great clarity, exactly how to act as we make covenants with our Heavenly Father in his name. He wants us to be prepared to experience our privileges, promises and responsibilities; to be prepared to have the spiritual insights and awakenings that we need in this life. I know that when the Lord sees even a spark of desire or a flicker of righteous effort in our willingness to center our lives on him and on the ordinances and covenants we make in his house, he will bless us, in his perfect way, with the miracles and tender mercies we need.

“The house of the Lord is where we can be transformed in higher and holier ways. So, when we walk out of the temple, transformed by our hope in the promises of the covenants, armed with power from on high, we take the temple with us into our homes and lives. I assure you that having the spirit of the Lord’s house in us changes us, completely.”

I know that covenant confidence through Jesus Christ is real because I have felt it in my life. It’s a type of confidence that I have only felt because of making and keeping covenants. This type of confidence has allowed me to, as Elder David A. Bednar said in his general conference address in April, “know that God is our Heavenly Father, we are his children and Jesus Christ is our savior.” Knowing that allows me to have confidence that regardless of what is going on around me, as President Eyring said in his general conference address in April, “all will be well.”

Contact Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rbcomer8388 and on X at @rbcomer8388.

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