Baptism marks our first covenant as we journey through life as disciples of Jesus Christ. This first ordinance brings us into a personal, covenant relationship with the Father, made possible by His love and grace through the atoning sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ. Through our obedience in keeping the covenants of the gospel, the Father promises us eternal life, including enduring peace and joy in this life.
The conditions of all covenants govern two relationships essential for the fulfillment of these promises. The first is the relationship with the Father and with Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. The second is the relationship with our fellow men and women who have ever lived, are now living, or will yet live on the earth.
Jesus taught that there are ultimately only two commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.Every covenant of the gospel witnesses these two great commandments. Both are founded on love.
Alma taught that upon making our first covenant, “then are ye in this strait and narrowpath which leads to eternal life; yea ye have entered in by the gate”. The straight and narrow path is more of a Liahona, a compass pointing the direction we should take to eventually obtain the blessing of eternal life in the presence of the Father. It is less of a cleared pathway that we simply tread upon to press forward on our eternal journey. While the Liahona points us to where we should go, a loving Heavenly Father, Who wants us to grow, sometimes leaves it to each of us to clear the way ahead of us.
Nephi paints a picture for us when he says, “For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life”. Other ordinances including priesthood ordination and all the ordinances of the temple, might be compared to additional gates along the path as we progress toward Heavenly Father.
Except for the sacrament, each gate is a symbolic entry point for the associated covenant and marks the progress we have made on our spiritual journey. The sacrament provides the opportunity for us to“return”to each gate every week by renewing our covenants thus reaffirming our commitment to fulfill all the obligations we have accepted in return for the promised blessings.
Between each gate, and each “return”, we face opposition from the adversary. In addition, it is requisite that we perform the duties of our covenant. We clear our pathway as we strive to overcome opposition, and to fulfill the responsibilities of our covenants.
Whenever we qualify to enter a gate along the path, we fulfill the first great commandment, and qualify for the blessings we need to help us as we press forward towards the next gate. In response to our desire and prayer, Heavenly Father grants us power through the grace of His Son to overcome opposition, and to keep our covenants. We could never qualify for eternal life through relying only on our own ability.
Also pressing forward are other travelers, children of God like ourselves, our brothers and sisters. For some, because of poor choices made previously, their Liahona no longer works, and they wander in“forbidden paths”. Yet others are unaware that there is a God, or reject that notion, dismissing the reality of the existence of God whenever it conflicts with their own worldly wisdom.
Of all such, our living Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson made a passionate plea to all members of the Lord’s restored Church at General Conference in April this year:
“We will focus on inspired ministering to individuals and families… Our charge from the Lord is recorded in section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. There we are instructed to “visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and to all family duties” and “watch over the Church always, and be with and strengthen them”.
President Nelson’s plea has echoed around the whole world.
Sister Sitati and I rejoice in the opportunity of joining you my brothers and sisters in this great area, at this critical point in our journey of discipleship, in the history of the Lord’s Church.
May we together respond to the call of our prophet with singular devotion. Our opportunity in this area is great. Great too will be our capacity, as we rise to stand with President Nelson in this great cause, and receive the strengthening power of the Savior’s mercy, grace and forgiveness through the Holy Ghost.
I pray that the Lord will grant to each one of us the desire to do our part, to obey the second great commandment, that we may help guide many of our brothers and sisters to the next gate on their path, that they may obey the first great commandment, and that together, we may always have power to continue our eternal spiritual journey as we build up the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
The promise of the Lord at the end of our strait and narrow path is sure: “Well done thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.
2 Nephi 31:18
1 Nephi 16:10
2 Nephi 31:17-18
1 Nephi 8:28
Russel M. Nelson, General Authority Training, April 2018