I have been asked by a handful of ward members about the importance of covenants. In fact, for all those who will go through the temple prep lessons with me, we spend a significant amount of time discussing this very issue. Why? Because as Latter-day Saints, we are a covenant people. As such, it is critical that we understand what a covenant is and why God insists on making covenants with His people.
To start this type of discussion, we must first understand the definition of a covenant. Most likely, the first definition that comes to mind is a promise made between us and God. Unfortunately, that definition does little to help us clearly understand the critical importance of a covenant. It is more than a promise, much, much more.
A covenant is a legal term. It is best understood in the buying and selling of a house. In such a transaction, there are two parties – the buyer and the seller. Both parties have a vested interest in a common goal – the house.
In the process of buying and selling the house, each party makes certain arrangements with each other. The seller, for example, will negotiate with the buyer regarding the price and the timing of the sell. The buyer will negotiate over the price and the condition of the house. So both parties have specific tasks to perform before the deal is complete.
Now, let’s assume it is the day when the house will exchange hands. On that day, can the seller demand more money from the buyer? On that day, can the buyer demand the buyer to do more work on the house?
In both cases, the answer is no. Buyers and sellers cannot change the terms once they are agreed upon. Likewise, if one party fails to live up to the agreement, the covenant is null and void. A covenant demands that both parties live up to the agreement.
This is the nature of a covenant. When we covenant with God, we agree to His terms. In turn, He agrees to follow through with His promises. So, we have two parties making an arrangement with a common interest. In our covenants with God, that common interest is our salvation.
But we know that God is a reliable partner. When He makes a covenant He will not simply change His mind. So in the equation of a convent, God is the constant. We, however, are the variable. We are not always consistent in keeping our end of the deal.
So, the key question is if we are an unreliable partner, why does God insist on making covenants with us?