Topic Study: Covenants

(June 2006 TG Entry: Covenants  Prepared for a Combined YM/YW Lesson)

I             Horse Power

Who here as ridden a horse?  Can you describe to me what that is like?  Did you have to put on the saddle and bridle?  To do so, were you able to wrestle the horse to the ground or force it to do what you wanted to?  If not, why?  Is it because a horse is so much more powerful than any one person?  We cannot control a horse by our strength; we have to use other means to control it.

What are those means?  The saddle is one, but the key, I think is the bit, the small piece of metal that goes in the horse’s mouth.  That small piece of metal allows you, as a rider to have control over that very large and powerful animal.

Riders on the pony express back in the 1860’s averaged about 10 miles an hour, all day, every day.  That is much faster than a person can sustain.  (http://gorp.away.com/gorp/publishers/fulcrum/pony-exp.htm)  That can be done because of that small piece of metal.  The rider is in control of one horse, or the power of one horse, or one horse power.  Webster (1913) defines “horsepower” as:

A unit of power, used in stating the power required to drive machinery, and in estimating the capabilities of animals or steam engines and other prime movers for doing work. It is the power required for the performance of work at the rate of 33,000 English units of work per minute; hence, it is the power that must be exerted in lifting 33,000 pounds at the rate of one foot per minute, or 550 pounds at the rate of one foot per second, or 55 pounds at the rate of ten feet per second, etc.

The power of a draught horse, of average strength, working eight hours per day, is about four fifths of a standard horse power.

Now imagine for a moment instead of riding one horse, you are driving a stage coach, with 6, 8 or even 10 horses in front of it.  Imagine how much faster you can go with 10 horses than with one.  Imagine controlling all of them by a small little piece of metal in their mouth.  If I pull on the reins, it turns the head of the lead horse, and I control the direction they go.  If I flip the reins they go faster.  If I pull back they go slower.  That little piece of metal allows me to control all of that power.

II            Car Power

Who here can drive?  Can a car go faster than a horse?  Why is that?  Is it because the car has more power than a horse?  My car has about 244 horse power.  Imagine sitting atop a stage coach with 244 horses in front of it.  With my car I can average about 60 miles an hour all day, every day.

III           Restrictive Laws

But let’s talk about what you have to do to control the car for a moment.  Of you that drive, how many of you drive lying down?  Who here drives with there legs crossed on the seat?  Who drives while reading a book or paper or something?  I hope none of you do those things.  But why not?  Because you cannot adequately control the car if you do those things.

Don’t you find it quite restrictive to have to sit in one certain seat, to hold onto the steering wheel, to keep your feet on the pedals, to be watching the road, and all the other things you have to do?  That doesn’t sound like freedom to me, it sounds like a lot of rules, a lot of restrictions.  But you do those things because you cannot have the power of a car without following those physical and other man-made rules and laws.

IV          Potential

What if I were to give my 3 year old son the keys to the car?  Would he be able to do anything with them?  Would he be able to use all that power?  Why not?  He doesn’t have the capabilities.  But even if he doesn’t have the capabilities, does that change the potential of the car?  Is there something about giving my son the keys that changes how fast and far the car can go?  Of course not.  It still can do everything it did previously.

V           Steps

What are the steps you go through as a young person to be able to drive a car, to use all that power?  Does it just happen?

  1. Go to school.  Get in the habit of getting up daily and going to school, starting very young
  2. Commit to do driver’s ed.
  3. Learn how to operate the vehicle
  4. Learn about the laws of the wider environment for safe use of the car
  5. Practice with the instructor in the specialized car
  6. Make some mistakes, but in a safe controlled environment
  7. Practice more with your parents, with less control
  8. Take the test
  9. Live up to the commitments

VI          God Power

In a certain sense, that bit and the attached reins bind the horse.  Now, if controlling one horse allows a person to go much farther and faster than walking, and controlling a car allows a person to even farther and faster than that, imagine something with much more power.  Open your scriptures and read with me from D&C 82:10

10  I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

D&C 82:10

How do you bind the Lord?

It starts with a covenant, a commitment, that you will do certain things, and the Lord promises to do certain things as well.  You commit to being in class, to learning the rules, to correcting your mistakes, and to taking the tests.  God commits to teaching you what you need to know, to driving with you in a sense, to give you opportunities to use the vehicle, and to prepare you for the test.

VII         Becoming Gods

What is your wildest dream?  What would be the biggest things you would ever want?  Could you want to be richer than Bill Gates, billions of dollars at your command?  Would it be to be more popular than some rock or movie star?  What we really desire, deep down, is to be like our Heavenly Father.

Summary

This thought was shared in a Fort Worth Coordinating Council presentation about the temple.

Suppose one day they told high jump contestants – today there are no crossbars – just go out on the field and jump your highest and we have a laser gun that will measure it. Would the contestants reach their greatest heights? Somehow we know they would not because there is something about that crossbar that extracts from the contestant every last bit of physical energy and strength he possesses. So it is with covenants – they are spiritual crossbars, they extract every last bit of our spiritual strength and energy and in so doing lift us to higher spiritual plateaus.

Covenants are also reservoirs of strength. Sometimes when all other resources are stripped from us, it is our commitments, our covenants that sustain us in our hour of need.

“I have heard my father say that in the hour of trial, in the hours of temptation, he would think of the promises, the covenants that he made in the House of the Lord and they were a protection to him. The protection is what these ceremonies are for, in part.”  JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH

Spiritual Creation

I wrote this letter to a young man in my ward about this topic:

In January I had the thought of passing on a talk that I think is an excellent talk, to a family at church.  I printed it, and brought it to church, but the family was absent that day.  You might remember I passed it on to you.  It was by Sterling W. Sill, May 1977 at a BYU Devotional titled “Bottles and Books.”  You can find it again at speeches.byu.edu.  (There is also an MP3 of it there, which makes a very good family home evening lesson in case you’re looking for an idea).  I wasn’t sure why I felt like I should give it to you, but since then, your example has helped me learn about the subject of that talk more fully.

A few weeks later for some reason I learned you had a swim meet.  Because I used to swim, and because my wife and I were free at that time, we decided to come watch you.  Something interesting happened to me that Saturday afternoon.  Elder Sill in his talk describes it this way:

We can have all of these great experiences out of the past and bring them down and put them right on the piston head to produce for us the inspiration of a good life lived at its best….

But when in my reading I come to some little nugget of an idea that sends a chill up and down my backbone and gives me an ambition to do something important, I take that out and put it in my idea bank…

Putting something explosive on the “piston head” is a powerful thing to do, and it’s what happened with me that day.  Watching you swim, I remembered how I felt when I swam:  I was in good shape, I had confidence, I worked hard, and I liked trying to do my best, and being spurred on in that by others who were racing me.

So, while sitting there, I searched for a swim team locally, and I found one.  A couple of weeks later, I was surprised when I made time to actually go to a workout, and it felt very good.  Afterwards, I searched for any Master’s swim meets, and was surprised to see the US National Masters meet was scheduled for San Antonio last weekend.  So there was a potential goal.  I was surprised at the energy I felt about all of this.  It went so far, and was such powerful fuel, that even though I was traveling to Brazil about every other week, I was motived to continue to work out at 9 AM, and workout hard even after red-eye flights home.  I even found a swim pool in Brazil, and they had a Masters team that I worked out with a dozen times since then when I was there!  Those are some very unusual behaviors for me; and they all occurred because of an idea.

So before the meet last week, after my last workout on my drive home, I reviewed all of this in my mind, and thought of how your example had inspired me.  I connected Elder Sill’s talk to another message I learned a year or so ago.  This thought was shared with us on the High Council from the Fort Worth Coordinating Council presentation about the temple.

Suppose one day they told high jump contestants – today there are no crossbars – just go out on the field and jump your highest and we have a laser gun that will measure it. Would the contestants reach their greatest heights? Somehow we know they would not because there is something about that crossbar that extracts from the contestant every last bit of physical energy and strength he possesses. So it is with covenants – they are spiritual crossbars, they extract every last bit of our spiritual strength and energy and in so doing lift us to higher spiritual plateaus.

Covenants are also reservoirs of strength. Sometimes when all other resources are stripped from us, it is our commitments, our covenants that sustain us in our hour of need.

Alma in Alma 5:15 asks if we “look forward with an eye of faith.”  I’ve come to believe this is a bit like spiritually creating something before we physically create it.  We create it in our minds first.  All that excitement Elder Sill was talking about, it is a form of spiritual creation.  I could see myself working out, working hard, getting in shape and going to a swim meet.

Yet I know from experience, that that excitement doesn’t last very long.  The act of physically creating something is usually much longer than spiritually creating it.  And our spirits are often willing, but our flesh is weak.

That’s where commitments come in.  If, in the midst of the spiritual creation, when we are excited and at the peak of the spiritual summit we’ve climbed, if at that moment we set a spiritual anchor there, drive a spike, fasten a spiritual rope, connect ourselves through a commitment, to getting back to that spot physically, then when we have descended and are fatigued while trying to physically make it happen, doubting if it is all worthwhile; at that moment  we have something to pull on towards our goal, something that will help us keep going, “when all other resources are stripped from us”  I’ve come to understand, that “it is our commitments, our covenants that sustain us in our hour of need.”

So, in the end, I was pleased to have carried out my plan very well, worked hard, and gotten into better shape than I have been in for quite a while.  I can’t say I felt like I achieved my target times.  I would need to have more actual race practice again; one was not enough.  I’m not sure if the time goal is that important for me to continue.  But I made it to the meet.  I worked out hard to get myself there.  And I gave it everything I had.

I appreciate your example to me, an example you didn’t even know you were setting.  I’m grateful to have learned through the process.  I hope something here is useful to you as well, for I sense, given the great family you are a part of and your stature and abilities, you are going to have some mountains to climb in your life.  I have confidence you will be successful at doing so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.