I do not want to get baptized or go to the temple, because I don’t want to make promises and then fail to keep them. These words seem reasonable, humble, and well intentioned. But they demonstrate an incomplete view of covenants that may prevent us from being blessed by our potential relationship with Jesus Christ.
A Covenant With Another
A covenant is often defined as a two-way promise, but this definition misleads by its worldly applications. Philosopher Truman Madsen and his wife, Ann, wrote in “The Temple: Where Heaven Meets Earth” that “covenant keeping is not a cold business deal but a warm relationship.” In my own experience, a covenant can be a loving, trusting relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
If we think of a covenant as merely a two-way contract, then a covenant with deity seems impossible. We feel like we can never keep the promises we expect Christ to require of us; so the contract is broken from the beginning.
Our Covenant with Christ
Former university educator and lifetime religious leader Jeffery Holland pointed out in “Christ and the New Covenant”that the Latin root for covenant is convenire, meaning “to agree, unite, or come together.” In a loving covenant relationship, we unite and come together with Jesus Christ in an agreement that meets our greatest needs and desires as well as His. Christ wants us to love Him as He loves us.
Similarly, Kerry Muhlestein, a religious educator, wrote in “God Will Prevail: Ancient Covenants, Modern Blessings, and the Gathering of Israel” that the Hebrew root for covenant means binding. Covenants bind us to Christ in a relationship He will not break, and we can renew when our human imperfections interfere with the perfection of His love and grace.
We never benefit by avoiding baptism or temple covenants that offer us a closer relationship with Christ. Without a covenant relationship we sense little purpose in promises and lose motivation to keep them. Within a covenant relationship of love and trust, we understand eternal purposes in our promises and can access the power to keep them.
Contract thinking may be considered as a limited equation:
“Me + more = Christ.”
This two-way promise is transactional. Relationship thinking changes the equation:
“Me + Christ = More.”
A covenant with divinity is transformational.
Christ’s Covenant With His Father
Christ, though without sin, needed to be baptized in order to “fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Nephi in the Book of Mormon wrote,
I would ask of you . . . wherein the Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by water? Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments. (2 Nephi 31:6-7)
Christ was baptized to set an example for us, but also to enter a covenant. He needed a covenant relationship with His Father in order to grow from grace to grace while seeking to fulfill the Father’s will in all things (See Moses 4:2; Luke 22:42).
Christ said to us, “Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do” (2 Nephi 31:12). He was telling us to enter the loving, trusting relationship of sacred covenants—just as He had. He knew such a relationship is essential to our joy now and forever.