Today I have been asked to speak about commitment. To be honest, I had no idea where to start so I polled a few family members and close friends. They all gave their input but I was still left uncertain so I decided to visit LDS.org where I read through multiple talks for different points and ideas. No one idea stood out, but many caught my eye so I would like to cover a few different bases that are all related to being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I would like to start with a story told by Elder F. Burton Howard of The Seventy.
Elder Howard, his wife and son were going to visit family in another state. After making sandwiches and packing the car they prepared a bed in the back seat for their young son so he could rest during the 10-hour drive. After hours in the car they were beginning to get on each other’s nerves. The preschooler never slept and it was soon after sundown with two hours to go. Elder and sister Howard knew if their little boy would only close his eyes and be quiet for a while, he would fall asleep. They decided to play a game in order to get the boy to sleep and they called it hide-and-seek. The boy would close his eyes and wait for them to say “OK” before finding them crouched down in the passenger seat. After a few times they said, “We have a really good place to hide this time. It will take longer. Close your eyes and we will call you.” The parents let five minutes go by as they drove along in silence. Elder Howard said the tranquility was marvelous. They drove another 15 miles before whispering congratulations to each other on the success of the devious game. Then, from out of the backseat, came the sobbing voice of a heartbroken little boy. “You didn’t call me, and you said you would.” Elder and sister Howard never played that game again.
As members of the church, we make commitments. We commit to serve through callings. We commit to share our time and our energy. We commit to mourn with those who mourn and to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. We make commitments and covenants, but sometimes we don’t follow through. But why don’t we follow through?
Maybe there is something we deem as being more important. Maybe we don’t feel qualified or we don’t want to seem over-enthusiastic. Or maybe we just plain don’t feel well so we push it aside for another day, another week or another month. I know I have used each of those justifications at one time or another, but when I stop to think about it, I wonder what it was that I thought could really be more important than keeping true to a commitment that I have made – especially if it is a covenant made with the Lord.
One of the needs of the church is to have people keep their commitments. We need people who will do what it takes, for as long as it takes, to do what they have agreed to do. It will probably take an extra push from ourselves to keep in mind that following through and keeping commitments is important, but the end result will be well worth it. You will find that service brings joy to the soul. You may also find it easier to call on God in a time of need when you know you have been keeping true to your covenants. When you make a commitment be sure you understand what it entails and what is expected. Strive to understand the covenants you have made in the past or that you may make in the future. We are much more able to follow through with commitments that we understand. Remember that the difficult part is not actually making the promise, but in keeping it.
As members of the church we are the covenant people of the Lord. As said by Elder John A. Widtsoe, “Latter-day Saints are called a covenant people, because, under the authority of the priesthood, they have covenanted with God, by baptism and other ordinances, to obey the requirements of the plan of salvation and to give their strength to the spread of righteousness over the world. They are further called a covenant people because they accept the gospel of Abraham, and therefore claim the blessings of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham.” Not only do we accept the gospel of Abraham and claim the blessings promised to him by the Lord, but we also make our own covenants, and we should keep them.
When we are baptized we covenant with Heavenly Father that we will follow his commandments. In return, he will forgive us when we repent, give us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and allow us to return and live with Him forever. Each Sunday at church we are offered a chance to remember Christ and reflect on our own lives. We are also able to renew our baptismal covenants through partaking of the bread and water of the sacrament.
Although baptism is extremely important, it is not the only step to salvation and eternal life. When we are of age we should attend the temple. At the temple we are able to perform sacred ordinances for the dead and to work toward attaining the blessings of eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
Temple marriage is a most important commitment and should always be treated as such. Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Marriage—especially temple marriage—and family ties involve covenant relationships. They cannot be regarded casually. With divorce rates escalating throughout the world today, it is apparent that many spouses are failing to endure to the end of their commitments to each other. . . An enduring marriage results when both husband and wife regard their union as one of the two most important commitments they will ever make.”
It is important to remember that a temple marriage is not just a commitment between husband and wife, but involves a covenant with God as well. If both husband and wife do all that they can to keep Christ close and with one another follow His example, they will be able to continue through mortal life and on to eternal life together. We must learn to emulate Christ and follow His example to help us remember the importance of loving our spouse and our family.
Once we have made our covenants and are well on our way to keeping them, we must strive to endure to the end. Sometimes we feel like the weight of the world is too much, but if we can resist the many temptations of worldly things then we can gain eternal life. Repentance is a key factor when we make a wrong choice. We all must repent at one time or another but it must be done with a pure intent. Simply going through the steps will not suffice. We must truly forsake the sin and feel remorse. Repentance must be done through the Savior. We must humble ourselves and repent when we have done wrong.
Elder F. Burton Howard also said that commitment “involves staying the course, being constant and steadfast. It means keeping the faith and being faithful to the end despite success or failure, doubt or discouragement. It is drawing near to the Lord with all our hearts. It is doing whatever we promise to do with all our might–even when we might not feel like it. . . We will not be safe until we have given our hearts to the Lord–until we have learned to do what we have promised.”
I feel that commitment also requires trust. If we trust in the Lord we can put ourselves in His hands and more easily commit to doing His will. One of my friends from back home wrote this on her blog: “At some time in life, we need to get out of our safe zones. Even if that first step is off a ledge. But don’t worry- it’s better that way. Because you know what the difference between the safe zone and the ledge is? The safe zone has boundaries. You’ll never reach greater heights if you’re afraid to fall.”
Another important thing to remember is that although the responsibility of commitment is ours, the Lord is always there to help and we are not alone. Christ has felt our pains and deepest sorrows, our triumphs and our joys. He can see the light within us even when we cannot see it ourselves. We have been invited to come unto Him – it is never too early and never too late. Strive to be like Him and the better we will become.
I believe these things to be true and I know that we will receive many blessings if we righteously keep our commitments and follow the commandments of God.
Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts with me while I was preparing! Also, thank you to a counselor from the Branch Presidency for letting me know that my talk was inspiring. :)