This talk was given at the 2019 stake women's conference.
By Tiffany McMinn
Just one year ago, in his first public message after being called as the new prophet, President Nelson stated that his new presidency wanted “to begin with the end in mind” as they met with media in the annex of the Salt Lake Temple. There, President Nelson said if we were “faithful to covenants made in a temple [it will] qualify us for the greatest gift of God—that of eternal life.”
In this broadcast, and specifically directing the last part of his address to “each member of the Church,” President Nelson used the phrase “covenant path” three times in three different ways:
1-Keep on the covenant path
2-stay on the covenant path
3-return to the covenant path
stated, “The power to be found in making sacred covenants was reflected in President Nelson’s address when he uttered what, since then, is already becoming something of a catchphrase around the church: ‘Keep on the covenant path.’”
Now that it has been a year, and with so many changes, do you feel like this meme on the left?
I think we could add a number 4 to the list from President Nelson: “Keep up with President Nelson on the covenant path.”
Obviously, being on the covenant path is something our dear prophet feels we need to be reminded of. I noticed this past October conference the phrase “covenant path” was being repeated over and over again. I looked it up and found that the phrase “covenant path” was used 28 times.
Sisters, making and keeping covenants puts us on the path that will lead us back to our Heavenly Father. As we make covenants, and as we honor those covenants, we are given the power and strength we need to get through this life. Our covenants allow us to keep repenting and changing in order to become more like our Savior. They qualify us for the blessings of eternal life. The covenant path is the only path that will lead us back to our Heavenly Father.
Elder Christofferson said: “If one believes that all roads lead to heaven or that there are no particular requirements for salvation, he or she will see no need for proclaiming the gospel or for ordinances and covenants in redeeming either the living or the dead. But we speak not just of immortality but also of eternal life, and for that the gospel path and gospel covenants are essential.”
We felt guided when preparing for this women’s conference to focus our theme on the importance of being on the covenant path. And after collaborating with our amazing women’s conference chairs and presidency more, we felt we needed to make it “Rejoicing on the Covenant Path.”
Today, can I add one more word? Remember. Remember to rejoice in our covenants and on the covenant path. President Nelson said, “Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives.” Can it be hard sometimes to remember to rejoice? I think sometimes we forget what we have.
Some days the pile of laundry I’m sorting through blocks my view of this path and I forget to rejoice. Some days I get caught up on the repeated mistakes I make, and I just don’t feel like rejoicing. And there are days when I forget to rejoice because I feel burdened with my trials or burdened with the trials of people that I love.
It does make me feel better to know that even the prophet Nephi himself had to remember to rejoice on the covenant path. 2 Nephi chapter 4 is the Psalm of Nephi—a very beautiful group of verses in the Book of Mormon. The Psalm of Nephi has been referred to as “the plight and joy of our earthly existence.”
It’s a psalm for all of us. We can insert ourselves in it. It could be titled the Psalm of Tiffany or the Psalm of Shauna.
Nephi begins, “O wretched man that I am.” The definition of wretched is a person in a very unhappy or unfortunate state. In this psalm, Nephi expresses his desire to rejoice. He recognizes that he should be happy. His father had taught that “Men are, that they might have joy.”
Think about Nephi—he was uprooted from his home to spend eight years in the desert, enduring adversity of all kinds, including life-threatening torment at the hands of his older brothers. Then he completes a perilous sea journey to a strange new land where every manner of challenge has to be met. Now his dad, the spiritual anchor of his family, has just passed away, and his older brothers begin another aggressive assault against him.
In verse 19 he says, “When I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins, nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”
Do we forget to trust in our Savior? Do we need to remember that he can change us? Nephi then remembers and lists everything the Lord has done for him—He’s filled him with his love, confounded his enemies, He’s heard his cries and given him knowledge at night, angels have ministered to him, his eyes have beheld great things… Sometimes I think we have to remind ourselves everything the Lord has done for us—and is still doing for us.
In verse 26 he goes on: “Oh then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?"
Verse 27: “And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yeah, why should I give way to temptation, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?” Here he is talking himself through this.
And then comes my favorite part with these famous lines, in verse 28. “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.”
Verse 29: “Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.” We can’t slacken in our covenants when things get hard—that’s the times when we need to remember—remember to honor those promises and rely on them more than ever.
Lastly, in verse 30 we read, “Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.”
Rejoice is a verb. It’s an action word—it takes effort on our part. Nephi had to desire to rejoice. He had to remember all the amazing things the Lord had done for him, even in the midst of his trials. He had to remember to trust in the plan and in the promises of his covenants. And he had to remember what he had on the covenant path.
Sisters, there will be days when we will have to desire to rejoice. Sometimes that will involve us having to remember all the things the Lord has done for us. Sometimes it will involve us having to remember to trust in the plan and the promises of our covenants. And sometimes it will have to involve us remembering the power and strength we are promised to receive on the covenant path. I know that sometimes that power and strength will come through others.
For example, just a few Sundays ago, I was attending a Relief Society meeting in a ward where a sister got up to lead the discussion and began by tearfully sharing the frustration of trying to get her two youngest children to come to church with her on a previous Sunday. She asked the question of how much should she push? She shared the struggle of the rest of her family at home (including her husband) who wouldn’t attend anymore.
With great sadness, she shared how they used to be “that family” that all sat on the bench together every week. And now, there were times when she’d rather listen in the mother's room for sacrament meeting than painfully sit in the chapel without all of her family.
As she was speaking, I noticed our stake women’s conference poster behind her on the bulletin board with our theme “Rejoicing on the Covenant Path” in beautifully big letters—pressing into my mind. I was heartbroken for her and her hard situation. I thought to myself, “She is on the covenant path pressing forward all alone.” I wondered, “How can she rejoice?”
I then began to listen to all the other sisters in the room make comments, give advice and insight, and truly buoy her (and me) up with their impressions and shared experiences and testimonies. The Spirit was strong, and I soon began to remember that she wasn’t alone. She had these amazing women from her ward supporting her, while she patiently waits for her other family members to return to the path.
As we gather as sisters today, look around you and remember that we are never alone on the covenant path. And knowing that we’re not alone gives us reason to rejoice. Just as this painting depicts, we are lambs on the path together with our Savior at the head leading us.
There are individuals we can see, and I believe individuals we can’t see, walking with us and helping us along our way. President Nelson said, “My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”
He continued, “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him.”
Today (and going forward) my prayer is that we can do that—that we can rejoice in our covenants and being on the covenant path. As we hear and as we share—that we can recognize and remember what we have!
I know as we desire to rejoice we will be filled with the peace “that passeth all understanding.” The peace that comes only in and through Jesus Christ. He truly is our Savior. I have felt His love and (just like Nephi) I rejoice in Him.