In our Priesthood Leadership meeting last week, our Stake President spoke to us about the importance of covenants – about making them, keeping them and helping others to make and keep them. President Gordon B Hinckley indicated that many of the problems that we face would be solved if we would just make and keep covenants:
‘I have had the feeling that if we could just encourage our people to live by three or four covenants everything else would take care of itself. …
The first of these is the covenant of the sacrament, in which we take upon ourselves the name of the Savior and agree to keep His commandments with the promise in His covenant that He will bless us with His spirit. …
Second, the covenant of tithing. … The promise … is that He will stay the destroyer and open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them. …
Three, the covenants of the temple: Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the on-rolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality. If our people could only learn to live by these covenants, everything else would take care of itself, I am satisfied.’ (quoted by Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Ensign, May 2001, 61)
I am intrigued by the story of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:
‘And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. 11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. 16 ¶And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: 22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
There are indications in this passage that this was a temple experience for Jacob:
- he describes the place as the house of God and as the gate of heaven
- he calls it Beth-el (House of God) and
- he sanctifies it by anointing it with oil
In Genesis 35 he builds an altar there and receives a new name.
Just like Jacob’s ladder, the temple reaches up and bridges the gap between earth and heaven. Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote in the Ensign in 1971:
“When Jacob traveled from Beersheba toward Haran, he had a dream in which he saw himself on the earth at the foot of a ladder that reached to heaven where the Lord stood above it. He beheld angels ascending and descending thereon, and Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord there were the rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain the promised blessings—blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven and associate with the Lord.’
We are like the angels ascending and descending the ladder in Jacob’s dream: through keeping our covenants we ascend closer to God, when we neglect them we descend the ladder and increase the distance between us and God. Keeping our covenants will bring us closer to God and his promised blessings including the promise that ‘I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.'(Gen 28:15)