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Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 05:35
by DarkJedi
I'm not sure I actually believe in covenants (LDS definition). I get the great symbolism of things like baptism, and I get that as I show my symbolic willingness to be a follower of Christ I am also putting myself on a symbolic path that may lead to a forgiveness of sin, the promise of heaven, etc. On the other hand, I also see that the atonement is for everybody and I'm not sure that baptism is a requirement to be forgiven of sin (the Bible seems to be a bit contradictory on the issue). I am really, really unsure that there is anything on the other side of the LDS definition - the quid pro quo aspect that if I do this (such as baptism) God will do that. Not that I don't believe God could or would, I'm just not sure he does.

So, thoughts on covenants? Do you believe they are somewhat literal? Is there really an opposite side?

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 06:21
by nibbler
I was looking for some clarification so I might better organize my thoughts. What do you mean by opposite side? I'm assuming that you refer to god's portion of the agreement. Is the dollar still backed by gold? :think: so to speak.

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 06:45
by DarkJedi
Yes, Nibbler, that's what I mean. I'm fine making symbolic commitments to follow Christ or keep the commandments, I'm not sure God does the same on the "other side" of the covenant, and if so, how do we know that He does?

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 07:04
by SunbeltRed
Good post on By Common Consent talking about "binding": ... more-12798

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 08:12
by nibbler
First off, my current perspective is that a covenant should be evaluated by how it affects us in this life. There's no guarantee of an afterlife so how does entering a covenant bless me in the here and now? That statement isn't made out of an impatient demand to receive promised blessings, rather the intent is to be more practical. I'm currently of the attitude that living the gospel and making covenants should make us happy in this life and that same happiness would then organically carry over into an afterlife.

I do not view the gospel in terms of a plan of happiness deferment. I know that for many years sacrificing to live a certain interpretation of the gospel made me miserable but I clung to that interpretation because it promised a happier afterlife. The end result? Scrupulosity and misery. I'm leery of covenants where promised blessings can only be received in the next life. IMO those sorts of covenants open people up to forms of abuse. People can and will take advantage of someone, even if just subconsciously, if a promised reward is postponed to a day where one of the parties can no longer be held accountable. I'm not saying that god could or would do this, but I am saying that these sorts of things can creep in when covenants are passed down and taught by imperfect vessels.

At the same time I fully recognize that the promises of a better afterlife give many people hope in the face of injustice. Life isn't just and those sorts of covenants can help us move on with life without getting hung up on ensuring that justice has been served in every aspect of life. An entire life can be consumed on seeking justice but this world isn't just, it becomes the fools errand. The covenant may be nothing more than a placebo that helps a person get past intense feelings that would otherwise damn their progression. Sin, being wronged, harboring resentment, etc. A person focused on the covenant can look past these because the covenant represents a higher ideal, a focus on the covenant can lift someone above the injustices, their sin, etc.

A covenant primes the pump for having faith. Faith in the covenant gives people hope. Hope may give enough strength to help someone to continue to press forward.


There are very few ordinances that explicitly state what is expected of us and what god promises in return. The sacrament prayers clearly state the expectations of both parties but the words spoken during a baptism do not. All the specifics relating to the expectations of each party in a baptismal covenant are inferred from scripture, revelation, policy, etc. That seems to be par for the course though, some degree of separation, however great or small, from the ordinance itself and the promises. The promises associated with the sacrament are for this life and are fairly simplistic/open to interpretation on both ends.

Interesting question. You may have broke my brain with that one. I'll end my ramblings and look for understanding in other people's responses.

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 10:56
by Roadrunner
DarkJedi wrote:So, thoughts on covenants? Do you believe they are somewhat literal? Is there really an opposite side?
Hi DJ - for me covenants are symbolic and I cannot count on any material or literal blessings in this life other than the natural ramifications of living an LDS lifestyle (e.g. no alcohol, fewer sex partners, etc). I like a lot of what Nibbler says on the subject and I can't really reconcile his comments with mine. My own experience is that our Heavenly Father doesn't interfere with our lives in any way. Based on my observations, the blessings in my life come from good decisions and good luck, not from adhering to covenants.

Since the logical side of my brain tells me there is no afterlife I do not believe there is any other side to the equation. If I'm wrong about that - which I hope I am - I think that's when we'll reap blessings from keeping our covenants. If I had to summarize Heavenly Father's side of the covenants it's that I'll have eternal life. By definition I won't know if it's "real" that until after I'm dead.

Perhaps we can coin a new phrase - Shrodinger's covenant. We don't know if there are actual covenants until we're dead and we open the box.

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 11:43
by SunbeltRed
Roadrunner wrote:
Perhaps we can coin a new phrase - Shrodinger's covenant. We don't know if there are actual covenants until we're dead and we open the box.

Hah! You would think after all the Big Bang Theory episodes I have watched with Sheldon blabbering on about Shrodinger's cat I would have gotten that right away...but no. I had to go look it up. By the way, I prefer Sheldon's explanation, much easier to understand than the Wikipedia page. :smile:

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 14:08
by Curt Sunshine
I love the concept and principle of covenants - mostly because I love the concept and principle of promising to strive to live according to the dictates of our consciences. I don't invest anything in the literal actions associated with covenants, but I believe in symbolism passionately.

I really do believe people are blessed when they try to live that way; I just don't put any specific parameters on what that means. It helps, however, that I see the objective of life as growth and development (as being and becoming) and NOT as measurable, tangible rewards.

Re: Covenants

Posted: 02 Sep 2014, 14:20
by Forgotten_Charity
Hi DJ. This is an area the really lacks in understanding and teaching. So much so that the eldest and most TBM in my family tree refused to make any more promises to anyone once they reached old age(around 55-60 or so). The reason is they had made so many promises they were determined but could not ultimately keep in the church, they refused to make any more, even for something as simple as "can I visit you next year?" They knew and learned the hard way what things in this article point out and as such vowed not to make any more. Given the lessons I hear in the manual and at GC I would say that would be wiser position to take (less destructive)then what I hear being taught from the lesson manual and GC. However promises of intent are better(less destructive) then none as this article outlines. But if I had to choose between what I read in the manual and GC And my grandmothers and great great aunt position then I would choose their wise well learned experience rather then what I was taught in church. Ultimately being human makes us incapable if long term absolute promises, because the irony is in order to keep them and be all binding we would have had to know fully all the situations that might evolve surrounding it in the future and be aware if all our feelings with them(something rather impossible given who we are in our present state). However intent and good will to keep good intents and acts of love toward one another is crucial to growing. Just remember that those who make promises even to us(ourselves) may and probably will at one point have circumstances; beyond their control that make them unable or at much to great a sacrifice for them to ultimately carry out. Asking them to forfill it anyway is not an act of love or charity, it's an act of selfishness and ego or pride.
I like this article because it bears forth a real genuine truth to the elephant I'm the room that is ignored or tried to make look false that we all should be engaging in when we make promises or are excepting or asking them of others and the positions we sometimes put ourselves and others in when asking that they forfill them even at the great cost and sacrifice to them or us. Let us be more open and honest and candid about the real realities of promises. Both with ourselves and others.
By Melissa Ritter, Ph.D.

Keeping promises is considered a measure of one’s worth—we prize being “as good as our word.” Yet each of us has struggled to keep some of our promises, often feeling like failures when we've been unable to do so.

Why is it sometimes hard to keep a promise?

Promises are avowals of intent, large and small, that mark a wide range of interpersonal events—from marriage to specific behavior toward another person to the completion of tasks at home or at work. Promises require us to declare a conscious objective: We will love our partner for life. We will never do the thing the other person does not want us to do (or always do the thing they want us to do). We will get the job done.

But people have so many out-of-awareness thoughts and feelings, we may not “know” of our unconscious ambivalence about a stated commitment.

There are a number of commonly understood reasons promises are broken, including that our feelings, capacity, or circumstances have changed over time. The fading of romantic love for one’s partner is emblematic of this—what once was is no more. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the birth of a child, falling in love, and developing illness, to list but a few, are all events that can shift our feelings and consequent behavior—often monumentally. We may no longer have the capability or willingness to keep a specific promise, or it may no longer benefit those concerned to do so.

Deeper Causes

Less obvious are the internal conflicts that are out of our awareness at the time a promise is made. Take the forever promise, as in, “I will love you forever,” “I will be your friend forever,” or “I will stay with you forever.” Most of us have said something like this to at least one person in our lives. And most of us meant it sincerely when we said it. At least we consciously believed we did.

However, only a fraction of our thoughts and feelings are in our awareness at any moment, and we often focus exclusively on those feelings that are most favorable and least threatening to our sense of well being. So, we know we want the other person in our lives forever, but we might not be aware of concurrent feelings of doubt, fear and anger. Or we might have some vague uncertainty hovering at the edges of awareness—Hmmmm, maybe I am not so sure—but we don’t attend to this feeling, because we imagine it would put our connection to the other in jeopardy.

People are psychologically organized to protect against emotional distress by keeping unsettling thoughts and feelings out of mind. We don’t want to acknowledge that our romantic partnership requires strained compromise, or that our unhappiness at work is interfering with our job performance.

How It Plays Out

We are reluctant to face painful realities.

A young man in my practice lamented the end of a long-term relationship with his partner. They had lived together for many years—forever had been promised—and the breakup was extremely distressing for them both. “I loved him, I really did,” he said tearfully, “but I sort of always knew…it wasn’t as deep and enlivening as I wanted.”

From very early in this romantic relationship, my patient felt contradictory emotions simultaneously: He loved his partner, while also hazily sensing dissatisfaction and despair, feelings that did not draw his conscious attention—after all, he and his partner did make a cozy and gratifying life together.

To acknowledge significant negative feelings was frightening to my patient. He did not want to lose the relationship, but was also dimly aware of irritation, boredom, and loneliness. As this conflict entered his conscious awareness, he was able to explore—with relief, as well as anxiety—previously unrecognized feelings. He emerged sad, but also hopeful.

The same phenomenon can interfere with keeping less significant promises as well, like promising to complete a task by a certain deadline. When you say, “I will have it to you by next week! No problem!” your conscious intent to do the job on time is wholehearted—you are going to do what you said you’d do. You want to.

But, hold on: Maybe you unconsciously resent having to do the task, or are worried you won’t do it well enough, or regret choices that led to this unwelcome demand on your time. And so, somehow, the work doesn’t get completed because a part of you never wanted to promise you’d do it in the first place.

Should We Ever Promise?

Trying as best one can to keep promises is crucial. These interpersonal contracts facilitate trust and love. But since so much is out of our awareness, are we all doomed to keep making promises we cannot keep?

Well, yes.

People will always struggle against themselves. We disregard human complexity when we harshly criticize others—and ourselves—for "failing" to feel and behave exactly as promised.

But we can make a concerted effort to know ourselves better, to attend to that which we might prefer to ignore. Then, when we make a promise, we can be alert to the possibility of having contradictory feelings. This is one goal of psychoanalytic therapy: to bring out-of-awareness thoughts and feelings into our conscious minds. But, of course, one needn’t enter therapy to look inward with friendly determined curiosity before making a promise.
Sometimes we make huge sacrifices to accomplish certain things. But such pain of sacrifices have no right to be asked of or persuaded by others. Only with a intent to help ourselves or others with the knowledge things may go worse then anticipated or cause more suffering then is permissible even to ourselves. Like wise a golden rule is to never make promises that require long term depression or pain to an exchange for a far off promise. No human could ethically ever be held accountable for that(that's just far to selfish for anyone to ask). It's about helping others but with reasonable expectations of ourselves and others in the process.

Re: Covenants

Posted: 06 Sep 2014, 03:34
by Cadence
I just wake up each day and try to do my best. Layering abstract covenants on top just makes my life more difficult. I am gravitating toward a minimalist approach to life. Shedding those things that at worst bog me down and at best provide little value