Hello Brothers and Sisters! My name is Amanda Knowles and my family and I moved into the ward in early October. We lived in the Pacific Shores ward for over 12 years, but we are happy to now call Beachside home.
Short Introduction: my husband, (Robbie) and I, met at a frozen yogurt shop called, “Yo-Zone” in Provo, Utah. He was only in town for the weekend and I was two weeks away from moving back home to Phoenix. It was meant to be! We had a long-distance relationship for about a year before we were married in the Newport Beach Temple. I love that it is now the temple I visit on a regular basis. I frequently wander into our sealing room to remember that special day. We have 3 beautiful and zestful children: Beau (11), Louie (9), and Anya (4). We are very busy running our fire protection business and attending to all of our children’s activities!
I was asked to speak on the talk, “Drawing Closer to the Savior”, by: Neil L. Anderson. So, the question is: How does making covenants deepen our connection with the Savior in these latter-days? We can do this by strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, safeguarding the Holy Ghost, and choosing to be different from the world.
It should come as no surprise that the First principle and ordinance of the Gospel is Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. It is the very bedrock of our testimonies and stabilizes us as we endure the calamities that come. Elder Anderson reminds us that we are in the days leading up to the Lord’s second coming. He warned us that we live in increasingly perilous times and that the wheat would be grow side by side with the tares (or those who do not love God and do not keep His commandments. We need to hold on to stories of faith and also document our own stories of spiritual strength to lift us up! I am blessed with a rich Mormon Pioneer ancestry. My 3rd great grandfather was William Clayton who was Joseph Smith’s personal secretary and he also wrote “Come, Come, ye Saints.” But today, I would like to share a couple stories from one of my lesser-known relatives, my 3rd Great-Grandpa on my father’s side: Edwin Young Bolton. I found this on “all the stories” (type into google, redirects you to your family search login. Then, it populates all the stories/memories from your family tree). Such an awesome tool and I will happily show all of you how to do it if you want! Ok, so here is Edwin’s story told by his daughter Annie Eliza Bolton Harman:
“My father was such a kind and loving man. He had seen so much hardship and sorrow in his young life that he felt he were very fortunate. He was five years old when his parents were forced to cross the plains, having been driven out by the mobs. The memory of it remained forever in his mind. When so young, he had seen cruelty and blue vitriol hate and wanted only peace and to take care of his family. He never was a violent man and reacted calmly to disaster. So on Christmas Eve, with the fireplace roaring with fresh logs, his family well and healthy and with enough food to feed them, he felt himself a man blessed of God.” I am so proud of this man and his sacrifice and example. He gave so much at such a young age for the cause of Zion. His parents knew the truth and were willing to give all because of their faith in Jesus Christ. I have to share one more pioneer story given by my 2nd great grandma, Annie Eliza Bolton Harman. She had her own trials, living in Granger, Utah in the late 1800s. “When she was 14 she met a boy named Charles Benjamin Harman and two years later they got married. She had 13 children, 39 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren (written in 1939). Unfortunately, 3 of her children died, leaving just 10 children. They had many ups and downs. Just when they were feeling settled into her new home, on January 29 their home burned down in the middle of the winter. With 12 children to feed and clothe. Her youngest daughter was just 5 months old. Other than her two eldest sons, all of them had the flu. All of the family lived at their Grandmother Harman’s for the next short while. Plans were finally under way to build a new home for them. With man power and financial aid of their neighbors, they had a new house in just a short 9 weeks. Then weavels began to destroy their crops. They would get as many as 10-12 stacks of hay at a time. In the great words of Annie Eliza Harman, “It seems that trials have passed by one after the other, but we have survived them all, and indeed we have a great deal to be thankful for…We both feel that our life has been truly useful and happy and we do not regret one moment of it.”
Knowing these stories strengthens my faith as well. It is was gives me more and more zeal to attend the temple. In, “The Power of Covenants” a talk given by D. Todd Christofferson, he stated, “What is the source of such moral and spiritual power, and how do we obtain it? The source is God. Our access to that power is through our covenants with Him. A covenant is an agreement between God and man, an accord whose terms are set by God (see Bible Dictionary, “Covenant,” 651). In these divine agreements, God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments.” I know that we can be given the same spiritual strength as the pioneers if we follow such advice.
Let’s talk about making covenants. They can seem intimidating. It has taken some time, but I am slowly beginning to understand and appreciate the covenants I have made with the Lord.
Elder Anderson stated, “…as we better know and love the Savior, we desire even more to promise Him our allegiance and trust. We make covenants with Him. We begin with our promises at baptism, and we confirm these promises and others as we repent daily, ask for forgiveness, and eagerly anticipate receiving the sacrament each week. We pledge to “always remember him and keep his commandments. When we are ready, we embrace the ordinances and covenants of the temple. Feeling the influence of eternity in our sacred, quiet moments in the house of the Lord, we gladly make covenants with God and strengthen our resolve to keep them.” I love that last part. There really is a sacred peace in the temple. A couple months ago, I attended the temple and had a certain question in mind. It had plagued me for a while. That night, as I offered my nightly prayer, I plead with the Lord more sincerely than I have in a long time. He gave me an answer that was so loving, but also in a way that I knew that he was aware of me. A sacred moment that I immediately wrote in my journal to never, ever forget. I was one of those who was always alluded by those who seemed to receive revelation so effortlessly. Now, I know that it is real and possible. The Lord is waiting on us to calm down and come follow him. I know my Savior loves me.
I feel that as I have visited the temple each week, it has come much more natural to me to see where I error and how to make amends quickly. I think of our progression like a ladder. Once you are stable and steady on one principle, you are ready for the higher law. Come Follow Me this week talked about the move from the Law of Moses to a more celestial law. For example, instead of the commandment, “thou shalt not kill”, Jesus Christ encouraged us to not even be angry. Just last week, I got myself into an argument with our school crossing guard. I misjudged how much space there was for my car and I ended up blocking the crosswalk for a little boy who was trying to cross. The crossing guard, “Barbara”, was upset with me, saying that he can’t cross until I was out of the way. I said, “Sorry!” She then said with her distinct Brooklyn accent, “Jerk!” My short fuse got the best of me and I whipped my head around to find her behind my car as I said, “Excuse me? There’s no need for name-calling! I said I was Sorry!” She then told me to “follow the traffic laws next time.” Then, I picked up my kids, and walked back over to Barbara. I knew what I did was wrong and I had to fix it. Luckily, I had my puppy with me which softened the tension. I immediately apologized to Barbara and agreed with her about how crazy the traffic gets and how I should leave my house with a little more time on my hands. We even hugged and it just felt good to not have that hatred eating away at my heart. I even brought her a big Reese’s heart the next day. Being more aware of my covenants with the Lord made it easier to see my folly with sweet Barbara. Elder Boyd K. Packer once stated, (in his Talk on Covenants), “Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into His presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.
Once we have received them for ourselves and for our families, we are obligated to provide these ordinances vicariously for our kindred dead, indeed for the whole human family.
Now, there are those who scoff at the idea of vicarious ordinances performed for the salvation of souls. They think it all to be very strange.
No thinking Christian should be surprised at such a doctrine. Was not the sacrifice of Christ a vicarious offering for and in behalf of all mankind? The very Atonement was wrought vicariously.
The Lord did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Is it not Christlike for us to perform in the temples ordinances for and in behalf of those who cannot do them for themselves?” I really like this explanation of vicarious temple work. It just makes sense.
In my life, I have had many experiences where I have had to be different from the world in order to safeguard the Gift of the Holy Ghost. You definitely have to be brave, but it is worth it! Our beloved Prophet, President Russel M. Nelson, gave us a prophetic warning, “It will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
Elder Neil L. Anderson shared several examples of these such experiences among young adults:
“Rachel: I am an opera singer, and it’s often taken for granted that I will wear whatever costume I’m given, regardless of modesty. [Because I am endowed,] I told [the producers] that the costume would need to be [modest]. They were unhappy … but reluctantly made the alterations. I wouldn’t trade the peace that comes from standing as a witness of Christ at all times.
Chriss: I’m an alcoholic (in recovery), temple-worthy, member of the Church. I’m not quiet about my experiences with addiction and gaining a testimony of the Atonement [of Jesus Christ].
Adam: A lot of people do not believe me when I say I keep the law of chastity and choose to abstain from pornography. They don’t understand the advantage of joy and peace of mind it gives me.”
What impressive responses from these young adults! I had an experience in middle school where someone was smoking pot in the back of the bus, on the way to school. I didn’t want to smell it and I walked right up to the bus driver to tell her. She put a stop to it and those girls were angry with me, but I stood my ground and I was glad they didn’t beat me up! I know that as we allow our light to shine, we can be instruments in the Lord’s hands for spreading the good news of the gospel throughout the world!
To close, I just want to say that I know that God cannot lie and you will definitely be blessed as you make and keep covenants with Him. I strive to always appreciate my situation in life no matter what comes. I feel so blessed to have made covenants with the Lord that give me Spiritual strength and power. These covenants have reinforced my spirit as I have been sealed to my husband and children. To the point that I would never want to do anything to sacrifice that connection and joy that comes from having an eternal family. No matter how many times I get frustrated with my husband or impatient with my kids. My covenants bind us all together with the Lord and that calms my soul and sustains me. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I know that we can become closer and closer to him as we look at our covenants as precious treasures. Also, as we safeguard the Gift of the Holy Ghost in our lives, we will be guided and strengthened through any sacrifice we must face.