Today, I’m studying Children of the Covenant, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1995 General Conference.
Before I write anything else, I have to quickly mention – this is the first talk that I actually remember! I didn’t remember everything, obviously. I only remembered the “inoculation” and “indoctrination” portion. And I also know that there will be future talks that I don’t remember that well, but it was exciting to read one that made a real impression on me.
A little bit of background – President Nelson opened this talk by telling how both his daughter and the prophet at the time (Howard W. Hunter) had died within three days of each other. His daughter was only 37 years old, and a mother of five. I can imagine it would have been a difficult time for him and for his family. President Nelson stated:
“Emily and President Hunter had no fear of death. They had made and honored sacred covenants with the Lord, and they knew that his covenants to them will be kept with equal fidelity. They lived nobly as “children of the covenant.” – Russell M. Nelson
We can contrast their lack of fear concerning death with another group we read of in The Book of Mormon:
“And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.” – Mormon 6:7
We need not be crippled with fear as the Nephites were. If we will simply live righteous lives, as children of the covenant, then we can trust in the promises of the Lord – that even extend beyond this mortal life.
Inoculation and Indoctrination
President Nelson teaches us about inoculation:
“One medical method by which acquired immunity is conferred is inoculation. The term inoculate is fascinating. It comes from two Latin roots: in, meaning “within”; and oculus, meaning “an eye.” The verb to inoculate, therefore, literally means “to put an eye within”—to monitor against harm.” – Russell M. Nelson
Because of vaccines and inoculations, we can be protected from diseases that used to ravage communities and kill children. These inoculations may protect us from physical harm, but they don’t protect us from spiritual harm. Instead, we learn from President Nelson:
“Doctors cannot immunize against iniquity. Spiritual protection comes only from the Lord—and in his own way. Jesus chooses not to inoculate, but to indoctrinate. His method employs no vaccine; it utilizes the teaching of divine doctrine—a governing “eye within”—to protect the eternal spirits of his children.” – Russell M. Nelson
It seems like the word indoctrination has a bit of a bad connotation. The definition of indoctrinate is to instruct, especially in fundamentals or rudiments; or to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or opinion. (See Merriam Webster Dictionary: Indoctrinate.)
The definition, itself isn’t terrible, but the connotation in our culture is.
However, President Nelson doesn’t mean “indoctrination” in a brainwashing sort of way. He means to compare it to inoculation. Through indoctrination, from the Savior, the Lord will give us an “eye within” to protect our spirits.
President Nelson taught:
“In so teaching, Jesus often established his own identity, then the identity of his followers.” – Russell M. Nelson
Before we can understand Christ’s doctrine and then have it within us, we need to understand who He is and who we are.
The Savior Himself, when teaching the Nephites in Ancient America, stated:
“I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” – 3 Nephi 20:31
He wasn’t just some dude. Jesus Christ testified of Himself. He was the Messiah. He was the Son of God. This establishes His authority and ability to indoctrinate.
When we receive inoculations, we receive them from doctors, they are administered by nurses who are certified to give such inoculations. Not only that, but the vaccines themselves have brands and names – they are trusted sources. We aren’t just receiving a mystery vial of potion from a dude on the street.
The Savior establishes His identity. Then, He gives us our identity – in relationship to Him. Again, from the account in the Book of Mormon:
“And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
26 The Father having raised me up unto you first, and sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant—” – 3 Nephi 20:25-26
Here, we learn that we are children of the prophets, of the House of Israel. We learn that we are children of the Covenant. But what does that mean?
Well, we have to understand what “the covenant” is.
The Abrahamic Covenant
You can read the talk by President Nelson to better understand the Abrahamic covenant, but in short – the Abrahamic Covenant is the promise that God made to Abraham. One way to easily remember the basics of the Abrahamic Covenant is 3 P’s:
- Priesthood –
- Certain Lands would be inherited. – Russell M. Nelson
This covenant existed not only anciently, but also exists now. President Nelson taught:
“We are also children of the covenant. We have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are our ancestors. We are of Israel. We have the right to receive the gospel, blessings of the priesthood, and eternal life. Nations of the earth will be blessed by our efforts and by the labors of our posterity. The literal seed of Abraham and those who are gathered into his family by adoption receive these promised blessings—predicated upon acceptance of the Lord and obedience to his commandments.” – Russell M. Nelson
The Doctrine of Christ
President Nelson stated:
“Indeed, the Lord has not forgotten us. And to ensure that we do not forget him, children of the covenant receive His doctrine and claim it by covenant.” – Russell M. Nelson
Okay…so here I will divert a little bit from the talk. President Nelson continues to teach about the New and Everlasting Covenant, which is really cool. However, what does he mean when he says that children of the covenant receive His doctrine and claim it by covenant”? What is His doctrine?
We can find Christ’s doctrine in the scriptures.
The Doctrine of Christ:
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.
34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.” – 3 Nephi 11:31-34
So – the first points of the Doctrine of Christ are repent and believe in Christ. (If you’re like me, then you might ask, why? Why do we need to repent? Well, we can find that answer in the scriptures, too. 2 Nephi 2 is a great place to start. You can also read this post to read more on why we need an Atonement).
Anyway, Point One – Repent. Point Two – Believe in Christ.
And then Point Three – Be Baptized.
The Savior continues to teach more on His doctrine:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.” – 3 Nephi 11:35
So – an earlier point is repeated – to Believe in Christ. Which leads to another point: Point Two-A Believe in Christ, and then we will also Believe in the Father.
And then, when we show this belief – through repentance and then the covenant of baptism, the Lord will bless us. Which is…Point Four – We will be visited with Fire and the Holy Ghost.
The Savior then reiterates His entire doctrine:
“And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and becomeas a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.” – 3 Nephi 11:37-39
When we let this doctrine become a part of who we are – then the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. Sounds a lot like the idea of inoculation, doesn’t it?! We won’t tremble and fear the death that awaits the wicked. We won’t be ravaged and spiritually paralyzed by sin. Instead, through the doctrine of Christ, we will be protected and saved.
The New and Everlasting Covenant
President Nelson quoted Brigham Young:
All Latter-day Saints enter the new and everlasting covenant when they enter this Church. … They enter the new and everlasting covenant to sustain the Kingdom of God and no other kingdom.” – Brigham Young, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson
What is the New and Everlasting Covenant? Well, it includes all covenants that we make:
- The Sacrament – which, by the way, is a repeated ordinance!
- The Covenants of the Priesthood
- The Endowment
- Temple Marriage
President Nelson explained:
“Rewards for obedience to the commandments are almost beyond mortal comprehension. Here, children of the covenant become a strain of sin-resistant souls.” – Russell M. Nelson
So…before I go on, I keep thinking about a concept. Just because we are children of the covenant doesn’t mean that we then have nothing to worry about. Just because we accept Christ’s doctrine doesn’t mean that then we can do whatever we want, carte blanche – because of our lineage. Nephi taught:
“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” – 2 Nephi 31:19-20
I suppose we could add one more part to the doctrine of Christ: Part Five – Endure, faithfully, to the end.
I’m reminded of the Savior and the Pharisees. They came to His baptism, and then the Savior rebuked them. They needed to bring forth “fruit meet for repentance.” He could discern their thoughts, and He stated:
“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” – Matthew 3:9
Just because we are children of the covenant does not mean that we will automatically, without effort, inherit eternal life. We have to remember – a covenant is a two-way promise. Just as man will be punished for his own sins, and not Adam’s transgression, we will be blessed for our own obedience, and not Abraham’s.
This has been on my mind a lot lately. I have been studying Lehi’s Dream lately – especially The Pride of the World that was represented by the great and spacious building. (You can read about it here on my Book of Mormon Blog). The thing I find striking is what the Angel said to Nephi: yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (See 1 Nephi 11:35.)
Covenant Israel fought against the Savior and the apostles of the Lamb! They will not be protected by their covenants if they go against them. Neither will we. We can’t commit atrocious sin, and then say, “Well, it’s okay – we come from good, pioneer stock.” Because it isn’t okay! When we go against our covenants, we are condemned. It would be better if we never made them than if we break them.
So – yes – being “children of the covenant” can inoculate us from the ravages of wickedness and sin, but only if we really integrate the covenant within our hearts and our minds.
Unity Among Children of The Covenant
The Savior taught the Nephites:
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29
This is the doctrine of the devil: strife, contention, anger. Christ’s doctrine will, instead, lead to unity and love. In fact, we read of the Nephites who accepted Christ’s doctrine after He taught it to them:
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happierpeople among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-17
Not only can becoming children of the covenant give us future happiness – after this mortal life, but if we are living up to our covenants, then we can experience happiness now. Unity with others – all of the children of God, and not only “children of the covenant” will help to establish peace and happiness in our homes, communities, countries, and even the entire world.
Okay…I feel like this is a long post, and it is probably pretty boring. I really liked this talk – mostly because I like understanding how the gospel can work in our lives. I know that if we covenant with the Lord in the way that He has taught us, then we can be protected from the ailments of sin. I know that if we covenant with the Lord and then live up to the covenants we make, then we will be happy.
I’m also grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the covenant – the doctrine of Christ. I’m grateful to know that this knowledge has given him hope even in difficult times. I’m also grateful to know that this knowledge has helped President Nelson to understand that we ought to love one another. He is a peacemaker. His words promote love, understanding, and Christ-like behavior. I’m grateful to be led by a prophet who has been prepared for his current calling.