Good morning I am grateful to be here! I'm not exactly the best public speaker but I am going to do my best! I just pray that the Holy Ghost can be here to be the true teacher and that he may testify of the words I have to say.
The word often translated as “testament” in the New Testament means “covenant” (see, for instance, Matthew 26:28). When covenants are spoken of in the New Testament, they are often mentioned particularly in relation to the old covenant (kept through the law of Moses) that was done away and the new covenant that was established through Jesus Christ in the meridian of time (see Hebrews 8–10). The Restoration of the gospel is the reestablishment of the new and everlasting covenant and helps us see how the concept of covenants permeates all of the Savior’s teachings and is central to our understanding of discipleship.
But first, what is a covenant? According to the reference guide "True to the Faith"
"A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience.
All the saving ordinances of the priesthood are accompanied by covenants. For example, you made a covenant when you were baptized, and you renew that covenant each time you partake of the sacrament (see Mosiah 18:8–10; D&C 20:37, 77, 79). If you have received the Melchizedek Priesthood, you have entered into the oath and covenant of the priesthood (see D&C 84:33–44). The temple endowment and the sealing ordinance also include sacred covenants."
When Jesus Christ was on the earth he established a higher law. He taught us principles such as "Love thy neighbour and thy enemy," "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart," and "he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." He suffered in the garden of gethsemene and felt every pain of this world. He died on the cross and voluntarily gave up his life as the only perfect person to walk the earth, even the Lamb of God. Thus fulfilling the law of Moses and the old covenant.
Unfortunately after the death and resurrection of Christ there was a falling away. Those whom Christ ordained to be apostles and teachers were either killed, banished, or died off. The fullness of Christs gospel was no longer on the earth because the priesthood authority was not to be found. The authority Christ gave his apostles to preach, teach, and baptize was gone. And thus began the beginning of the great apostasy. Many churches were created looking for the truth. Many good people desired to follow God. But without the priesthood authority the fullness of the gospel was not to be found.
In the spring of 1820, in upstate New York a young man 14 years of age had a question. His family was religious. They read the bible and were good people. They even attended churches most weeks. His question was which of all these churches was right?! With the many church's around surely there was a church that was the correct one. As he was reading in the bible one night for guidance he was reading in the book of James chapter one verse 5 which says,
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
He followed the counsel of James and early in the spring of that year in 1820 he went out into a grove of trees not far from his home and said a prayer. He received a marvellous vision that he wrote down later in his own words. He said
"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. … When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet. Later he would be given the priesthood authority by heavenly messengers and thus restoring the fullness of the everlasting gospel on the earth.
Bare testimony on the prophet Joseph smith.
Because of this restoration all of the ordinances of the gospel were also restored in its fullness such as baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament. And along with these ordinances came sacred covenants. Covenants that had been lost for hundreds of years.
As I have been studying about covenants this week I have felt an extreme appreciation for the Sacrament. A chance we have every week to not only renew our baptismal covenants, but all covenants we have made with God. I found this teaching by Elder Delbert L. Stapley who was quoted by Elder Perry in 2006
“The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a covenant between God and his people. … When baptized by an authorized servant of God, we covenant to do God’s will and to obey his commandments. … By partaking of the Sacrament we renew all covenants entered into with the Lord and pledge ourselves to take upon us the name of his Son, to always remember him and keep his commandments” closed quote
I am so grateful for the opportunity I have each week to renew my covenants with God. I cannot imagine my life without these sacred covenants. But in order for us to even come close to these blessings we need to take the first step. We need to be baptized by one having priesthood authority. Without taking the first step by being baptized all of these amazing blessings are unavailable. Baptism is the gate. Nephi teaches us
"For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost."
Baptism is the beginning of discipleship and the first step in making sacred covenants with god. After baptism we make more covenants and learn how to keep them.
The Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5–7 is a good example of how the Restoration places the Savior’s teachings in a covenant context. When the resurrected Jesus Christ appeared to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 11), He called twelve disciples and gave them authority to baptize; taught the people His doctrine; told them the purpose of His doctrine; and then delivered a sermon nearly identical to the Sermon on the Mount (see 3 Nephi 12–14). Significantly, though, He introduced that sermon with these words:
“Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen … ; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost. …
“… Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins” (3 Nephi 12:1–2; see also Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 5:3–4).
This introduction suggests that the sermon that follows is for disciples--those who have made a covenant through baptism and have received certain promises. The remainder of this sermon, then, rather than simply being seen as good moral or ethical teachings, can be seen in the context of covenant making. It shows us the requirements and the promises associated with entering into these covenants.
For instance, when the Savior says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me,” and “Blessed are the meek” (3 Nephi 12:3, 5), He is telling us what is required of us and what we will receive as a result of entering into the baptismal covenant. As we learn in Moroni 8:26, “Remission of sins [through baptism] bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost.” We are “blessed” when we receive the Holy Ghost, which is one of the greatest gifts we can receive in this life and comes as a result of making and keeping covenants.
“Blessed are all they that mourn” (3 Nephi 12:4) reminds us that we must feel sorrow for our sins and repent and that part of the baptismal covenant is to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9). We are told that those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness … shall be filled with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 12:6; emphasis added).That last phrase is added in the sermon to the Nephites, emphasizing again the result of keeping the baptismal covenant.
So, rather than its simply being a catalog of ethical teachings or a list of things a good Christian should do, this sermon becomes for us a description of covenant discipleship, a covenant that can lead us to move beyond our initial following of the Savior to becoming like Him.