The Covenant of Obedience

Today’s Sunday School lesson is taken in part from Mosiah 5, which contains a very powerful principle. We have UnBlogged recently about being Born Again, and the grand blessings that flow from that process and event in our lives.

King Benjamin’s people were assembled to hear his parting address and to learn who their new king would be. Good King Benjamin taught them how to become Born Again, and how to retain a remission of their sins. This was his gift to them in the twilight years of his ministry.

He taught them in Mosiah 3:19 to “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” and put off the natural man and become a Saint through the atonement of Christ. This is our task, our labor and our cross to bear in this journey – to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. We have discussed how to do so in numerous UnBlog articles. It is an act of hearing the Holy Spirit, and then yielding our will to the will of Christ. Most often it is in small things – saying family prayers, studying the scriptures, saying you’re sorry. It is in these multitudes of small obediences to God that we “put off the natural man”. Moroni said that we must “deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength.” (Moroni 10:32) We can only do this because the Holy Spirit speaks to our souls defining the path, showing us wherein we should “deny yourselves”.

When we do obey, then we have put off the natural man (Mosiah 3:19) because we have denied him. When someone “puts off” an appointment, we delay it. When you put off a bothersome person, you distance yourself from them, but you don’t eliminate them. Putting off the natural man distances ourselves, it doesn’t conquer or even change the nature of our natural man and his/her weaknesses. We are not able of ourselves to conquer the natural man.

What happens next is that in these repeated acts of obedience we trigger the Grace of Christ. He begins to change us, to change our natural man so that the thing which we “put off” becomes less a part of our “nature”. Moroni described it as, “then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.” (Moroni 10:32) We become perfect “in Christ” because Christ changes us. He uplifts and empowers us, so that as long as His Grace stands between us and our own “nature” we are perfect. King Benjamin taught that when we “yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” that we “become as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)

Then comes the part that so many miss or overlook: King Benjamin’s people, having experienced this “exceeding great joy” were then willing to enter into a covenant to obey God all the remainder of their days.  This covenant is an echo of things done in holy places, and is part of the grand process. We cannot expect to reap the great blessings we see before us without ourselves making this same covenant.

“We are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days.” (Mosiah 5:5)

King Benjamin responded “The covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made, ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:6-7)

Notice that the language is “because of the covenant”. In other words, the covenant of obedience caused the Grace of Christ, through the Atonement, to take away their sins, to begin the Mighty Change. They became in that moment the spiritual offspring of Christ, his sons and his daughters.  They were changed, powerfully and suddenly to become “as little children” and were thereafter “perfect in Christ”.

To personally make such a covenant requires a long walk of obedience, and a continual sampling of the fruits of that obedience, until they become most delicious to us. In time we realize that every act of obedience brings us joy, even “exceedingly great joy” (Mosiah 5:4). The truth distills upon the soul that every happiness and blessing we seek comes this way. Then, it becomes a natural, spiritual evolution to want to be obedient “all the remainder of our days” to claim these sweet fruits all the remainder of our days. It then becomes our desire to make a solemn, inspired and Holy Ghost-directed, eternity-long covenant, to obey Him forever. This is the moment of spiritual lightening, the white-hot pivot point of salvation.

Such a covenant is not arrived at by mental discipline, or by a Zen-like commitment to self-denial. It is not an act of discipleship or of discipline. It is an inspired (meaning you are at that moment inspired of God) to make this covenant of prophetic truth. “I will obey” is then recorded in the heavens, and becomes the defining truth of the remainder of our lives.

Brother John

© April 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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10 Responses to The Covenant of Obedience

  1. Rusty says:

    Thank you, Rob, for sharing your experience. That was beautiful! Since I started listening to Brother John’s firesides and reading his books, I have noticed that all the things he is teaching have been taught by the Brethren in gen. conference or BYU devotionals or in the Ensign for a very long time. I’m picking up on it all the time now that I “get it”. Why was I so blind before?

    Thank you, John, for sharing what you have. What a blessing it is in so many lives! Learning to obey the whisperings of the Spirit, submitting our wills to the Lord and thirsting and hungering for righteousness and Zion make everything different. As Rob was saying – it’s the difference between obeying because I “should” and obeying because I really WANT to. It makes all the difference in the world and it is through the grace of our Lord that this change comes about. What a miracle!


  2. Rob says:

    I think this post brings up a vital and maybe the most important event in our life, ” He begins to change us, to change our natural man so that the thing which we “put off” becomes less a part of our “nature”. Moroni described it as, “then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.” (Moroni 10:32) We become perfect “in Christ” because Christ changes us.”

    What I just quoted above from this post is the key. So how do we bring about that change? By opening our hearts, by asking and desiring for God to make our will His, to change our desires to become His desires.

    This didn’t occur to me until recently, when it happened to me. I had been praying and pleading for my desires to change, to be One with God’s. Finally it happened. I didn’t notice it immediately when it happened, in some exact moment as Clarice asked. But something happened one day when I was at the mall. For someone reason, I had no desire to go into any store, to window shop even be there. There was absolutely no desire in me for it. Then it hit me and I raced through different areas of my life and so many desires of mine that had been about Babylon were gone. The activities that consumed my life, were no longer flavorful or attractive, just empty. Just non-existent. And I had all these new hungers, desires, but so strong, they consumed me. These hungers were towards others, helping them. It had been going on for a few weeks (obviously a result of much earlier experiences) but when I recognized it, it was awesome. I no longer turned away the homeless, nor did I throw some money at them. I ended up hanging out with them, having long conversations and becoming friends. I looked back and saw this and other changes. But the connection between obedience and offering up our desires, which one creates Oneness happened later. I started recognizing that for the first time in years, I was consuming the scriptures daily. Not out of habit, goals or because I was supposed/should. I was so interested and hungered for them. My conversations changed with my family, coworkers and friends. The real change, the change Christ taught had occurred. This is nothing of me, God did everything, I had no power of my own, only He could change my desires. This is only what happened when I turned everything over to God. He is awesome.

    There is a huge difference in the way we arrive at Oneness with God. The route of complete obedience to Him and that which Christ has always taught. I used to think they were the same. The strict rule making Jehovah, is Christ, but somehow it never made sense to me why the two seemed to be different people. The Jehovah was the ancient Israelite God, who gave them countless commandments to obey. This was their view, they put their interpretation onto God. We all do, and we’ve learned a lot of it from them. The problem is that they looked at everything in a carnal, physical way, outward way, not Spiritual. Which is the big contrast as Jesus was about our inner desires, our spirits, our thoughts (which of course produced physical results and interactions). I could be way off, but the way it reconciles is that Israel misinterpreted everything as outward, instead of inward. God said to be circumcised, so they chopped off their foreskin. That really doesn’t change your eternal nature, which is the only thing long enough. Ya, it was a reminder to them, but why need a reminder when your being has been changed. You don’t need to be reminded because it is already in your nature? God wanted them to shed that which was covering them, like the veil they wanted Moses to cover his face with when he came down the mountain. They just didn’t get it. God wanted a sacrifice a of broken heart and mind, a contrite spirit. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law of Moses, because it was misunderstood, He gave it and he was going to finally set it straight.


  3. jodeemaas says:

    Yes, this is so true. It has been my experience that that exceedingly great joy becomes so important, so essential to our spiritual well-being that we feel empty without it. We feel as though if we are not walking in obedience and experiencing the fullness of the Spirit we are as dross.


  4. Steve H. says:

    Our Sunday School didn’t get there; there was too much discussion on chapters 1 and 2–although I’m not sure “too much” is the way to put it. The best classes are when everybody participates constructively, and we had some very constructive discussion. The Spirit was there in strength and it was very much like a Sunday School class should be.

    Adult Gospel Doctrine is a calling I covet (is that wrong?). That or ward librarian…that would be not bad at all. I guess it’s not up to me and I’m pretty okay with that. Content, even.


  5. Rusty says:

    When I saw what our lesson was about today, I was hoping that there would be an opportunity to talk about this mighty change and to maybe plant some “seeds” in my ward concerning what I’ve been learning. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The “mighty change” was referred to but we didn’t really spend much time on it and the little discussion we had barely touched on the part that you have referred to, above – learning to recognize and hear the “enticings of the Holy Spirit”. That’s where we have start. I wanted to talk about this, but it didn’t happen.

    Thank you for this posting, John. It has, again, stirred the yearnings in my heart. My favorite song, right now, is “Come Thou Fount”, especially this verse:

    Oh to grace how great a debtor
    Daily I’m constrained to be!
    Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
    Bind my wandering heart to Thee:
    Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
    Prone to leave the God I love;
    Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
    Seal it for Thy courts above.

    This brings tears to my eyes frequently, because it is the desire of my heart. What a journey this is turning out to be! Oh, my husband is now listening to your firesides…yay!


    • I love that song too. A visiting 70 in our stake said it was the most-performed song by stake choirs. He says he hears it almost every meeting he attends.

      I think people don’t know how to describe the mighty change. Many have experienced it more as a gradual process and don’t know how to teach the other process. Not to worry, the Lord’s work is being done.

      I sat on the second row in SS and saved my two comments I allow myself for that subject. We didn’t get into it very deeply, but enough.



  6. Steve H. says:

    Reading this post reminded of the account President Hinckley shared in the April 2007 Conference of Joseph F. Smith’s dream of bathing and putting on clean, white clothes, then rushing on to a door and being greeted by the Prophet Joseph Smith, who reprovingly told Joseph F., “You’re late.” Joseph F. replied, “Yes, but I am clean.” He was then welcomed into the company of other great leaders of the Church. I’ve always seen putting off the natural man as a putting off of unclean clothes, heavy with the filth of the world and of sin, and washing and becoming clean enough to put on the spiritual man, clothed in preparation to serve the Living God in purity and faithfulness.


  7. Clarice says:

    So I just had a thought. If a person says they have been re-born or baptized by fire and the holy ghost, will they know of a specific moment when they actually entered into this covenant to be obedient forever?

    Not just the “ordinance” to do so, but the moment that you talk of here…a solemn, holy ghost inspired covenant to be obedient. Or can this get dragged out over many years and we just realise one day that it is our desire to be truly obedient in all things, and therefore we are considered re-born?

    And is being re-born the same thing as being baptized by fire and the holy ghost?


    • Yes, it can be lengthened out and done over many years. Like you said, people develop the desire and begin to live in full obedience without actually realizing what they have done. I did this on my mission, and then lost it after I returned to real life. It isn’t until someone realizes how it works and makes the covenant that we become permanently born again.

      In my vernacular, being born again in the sense of the “Mighty Change” where one’s sins are forgiven is the same thing as being baptized by fire and the HG.


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