”and after they had entered into a covenant with him of peace they were suffered to depart into the wilderness.” Alma 44:20
It always amazes me as I read through the Book of Mormon to see how stout the people were with their covenants between each other. When a covenant was made, there was no desire to break it. I think of the bonds and agreements we make today; in religion, business, and personal dealings. So many transactions must be accompanied by contracts and lawyers to remain bound to what we have promised.
When Moroni was at battle with the Zerahemnah, they cornered the people, and Moroni proclaimed that he and his people could go free if they would turn over their weapons and make a covenant of peace. Zerahemnah was not willing to do this. He willingly gave up his weapons in hopes that Moroni would let them go without a covenant. He explicitly stated that “we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break, and also our children” (Alma 44:8). He would walk away from the battle but would not make the proposed covenant because he was not willing to keep it.
It seems that in our time, we would make the covenant and be alright with recounting later if something came up. Are we willing to make an agreement in our business dealings and hold to it even if a better offer came by? Do we have enough integrity?
I recall Elder Rasband’s story about Jon Huntsman and one of his professional deals.
Let me give you an example. Back in the 1980s, our young business was struggling. Earnings had plummeted in the recession. Jon decided to sell 40 percent of the company. He found a buyer, and after tough negotiations, the two fixed a price and shook hands on the deal. Six months went by while the necessary papers, contracts, and terms were completed to provide a legally binding arrangement.
During that period the market turned. Our company’s earnings climbed; sales exceeded all previous levels. Wall Street analysts advised that the 40 percent agreed to earlier was now worth five times the original amount, and the lawyers took the position that the oral agreement was not binding, since no papers had been signed.
The buyers, realizing the dramatic growth of the company, expected to pay a much higher price. There was no question that we needed that extra capital as the company expanded.
But Jon was a man of his word, and his handshake was no casual commitment. He informed the buyers of his decision to honor the original agreement and shocked the chemical industry. He would lose millions in the deal, but to him, a deal was a deal. His handshake was his bond.
Not everything Jon touched turned to gold. We had our share of corporate nightmares and company boondoggles. He understood that personal integrity is chiseled into place most often by adversity and challenges. All of us struggle daily with things that do not go as planned, that speak of heartache, disappointment, and failure. We cannot let ourselves be defined by them.
– Elder Ronald A Rasband, Integrity of Heart, BYU Speech, 13 March 2018, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/ronald-a-rasband/integrity-of-the-heart/
I was overly impressed when I heard this story for the first time while reading Elder Rasband’s book, Led by Divine Design. I have been a business professional for nearly twenty years, having worked for a few startups and in growth positions. I have worked with companies large and small. In all of my business relationships over the years, I have rarely seen integrity like that. I have seen the opposite occur more times than not, even from members of the Church, unfortunately. Where is our level of integrity that we are not willing to even hold to a discussed deal and have to prove it through “is it in the contract”? This has been a disappointment.
Even the enemies in ancient times respected oaths and covenants enough not to make them when they could not keep them. Hopefully, we can be that good, if not better.
Imagine if the Lord required the same type of dealings as men when binding contracts. How many of us would be free from a prison sentence or financial fine for breaking the covenants we have made with the Lord? Thankfully, we have the gift of repentance and the Atonement to renew our covenants and grow through our failings. There are certainly consequences involved when we fail to keep our eternal covenants. We lose the Spirit; we fail to have a claim to revelation and the glory that comes from keeping them.
We make sacred covenants because they give us strength. By agreeing to the terms of the deal, we should be able to more boldly live in line with what God has desired of us. Then, when living this way, we are blessed with the spiritual abundance He has promised us and willingly rewards us. Our covenants should be taken seriously and with respectful reverence. When we fail to keep them, we readily repent returning to the covenant path.
Our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has counseled us to “ensure that your feet are firmly planted on the covenant path…If you have wandered off, or if there are some things you need to let go of to help your mind and heart be more pure, today is the perfect time to change.” – President and Sister Nelson’s Devotional for Youth, Keep on the Covenant Path!
We aren’t always as diligent as Jon Huntsman in the above example, and we sometimes veer off of the covenant path, but we must return quickly. As we remain pressing forward on the appropriate course, we find increased peace, joy, and the ability to endure the trials of mortality. Let us make and keep covenants with an increased determination in our lives.