The difference between Commandments and Covenants


This month the YW are learning about “commandments.” This morning I am pondering the difference between “commandments” and “covenants,” and how to teach this to the YW in my classroom today.

A covenant is a sign that your heart has changed, and that you will keep the commandments. Keeping commandments outside of a covenant might make you a “better person” or perhaps help your heart to change, but they aren’t want God is actually after. He “loveth those who will have him to be their God” (1 Nephi 17:40). That sounds like a love-struck boy proposing to his girlfriend, “Will you have me?” Will you have me, as your husband? As your life-long love? Here God wants us to know if we will have him to be our God. That sounds funny in one sense, because He is God overall the earth whether we recognize it or not! So He must mean something slightly different here. He loves all of us who want Him to rule over us, who treat Him as our God. Who worship, obey, trust, love, etc. I love that this verse says He “loveth” – not, won’t destroy, not, accepts, etc. He loves us! And He has all power to do anything for or to anyone. What then can we hope for if He loves us? Anything and everything is possible! All sorts of blessings and assignments, etc. Remember that He wants to give all he has to whoever wants to be in Heaven with Him. He’s eager to share, and to love.

Anyway, I’ll continue my rambling thoughts here for a few more minutes. Commandments are what, rules? As opposed to covenants being, a relationship? A promise? Sometimes I think we talk about covenants as another commandment. “We covenanted at baptism to mourn with those that mourn, so don’t forget you need to do that.” 🙂 But I think that sort of language means we’ve missed the point of the covenant. Remember how King Benjamin talks about things after his people make a covenant? He says that they’ve seen their weakness and God’s greatness, they’ve made a covenant to let God be their God basically, and then Benjamin says to always remember this and they’ll always be happy, and THEN, he says if they are always happy, they will live a certain way (take care of poor, family, etc.). Keeping “commandments” is a natural outflow of a change of heart. And what does God want most? A broken heart and a contrite Spirit? Does “broken” mean broken from our desires? We’ve broken off the ties that bound us to anything besides God? Does a contrite Spirit mean one that recognizes its weakness and God’s greatness? I just looked up contrite in the dictionary, and it comes from the idea of being worn down (and theologically, it means to be full of guilt or remorse). I think it’s not unfair to link up contrite with Benjamin’s discussion of recognizing your weakness.

So, what God wants is for us to make covenants.

(I have lots to think through but little baby Micah is awake on my lap so I’ll have to stop there for today!)

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