As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have always felt privileged to belong to the largest women's group in the world, the Relief Society. Since I reached the age of 18 and was admitted into the society, I've enjoyed learning the gospel in this great sisterhood. While there have been sporadic general women's conferences attached to general conference, lately these have taken on a regularity and urgency that make my heart sing. For the first time ever, all girls, young women, and women over the age of 8 or the age of accountability were invited to attend the meeting as a united force even greater in size than the Relief Society alone. So as a woman, I'll start my general conference study with the sermons directed at women from this meeting. Hurray! The first is Keeping Covenants Protects Us, Prepares Us, and Empowers Us, Rosemary M. Wixom, March, 2013. All quotes and paraphrases are from this sermon unless otherwise noted.
"We gather together all over the world as His disciples, with a desire to defend and sustain the kingdom of God. We are daughters of our Heavenly Father. We are covenant-making women of all ages walking the path of mortality back to His presence. Keeping covenants protects us, prepares us, and empowers us...As women of all ages, we walk in His light. Our journey on the path is personal and well lit with the Savior’s love. We enter the gate to the path of eternal life with the ordinance and covenant of baptism, and then we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
A covenant is a two-way, if-then contract. At baptism I promised to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, live God's commandments, repent when I fail, pray always, feast upon God's Word, serve God's children, and stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things, and in all places. It's not exactly a list, but a way of life that brings peace, joy, and gladness. In return God promises eternal life. This is different than resurrection. All who are born and die on Earth, will be resurrected. Only those that follow Christ will receive eternal life in the presence of the Father as opposed to eternal damnation with in the adversary's hell.
“Do [we] understand and do [our] children understand that when [we] are baptized [we] are changed forever? When we understand our baptismal covenant and the gift of the Holy Ghost, it will change our lives and will establish our total allegiance to the kingdom of God. When temptations come our way, if we will listen, the Holy Ghost will remind us that we have promised to remember our Savior and obey the commandments of God.” Robert D. Hales
"Temple ordinances lead to the greatest blessings available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They are those ordinances necessary for our exaltation in the celestial kingdom. As we strive to keep our covenants, our feelings of inadequacy and imperfection begin to fade, while the ordinances and the covenants of the temple come alive. Everyone is welcome to walk that path to eternal life...weekly ordinance of the sacrament and its sacred promise “that we may always have his [Jesus'] Spirit to be with us.” That constant companionship is a promise that softens the waves of loneliness. It gives strength to immerse ourselves in developing talents, a desire to serve the Lord, serene peace, and great joy in adoring all the children in our lives."
Even after hearing us testify of Jesus Christ, many dispute members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' claim to Christianity; they misunderstand the following scripture. “After ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path [the covenants of baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and others found in the temples of God], I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay..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. We know we cannot save ourselves. Only the grace and atonement of God can do that. We know eternal life is eternity in the presence of the Father. We know the alternative it eternal damnation, barred from the presence of God in the Adversary's hell. God requires our allegiance to His will and adherence to His commandments in addition to accepting His will, grace, and atonement. Eternal life is the promise of the covenant. Eternal damnation is the flip side. He knows the commandments are the path to happiness on Earth and eternal joy. His whole purpose is to bring to pass the eternal life and joy of mankind, not to subject man to some arbitrary or degrading commandments. God is not arrogant; He loves and cherishes each of His children. Just as all good parents, He wants the best for us. He teaches us correct principles and lets us govern ourselves, thus choosing our own consequences...good or bad.