Permanent Promises

How long can you sustain a commitment? This may be one of the great challenges of mortality. Do you promise to do something one day, but change your mind later when you feel differently?

Obviously, if you only do what you feel like doing at any given moment, you’re unlikely to accomplish anything of any significance. Large projects require sustained effort over time. We simply can’t maintain the same level of enthusiasm throughout the process that we feel at the beginning. So some level of self-discipline is needed, to override our current emotions, and some level of trust in our earlier convictions that this was a wise course of action.

When King Benjamin’s people were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, they made a long-term commitment: “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).

When Alma invited his people to be baptized at the waters of Mormon, he explained that they would be promising “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [they] may be in, even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). How could they possibly know that they would be faithful to that promise 5 years, 10 years, or 50 years later? But they were. Decades later, Alma’s son pointed to their steady faithfulness “to the end” as an example for church members in Zarahemla. (See Alma 5:3-13.)

Ruth’s commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi, seems similarly fraught with uncertainty: “Where you go, I will go,” she said, “and where you live, I will live.” Then, she added: “Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.” And she concluded the promise with an oath: “The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part me and thee”(paraphrase of Ruth 1:16-17).

How could she know what the future would hold? She couldn’t. This kind of commitment requires the courage to confront an uncertain future with resolve and to override potential future decisions in the interest of a worthy cause.

Every time we make a covenant or a promise, we constrain our future selves. Every time we keep a covenant or a promise, we honor our prior selves.

Today, I will continue to honor the commitments I have made. I will remember that ongoing progress toward achieving worthy goals requires me to subordinate my current desires to my long-term objectives. Like Ruth, and like the people of King Benjamin and Alma, I will trust my earlier convictions and remain true to the promises I have made, particularly the promises with the longest time horizons.

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