David A. Bednar draws parallels between miracles in 1846 and in 2020. Covenants made in the temple are worth sacrifice and provide strength.
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I am grateful to gather with you today in this Brigham Young University devotional. Susan and I love you and have looked forward to this occasion with great anticipation for many weeks.
I am pleased to bring to you the love and blessings of President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks, President Henry B. Eyring, and all of my associates in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We love and pray for you, and we appreciate your prayers for us.
I do not know the exact number of devotionals like this one that I attended during my years as a student on the BYU campus. But I do know and am grateful for the lasting impact that the messages I heard have had upon my life. I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity to receive spiritual nourishment from the faithful men and women who are invited to speak in your campus devotionals.
I pray for the companionship, help, and edifying power of the Holy Ghost for all of us as I share my thoughts with you.
The Nauvoo Exodus
Today is January 19, 2021. Almost exactly 175 years ago, on February 4, 1846, Charles Shumway ferried across the Mississippi River and started the westward migration of Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois. For three weeks in frigid temperatures, wagons ferried across the river, often steering clear of large ice chunks. After Charles C. Rich walked across the Mississippi on February 25, scores of additional refugees crossed the river on solid ice.1 The winter phase of this mass exodus was directed by President Brigham Young—the well-known Camp of Israel trek across Iowa involving approximately 3,000 Saints.
The spring phase of the exodus included three large waves of refugees departing Nauvoo and involved more than 10,000 Saints—triple the number in the winter departure.
The fall phase of the exodus included about 700 Saints who were forced from Nauvoo at gunpoint.
The winter withdrawal from Nauvoo in particular caused unimaginable hardship for these faithful Latter-day Saints, and many sought shelter in camps along the Mississippi River. When word reached Brigham Young at Winter Quarters about the condition of these exiles, he immediately sent a letter across the river to Council Point encouraging the brethren to help—reminding them of the covenant made in the Nauvoo Temple. He counseled: “Now is the time for labor. Let the fire of the covenant which you made in the house of the Lord burn in your hearts, like flame unquenchable.”2 Within days, wagons were rolling eastward to rescue the struggling Saints.
What was it that gave those early Church members such strength? What fueled their devotion and enabled them to press forward in overwhelmingly adverse conditions? It was the fire of the temple covenants and ordinances that burned in their hearts. It was their commitment to “worship, and honorably hold a name and standing”3 in the house of the Lord.
President M. Russell Ballard explained:
Sometimes we are tempted to let our lives be governed more by convenience than by covenant. It is not always convenient to live gospel standards and stand up for truth and testify of the Restoration. It usually is not convenient to share the gospel with others. It isn’t always convenient to respond to a calling in the Church, especially one that stretches our abilities. Opportunities to serve others in meaningful ways, as we have covenanted to do, rarely come at convenient times. But there is no spiritual power in living by convenience. The power comes as we keep our covenants. As we look at the lives of these early Saints, we see that their covenants were the primary force in their lives.4
In their extremity, these devoted disciples were keenly aware of their dependence upon God and trusted in Him for deliverance. And I believe they understood that sacred covenants and priesthood ordinances received worthily and remembered continually open the heavenly channels through which we have access to the power of godliness and all of the blessings made available through the Savior’s Atonement…