Whether it’s a person we know intimately or someone we follow on social media, many of us know people who have chosen to leave the Church and walk away from their covenants. This experience might cause us to reflect on our own covenants and ask, “Why am I staying?” or maybe even, “Why should I stay?”
In her October 2023 general conference talk, Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman addressed these types of personal queries and set an example for how we might best be able to answer them. She shared a beautifully personal “why” statement and then encouraged us to do the same.
President Freeman recently visited Israel and observed the Jews at the Western Wall. “Most wear their finest when they visit this sacred place,” she shared. “The plea for a temple in their midst consumes their every day, … I admire their devotion.” After having such a unique experience with the Jews who longed for such covenants, she was interested to hear the members of the Church around her asking questions like, “Why should I walk a covenant path? Do I need to enter a house for making covenants? Why do I wear the holy garment? Should I invest in a covenant relationship with the Lord?’"
Rather than provide general answers for everyone to follow, President Freeman said, “Each of us will have to discover our own response to those deeply personal questions.” In essence, she invited each of us to craft our own “why” statements.
I decided to accept her invitation but wondered where to begin. While she said we each need to “discover our own response,” President Freeman gave us her own “why” statement as an example. Her statement began, “I walk this path as a 'beloved daughter of heavenly parents,' divinely known and deeply trusted. As a child of the covenant, I am eligible to receive promised blessings. I have chosen to walk with the Lord.” Looking at the written version of her talk shows us that President Freeman’s “why” statement is jam-packed with citations, scripture references, and doctrine.
Initially, writing a “why” statement intimidated me. I think I felt this way because President Freeman’s is so thorough and eloquent and I didn’t feel like I could do something that would be as grand. Then I decided that my statement wasn’t about length or scripture references. It just needed to be a personal statement that I felt spoke to my deepest feelings.
Once I cut myself loose from all expectations or comparisons, I was able to find within myself the simple reason(s) why it is worth every sacrifice and any potential inconvenience to keep the covenants I’ve made with Jesus Christ.
This was such a powerful experience for me. I invite you to take up President Freeman’s invitation and not just ponder but actually write down your own “why” statement—not just think about it, but actually write it down.
Your “why” statement shouldn’t look like anyone else's, and it shouldn’t follow a formula. Instead, I want to pose a series of questions to consider that helped me craft my own. Don’t feel pressure to answer all of these, maybe one or two will spark a thought that will help you articulate your faith.
1. How has my life been blessed because of my choice to be on the covenant path?
More than any other question, this one causes me to pause and reflect. When I consider where my life might have gone and where my life is, I am humbled when I acknowledge that I am who I am, I have what I have, and I can be what I always hoped to be because God has prompted my path.
Consider the choices you have made in your life. How have you been blessed by following His guidance? Why does that provoke you to stay on the covenant path when times get hard?
2. What do I want my future to look like?
Sometimes looking forward is more helpful than looking back. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency was single into his late 20s and often thought of his future children. When he imagined them, he called them “the redheads” and when faced with temptation he would remind himself, “I can’t do that– the redheads are counting on me.”
What do you want when you are 20? 40? 60? 80+ years old? What things do you think will matter then? What choices are you motivated to make now because of what you ultimately want? How can imagining your future motivate you to keep our covenants now?
3. What promises give me hope?
Another thing to consider is promises that have been made in scripture, promises from the words of the living prophets, or personal promises made to you in a patriarchal blessing.
Is there a promise that you hold onto? Is there a scripture story that gives you courage or hope to hold on? Why does it give you hope? Why do you want that for yourself?
4. What spiritually defining memories have I had?
In April 2020, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged us to reflect on what he called “spiritually defining memories” in order to safeguard ourselves from doubts and difficulties. He said: “Embrace your sacred memories. Believe them. Write them down. Share them with your family. Trust that they come to you from your Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.”
What sacred experiences have you had in your lifetime? When have your prayers been answered? What tender mercies have witnessed to you that God is aware of you and knows you personally? Do you trust that if you stay on the path, Jesus will continue to give you that strength and comfort?
5. Who is on the path that you trust?
President Freeman suggested, “Ask someone you trust who is on the covenant path to introduce you to the Savior they have come to know.”Maybe, right now, you can’t definitively answer the questions above with certainty. So instead, look to those you love and trust who are on the path and, for a time, lean on their faith until you can stand on your own.
After pondering these questions and ideas, I came up with my own simple "why" statement.
I cannot deny that God has led my life in ways that are bigger and better than I could’ve ever imagined for myself. That guidance, though foggy at the moment, looking back was clearly there. He was there for me, guiding me, and I want that forever. I want Him to guide my life because it has led me to all of the best things.
It’s a beautiful time of year to look at our lives, reassess, and reflect. I want to invite you to take President Freeman’s invitation and consider your relationship with Jesus Christ, put pen to paper, and write your personal “why” statement. This exercise reminds us to put faith over fear and feel rooted on the covenant path.