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The Lord Will Lead Thee by the Hand

Audio: "The Lord Will Lead Thee by the Hand"
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It’s a privilege for me to participate today with you on this beautiful campus! I count it a blessing that my husband of 55 years is with me to share this experience. He is my best friend, the father of our children, and my eternal companion.

We met at BYU, and he still thinks he saw me first, but I spotted him on campus, went to the administration building and found his schedule, and just happened to be near some of his classes occasionally. I believe you might call that stalking today! But I called it flirting then!

I still remember the day of our temple sealing and marriage vividly. Steve and I sat hand in hand in the most beautiful light filled room I had ever seen. Everyone who loved us was there in that room. A junior apostle sealed us that day. His name was Elder Gordon B. Hinckley. Before he married us, he gave us some advice. He said, “Live your lives such that when you are in need of a blessing you can approach the Father out of righteousness rather than mercy and He will bless you.” Let me repeat that once more: “Live your lives such that when you are in need of a blessing you can approach the Father out of righteousness rather than mercy and He will bless you.”

This counsel has guided and blessed our lives.

There will be times in your life as well when you will be in desperate need of a blessing, and the Lord has promised, “Be thou humble and the Lord thy God will lead thee by the hand and give thee answers to thy prayers.” [1]

Today, I would like to speak with you about your preparation to become covenant leaders in these latter days and the power that you can access to lead as you draw close to the Lord by developing a covenant relationship with Him.

President Russell M. Nelson has taught us,

Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart. He has high hopes for us. [2]

You can be assured that as you strive to develop and deepen your relationship with the Savior by making and keeping sacred covenants with Him, He will walk with you. When President Monson called me to be the 13th General Young Women President, he read this scripture to me and told me that I would know the reality of this promise from the Lord: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” [3] I testify that this is true.

One of my favorite pioneer stories illustrates this protection principle. It is the story of a pioneer girl named Agnes Caldwell, who was in the Willie Handcart Company in 1856. At the time, she was only 9 years of age. As told in her own words, she related:

Although only tender years of age, I can yet close my eyes and see everything in panoramic precision before me—the ceaseless walking, walking, ever to remain in my memory. Many times I would become so tired and, childlike, would hang on the cart, only to be gently pushed away. Then I would throw myself by the side of the road and cry. Then realizing they were all passing me by, I would jump to my feet and make an extra run to catch up.

She goes on to share,

Just before we crossed the mountains, relief wagons reached us, and it certainly was a relief. The infirm and aged were allowed to ride, all able-bodied continuing to walk. When the wagons started out, a number of us children decided to see how long we could keep up with the wagons, in hopes of being asked to ride. At least that is what my great hope was. One by one they all fell out, until I was the last one remaining, so determined was I that I should get a ride. After what seemed the longest run I ever made before or since, the driver . . . called to me, “Say, sissy, would you like a ride?” I answered in my very best manner, “Yes sir.” At this he reached over, taking my hand, clucking to his horses to make me run, with legs that seemed to me could run no farther. On we went, to what to me seemed miles. . . . Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped. Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon. [4]

Agnes Caldwell arrived safely in Salt Lake City on Nov. 9, 1856. She later married Chester Southworth and became a mother to 13 children.

Had the driver of that wagon taken Agnes into the wagon without making her run, she would have surely succumbed to the bitter cold. And had Agnes chosen to give up and fall behind, her story may have ended much differently. However, for Agnes this became her defining moment, and though the decision to run did not make perfect sense at the time, she ran anyway with grit, determination, faith, and hope.

Like Agnes Caldwell, each of you is on a journey to Zion. You may not have to leave your home or give up all of your earthly possessions, but the journey to Zion requires that you give up all of your sins so that you may come to know Him—the true and living Christ—follow in His footsteps, and lead others in the path of righteousness. In order to do this, you will need to do the spiritual work it will require to be given the power to accomplish all that is before you. Like Agnes, you may even be asked to run to the point of exhaustion, but by doing so, the warmth of the Lord’s love and infinite Atonement will enable and empower you for the great work you are here on earth to accomplish.

All the sacrifice and work of all the prior generations have led to this moment. Pioneers sacrificed everything, even their lives, in order that we might see this day because, you see, your advent on the earth is not random. This was all part of the plan you and I embraced in the premortal realm. You are uniquely positioned in a privileged place in the history of the world.


In order to fulfill the unique, divine mission each of you have to perform, you will need to fully understand and know who you are—your eternal identity. You will need to be guided and magnified by the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And you will need to be worthy to attend the temple and there be endowed with power from on high as you make and keep sacred covenants with the Lord. Your covenants will give you power because they will connect you and I to our Savior Jesus Christ in a covenantal bond. You are here at this university in the shadow of a temple to prepare for the glorious future that awaits you! This is your moment!

In the premortal realms you exhibited not just faith but “exceeding faith and good works.” As Alma said, each of you were “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God.” [5] You fought with your faith and testimony to persuade other choice spirits to accept and sustain the plan that was presented by God the Father. You knew it was right, and you had exceeding faith that the Savior would keep His premortal covenants because you knew Him!

President Spencer W. Kimball taught,

We made vows, solemn vows, in the heavens before we came to this mortal life . . . we have made covenants. . . . We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father, that if he would send us to the earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise. [6]

There were no neutral spirits in the War in Heaven, and there can be no neutral positions now. The Lord Himself said, “He that is not with me is against me.” [7] You stood with Him! You knew how difficult it would be, and yet you were courageous and confident that you could not only accomplish your divine mission here on earth but also make a difference in the world. There and then you decided you would lead others in a superlative cause—the cause of Christ.


As the winner of one of the New York marathons, Juma Ikanga explained his successful run to reporters. He simply said, “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”

Covenant Leaders

The power of your covenants will focus your preparation. The power of your covenants and your purity will magnify your preparation to lead. They will magnify you, and you will go forth “in the strength of the Lord.” [8] Here at this unique university, you are being prepared to become covenant leaders.

What is a covenant leader? I believe that a covenant leader is one who does what Christ would do, says what Christ would say, and loves as Christ would love.

I will never forget a lesson I learned from President Monson while serving as the Young Women General President. I went to him to ask for his counsel on a matter I was concerned about and did not know what to do. I sat in his office and explained my dilemma. Then I said, “President Monson, what shall I do?” He invited me to walk with him to a corner of his office where a beautiful painting of the Savior hung on the wall.

He relayed that this was his favorite painting. As he and I stood looking at the painting, he said, “Whenever I have a problem and don’t know what to do, I look over here and pray. Then I listen . . . and when the Lord tells me what to do, I go and do it.”

President Thomas S. Monson expressed his desire to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. In a video produced on his life, he shared, “The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need, and I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him.” [9]

A covenant leader is one who hears the voice of the Lord and acts. A covenant leader is one who has stepped onto the covenant path by being baptized. A covenant leader clearly understands their identity, receives, recognizes, and relies on the companionship of the Holy Ghost. A covenant leader is one who strives to remain unspotted from the world by weekly renewing their baptismal covenants to “always remember Him, take His name upon them, and keep His commandments,” as they worthily partake of the sacrament. A covenant leader is obedient, willing to sacrifice, consecrated, and chaste. A covenant leader leads “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” [10]

As each of you do these things, you will be guided by the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, who is so close He is within whispering distance. He will “show unto you all things what ye should do.” [11] To me, this is a principle of assured success! The gift of the Holy Ghost will magnify you in your efforts to lead in righteousness by enabling you to obtain additional gifts of the spirit.

Worthily renewing your baptismal covenant each week, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and learning to hear His voice and obey, will help you lead others with confidence. This scripture in Doctrine and Covenants section 121 is a leadership scripture:

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, . . . and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. [12]

A covenant leader “stands in holy places, stands with holy people, testifies of holy truths, and listens to the Holy Spirit.” [13]

As you progress on the covenant path, your relationship deepens with Jesus Christ. He will walk with you and He will lead you by the hand. Your covenants will enable you to accomplish things in the world, in the workplace, and in your families and your community that you may have never deemed possible until now! Making and keeping covenants adds to your ability to lead with the power of godliness.

In addition, a covenant leader knows that the source of all power lies in being worthy to receive priesthood ordinances and enter the Lord’s holy house. The Lord has said: “In the ordinances thereof, the power of Godliness is manifest.” [14] When we make and keep the sacred covenants available to us in holy temples, we are endowed with power and angels are round about us. Don’t we all need this kind of power in order to navigate successfully and happily in these times of turmoil? Do we comprehend this kind of power? This is the kind of power Alma and the sons of Mosiah possessed. This is the power of Paul, Abish, and Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, and this is the kind of power you and I can possess!

Finally, a covenant leader is one who is familiar with the character of Christ. They study His words, they pray in His name, and they follow Him. They listen to His voice, and they act, and above all they love others. Charity, which is the pure love of Jesus Christ, [15] is one of the greatest powers we can possess as covenant leaders. Recently, our son Jess related his experience with covenant leadership to me. In his words, he said,

One late Friday afternoon, I found myself rushing to the airport in Houston, Texas. I had been delayed in meetings and was running really late and racing to catch the last plane to Arizona before a busy family-filled weekend. I was driving a rental car and knew that I had to make a very quick stop at a gas station on the way in order to return the car filled with gas. I didn’t have time to stop but had to comply with the company policy and refuel the car.

Jess continues:

As I pulled into the gas station, I caught a slight glimpse of a man experiencing homelessness, sitting on the step at the entrance of the convenience store. I immediately dismissed this glimpse and the prompting of the Spirit. I convinced myself that I had to make this last flight and that this was my highest priority. So I filled the tank with gas, but when I pressed print receipt, the printer was not working. I could not believe my misfortune. I raced inside the store, passing this man again, and the prompting came with it. I asked the clerk for a receipt and raced out of the store and caught another glimpse of the gentleman. I caught myself saying in my mind; I can’t, I can’t stop, and I can’t engage with him at this time. I have to make this flight. So I got in my car to go but felt an undeniable prompting, and so to hold true to my covenant promise I had made to myself and God, I slowly walked out of my car and sat down next to this man.

I started by introducing myself and extending my hand, much to his surprise. He looked at me in astonishment. He never took his brown eyes off mine. I asked if he was safe and if there was anything I could do for him, and he told me his story. He had lost his employment, his identity, his source of fatherly pride and turned to drinking. Consequently, his wife left him and told him he was not welcome in their home. He found himself here at the convenience store sleeping under the bushes at night. He sobbed, his eyes never leaving mine. I asked, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” It was then he confided that he felt his life was no longer worth living. He continued, “Last night I resolved to end my life and then I was able to close my eyes but while sleeping, I had a dream. In my dream I found myself in the presence of God. He looked upon me and he knew my heart. And as he came toward me, he held open his arms, and he embraced me and he said; “Carlos, tomorrow I will send you a sign. And by this sign you will know that I love you, that you are my precious child, that your life is worth living and that I will be by your side.” In the dream, Carlos asked; “How will I know the sign when I see it?” And he replied, “I will send you a man with blue eyes and he will sit with you and he will listen to you and when you see him you will know. And then this dear man looked deeply into Jess’s eyes and said, “You are the man with the blue eyes.”

And they cried and they hugged and both felt the presence of the Savior.

I testify that the Lord always keeps his promises. And He has provided a way whereby we can also keep ours. Covenant leaders are familiar with the leadership principles in the Book of Mormon. Thus, daily reading in the Book of Mormon will prepare us to know Him and to lead as He does. The Book of Mormon is your leadership handbook!

Making a covenant with God means that you are never alone because Jesus Christ is at the center of every covenant. Covenants are gifts from a God to each of us, designed to get us safely home. Covenants are weapons against the adversary. Covenants bind us to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. That is why President Nelson has counseled us to make ordinances and covenants a priority and to spend more time in the temple. Your choices to keep your covenants will determine how much godly power you will be able to access and in the coming days, you will need that power. Powerful covenant leaders get on the covenant path and stay there. This is why the Lord has said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [16]

Here is a picture of a yoke. It is used to keep two oxen together so that they can pull a heavy load in unison. But sometimes I think of a yoke in a different way—I think of the yoke as a covenant that binds us to the Savior. We walk with Him. He is by our side. We are working as one in a covenant relationship. He walks with us in this covenant relationship. He bears our burdens and our sorrows and our heartaches and infirmities. He will carry the load if it is too heavy. He will make up the difference.

If the yoke is a symbol of our covenant relationship with the Savior, the scripture could read: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my covenants upon you, and learn of me; . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my covenant is easy, and my burden is light.”

Powerful covenant leaders yoke themselves to the Lord by making and keeping sacred covenants. Doing this enables covenant leaders to walk with confidence and to speak with assurance because a covenant leader knows that they do not walk alone.

President Nelson gave us some magnificent promises when we remember and keep our covenants:

  • You will be filled with God’s power.
  • Your stress will decrease.
  • The Lord himself will go before your face and lead you.
  • You will be comforted.
  • You will know the right choices to make.
  • You will be taught and receive inspiration.
  • You will be a powerful witness.
  • You will be happier.
  • Your burdens will lighten.
  • You can pray for angels to be dispatched to help you.
  • You can pray for and expect miracles.
  • You will be able to hear the voice of the Lord.
  • You will walk with the Savior by your side.
  • You will never be alone.

The Lord’s promises are sure.

As powerful covenant leaders, this is your time to prepare and to set the pace. This is your time to run on the covenant path with grit, courage, commitment, and focus. As one who has enjoyed running, I have always loved the words of the Lord in Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” [17]

May each of you be blessed in your preparation to become covenant leaders in these latter days. May you remember who you are, prepare to be guided by the Holy Spirit, take His yoke upon you and, like Agnes Caldwell and so many others, reach up and take the Master’s hand. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Doctrine and Covenants 112:10.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant,” Liahona, October 2022.

[3] Doctrine & Covenants 84:88.

[4] Susan Arrington Madsen, I Walked to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on the Mormon Trail (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 57, 58–59.

[5] Alma 13:3.

[6] Spencer W. Kimball, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect,” devotional talk, University of Utah Institute of Religion, January 1975.

[7] Matthew 12:30.

[8] Mosiah 9:1.

[9] On the Lord’s Errand (DVD, 2008).

[10] Doctrine and Covenants 121:41.

[11] 2 Nephi 32:4.

[12] Doctrine and Covenants 121: 45–46.

[13] Gary E. Stevenson, “Promptings of the Spirit,” Liahona, November 2023.

[14] Doctrine and Covenants 84:21.

[15] Moroni 7:47.

[16] Matthew 11: 28–30.

[17] Isaiah 40:28–29, 31.