James Covill had been a baptist minister for about forty years when he approached Joseph Smith just a few days after a conference in Fayette, New York, in 1831. Then and there he covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any command that the Lord gave to him through Joseph Smith the Prophet.
The Lord approved of the covenant of Reverend Covill, saying: "Behold, I say unto you, my servant James, I have looked upon thy works and I know thee. And verily I say unto thee, thine heart is now right before me at this time" (D&C 39:7-8). The Lord responded to the covenant with two commandments, each tied to specific blessings that were conditional on James Covill's fulfillment of the commandment given.
The first commandment was to enter in by the gate; to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Lord promises that if James Covill will hearken to this command, God would wash away his sins, provide "a blessing so great as you never have known", and give Mr. Covill a greater work to do.
The second commandment was the greater work promised with the fulfillment of the first: James Covill should be called serve a mission in Ohio. Again conditional blessings are offered for Mr. Covill's obedience. If James Covill would serve a mission and help the Lord keep his covenant to the house of Israel, the Lord promises that "power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith, and I will be with thee and go before thy face" (v. 12).
So it was with James Covill. Speaking of James Covill, the Lord explained to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that "he received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word" (D&C 40:2). President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that James Covill "was convinced of the truth... However, when he withdrew from the influence of the Spirit of the Lord and had time to consider the fact that he would lose the fellowship of the world, and his place and position among his associates, he failed and rejected the promises and blessings which the Lord offered him" (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:174).
Like James Covill, the Lord has extended wonderful promises and blessings to each of us. These blessings are extended through patriarchal and other priesthood blessings; covenants made through baptism, ordination, endowment, and/or marriage; the scriptures, conference talks and modern revelation through living prophets; and personal prayers and covenants with the Lord. These and other blessings are within our grasp, if we will hearken to the voice of the Lord. For "when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:21, see also D&C 82:10).
If there is a blessing you desire in your life, I urge you to study and pray to know how you might obtain the righteous desires of your heart. If there is a commandment the Lord has given to you, generally or specifically, I invite you to obey with full vigor of heart and soul that you may see the blessings of God sprout and grow and bear fruit.
I know that God lives, that we are His children, and that he has prepared blessings "so great as [we] have never known" for each of us. For if we know how to give good gifts to our children, "how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him" (Matthew 7:11)? The choice is ours.
My hope for you and for me is that we will keep our hearts right before the Lord, filled with faith and courage, that the Lord may prosper you and I with our greatest desires and the riches of eternity through our humble obedience. If we will obey, it will be so.