C h a p t e r 1 5
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From the beginning the Lord has made covenants with his children on earth. When his people make covenants (or promises) with him, they know what he expects of them and what blessings they may expect from him. They can better carry out his work on earth. The people who covenant with the Lord and with whom the Lord makes covenants are known as the Lord's covenant people. Members of the Church are part of the Lord's covenant people.
What Is a Covenant?
- Read Deuteronomy 26:18. What does the Lord mean when he calls his people a peculiar people?
- Why are Latter-day Saints called a covenant people?
Within the gospel, a covenant means a sacred agreement or mutual promise between God and a person or a group of people. In making a covenant, God promises a blessing for obedience to particular commandments. He sets the terms of his covenants, and he reveals these terms to his prophets. If we choose to obey the terms of the covenant, we receive promised blessings. If we choose not to obey, he withholds the blessings, and in some instances a penalty also is given.
For example, when we join the Church we make several covenants with God (see chapter 20, "Baptism"). We covenant with the Savior at baptism to take upon ourselves his name. He promises that "as many as . . . are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved" (D&C 18:22). We covenant with the Lord as we partake of the sacrament. We promise to remember him and to obey his commandments. We are promised that the Holy Spirit will be with us. (See D&C 20:77-79.) As members of the Church, we also covenant to obey the law of chastity, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and to be honest. When we enter into the eternal marriage covenant, we make other sacred promises and are promised exaltation for faithful obedience (see D&C 132; see also chapter 47 in this manual).
God has also made special covenants with particular persons or groups. He made special covenants with Adam, Enoch, Noah, the children of Israel, and Lehi (see Moses 6:52; Moses 6:31-36; Genesis 9:9-17; Exodus 19:5-6; 2 Nephi 1). He made a special covenant with Abraham and his descendants that blesses members of the Church today.
God's Covenant with Abraham and His Descendants
- What is a covenant?
- What kinds of covenants have we made with God?
- What blessings has he promised us for keeping certain covenants?
Abraham, an Old Testament prophet, was a very righteous man. He refused to worship his father's idols. He kept all of the Lord's commandments. Because of Abraham's righteousness, the Lord made a covenant with him and his descendants.
The Lord promised Abraham that he would have numberless descendants. He promised that all of them would be entitled to receive the gospel, the blessings of the priesthood, and all of the ordinances of exaltation. These descendants, through the power of the priesthood, would carry the gospel to all nations. Through them, all the families of the earth would be blessed (see Abraham 2:11). God further promised that if they were righteous he would establish his covenant with all generations of Abraham's children (see Genesis 17:4-8).
God made the same covenant with Abraham's son Isaac and again with Isaac's son Jacob. God changed Jacob's name to Israel. Since that time, the descendants of Jacob, called Israelites, have been known as God's covenant people.
Members of the Church Are a Covenant People
- Read Abraham 2:9-11. List the promises that God has made to his covenant people.
The blood descendants of Abraham are not the only people whom God calls his covenant people. In speaking to Abraham, God said, "As many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed [lineage], and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father" (Abraham 2:10). Thus, two groups of people are included in the covenant made with Abraham: (1) Abraham's righteous blood descendants and (2) those adopted into his lineage by accepting and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When we are baptized into the Church, we are adopted into Abraham's family and have part in the covenant the Lord made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Galatians 3:26-29). If we are obedient, we inherit the blessings of that covenant. We have the right to receive help and guidance from the Holy Ghost. We have the right to hold the priesthood. We can gain eternal life in the celestial kingdom. There are no greater blessings than these.
Along with the blessings we receive as the Lord's covenant people, we have great responsibilities. The Lord promised Abraham that through his descendants the gospel would be taken to all the earth. We are fulfilling this responsibility through the full-time missionary program of the Church and the missionary work done by the members. This opportunity to preach the gospel to all the world belongs only to the Lord's Church and his covenant people.
As the Lord's covenant people, we must keep his commandments. The Lord said, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise" (D&C 82:10). If we reject our covenant after accepting the gospel, the covenant becomes void and we will stand condemned before God (see D&C 132:4). He has said: "Refrain from sin, lest sore judgments fall upon your heads. For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation" (D&C 82:2-3).
The New and Everlasting Covenant
- Read the words of the Savior in Matthew 5:14-16. What responsibility do we have as members of the Church to be a light (example) unto the world?
- What does this have to do with how we dress, act, and keep the commandments of God?
- What happens when we break a covenant we have made?
The fulness of the gospel is called the new and everlasting covenant. It includes the covenants made at baptism, during the sacrament, in the temple, and at any other time. The Lord calls it "everlasting" because it is ordained by an everlasting God and because the covenant will never be changed. He gave this same covenant to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and other prophets. In this sense it is not new. But the Lord calls it "new" because each time the gospel is restored after being taken from the earth, it is new to the people who receive it (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 37:26).
When we accept the new and everlasting covenant, we agree to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, receive our endowments, receive the covenant of marriage in the temple, and follow and obey Christ to the end of our lives. As we keep our covenants, our Heavenly Father promises us that we will receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom (see D&C 132:20-24; see also chapter 47 in this manual).
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How blessed we are to be God's covenant people. To the faithful Saint, the Lord has promised, "All that my Father hath shall be given unto him" (D&C 84:38). The greatness of that promise is hard for mortals to understand. The commandments he gives are for our benefit, and as we are faithful we may forever share the blessings and beauties of heaven and earth. We may live in his presence and partake of his love, compassion, power, greatness, knowledge, wisdom, glory, and dominions.
- What do we agree to do when we enter the new and everlasting covenant?
- 1 Nephi 13:23-26 (covenants recorded in the Bible)
- 1 Peter 2:9-10 (peculiar people)
- D&C 54:4-6 (effects of covenants kept and broken)
- D&C 132:7 (covenants made by proper authority)
- D&C 133:57-60 (purpose of covenants)
- D&C 35:24 (promises for obedience to covenants)