Lesson 7: The Abrahamic Covenant

Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (2001), 27–31


Purpose

To help class members understand the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study Abraham 1:1–4; 2:1–11; Genesis 12:1–8; 17:1–9. Abraham seeks to be righteous and live worthy of the blessings of God. God covenants with Abraham, promising that he will have a numerous posterity who will receive a promised land and the blessings of the priesthood and the gospel.

  2. 2.

    Additional reading: Genesis 15; Doctrine and Covenants 132:19–24, 29–32; “Abraham, Covenant of,” Bible Dictionary, page 602.

  3. 3.

    If the following audiovisual materials are available, you may want to use them as part of the lesson:

    1. a.

      A brief excerpt from “Abraham—The Journeys” or “Abraham—The Promise,” parts 3 and 4 of the Beginnings/Abraham videocassette (53150).

    2. b.

      Pictures of missionaries (62611) and a local temple.

Suggested Lesson Development

Attention Activity

You may want to use the following activity (or one of your own) to begin the lesson.

  • What is a patriarchal blessing?

    The First Presidency said: “Patriarchal blessings [are] an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient, and also, where so moved upon by the Spirit, an inspired and prophetic statement of the life mission of the recipient, together with such blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give. … The realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord” (letter to stake presidents, 28 June 1957; quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 558).

  • How many of you have received your patriarchal blessing? What does it mean to have the patriarch declare our lineage in a blessing? (When a patriarch declares our lineage, he reveals to us that we are descendants of the prophet Abraham through Ephraim, Manasseh, or another of Abraham’s descendants.)

Explain that this lesson discusses the blessings we can receive and the responsibilities we have as Abraham’s descendants.

Scripture Discussion and Application

As you teach the following scripture passages, discuss how they apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. God covenants with Abraham.

Teach and discuss Abraham 1:1–4; 2:1–11; and Genesis 12:1–8; 17:1–9.

  • When Abraham was a young man, he wanted to be righteous and live worthy of the blessings of God. According to Abraham 1:2–4, what blessings did Abraham desire?

  • God directed Abraham and his family to leave their home in Ur and travel to a land they named Haran (Abraham 2:1–4). There Abraham prayed and received a vision in which God covenanted to bless him and his posterity. This is called the Abrahamic covenant. What blessings did God promise Abraham in this covenant? (See Abraham 2:6–11; Genesis 12:1–8; 17:1–9. You may want to point out that Abraham had to wait many years before some of these promised blessings were fulfilled, and they are still being fulfilled today.)

    The following chart can help you summarize the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. You may want to put an abbreviated chart on the chalkboard, leaving room to add a “Responsibilities” section as shown on page 29:

    Blessings and Responsibilities of the Abrahamic Covenant

    Earthly Blessings:

    A promised land to live in (Abraham 2:6, 19; Genesis 12:7; 17:8)

    A great posterity (Abraham 2:9–10; Genesis 12:2–3; 17:2, 4–6)

    The gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood for Abraham and his posterity (Abraham 2:9–11; Genesis 17:7)

    Eternal Parallels:

    The celestial kingdom (D&C 88:17–20)

    Eternal marriage and eternal increase (D&C 132:19–22)

    Exaltation and eternal life (D&C 132:23–24)

2. We are heirs to the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant.

Explain that all Church members are the “seed of Abraham,” which means we are his descendants. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph. Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as heirs” (“How One May Become of the House of Israel,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1923, 1149).

  • As the seed of Abraham, Church members are heirs to the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant. How do we become heirs to this covenant? (When we are baptized into the Church, the Abrahamic covenant’s promise of salvation is renewed with us. When we are sealed in the temple, the Abrahamic covenant’s promise of exaltation is renewed with us. To receive the blessings of the covenant, we must fulfill the associated responsibilities and live worthily.)

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:

    “Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation); then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase; finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity. (Abra. Abraham 2:6–11; D. & C. D&C 132:29–50.) Included in the divine promises to Abraham was the assurance that Christ would come through his lineage, and the assurance that Abraham’s posterity would receive certain choice, promised lands as an eternal inheritance. (Abra. Abraham 2; Gen. Genesis 17; 22:15–18; Gal. Galatians 3.)

    “All of these promises lumped together are called the Abrahamic covenant. This covenant was renewed with Isaac (Gen. Genesis 24:60; 26:1–4, 24) and again with Jacob. (Gen. Genesis 28; 35:9–13; 48:3–4.) Those portions of it which pertain to personal exaltation and eternal increase are renewed with each member of the house of Israel who enters the order of celestial marriage; through that order the participating parties become inheritors of all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (D. & C. D&C 132; Rom. Romans 9:4; Gal. Galatians 3; 4.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 13).

  • What blessings can we receive through the Abrahamic covenant? (We can receive all the blessings that Abraham received, as outlined in the preceding chart. These blessings include the gospel, the priesthood, exaltation, and eternal family relationships.)

  • What are our responsibilities as heirs of the Abrahamic covenant? (See Abraham 2:9, 11; Genesis 18:19. We are to help all of God’s children, living and dead, receive the full blessings of the gospel. We are also to obey God’s commandments.)

    If you have written the chart on page 28 on the chalkboard, add a section to the bottom of the chart, listing our responsibilities as follows:

    Responsibilities:

    Help all of God’s children receive the full blessings of the gospel (Abraham 2:9, 11)

    Obey God’s commandments (Genesis 18:19)

  • How can we help others receive the gospel? (By doing missionary work, by performing temple ordinances for the dead, and by being examples of righteousness. You may want to show pictures of a temple and of missionaries.)

    President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The responsibility of the seed of Abraham, which we are, is to be missionaries to ‘bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations’ (Abraham 2:9)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 107; or Ensign, May 1987, 85).

    Elder Boyd K. Packer made the following analogy to emphasize our responsibility to share the gospel with others:

    Imagine that our bishop has appointed us to plan a picnic for ward members. It is to be the best social in the history of the ward, and we are to spare no expense. We reserve a beautiful picnic ground in the country. We are to have it all to ourselves.

    The day arrives and everything is perfect. The tables are set and the feast is spectacular. Then, just as the blessing is being said, an old car turns into the picnic grounds and sputters to a stop. A worried man lifts the hood, and a spout of steam comes out. Several children climb out of the car. An anxious mother takes a box to a nearby table. She puts a few leftovers on the table, trying to make them look like a meal for her hungry children. But there is not enough.

    Then one of the little girls sees our table. She pulls her little brother over to us and pushes her head between you and me. We move aside. The little girl says, “Look at that; I wonder what that tastes like.”

    What would we do? Would we ignore the people or ask them to be quiet? Would we show them back to their table and give them some of the food we don’t really need? Or would we invite them to come and join us, to sit between us and share the feast, and to let us help fix their car and give them something for their journey?

    Elder Packer asks: “Could there be more pure enjoyment than seeing how much we could get those hungry children to eat? Could there be more satisfaction than to interrupt our festivities to help [them] fix their car? …

    “… There are people across the world and about us—our neighbors, our friends, some in our own families—who, spiritually speaking, are undernourished. Some of them are starving to death! If we keep all this to ourselves, it is not unlike feasting before those who are hungry” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 59–61; or Ensign, May 1984, 41–42).

  • What does this analogy teach about our responsibility to help others receive the blessings of the gospel? (We have been blessed with the fulness of the gospel, the greatest feast the world has ever known [D&C 58:8–12]. God expects us to share this blessing with others, both living and dead.)

  • How is the declaration of lineage in our patriarchal blessings like a call to fulfill our responsibilities as heirs to the Abrahamic covenant? (By declaring that we are the seed of Abraham, our patriarchal blessings reemphasize our privilege to receive the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and our obligation to fulfill its responsibilities.)

Conclusion

Bear testimony of the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. Encourage class members to fulfill their responsibilities as heirs to this covenant.

Additional Teaching Idea

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use it as part of the lesson.

The challenge of living in the world

Explain that the ancient Israelites were surrounded by many nations whose people did not believe in the true God. These nations included the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and others. (You may want to have class members turn to map 2 in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible.)

  • Why do you think the Lord put his covenant people in the middle of the ancient world instead of where they could be left alone? (See Deuteronomy 4:6–8. He wanted them to set an example for others and to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant to bless all nations.)

    Explain that many stories in the Old Testament show the success or failure of the Lord’s people to keep their covenants and influence others toward righteousness. Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and many others were righteous influences. Samson, Ahab, the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, and others allowed the world to influence them.

    As he did with ancient Israel, the Lord has placed us, his latter-day covenant people, in the middle of the world. Our challenge is to influence the world in righteous ways rather than allowing the world to influence us in unrighteous ways.