President Packer's book, The Holy Temple, is a classic of LDS literature that has become one of the most comprehensive and definitive works written about temples. In fact, much of the material found in the Church's temple preparation pamphlet comes from this inspired book.
Within The Holy Temple, President Packer examines the new and everlasting covenant by compiling what prophets have said about this most sacred covenant. President Packer does this to help clarify for Latter-day Saints that the new and everlasting covenant is not temple marriage, like many suppose. It reaches so much deeper than that.
While a temple sealing is one of the highest ordinances we can receive, that is in part because it builds upon and enacts all the other ordinances and covenants we have made in our lives. But, that still does not make it the new and everlasting covenant.
In the book, President Packer also examines the paradox of how the covenant can be both new and at the same time everlasting and eternal.
The following is an excerpt from The Holy Temple.
The Lord in the revelation now known as section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants announces:
For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then ye are damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the condition thereof, as was instituted from before the foundation of the world. (D&C 132:4-5)
President Joseph Fielding Smith defines the new and everlasting covenant in these words:
What is the new and everlasting covenant? I regret to say that there are some members of the Church who are misled and misinformed in regard to what the new and everlasting covenant really is. The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations, and I want to prove it. In the 66th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 2, I read:
"Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old."
More definitely stated is the definition of the new and everlasting covenant given to us in section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Now I am going to say before I read this that marriage is not the new and everlasting covenant. If there are any here that have that idea I want to say that right to them. Baptism is not the new and everlasting covenant. In section 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says that baptism is "a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning." Marriage in the temple of the Lord for time and for eternity is "a" new and everlasting covenant. (Doctrine of Salvation, 1:156.)
As to why it is called a new covenant, President Smith wrote:
Each ordinance and requirement given to man for the purpose of bringing to pass his salvation and exaltation is a covenant. Baptism for the remission of sins is a covenant. When this ordinance was revealed in this dispensation, the Lord called it "a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning."
This covenant was given in the beginning and was lost to men through apostasy, therefore, when it was revealed again, it became to man a new covenant, although it was from the beginning, and it is everlasting since its effects upon the individual endure forever. Then again, whenever there is need for repentance, baptism is the method, or law, given of the Lord by which the remission of sins shall come, and so this law is everlasting. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:152.)
This covenant includes all ordinances of the gospel--the highest of which are performed in the temple. To quote President Smith again:
Now there is a clear-cut definition of the new and everlasting covenant. It is everything--the fulness of the gospel. So marriage properly performed, baptism, ordination to the priesthood, everything else--every contract, every obligation, every performance that pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise according to his law here given, is part of the new and everlasting covenant. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:158)
. . . That word covenant is a powerful, motivating word. It makes men and women and children rise above themselves, reach beyond themselves, and come within grasp of celestial exaltation.