Through the ages, God has made covenants with His children. His covenants occur throughout the entire plan of salvation and are therefore part of the fulness of His gospel. For example, God promised to send a Savior for His children, asking in turn for their obedience to His law.
In the Bible we read of men and women in the Old World who were identified as children of the covenant. What covenant? “The covenant which God made with [their] fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
In the Book of Mormon we read of people in the New World who were also identified as children of the covenant. The resurrected Lord so informed them: “Behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant which the Father made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham: And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”
The Savior explained the importance of their identity as children of the covenant. He said, “The Father having raised me up unto you first, . . . sent me to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities; and this because ye are the children of the covenant.”
The covenant God made with Abraham and later reaffirmed with Isaac and Jacob is of transcendent significance. It contained several promises, including:
- Jesus the Christ would be born through Abraham’s lineage.
- Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to an eternal increase and also entitled to bear the priesthood.
- Abraham would become a father of many nations.
- Certain lands would be inherited by his posterity.
- All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed.
- And that covenant would be everlasting—even through “a thousand generations.”
Some of these promises have been fulfilled; others are still pending. I quote from an early Book of Mormon prophecy: “Our father [Lehi] hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham.” Isn’t that amazing? Some 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, prophets knew that the Abrahamic covenant would be finally fulfilled only in the latter days.
To facilitate that promise, the Lord appeared in these latter days to renew that Abrahamic covenant. To the Prophet Joseph Smith the Master declared: “Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, . . . my servant Joseph. . . . This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham.”
With this renewal, we have received, as did they of old, the holy priesthood and the everlasting gospel. We have the right to receive the fulness of the gospel, enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, and qualify for God’s greatest blessing—that of eternal life.
Some of us are the literal seed of Abraham; others are gathered into his family by adoption. The Lord makes no distinction. Together we receive these promised blessings—if we seek the Lord and obey His commandments. But if we don’t, we lose the blessings of the covenant. To assist us, His Church provides patriarchal blessings to give each recipient a vision for his or her future, as well as a connection with the past, even a declaration of lineage back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Brethren of the covenant have the right to qualify for the oath and covenant of the priesthood. If you are “faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods, . . . and the magnifying [of your] calling, [you] are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of [your] bodies.” That is not all. Men who worthily receive the priesthood receive the Lord Jesus Christ and those who receive the Lord receive God the Father. And those who receive the Father receive all that He has. Incredible blessings flow from this oath and covenant to worthy men, women, and children in all the world.
Ours is the responsibility to help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world. That is why priesthood duty includes missionary work. After some four thousand years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate! Isn’t that exciting? The Lord is counting on those who worthily serve as missionaries in this great time of the gathering of Israel.
The Book of Mormon is a tangible sign that the Lord has commenced to gather His children of covenant Israel. This book, written for our day, states as one of its purposes that “ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel . . . is already beginning to be fulfilled. . . . For behold, the Lord will remember his covenant which he hath made unto his people of the house of Israel.”
Indeed, the Lord has not forgotten! He has blessed us and others throughout the world with the Book of Mormon. One of its purposes is for “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” It helps us to make covenants with God. It invites us to remember Him and to know His Beloved Son. It is another testament of Jesus Christ.
Children of the covenant have the right to receive His doctrine and to know the plan of salvation. They claim it by making covenants of sacred significance. Brigham Young said: “All Latter-day Saints enter the new and everlasting covenant when they enter this Church. . . . They enter the new and everlasting covenant to sustain the Kingdom of God.” They keep the covenant by obedience to His commandments.
Commitment keeping prepares a person for covenant keeping. The gospel of Jesus Christ includes the making and keeping of sacred covenants, the first of which is the covenant of baptism. The act of baptism itself does not wash sin away. Thanks to the Atonement, one becomes clean when one faithfully keeps the baptismal covenant to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Next comes the gift of the Holy Ghost. What a blessing that is! Like all gifts, it needs to be unwrapped and used.
Then we come to the culminating covenants of our mortality: the endowment and sealing ordinances of the temple.
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Why do we have temples? Why do we have missionaries? Why should anyone join this Church? To make life more pleasant, satisfying, or uplifting? Yes, but other organizations can also do some of that. In fact, we join this Church to make and keep sacred covenants that will qualify us for eternal life. We join this Church so that our families can be together forever. Only the Lord’s Church can offer these enduring blessings.
Without sealing ordinances performed for families in the temple, the whole earth would be utterly wasted! The purposes of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement would all be frustrated.
I repeat: God simply wants His children to return to Him. For this to happen, each of us needs to make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of salvation and exaltation, and be linked to both our ancestors and our posterity. Only then are we qualified to dwell with Deity and our families forever.
When we realize that we are children of the covenant, we know who we are and what God expects of us. His law is written in our hearts. He is our God and we are His people. Committed children of the covenant remain steadfast, even in the midst of adversity. When that doctrine is deeply implanted in our hearts, even the sting of death is soothed and our spiritual stamina is strengthened.
The greatest compliment that can be earned here in this life is to be known as a covenant keeper. The rewards for a covenant keeper will be realized both here and hereafter. Scripture declares that “ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, . . . and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, . . . [and] dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.”
God lives. Jesus is the Christ. His Church has been restored to bless all people. And we, as faithful children of the covenant, will be blessed now and forever.
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In the Lord's plan for His children, this is the final dispensation. Many important things need to be done to prepare the earth for the Savior's Second Coming. From preaching the gospel in every nation, to sealing our families throughout the generations, to becoming ever more like our Savior, Jesus Christ, we as Latter-day Saints face many tasks that may seem impossible from a worldly standpoint.
But ours is an eternal perspective, and our mandate comes not from the world but from the Lord, who gives no commandment without preparing a way for it to be accomplished (see 1 Nephi 3:7). In fact, as President Russell M. Nelson points out, His pattern is one of "using the unlikely to accomplish the impossible." From David and Goliath to Moses to Joseph Smith, the history of His people is a story of accomplishing the impossible.