There is more to the Abrahamic Covenant than most people think. Read on to find out three things you probably didn't know about some of the greatest blessings promised to those of the covenant.
I have a friend who was once walking around Brigham Young’s old farmland in New England, kicking at something underneath his foot. He dug a little further and found a very old knife with the initials “BY” carved in it. How cool is that!
Everyone dreams at least once in his or her lifetime of discovering a buried or lost treasure. Yet, I believe that the scriptures are full of buried treasures, so to speak, just waiting for us to discover them. The Abrahamic covenant is certainly at the top of the list of such treasures. We hear a lesson on the Abrahamic covenant every few years and perhaps look at it as something great, but something that happened to someone else a very long time ago. Only if we can get beyond that point and see it as something very real, personal, and applicable us, not just to an Old Testament prophet, can we recognize this covenant for the treasure it is.
Hopefully, as you start seeing how prevalent it is in the scriptures, how the same blessings promised to Abraham can be yours, and how it relates to your temple experience, your scripture study, life, and worship in the Lord’s house will become more meaningful and treasured. Here are three important things to understand about this eternal covenant:
1. The Abrahamic covenant is one of the most prominent subjects in all the scriptures.
You have, no doubt, read of “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” in the scriptures. This phrase refers to the Abrahamic covenant because it speaks of the God who made a covenant with Abraham and renewed it through Isaac and Jacob. People worship lots of different “gods,” ranging from sports to foods to supermodels. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only true and living God and the only God worth giving our hearts to. And He is a very personal God because He made specific promises of endless blessings to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Likewise, when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and his family was divided into the “tribes of Israel,” this too was an Abrahamic covenant reference, referring to the Lord’s covenant with the people of Israel—the same covenant made with Abraham.
Add all the references up and there are well over 3,000 Abrahamic covenant mentions in the standard works. That is roughly one Abrahamic covenant reference for every page of the scriptures. Yeah, that’s a lot. By contrast, references to repentance total only 951. Faith appears 861 times, love 550 times, and mercy 520. These are all very important gospel subjects, but do not appear nearly as frequently as the Abrahamic covenant. Perhaps the Lord is trying to teach us something. Notice in particular the Savior’s teachings to the Nephites after His resurrection. After establishing the correct doctrine of baptism (3 Nephi 11) and teaching the essence of Christianity in the Sermon on the Mount (known in the Book of Mormon as the Sermon at the Temple to the Nephites) in 3 Nephi 12-14, the Savior’s teachings center largely on Israel and the Abrahamic covenant (see 3 Nephi 15, 18-21).
As you begin to recognize these references throughout the scriptures, you might find yourself (like me) whispering, “Hey, that’s an Abrahamic covenant reference” as you study the scriptures. And when that happens, you will discover a whole new meaning with nearly every page of your scripture study.
2. The Abrahamic covenant is for us.
What is the message in the Abrahamic covenant’s prevalence throughout the scriptures? Simply put, the Lord’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are also promises to us in the latter days. He promised Abraham that He would be with him, that He would bless those who bless Him and curse those who cursed Him. We have access to those same blessings today through the same covenant! Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may rightfully be referred to as “modern Israel” or “the children of Abraham.” Among other blessings, these terms mean that our God is watching over us in the same way that He watched over the Israelites when He parted the Red Sea, provided manna each morning for them, water from a rock to quench their thirst, a cloud to shade them, and a pillar of fire to light the darkness for them. Being an heir to that covenant gives us great hope to look for and find our own personal “manna,” “water,” “shade,” and light from our Heavenly Father and our Savior.
And these are only some of the blessings promised to Abraham! We typically think of the Abrahamic covenant blessings as “the three P’s”: priesthood, posterity, and promised land. Adding these blessings together, they represent the fullness of Heavenly Father’s blessings in time and eternity. That means the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant are the blessings of eternal life and exaltation. Ultimately, these blessings are to receive and share in all that the Father hath (D&C 84:38). The words of the prodigal son’s father give the same message our Father in Heaven teaches us through the Abrahamic covenant: “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine” (Luke 15:31). That is the message of the blessings of eternal life promised to Abraham, and those are same blessings promised to us in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. If we stay true to our covenants through all of our trials and challenges, as Abraham did, we can have a sure hope of an eternity beyond anything our minds can imagine.
All this is possible because we have access to the same covenant—the same promises—as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself” (D&C 132:31).
3. The temple is the gateway to the fullness of the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant.
Blessings come from making and keeping covenants, and covenants are most frequently received in the gospel through ordinances. So, if we are to receive the blessings promised to Abraham, what are the ordinances that accompany the Abrahamic covenant and lead to its blessings? They are the ordinances of the temple.
Abraham was promised the blessings of the covenant over several different chapters in Genesis. Each of these promises was accompanied by different laws or commandments the Lord gave to Abraham (see Genesis 12, 15, 17, and 22) and were given over the course of many years, even decades. They did not all come at once. Abraham had to prove himself through great works of faith, obedience, sacrifice, righteousness, fidelity, and proving his worthiness through the hardest possible tests. When he passed his final test by being willing to offer his only begotten son, Isaac, the Lord then removed any conditions of the blessings and swore to him with an oath that he would receive the blessings eternally (Genesis 22:16).
In the temple, covenants and blessings are likewise given in increments through different temple ordinances. The restored temple ordinances individually and collectively make these promised blessings very specific, very personal, and very real to each of us, as we grow in understanding and appreciation of them. The promises we make—the “works of Abraham” (D&C 132:32) taught by the Savior—mark the path to our preparation and worthiness to receive those blessings in the eternities.
The individual and collective ordinances of the temple unfold the same blessings of eternal priesthood, eternal families, and the celestial kingdom that were promised to Abraham. As you see and recognize these blessings in the various temple ordinances, your understanding and appreciation of them will broaden and deepen dramatically. In the temple, with the help of the Holy Ghost, you will see just how personally the Lord makes these promises to you, just as He did to Abraham. You will see the “works” required of Abraham to receive those blessings and see how your path to these blessings follows his path. Through the ordinances and covenants of the temple, those blessings are ours to earn or lose. May we choose to claim them by learning about and doing the works of Abraham.
This article was originally published by LDS Living in May 2016.