Sunday, August 29, 2010

“Chapter 15: The Lord’s Covenant People,” Gospel Principles

The Nature of Covenants

Teacher presentation and discussion

Help the class learn how important it is to understand fully the agreements we make with others. To do this, ask to imagine that someone has offered them a job. The salary is good, but the employer has agreed to pay them only whenever he can.

      • Would you want to enter into this kind of agreement? Why or why not?                                                       • What do you need to know before you enter into an agreement with another person?

Point out that in any agreement, we should have confidence in the other agreeing party. We need to know that we can trust the other person.

When We Receive Priesthood Ordinances, We Make Sacred Covenants
Teacher presentation

Explain that there is one person we can always trust to keep an agreement. When we make agreements with this person, we know they are always fair and will never fail. Agreements with this person are called covenants, and they bring us blessings of everlasting value. This person is the Lord.

Have the class read Enos 1:15–17.

Write the word covenants on the chalkboard. Then read the following definition:
“A covenant is a binding and solemn compact, agreement, contract, or mutual promise between God and a single person or a group of chosen persons” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 166; italics added).

    • Where can we learn the terms of our covenants with Heavenly Father?
Point out that the scriptures contain most of these terms. They explain what Heavenly Father expects from us and what he promises us in return.

Have the class read Doctrine and Covenants 82:10. Point out that our receiving the blessings depends on our keeping our part of the agreement. We can count on Heavenly Father to be completely reliable.

Teacher presentation
Explain that many priesthood ordinances require that we make covenants with the Lord when we receive the ordinance.

I like the following from Joseph Fielding Smith:

The Gospel covenant is the promise of God to grant to man, through man’s obedience and acceptance of the ordinances and principles of the Gospel, the glory and exaltation of eternal life. (Church News)

Our Baptismal Covenant

A covenant is an agreement or promise between two or more people. At baptism, we made a very important covenant with God. As President Spencer W. Kimball said, “To be baptized is to enter into a covenant … with God … to do, … to work righteousness as well as to avoid evil” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 94).
    • Have class members read Doctrine and Covenants 20:37. What requirements for baptism are given in this scripture? Allow  time to answer; then display a poster of the following list or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

1. Be humble.
2. Have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
3. Witness that you are willing to take upon you the name of Jesus Christ.
4. Have a determination to serve Jesus Christ to the end.
    • What does it mean to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ?
To bear the name of Jesus Christ is to be called the children of Christ (see Mosiah 5:7–8). When we bear someone’s name, we have a responsibility to that person. Just as we have a responsibility to the family whose name we bear, we have a responsibility to Jesus Christ when we take upon us His name. We should try to live as He lives.

Ask the class members to read Doctrine and Covenants 20:77.
We renew our baptismal covenants through the covenants made when we partake of the sacrament. As we keep our covenants to remember Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments, we are promised a blessing.

    • What does our Heavenly Father promise to those who keep these covenants? How does having His Spirit with us help us serve Him and keep His commandments?

When a man receives the Melchizedek Priesthood, he enters into the oath and covenant of the priesthood. He covenants to be faithful, magnify his calling, "give diligent heed to the words of eternal life," and "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." Those who keep this covenant will be sanctified by the Spirit and receive "all that [the] Father hath." (See D&C 84:33–44.)

God’s Covenant with Abraham and His Descendants

Attention Activity

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

    • 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.)

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:
o    “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.)
o    “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.)

      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.)

o    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).

o    Elder Boyd K. Packer made the following analogy to emphasize our responsibility to share the gospel with others:
o    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.
o    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.
o    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.”
o    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?
o    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? …
o    “… 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.)

Members of the Church Are a Covenant People

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.

•    • 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?

Members of the Church Are a 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).


    • 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?

I love this quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley about LDS being a covenant people. It also beautifully parallels the three covenants discussed in the first section of this lesson (pp. 81-82):

We are a covenant people. I have had the feeling that if we could just encourage our people to live by three or four covenants everything else would take care of itself. …
The first of these is the covenant of the sacrament, in which we take upon ourselves the name of the Savior and agree to keep His commandments with the promise in His covenant that He will bless us with His spirit. …
Second, the covenant of tithing. … The promise … is that He will stay the destroyer and open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them. …
Three, the covenants of the temple: Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the on-rolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality.
If our people could only learn to live by these covenants, everything else would take care of itself, I am satisfied. (quoted by Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Ensign, May 2001, 61)

It may be important to understand that covenants did not begin in mortality, as discussed in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

Latter-day Saints hold that the first personal covenants were made in premortal life, later to be taken again on earth. (p. 333)

Concerning covenants made in premortality, Elder Dallin Oaks explained in conference: All of the myriads of mortals who have been born on this earth chose the Father’s plan and fought for it. Many of us also made covenants with the Father concerning what we would do in mortality. In ways that have not been revealed, our actions in the spirit world influence us in mortality. (Ensign, Nov 1993, 72)

In Conference, President Harold B. Lee also stated:

Now then, to make a summary of what I have just read, may I ask each of you again the question, “Who are you?” You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.
All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here? (Ensign, Jan 1974, 2)

In this same conference talk, President Harold B. Lee also declared that although we have now in mortality renewed covenants we made in premortality, this life becomes crucial in the keeping of these covenants:

…even though we have our free agency here, there are many who were foreordained before the world was, to a greater state than they have prepared themselves for here. Even though they might have been among the noble and great, from among whom the Father declared he would make his chosen leaders, they may fail of that calling here in mortality. (Ensign, Jan 1974, 2)

The following is a quote from this section of the lesson:

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. (p. 84)

Regarding missionary work as our responsibility as a covenant people, there is a concept introduced by the Lord about “salt.” In an Ensign article entitled, “I Have a Question,” What does it mean to be the “salt of the earth “? LeGrand L. Baker answered:

It is clear that under the new covenant the followers of Christ, as “salt,” are responsible for extending gospel blessings to the whole earth. “When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant,” the Lord explains, “they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men” (D&C 101:39). It is our privilege and blessing to lovingly lead our brothers and sisters to Christ, helping them receive their covenant blessings. As we do so, we become the figurative salt that makes it possible for them to offer the acceptable sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. In addition, our own covenant sacrifice of time, talents, and means is pleasing to the Lord. (Ensign, Apr. 1999, 53)

In a conference talk entitled, “Salt of the Earth: Savor of Men and Saviors of Men,” Elder Carlos E. Asay elaborated:

A world-renowned chemist told me that salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination. Similarly, priesthood power does not dissipate with age; it, too, is lost through mixture and contamination. (Ensign, May 1980, 42)

The first paragraph (after the question) of this section discusses a less-well-known principle of “adoption.” From the Bible Dictionary, under “Adoption” comes the following explanation:

There are two types of adoption spoken of in the scriptures. A person who is of non-Israelite lineage becomes a member of the house of Israel through faith in Jesus Christ when it is accompanied by baptism in water and the reception of the Holy Ghost.

Again, from that great resource, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism comes the following on adoption:

Today, members of the Church—latter-day Israel, largely Joseph’s descendants, either by blood or adoption—are to seek out the other descendants of Israel and those who would become Israelites through adoption by baptism. The Prophet Joseph Smith observed that “as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene;…while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost. (p. 706)

The New and Everlasting Covenant

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).

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?

Also from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism comes the following:

The new and everlasting covenant is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sum of all gospel covenants that God makes with mankind is called “the new and everlasting covenant” and consists of several individual covenants, each of which is called “a new and everlasting covenant.” It is “new” when given to a person or a people for the first time, and “everlasting” because the gospel of Jesus Christ and plan of salvation existed before the world was formed and will exist forever.
All covenants between God and mankind are part of the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 22; 132:6-7). (p. 1008)

As members of the Church, we have great need for this covenant. From his wonderful talk, “The Mediator,” Elder Boyd K. Packer declares:

The extension of mercy will not be automatic. It will be through covenant with Him. It will be on His terms, His generous terms… (Ensign, May 1977, 54)

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