Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Understanding Sacred Covenants

                As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we make sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father when we participate in the ordinances of the gospel.  When we make covenants, God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions.  As we better understand our covenants, we will be able to honor them and receive the blessings promised by our Heavenly Father.

                The word covenant as used in a legal sense “denotes an agreement between two or more parties.”  A sacred covenant means so much more. In a religious context, a covenant is a sacred promise with God.  Elder Russell M. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that God “fixes the terms.  Each person may choose to accept those terms.  If one accepts the terms of the covenant and obeys God’s law, he or she receives the blessings associated with the covenant….” (See “Covenants,” Ensign, November 2011, p. 86; emphasis added.)

                Modern revelation tells us that there “is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
                “And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21).

                Heavenly Father has made covenants with His children throughout the ages, and His covenants are part of the fulness of His gospel.  An example of His covenants is the covenant that God made with Abraham.  Because of this covenant, the children of Israel are also known as the children of the covenant.  The Apostle Peter explained the covenant that God made with Abraham and renewed with Isaac and then Jacob while teaching in the temple in Jerusalem:  “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3:25).

                The resurrected Lord told the people in the New World, “And 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” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 20:25).

                The Abrahamic Covenant contained several promises, including:  1) Jesus the Christ would be born through Abraham’s lineage. 
2) Abraham’s posterity would be numerous, entitled to an eternal increase, and also entitled to bear the priesthood.  3) Abraham would become a father of many nations.  4) Certain lands would be inherited by his posterity.  5) All nations of the earth would be blessed by his seed.  6) And that covenant would be everlasting – even though “a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Chronicles 16:15; Psalm 105:8).

                Elder Nelson explained that some of these promises have already been fulfilled but others are pending.  He quoted “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’ (Doctrine and Covenants 132:30-31).”
                The Lord also told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “As I said unto Abraham concerning the kindreds of the earth, even so I say unto my servant Joseph:  In thee and in thy seed shall the kindred of the earth be blessed” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:58).

                Elder Nelson continued, “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.  [See Doctrine and Covenants 14:7.]

                “Some of us are the literal seed of Abraham; others are gathered into his family by adoption.  The Lord makes no distinction.  [See Acts 19:34-35.]  Together we receive these promised blessings—if we seek the Lord and obey His commandments.  [See Exodus 19:5.]  But if we don’t, we lose the blessings of the covenant.  [“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10).]  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….”

                Elder Nelson later said, “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….

                “At baptism we covenant to serve the Lord and keep His commandments [Doctrine and Covenants 20:37].  When we partake of the sacrament, we renew that covenant and declare our willingness to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.  Thereby we are adopted as His sons and daughters and are known as brothers and sisters.  He is the father of our new life [“We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ,… that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (Book of Mormon2 Nephi 25:26).]  Ultimately, in the holy temple, we may become joint heirs to the blessings of an eternal family, as once promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity.  [See Galatians 3:29; Doctrine and Covenants 86:8-11.] Thus, celestial marriage is the covenant of exaltation.

                “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…” (“Covenants,” Ensign, November 2011, pp. 86-89).  

                I have made sacred covenants with God and have received many blessings for keeping those covenants.  I intend to be a “covenant keeper” from this point forward because I desire the blessings promised by God.  I know that God keeps His promises and will bless me as I keep my covenants with Him.

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