Monday, January 11, 2016

All Abrahamic Religions Consider Biblical Covenants Important

The Bible speaks of different covenants, such as the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants God made with the nation of Israel. Of those four, three are unconditional in nature; that is, regardless of Israel's obedience or disobedience, God still will fulfill these covenants with Israel. One of the covenants, the Mosaic Covenant, is conditional in nature. That is, this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on Israel's obedience or disobedience. 
    Three of the covenants (Adamic, Noahic, New) are made between God and mankind in general, and are not limited to the nation of Israel.
In the beginning, "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, 'I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.' Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" Genesis 17:1-6
    In the days of ancient Israel, God spoke through Jeremiah, the Prophet, and said, "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.
    "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Covenants were administered anciently by those with power and authority
    President Thomas S. Monson has stated that in the LDS Church, sacred covenants are to be revered, and faithfulness to them is a requirement for happiness. There are three essential ones: 1) baptism, 2) priesthood, and 3) eternal marriage (“Happiness—the Universal Quest,” Ensign, Oct. 1993, 4).
    In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our salvation. As part of these “saving ordinances,” we enter into solemn covenants with God. It is a  two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with Him, we promise to keep those conditions and terms we accepted when making the covenant and He promises us certain blessings in return.
    When we receive these saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the greatest blessing God can give us—eternal life and exaltation (D&C 14:7).
Because keeping our covenants is essential to our happiness now and to eventually receiving exaltation, it is important to understand what we have promised our Heavenly Father. The covenant of baptism by immersion in water, performed by one having authority, is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Inseparable from baptism is its companion ordinance of confirmation—the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. In this we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. We also promise “to serve him to the end” (D&C 20:37; Mosiah 18:8-10). In return, Heavenly Father promises that if we repent of our sins, we can be forgiven (Alma 7:14) and “always have His Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77), a promise made possible, in part, through receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    The ordinances of baptism and confirmation are the gate through which all who seek eternal life must enter (John 3:3-5). Honoring our baptismal covenants leads to and is an important part of making the covenants associated with all of the other saving ordinances on the path to eternal life (2 Nephi 31:17-21; Robert D. Hales, “The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 6.
    Those who have received the saving ordinances of baptism and confirmation partake of the sacrament each week to renew those covenants. While partaking of the bread and water, we remember the sacrifice the Savior made for us. In addition, we ponder the covenants we have made to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. In turn, God extends the promise that His Spirit may be with us always (D&C 20:77,79).
    The ordinance of the sacrament is an opportunity each week to renew sacred covenants that allow us to be partakers of the Savior’s atoning grace with the same spiritually cleansing effect of baptism and confirmation. Church leaders have taught that when we take the sacrament, we renew not only our baptismal covenants but “all covenants entered into with the Lord” (Delbert L. Stapley, CR, Oct 1965, 14; Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 1997, p561; The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, 1982, p220 ).
Priesthood service is conducted for the benefit of others. Alma said “And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God” (Alma 13:3)
    Another covenant of great important is that of the Priesthood. In what is called the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, Heavenly Father gives His oath (guarantee) to bestow certain blessings upon those who keep the covenants associated with receiving the priesthood. Thus, when men live worthy to obtain the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and “[magnify] their calling,” God promises they will be “sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” They become heirs of the promises made to Moses, Aaron, and Abraham (D&C 84:33-34). Receiving the Priesthood is not a passive right or blessing, but when in which an individual is expected to provide extensive service in fulfilling (magnifying) his calling. This involves unpaid hours donated to service to others, to the Church, and to the various needs of the Ward, Stake or area in which the person lives.
    Holding the Melchizedek Priesthood is also necessary for men to qualify to enter the temple. There, men and women may receive a fulness of priesthood blessings together in marriage.
    By receiving all of the saving ordinances of the priesthood, all people can receive the promise of “all that [the] Father hath” (D&C 84:35-38). “Incredible blessings flow from this oath and covenant to worthy men, women, and children in all the world,” taught Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (“Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, p88; Henry B.Eyring, “Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2008, p61).
The third of these important covenants is that of Eternal Marriage, more properly called “The Sealing,” and referred to as “being sealed.” This covenant is made in the temple, and is a gift that provides perspective and power. During the temple endowment we receive instructions and make covenants related to our eternal exaltation. Associated with the endowment are the ordinances of washing and anointing and being clothed in temple garments as a reminder of sacred covenants (See Russell M. Nelson, “Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple,” Ensign, Oct. 2010, p46). Temple ordinances and covenants are so sacred that they are not discussed in detail outside of the temple. Because of that, President Boyd K. Packer, when President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, advised, “It is important that you listen carefully as these ordinances are administered and that you try to remember the blessings promised and the conditions upon which they will be realized” (Boyd K. Packer, “Come to the Temple,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 20.).
    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught that the key to receiving divine power to overcome opposition and move the Church forward “is the covenant we make in the temple—our promise to obey and sacrifice, to consecrate unto the Father, and His promise to empower us with ‘a great endowment (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Keeping Covenants: A Message for Those Who Will Serve a Mission,” New Era, Jan. 2012, p4; Russell M. Nelson, “Generations Linked in Love,” Ensign, May 2010, p91).
As the Lord told his apostles, “In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (Luke 14:2). The Hebrew word translated as “mansions,” is probably more accurately “abiding-places.” Thus, in the vast home filled by His Father's glory and lighted by His smile of recognition and reconciliation, in the high and holy place, are "many mansions" prepared from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). Heaven is a large place; its possibilities transcend our imagination and exceed our understanding. And since all do not live equal lives, it would be beyond conscience to think all inherit the same level of glory with God. Thus, we can see that the saving graces of God as discussed in the previous posts are dependent upon ordinances and covenants for man to achieve the greatest glory due him. “I go to prepare a place for you,” is spoken by our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1)—therefore, it is Christ, the Son, who knows where we belong in His father’s many mansions. And for those who receive exaltation for their works, after receiving eternal life as a free gift of grace, Christ’s next words have even greater meaning, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Luke 14:3).
    Thus, the Plan for Salvation and Exaltation is complete.

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