Thursday, 11 December 2014

The New and Everlasting Covenant

The scriptures speak of covenants between God and man; from Adam to Moses to Abraham, and even David. It is interesting to find that the purpose of such covenants is almost always the same and, even today, we are bound to such a covenant. Even the same covenant from the beginning, the new and everlasting covenant.

Curious, isn’t it? A covenant which always has been is new, even today. Bruce R. McConkie explains, “It is new because it has been revealed anew in our day;” in accordance with Acts 3:21. He continues by saying, “it is everlasting because it has always been had by faithful people”. So what is the new and everlasting covenant?
D&C 66:2 “Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old.”

That’s interesting… The above verse states that it is the fullness of the gospel AND that it was written by ancient prophets and apostles. This is a new conundrum, in that the restoration of the gospel in 1830 is commonly believed to be the ushering in of the dispensation of the fullness of times, even the restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And yet it is. And we knew this.

So, why then do we find that many of the ordinances that have been restored are considered “new”? Why do we not find these ordinances in other denominations, creeds and sects? Why do we rely mostly on latter-day revelation to reveal to us the doctrines, principles and ordinances of a God that is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8)?

The simple answer is apostasy. Apostasy has given way to much confusion, much thirsting and just as Amos prophecies in chapter 8 verse 12, “they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”

Isaiah 24:5 “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”

So we needn’t be surprised to see the world and all its faiths moved so far from the truths of the new and everlasting covenant.

Let’s take a step back. Let us revert to the first recorded statement from God regarding this covenant:
Genesis 17:7 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”

So the covenant was made, from the beginning, for God to be a God to our first parents, as well as to us. And that God, even our God went on to make a covenant of peace.
Numbers 25:13 “And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.”
Jeremiah 32:40 “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
Isaiah 55:3 “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”
D. Todd Christofferson summarised as follows, “the doctrines and commandments of the gospel constitute the substance of an everlasting covenant between God and man that is newly restored in each dispensation.”

So the new and everlasting covenant is a promise between God and man that He will be their God and they will come unto Him; a binding contract to keep them together. These are the doctrines and principles by which we have been called to live.

Joseph Fielding Smith said that the new and everlasting covenant was the total sum of every contract, obligation, and performance that pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is sealed by the Holy Ghost of promise. This tells us that the higher priesthood is required – and that, in order to become partakers of the fullness of God’s blessings, we need to enter into every gospel ordinance made available to us.

That starts with the first ordinance of baptism, “the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water” (2 Nephi 31:17), and then confirmation. John 3:5 “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Now those are the easy ones – mentioned countless time in both new and ancient scripture.

Sacrament is another ordinance, one which is observed weekly in The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me … This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). Interestingly, though, this ordinance is somewhat debated in the Christian community. Fortunately, latter-day saints have the Book of Mormon to clarify – 3 Nephi 18:6 “And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.”

The trouble comes in latter-day ordinances such as priesthood ordination and temple ordinances. This is where we need to apply our knowledge of Biblical prophecy, specifically, the restitution of all things as mentioned in Acts 3:21.

We’ve seen how the covenant had been broken and how apostasy had taken from the truths of the gospel, so this is where we need to rely on the spirit of prophecy, where we need to trust in living prophets and modern scripture. For without the New Testament, one would never know of baptism. How sacred and important an ordinance. Imagine if we didn’t have it – we surely could not enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Now, I speak concerning marriage specifically, for as much as endowments have been stated in modern scripture, nothing in ancient scripture even appears to refute/contradict. And genealogy, well, you’d have to be blind to miss those in the Bible. But marriage, now that’s been the source of much disputation (even in my family – none of my family members are LDS). But worry not, I’ll address endowments in a later post.

So what does God say concerning marriage?
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh," (Gen. 2:24).
"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," (Matt. 19:6).

You see, I’ve always had a problem with the term “’til death do us part”. I mean, we sure do advocate resurrection and eternal life as Christians, so why then do we forsake our teachings of family and marriage when it does come? Why would God institute the ordinance here on earth, but tear it apart in heaven? Did he not say that they’ll be joined as one? Did he not say let no man put asunder?

Now I know what you’re thinking, that verse applies to man and not God. But what about our initial covenants with God regarding peace and everlasting priesthood? Why would he take marriage away?
The truth is, he won’t. He doesn’t. There is no Biblical evidence that He will.

Let’s just think about the following verse before we delve into the Sadducees question to Christ, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” (Ephesians 3:15).

Have you thought about it?
Now, Mark 12:25, “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”

Here Christ was asked regarding the companionship of the women who was given in marriage to her husband’s brothers after he had passed away in the life to come – this was tradition in those days. Now that’s interesting. They had a knowledge of marriage in the eternities already.

Let’s look at Christ’s response, which sure is true. “They” would neither marry, nor be given in marriage.
D&C 132:15-16 says, “Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.”

This instance was an example of marriage for time and not for eternity. Now I won’t get into Talmage’s explanation of her sealing to her first husband (or the promise to those faithful to get a spouse in the next life if they weren’t able to do so in this one), but what I will say is that Christ’s words in this account still rings true to LDS today. The time to get married is here on earth and the ordinance to be sealed needs to be done through the Melchizedek Priesthood. Otherwise, we will be as the angels in heaven.

Beyond this, there is no apparent disputation with regards to eternal marriage. In fact, considering the restoration thereof in these latter days, you won’t find much else on the matter in ancient scripture.

For just as baptism appeared to arrive in the New Testament, so has Eternal Marriage arrived in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is where latter-day revelation becomes important. We cannot become so blinded as to ignore God’s words to us in these days by focussing wholly on what He said in those days. The saints have always followed prophets – we’re just fortunate to have the Bible as a record of what has been said. But we must never forget to keep listening to what is being said.
To quote the Lord in 2 Nephi 29:8, “Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?

Family is central to God’s plan. The rock upon which Christ’s Church was built is revelation. And marriage is eternal. I know this – scriptures approve it and prophets have said it. This is my testimony which I leave with you in the name of Jesus Christ.

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