The Abrahamic Covenant

“The Abrahamic Covenant,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual (2017)

“The Abrahamic Covenant,” The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual

The Abrahamic Covenant

Promises

Explanatory Notes

Land

“A strange land … I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (Abraham 2:6; see also Genesis 12:7; 13:14–15; JST, Genesis 15:9–12; Genesis 15:18; 17:8).

This blessing specifically refers to the land “from the river of Egypt [not the Nile, but a river that separates Egypt from Israel] unto … the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18), which actually goes beyond the boundaries of what we usually call Canaan (or Israel, or Palestine). Since the time of Abraham, some or all of that extended area has been inhabited by Abraham’s posterity through Ishmael, Isaac, and the sons of Keturah. When the Lord renewed the covenant with Abraham’s grandson Jacob, he indicated that the children of Israel would have the land of Canaan as an inheritance but would also spread “to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south” (Genesis 28:14).

For example, the posterity of Jacob’s (Israel’s) son Joseph were promised a special land beyond Canaan where they would “push the people together to the ends of the earth” (Deuteronomy 33:17; see verses 13–17; see also Genesis 49:22–26). This prophecy refers to the Western Hemisphere, where the people of the Book of Mormon—who were descendants of Joseph—settled and where the gospel was restored in the latter days to those of the tribe of Ephraim who were mixed among the Gentiles. (Ephraim was Joseph’s birthright son; Brigham Young said that “Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite” [Discourses of Brigham Young, 322].) Furthermore, Joseph Smith taught that “the whole America is the Zion itself—from north to south” (“Discourse, 8 April 1844, in William Clayton Diary,” quoted in The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 362; punctuation and spelling standardized), where it is prophesied that others of the lost tribes gather to receive their blessings of the Abrahamic covenant “by the hands of … the children of Ephraim” (D&C 133:32; see verses 26–34). The Lord even designated a place in North America for the city of Zion (see D&C 57:1–3), the place of the New Jerusalem (see D&C 84:2–5).

All of the tribes, or families, of Israel will yet receive inheritances in the land of Canaan, but the land has been noted especially as a gathering place for the tribe of Judah (see D&C 109:62–64).

Ultimately, this promise of an “everlasting” inheritance of land is fulfilled when the righteous inherit the earth in its glorified state (see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 15:9–12 [in the Bible appendix]; D&C 45:57–59; 63:20; 88:17–20).

Priesthood and Gospel Blessings

  1. “I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood” (Abraham 1:18).

  1. As he desired (see Abraham 1:2–4), Abraham received the priesthood, which is the authority to act in the name of God. He received the priesthood from Melchizedek (see D&C 84:14).

  1. “Through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever” (Abraham 1:19; see also Abraham 2:9).

  1. In addition to preaching the gospel as the Lord’s representatives, this blessing is fulfilled when priesthood bearers administer ordinances, such as baptism, the sacrament, or temple ordinances, that make known the name of the Lord by requiring individuals to take upon them that name (see D&C 20:37, 77; 109:22, 26).

  1. “I will … make thy name great among all nations” (Abraham 2:9; see also Genesis 12:2).

  1. We know that there is “no other name given … whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ” (Mosiah 3:17). Because Abraham’s posterity have Christ’s name put upon them and the people of the world know his name because of them (see Abraham 1:18–19), the name of Abraham becomes “great,” or very important and prominent, to all in the whole world who seek eternal life. In other words, Abraham’s name is great because he presides over his posterity who administer the blessings of eternal life to all the world. These blessings are called the “dispensation of the gospel of Abraham” (D&C 110:12) and were restored by Elias on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland temple. Because these keys were restored, all mankind has access to the blessings of exaltation for themselves and their posterity.

  1. “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee” (Abraham 2:11; see also Genesis 12:3).

  1. This is a promised blessing for those who bear the priesthood and are righteously representing the Savior.

  1. “This right [of the priesthood] shall continue in thee, and in thy seed” (Abraham 2:11).

  1. See “Posterity,” number 5, in this chart.

Posterity

  1. “I will make of thee a great nation” (Abraham 2:9).

  1. In this case, great seems to mean “mighty” or “prominent” and refers to the quality of life the Lord gives to his people (or “nation”) by allowing them to have the gospel and live its principles. The gospel makes all people “great” who live it. Abraham’s seed are also prominent because they bear the authority to perform saving ordinances and bind families together for eternity (see “Priesthood and Gospel Blessings,” no. 3; “Posterity,” no. 5; and “Salvation and Eternal Life,” no. 1, in this chart).

  1. “Thou shalt be a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4; see also Genesis 17:5–6, 16).

  1. Abraham means “father of a multitude” or “father of nations.” Abraham has become the “father of nations” through the posterity of Isaac (Israel), Ishmael (see Genesis 17:20), and the sons of Keturah (see Genesis 25:1–4) and through the house of Israel being scattered and becoming numerous in all the nations of the earth (see Amos 9:9; 1 Nephi 22:3–5).

3. “I will multiply thee, and thy seed after thee, … and if thou canst count the number of sands, so shall be the number of thy seeds” (Abraham 3:14).

  1. This promise refers to Abraham’s mortal posterity (see no. 2 above) and to the opportunity through eternal or celestial marriage to continue to have posterity throughout eternity (see D&C 132:30; see also “Salvation and Eternal Life,” no. 2, in this chart).

  1. “Kings shall come out of thee” (Genesis 17:6; see also Genesis 17:16).

  1. The kings of Israel and Judah were all descendants of Abraham, as were many other non-Biblical kings who descended from Ishmael, the sons of Keturah, and remnants of the lost tribes of Israel living in the lands of the Gentiles. The most important descendant of Abraham was the King of kings, Jesus Christ, who came through the royal lineage of Judah (see Matthew 1:1). In addition, those who receive the Abrahamic covenant and are faithful to it are promised they will become kings and priests (or queens and priestesses) unto God (see Revelation 1:6; D&C 76:56).

  1. “Thy seed … shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations; …

    “… This right [of the priesthood] shall continue in thee, and in thy seed” (Abraham 2:9, 11; see also Genesis 17:7, 19; Abraham 1:4).

  1. Bearing the priesthood is both a blessing and a responsibility. Abraham’s descendants are “lawful heirs” of the priesthood and its blessings (see D&C 86:8–9), meaning they have a right to it. They must, however, prove worthy of the blessings (see Alma 13:4). Those who were foreordained to the priesthood (see Alma 13:3; Abraham 3:23) are sent to the earth in times and places where they can fulfill their foreordained callings and administer the ordinances of salvation to all nations. This blessing not only refers to the right to hold the priesthood, but also the right to receive saving priesthood ordinances, so it applies to both male and female descendants of Abraham.

  1. “As many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father” (Abraham 2:10; see also Isaiah 51:1–2).

  1. Before Abraham, the saving ordinances of the gospel were administered through fathers, in a patriarchal order (see D&C 107:40–56). Abraham’s father apostatized and did not have authority to administer these ordinances to Abraham as Abraham desired (see Abraham 1:2–5). Because of Abraham’s great desire, faith, and obedience, he received the blessings of the priesthood from those who had authority to give them as well as the right to administer them to his posterity. This opened a new dispensation of the gospel—with Abraham set up as the “father”—wherein all who desired these same blessings for themselves and their posterity could receive them in the way Abraham did. Because Abraham received the promise that his posterity would have the right to the priesthood from his day until the end of the world, all who desire the blessings of the saving priesthood ordinances receive them at the hand of Abraham and his descendants. In this way, regardless of whether the blood of Abraham literally flows in their veins, all who accept the gospel become the children of Abraham. We should note that the Prophet Joseph Smith said that “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” (“Discourse, between circa 26 June and circa 2 Juy 1839, as Reported by Willard Richards,” 18–19, josephsmithpapers.org; capitalization standardized), so all who are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost are actually sons and daughters of Abraham.

    Furthermore, Christ was a descendant of Abraham and is the one who made possible the fulfillment of all the blessings promised to Abraham (see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 15:9–12 [in the Bible appendix]). When individuals receive the gospel and are born again, they become sons and daughters of Christ (see Mosiah 5:7) and, consequently, his heirs. Christ was the first to fully obtain all of the blessings promised to Abraham. Only by first becoming sons and daughters of Christ may we qualify as heirs of all that the Father has (see D&C 84:38), which is what was promised to Abraham and his seed (see Galatians 3:27–29; see also “Salvation and Eternal Life,” no. 3, in this chart). Taking upon oneself the name of Christ is the most important way to be a son or daughter of Abraham. If an individual is of the literal posterity of Abraham but never accepts the gospel of Christ, he or she becomes disinherited with regards to the covenant and its blessings (see 2 Nephi 30:2). This is why the Book of Mormon emphasizes that the children of Abraham must not only come to know who they are as a people, but they must be gathered to Christ and restored to their covenant relationship with him (see 2 Nephi 30:4–5).

  1. “He [Abraham] will command his children … and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Genesis 18:19).

  1. From the beginning of his record, Abraham expressed a desire to not only receive the blessings of the gospel in this life and eternal life in the world to come but to administer these blessings to his posterity (see Abraham 1:2–4). Those who claim Abraham as their father will “do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39), which include bringing up children “in light and truth” (D&C 93:40).

Salvation and Eternal Life

  1. “In thy seed after thee … shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Abraham 2:11; see also Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18).

  1. The families of the earth are blessed through Abraham because his posterity gives them the blessings of the gospel, which bring “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).

    Families are even more specifically blessed through the Abrahamic covenant because the crowning blessing of this covenant is eternal marriage (see “Posterity,” no. 3, in this chart). Through this sacred ordinance, parents are bound to their posterity for eternity. In addition, because of keys restored by the prophet Elijah (see D&C 110:13–16), the posterity of Abraham may also perform ordinances in temples for their deceased ancestors and others. Through these priesthood ordinances performed by the seed of Abraham, which include celestial marriage for the living and the dead, families can be eternally bound together. Those who do not accept these ordinances and covenants “remain separately and singly [meaning without marriage and family], without exaltation … to all eternity” (D&C 132:17).

    Ultimately, the greatest way in which families of the earth are blessed through Abraham’s seed is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, a son of Abraham in the flesh. Blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ come to all the families of the earth (see 1 Corinthians 15:21–22; Mormon 9:12–23).

  1. “I will bless thee above measure …

    “… And in thy seed after thee … shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:9, 11; see also Genesis 12:2).

  1. Through Jesus Christ it is possible to have all of the blessings of eternal life. Abraham knew of Christ, saw the work He performed, and believed in Him. This knowledge brought rest to his soul and faith to do all things required in mortality (see Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 15:9–12 [in the Bible appendix]; Hebrews 11:8–19).

    The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the crowning blessing Abraham received was that of celestial marriage, which qualified him for exaltation and enabled him to become like God (see D&C 131:1–4; 132:29–32, 37). Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that when we are “married in the temple for time and for all eternity, each worthy member of the Church enters personally into the same covenant the Lord made with Abraham” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 508).

  1. “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).

  1. The words shield and reward describe the blessings that come from our covenants with God in this life and for eternity. Through covenants the Lord shields, or protects, us from the power of the adversary that would prevent us from obtaining eternal life. Also through covenants the Lord gives us promises concerning our eternal reward and the power to obtain it. This reward “is the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7). If we recognize that the Lord has power to fulfill the promises He makes like He did with Abraham (see Genesis 15), we will put Him and His covenants above all other things in our lives and receive these promised blessings.

  1. “Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:17).

  1. Because of the power of the gospel, priesthood ordinances, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all of Abraham’s seed (those who accept all of the ordinances and covenants of the Abrahamic covenant) “overcome all things,” because God subdues “all [their] enemies under his feet,” and they may “dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever” (D&C 76:60–62). The enemies God subdues include the devil, “who is an enemy to all righteousness” (Alma 34:23; see also Moroni 7:12).