The Kingdom and the Covenant
Scott C. Woodward
(Draft Copy; Last Updated April 2016)

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Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, brilliantly summarized the scope and essence of our theology when he declared, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.” 1 This article will briefly explore the nature of our heavenly parents, our potential to become like them, the obstacles that may prevent the achievement of our potential, and the processes and means provided by God through which we may overcome those obstacles. Additionally, we will survey God’s efforts throughout the centuries to teach and lead mankind to access these means of salvation; and we will finally explore the manner in which the restoration of the gospel in our day, and the work of the millennial day work together to fulfill all of God’s promises and to finalize God’s efforts to offer salvation to all mankind. 

 

I. Our Potential

The Nature of Our Heavenly Parents

Our Father in Heaven is an exalted man 2 who reigns as a benevolent King over all His creations. He lives in an exalted family unit, in the marriage relationship. 3 His wife is a Queen 4 and together they are the “heavenly parents” 5 of countless spirit offspring. As Eternal King and Queen they preside over their own ever-increasing posterity. It can be said that their “kingdom” is their family—meaning that the kingdom over which they preside consists of a sum total of all of their children. Their ultimate goal for their spirit offspring is to help them become like them (see Moses 1:39).

Potential Kings and Queens

In the Premortal world we were begotten as the children of our heavenly parents, infused with their divine attributes, and given the potential to become like them. 6 The Father’s plan of salvation provides the means and power to unlock that potential and to enable us to become kings and queens to preside over our own posterity in eternity as they preside over theirs. President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “you and I are made in the image of God, to become gods and queens and kings eventually.” 7 We are “aiming,” said President John Taylor, “to become kings and priests to the Lord, and queens and priestesses to him.” 8

John the Revelator described the exalted as “kings and priests” unto God (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). Joseph Smith added that these exalted “priests and kings … have received of [the Father’s] fulness, and of his glory…. Wherefore,… they are gods, even the sons of God” (D&C 76:55-56, 58). Note that a king and priest (and by implication a queen and priestess) is defined as one who has received of God’s fulness and has become a god or goddess. The Lord added further to our understanding of the nature of God’s “fulness” and “glory,” when he described the exalted state of husbands and wives, saying that their “glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19; emphasis added). That is to say, exalted husbands and wives will have spirit children together after their resurrection 9 and thus become “heavenly parents”—or kings and queens—over their own ever-increasing posterity forever and ever. 10 This is our exalted potential.


II. Our Dilemma

We often speak of and sing about the idea that we, and all mankind, are literally the children of God. As discussed above, this is both a true and fundamental doctrine about our identity. We are “the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29), having each been begotten in Premortality as a “spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.” 11 Yet, when describing mankind in this fallen world and this probationary state, the scriptures often speak of mankind not as the children of God, but as the “children of men” (Moses 6:49; 8:20; 2 Nephi 26:33; D&C 11:22); 12 not as members of the family of God, but as members of “the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:21; Mormon 3:20). Rather than reminding us that we are already the children of God when we arrive upon the earth, the scriptures inform us that we must yet become the children of God (see Mosiah 18:22; Moses 6:68; D&C 34:3). But what does this mean? In what sense are we no longer God’s children once we enter mortality? And why must we become God’s children again?

The scriptures declare that our collective mortal dilemma—and the reason we are no longer considered God’s children in the fullest sense—is that through the fall of Adam and Eve all mankind have been “shut out” or “cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord” (Moses 6:49; Alma 42:7; see also D&C 29:41; Alma 42:9). The Lord equates the “presence” of God with “the kingdom of God” (Moses 6:57; see also Mormon 7:7), helping us to understand that to be shut out of God’s presence is to be shut out of God’s kingdom. We remember also that the kingdom of God consists of his family—what we might call God’s family kingdom. Thus, God’s presence, God’s kingdom, and God’s family are essentially synonymous. Our dire problem then is that “all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual” (Helaman 14:16; emphasis added; see also 2 Nephi 9:6). Hence, in our “carnal and fallen state … [we] can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26). The soul shudders while pondering such stark scriptural statements.

In summary, as fallen mortals we are literally cut off and shut out from God’s presence, God’s kingdom, God’s family. In all things pertaining to family inheritance—whether temporal or spiritual—we are considered as dead. In our carnal state we cannot “inherit the kingdom of God” because only children are heirs; and since, as fallen mortals, we are no longer considered fully God’s children, we are no longer his heirs. This is the universal dilemma of the human family. Without God’s help to overcome our fallen natures we have no hope of achieving our divine potential.

 

III. Our Hope

The hope of the plan of salvation, and the hope for every fallen mortal, is that our Father has provided a way in which we, the children of men, may become fully the children of God. It is that we may ultimately qualify, as heirs of his kingdom, to be crowned kings and queens, priests and priestesses unto God. To achieve this status is, in fact, at the heart of our purpose in mortal life. President Joseph F. Smith taught that, “The object of our earthly existence is that … we may become the sons and daughters of God, in the fullest sense of the word, being heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, to be kings and priests unto God, to inherit glory, dominion, exaltation, thrones and every power and attribute developed and possessed by our Heavenly Father. This is the object of our being on this earth.” 13 Achieving this glorious purpose is only possible through the merciful aid of God’s new and everlasting covenant.

The New and Everlasting Covenant

The means which God has provided to overcome the alienation resulting from the Fall and to enable fallen mortals to become his sons and daughters, and heirs of his kingdom, is called “the new and everlasting covenant” (D&C 132:6). 14 It is also referred to variously as the “new covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31; Hebrews 12:24), the “everlasting covenant” (D&C 1:15, 22; Psalms 105:9-10), or often simply as “the covenant” (3 Nephi 5:25; 10:7; 20:26; 29:9). The new and everlasting covenant is God's response to the Fall. The Lord defines his everlasting covenant as “the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life” (D&C 66:2, emphasis added; see also D&C 39:11; 133:57). “What is the new and everlasting covenant?” asked Elder Joseph Fielding Smith. “The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations….  It is everything—the fulness of the gospel. So marriage properly performed, baptism, ordination to the priesthood, everything else—every contract, every obligation, every performance that pertains to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise according to his law here given, is a part of the new and everlasting covenant” 15 (see Figure 1).


Figure 1

This “new and everlasting covenant was instituted,” the Lord explained, “for the fulness of my glory” (D&C 132:6). That is to say, the fulness of God’s glory is made available to mankind through the fulness of his gospel covenant. And “all those who receive my gospel,” the Lord declared, “are sons and daughters in my kingdom” (D&C 25:1). Thus, the gospel covenant is the pathway back into the family kingdom of God from which we have been cut off through the fall.

Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant

One of the Savior’s titles of great significance is “Jesus the mediator of the new covenant” (D&C 76:69: 107:19; Hebrews 12:24; see also Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 13:20). This important title means that Jesus puts into effect all of the terms and conditions of the new and everlasting covenant. That is, his atoning sacrifice empowers and gives efficacy and force to every law and ordinance of the gospel covenant. It is only by accessing the power of Christ’s atonement through the gospel covenant that mankind may be admitted back into the family kingdom of God. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Articles of Faith, 1:3). Thus, by obedience to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel (ie. the new and everlasting covenant) we gain access to the saving power of Christ’s atonement.

Becoming the Children of God through Joint-Heirship with Christ

Because of his atonement, Christ has power to transform the children of men into the sons and daughters of God. The Savior repeatedly taught, “[A]s many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on my name” (D&C 11:30; emphasis added; see also John 1:12; 3 Nephi 9:17; D&C 34:3; 35:2; 45:8; and Ether 3:14). The apostle Paul refers to this process of becoming God’s children through Christ’s atonement as being “adopted” back into God’s family. 16 “God sent forth his son,” Paul explained, “that we might receive the adoption of sons.” In this way, he emphasizes, each of us may become “an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:4-5, 7; emphasis added). When we are “in Christ Jesus,” Paul taught, then are we “the sons of God” and “have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Then, “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:1, 14-17).

Through the first ordinances and covenants of the gospel we are “born again into the kingdom of heaven” (Moses 6:59) and thereby become “the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7; see also Ether 3:14). Then through the higher ordinances and covenants of the temple we “grow up” in Christ and fully take upon ourselves his name (D&C 109:15; see also vs. 22-26). 17 In this way—through accepting and receiving all of the ordinances of the gospel 18 and keeping their associated covenants—we become joint-heirs with Christ, qualified to receive with him an inheritance in “my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:38; see also vs. 35-37). 19 By receiving Christ through the everlasting covenant, we qualify to receive from him and his Father the promises and blessings of the everlasting covenant.

 

IV. The Promises and Blessings of the Covenant

When mortals enter into the new and everlasting covenant they promise full fidelity to God through faithful obedience to him. They covenant to sacrifice all worldliness and ungodliness from their lives and to dedicate and consecrate themselves to the service of God and the gospel cause. In short, they promise to be God’s special people. In return God promises them the following blessings: 20

1. Identity and Protection. Those who accept the gospel covenant become God’s covenant people. He declares to them, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” As the protective Father of his covenant children, the Lord fights their battles and is their rearward, shield, and buckler. He tells them that no combination of wickedness shall have power to prevail over his people. He tells them to be righteous and fear not, for those who curse them will be cursed, and those who bless them will be blessed.

2. Land Inheritance. God’s covenant children—his people—are also promised a land of inheritance where the faithful can gather to worship God freely, build temples, and perpetuate the blessings of the covenant throughout generations. Those who meekly keep their covenants with God will ultimately “inherit the earth” in its full “celestial glory.” This is a key blessing of exaltation.

3. Priesthood Privileges and Obligations. God’s covenant children are extended every privilege and blessing available through the holy priesthood. They are entitled to receive, through their worthiness, every priesthood ordinance which they have not yet received—whether that be baptism, washings, anointings, endowments, or sealings. Whatever gifts, guidance, or godly powers are available through the holy priesthood these cannot be kept back from God’s covenant people, except by their own sins. Additionally, as the blessed recipients of these priesthood privileges, God’s covenant people are commissioned by him to extend the blessings of the gospel to all of the families of the earth. It has been, is, and will forever be the privilege, right, and obligation of the children of the covenant to invite all to come unto Christ and be received into God’s family through the gospel covenant.

4. Posterity. The blessings to the faithful concerning their posterity are four-fold:

  • First, God’s covenant people are promised that they will have posterity. They are promised that in eternity their posterity will become as numerous as the stars in the heavens or the particles of the sands upon the seashore. Such innumerable posterity is only possible, of course, with a husband and wife who are sealed together forever with eternal powers of procreation. Such is the nature of eternal kings and queens. This is the blessing of exaltation and godhood.
  • Second, their children are the children of the covenant—meaning the new and everlasting covenant. Children of the covenant are heirs of every covenant blessing mentioned above, and they have a right to claim each blessing through their faithfulness. 21 The covenant faithful are promised that even if their posterity wander and go astray, the Lord will eventually extend ample opportunities to them to repent and claim the covenant blessings. The Lord’s assurance to the faithful concerning their errant posterity is that they are “not cast off forever.”
  • In addition to giving children inherent rights to gospel blessings, being a child of the covenant connects individual covenant families together and links them to the covenant families of the previous generation. This linking continues like a grand chain from generation to generation both forward and backward throughout time, and will continue, until every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve has had opportunity to be connected into the great covenant family of God. 22
  • Finally, God promises his covenant people that their posterity will become the honored means through which all of the families of the earth will be blessed with the blessings of the gospel.

 

V. The Covenant Throughout the Old Testament

The Patriarchs and the Covenant

From the beginning God has offered the new and everlasting covenant with all of its blessings to fallen mortals (see D&C 22:1; 49:9). Adam was the first to enter into covenant with the Lord, receive all of the ordinances of salvation, and thereby become “a son of God” (Moses 6:68; see also vs. 64-67). The Lord said of Adam’s adoption process, “and thus may all become my sons. Amen” (ibid.). After his adoption, “Adam taught these things” to his children and “many have believed and become the sons of God” (Moses 7:1; see also Moses 6:57-59). Many of Adam’s descendants, such as Seth, Enoch, Noah, and Shem entered into and received the promises of the covenant for themselves and their posterity. 23  These men became known as “the patriarchs” (ie. the fathers), and each held the keys and powers of the Holy Priesthood, enabling them to officiate in all of the ordinances of the new and everlasting covenant on behalf of their posterity and all others in their day.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Receive the Covenant

The Old Testament scriptural record hurries us briskly along through the genealogy of Noah until we arrive at the life of the man Abram (whose name is later changed to Abraham) (see Genesis 11:10-28; 17:5). At this point the scriptural narrative slows to a comparative halt, not simply to highlight the life of a remarkable man, but to clearly define the promises and obligations of the new and everlasting covenant. In fact, because of the clarity of God’s explanations of the covenant blessings to Abraham and the traceability of its effects through his life and lineage, the covenant itself came to be known more familiarly as the Abrahamic Covenant. It must be kept constantly in mind, however, that what God promised to Abraham is precisely what he promised to Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Noah who were before him. From Abraham’s own account it is clear that he was not seeking some unique blessing from the Lord, but “for the blessings of the fathers” (Abraham 1:2; emphasis added). The blessings of Abraham are the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant. 24

God renewed the covenant with Abraham’s son Isaac (see Genesis 26:3-5) and with his grandson Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel (see Gen. 28:12-15). From this time forward, the children of the covenant are referred to in scripture as the house of Israel, the children of Israel, or simply as Israel (see 2 Nephi 6:5; 3 Nephi 29:1; Romans 9:6). From henceforth the Lord is often referred to as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6, 15; 1 Nephi 6:4) and the “the God of Israel” (3 Nephi 11:14: D&C 109:1), signifying that he is Israel’s God. Israel, or the House of Israel, becomes the scriptural title for God's covenant people. Virtually everyone who joins the church thereafter—even up to our own day—is considered to be the seed of Abraham and the house of Israel (see Abraham 2:10; 3 Nephi 16:13). And each of the blessings of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are renewed with each couple in modern Israel today who enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. 25

Abraham’s Seed (the Children of Israel) Reject the Covenant

God sought to offer the fullness of the covenant blessings to Abraham’s posterity throughout the remainder of the Old Testament, yet these efforts were often rejected by them. At Sinai, for example, after delivering them from 430 years of Egyptian bondage, the Lord sought to prepare the children of Israel to receive their birthright blessings and thereby become “a kingdom of Kings and Priests” 26 through the highest ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood. 27 In spite of the Lord’s efforts “they hardened their hearts” against him. “Therefore, the Lord in his wrath … swore that they should not enter into his rest …, which is the fulness of his glory. Therefore he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also” (D&C 84:24-25). 28    

The Lord allowed the “lesser priesthood” of Aaron to continue with the people and gave them additional laws to teach the children of Israel how to keep the preparatory gospel which they had already received (D&C 84:26-27; see also Exodus 34-35). The collection of these laws became known as the law of Moses, or the Mosaic covenant, and were given, in Paul’s words, to be a “schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24) designed to bring the children of Israel to Christ to prepare them for the new and everlasting covenant.

The duration of the Old Testament story is a painful but instructive narrative of Israel’s chronic compromises with worldliness, idolatry, and immorality. With few exceptions, rather than rising up in their Abrahamic rights to bless “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:18), Israel consistently condescended to follow the low path of becoming “like all the nations” around them (1 Sam. 8:5, 19-20).

The Scattering of Israel—the Curse of the Broken Covenant

Moses warned the children of Israel that if they did not keep that portion of the covenant which they had received they would be scattered among foreign nations (see Deuteronomy 28:58, 63-65). Scattering was viewed as the ultimate curse of breaking the covenant, as it would cause the loss of their promised land, their temple, and access to the priesthood ordinances. Sadly, due to rejecting the Lord’s prophets and persistent wickedness, the children of Israel were ultimately scattered—the ten northern tribes of the kingdom of Israel (circa 721 B.C) were scattered by the Assyrians among other nations to the point that they were considered “lost” (see 2 Kings 17; 3 Nephi 17:4), while the southern kingdom of Judah was taken away captive by the Babylonians (circa 587 B.C.) for a time. Though many Jews returned from this captivity seventy years later to rebuild the temple and the wall around Jerusalem, many others remained abroad and assimilated into other nations.

In the scattering of Israel there was a divine thread of hope, however. “The Lord always turns punishments to the accomplishment of his purposes,” taught Elder Joseph Fielding Smith. “The scattering of the Israelites among all nations was a punishment inflicted upon them, but a great blessing extended to the nations among whom they were scattered.... [For] through the scattering of Israel, especially the descendants of the ten tribes who mingled with the Gentile nations, the blood of Abraham [was] mixed with the blood of the Gentiles, and in this way the Gentiles have been brought into the seed of Abraham, and are therefore entitled to receive, on conditions of their repentance, all the blessings promised to the seed of Abraham.” 29 This would set the stage for the mighty gathering of Israel from among the nations of the Gentiles in the latter-days (see Jeremiah 16:14-21; 3 Nephi 20:12-13).

Malachi, one of the last Old Testament prophets, amidst his own apostate and corrupt culture, records one final and very significant prophecy of hope in his record. He prophesies of a distant future day when Elijah himself will return before the second coming of Christ to reveal the priesthood covenants needed to unite the human family by covenant (see Malachi 4:5-6; D&C 2; D&C 110:13-16). This prophecy has great bearing on the latter-day restoration of the covenant.


VI. The Covenant In the New Testament

The Jews Reject the Covenant

In the meridian of time God sent his own Son among the Jews—the children of the covenant—to be the “mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24), and to restore the fulness of the covenant in their day. How was Christ received by those who were the legal heirs of the covenant by lineal birthright? Joseph Smith summarized, “Christ, in the days of His flesh, proposed to make a covenant with [Israel], but they rejected Him and His proposals, and in consequence thereof, they were broken off, and no covenant was made with them at that time.” He further explained, “after this chosen family had rejected Christ and His proposals, the heralds of salvation said to them, ‘Lo, we turn unto the Gentiles;’ and the Gentiles received the covenant, and were grafted in from whence the chosen family were broken off.” 30

The Times of the Gentiles Begins

This turning away from the Jews who rejected Christ and his covenant, and turning toward the gentiles 31 (non-Jews) to offer them the fulness of the gospel, is referred to by the Savior as the “times of the Gentiles” (see Luke 21:24; D&C 45:25, 28, 30; see also 1 Nephi 13:24; ). The “times of the Jews”—the time period in which the Jews received the gospel on a preferential basis—ended when they rejected and crucified their King. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that because the Jews crucified Christ, “God sent upon them sore destructions. Their house—both the temple and the city—was left unto them desolate; they were scourged and slaughtered and slain; they were condemned and cursed and crucified. And a remnant, a few captives of a once great nation, was scattered upon all the face of the earth and among every people….

With the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70; with the tearing apart of the temple, stone by stone, as the Romans made its gold and riches their own; with the scattering of the Jews in all nations—the times of the Jews ended. Their day to receive the glad tidings of salvation on a preferential basis was past. At that hour the times of the Gentiles dawned upon the earth. And from that hour the apostles and prophets began to turn to the [Gentiles] to find those who would believe in the God of the whole earth, who is Jesus Christ. 32

The season of the “times of the Gentiles” will continue until after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in the Millennial day when the Lord will once again offer the gospel covenant to the Jews en mass (see D&C 45:24-53; 3 Nephi 16:4-13; 20:29-46).

 

VII. The Restoration of the Covenant in The Latter-Days

The new and everlasting covenant—the fulness of the gospel—was restored to the earth in our day between the years 1820-1844 in the Gentile country of America through a Gentile boy named Joseph Smith. The “times of the Gentiles [has] come in, a light [is breaking] forth among them that sit in darkness, and it [is] the fulness of my gospel” (D&C 45:28). To view the latter-day restoration of the fulness of the gospel through Joseph Smith as anything less than the restoration of the new and everlasting covenant is to miss the full significance of the restoration. 33

Joseph Smith taught, “The work of the Lord in these last days, is one of vast magnitude and almost beyond the comprehension of mortals: its glories are past description and its grandeur unsurpassable…. [I]t is truly the dispensation of the fulness of times, when all things … shall be restored, as spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began: for in it will take place the glorious fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers.” 34

Moroni’s Visit

Joseph recorded that on the evening of September 21, 1823, while he was praying to God in faith,

… on a sudden a light like that of day, only of a far purer and more glorious appearance and brightness, burst into the room…; the appearance produced a shock that affected the whole body; in a moment a personage stood before me surrounded with a glory yet greater than that with which I was already surrounded. This messenger proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation. 35

With that stark and sudden announcement from a glorious angel of God, Joseph Smith was not only made aware that God’s ancient covenant promises were “at hand” to be fulfilled, he was thrust right onto the front lines of that fulfillment—“chosen” as the Lord’s lead man to help kick-start and “bring about” some of God’s covenant purposes for this dispensation. Throughout that night and again the next day, 17 year-old Joseph learned over and over again that heaven was on the move to fulfill ancient covenants. Did he know, or could he have comprehended the grandeur and impact of the covenants about which this glorious being spoke? Could Joseph have fathomed how it could be that certain promises God made nearly 4,000 years earlier would begin a revolution in his day that would not end until the gospel had been proclaimed to and the ordinances performed for every human soul living or dead, until every faithful person had been sealed into the grand family of God, until all promised lands had been inherited, until husbands and wives had been crowned kings and queens and had reigned with Christ a thousand years, and until the earth had become a sanctified Celestialized globe upon which the exalted would live throughout eternity? Yet, understood by him or not, so it was! And Joseph was “informed” that he was “chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God” to help bring about the restoration of this ancient covenant.

The Book of Mormon

The Lord’s first objective in restoring the covenant through Joseph Smith was the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. The significance of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in relation to the new and everlasting covenant is at least three-fold:

1. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is the “sign” to the world that the covenant is about to be fulfilled (see 3 Nephi 21:1-7; Ether 4:13-17).

2. The Book of Mormon will work together with the Bible to restore knowledge of the covenant (see 1 Nephi 13:23-24, 40; 2 Nephi 3:12). 36

3. The Book of Mormon is the instrument which the Lord designed to gather scattered Israel. 37

Preach the Gospel to Gather the Elect

The Lord revealed the knowledge of the covenant through Joseph Smith line upon line, precept upon precept, building the house of the saints’ understanding block by doctrinal block, here a little and there a little. The Lord began by calling everyone who was willing to do so to proclaim the gospel in every region round about. Even before the official organization of the Church on 6 April, 1830, nearly every revelation Joseph received on behalf of inquiring individuals who came seeking to know the Lord’s will for them was a call for that individual to declare the gospel, to preach repentance, to thrust in their sickle, and to establish the cause of Zion (see D&C 4, 11-12, 14-16, 18-19). Following the organization of the Church the Lord continued this familiar urgent call to individuals to declare repentance as with a trump (see D&C 1, 23-24, 26, 28-36, 52-53, 55, 60, 66, 68, 75, 80, 99, 106, 108, 114, 118, 133).

The next covenant precept the Lord added to the saints’ understanding was the doctrine of the gathering. This doctrinal block, was added when in September 1830, five months after the organization of the Church, he revealed through Joseph Smith that the purpose of declaring the gospel was “to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect.” “Wherefore,” the Lord announced, “the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land” (D&C 29:7-8; see also 33:2, 6-7). A few months later the Lord revealed that the place to which they were to gather was “the Ohio” (D&C 37:3), and he promised them that “there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high” (D&C 38:32). With this call the gathering of Israel began as the majority of the New York saints gathered to Ohio with their prophet between January and May 1831.

Why Gather Israel?

What was the purpose of gathering to “the Ohio”—and later to Missouri, and later still to Nauvoo and again to Salt Lake City? Why is the gathering of Israel so crucial to the restoration of the covenant in the latter-days? Throughout Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry the Lord extended the saints understanding of this doctrine from a dim fog to a bright and sunlit day.

While explaining the doctrine of gathering to a group of saints Joseph asked, “What was the object of gathering … the people of God in any age of the world?” Then answering his own question he said, “The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation…. It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings, etc.” 38 Temple themes were implicit in the Lord’s initial command for those New York saints to gather to Ohio so that he could give them additional laws and endow them with power from on high (see D&C 38:32).

Let’s summarize the covenant precepts taught thus far by the Lord line upon line through Joseph Smith:

  • Christ—the mediator of the new covenant—commands his people to proclaim the gospel so that his “elect” (ie. scattered Israel) will repent, come unto him, and be gathered together in central locations.
  • Christ commands his baptized, covenant people to gather in central locations in order to build temples that he might offer to them the additional laws and ordinances of new and everlasting covenant.

The Kirtland Temple

In 1832 and 1833, shortly after the saints had gathered together in sufficient numbers—both in Missouri and Kirtland—the Lord commanded the saints to build temples in both places (see D&C 84:2-5; 88:119; 95:8, 13-17). Sadly, the Missouri temple was never built. Iniquity among the Missouri saints (see D&C 101:1-6) and the staunch opposition of their enemies (see D&C 124:49-52) caused the saints to be driven from Jackson County, Missouri, and they were absolved of their duty to build that temple. On the other hand the saints successfully built the temple in Kirtland, which was dedicated in March 1836. The Kirtland temple was unique among latter-day temples in that its primary purpose was to create sacred space in which the Lord could restore to the earth priesthood keys which would make possible the fulfilment of the everlasting covenant. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained:

The Kirtland Temple … is not like other temples. It was built primarily for the restoration of keys of authority. In the receiving of these keys the fulness of gospel ordinances is revealed. The keys of salvation and exaltation for both the living and the dead were given within its sacred walls….

The Kirtland Temple filled its mission shortly after the time of its dedication. The Lord revealed line upon line and precept upon precept in relation to the eternal exaltation of his children. When the knowledge in the fulness came, it was essential that other temples be erected with the facilities for that perfection which the Kirtland Temple lacked. The Nauvoo Temple was built according to the perfected pattern, as it was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. 39

On April 3, 1836, after the Savior appeared and accepted the dedication of the Kirtland temple, Moses, Elias, and Elijah each appeared in turn and conferred the priesthood keys upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery necessary to fulfill the everlasting covenant. Moses conferred “the keys the gathering of Israel … and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” (D&C 110:11). Elias then “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed” (D&C 110:12). Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that the gospel of Abraham is “the divine commission that God gave Abraham, the marriage discipline that God gave Abraham.” In essence, he said, “Elias restored celestial marriage.” 40 Finally, Elijah the prophet appeared and conferred the “keys of the sealing power,” 41 which could bind ordinances on earth and seal them in heaven. Joseph Smith further explained that Elijah revealed “the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers.” 42 This was an endowment of power indeed (see D&C 38:32)!

It is hard to measure the importance of the Kirtland temple in the grand scheme of the Father’s plan of salvation. If there were no Kirtland temple there would have been no restoration of keys to gather temple-building Israel, no keys to authorize celestial marriage—the ordinance of kingship and queenship—and no keys to seal generations together into the covenant family of God. In short, were it not for what occurred on April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland temple, the new and everlasting covenant could not be fulfilled in the latter-days, God’s purposes would be frustrated, and the whole earth would be “utterly wasted” (D&C 2:3).

The Nauvoo Era

During the Nauvoo Era (1839-1844), the Lord placed the capstone upon the saints’ understanding of the everlasting covenant by revealing through Joseph Smith the crowning doctrines of celestial marriage, the fulness of the priesthood, and the redemption of the human family through proxy temple ordinances.

The Doctrine of Celestial Marriage. Parley P. Pratt wrote that he first learned the doctrine of eternal marriage from Joseph Smith in 1839. His description both of that doctrine and his own reaction to it is beautifully preserved in these words:

It was from him [Joseph] that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity;… while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore.

It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring…. Yet, at that time, my dearly beloved brother, Joseph Smith, had barely touched a single key; had merely lifted a corner of the veil and given me a single glance into eternity. 43

In 1843, Joseph taught William Clayton, one of his scribes, that, “Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue [faithful], will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.” 44

The Fulness of the Priesthood. With Joseph in possession of all necessary priesthood keys, the Lord again commanded his gathered saints to build a temple. The Savior explained that the Nauvoo temple would be the place where he would “restore again … the fulness of the priesthood” (D&C 124:28). What was this “fulness of the priesthood”? Joseph explained, “Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.” 45 He also explained, “If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God, he has to get it … by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord…. All men who become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fullness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole.” 46 The Lord restored in the Nauvoo temple the ordinances which make a man a king and priest, a woman a queen and priestess, and make both man and woman together heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.

Redeeming the Dead. In Nauvoo, Joseph taught, “God ordained that He would save the dead, and would do it by gathering His people together.” 47 Once gathered, the saints would “come up as saviors on Mount Zion. But how are they to become saviors on Mount Zion?” Joseph asked. “By building their temples, erecting their baptismal fonts, and going forth and receiving all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, ordinations and sealing powers upon their heads, in behalf of all their progenitors who are dead, and redeem them that they may come forth in the first resurrection and be exalted to thrones of glory with them; and herein is the chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, which fulfills the mission of Elijah.” 48 

Let’s now add to our previous summary of restored covenant concepts those crowning truths revealed through Joseph Smith in Nauvoo:

  • Christ—the mediator of the new covenant—commands his people to proclaim the gospel so that his “elect” (ie. scattered Israel) will repent, come unto him, and be gathered together in central locations.
  • Christ commands his baptized, covenant people to gather in central locations in order to build temples that he might offer to them the additional laws and ordinances of new and everlasting covenant.
  • Through the ordinances of the temple Christ prepares, endows, and enables his covenant people to become kings and queens, priests and priestesses, preparatory for them to preside over their own eternal posterity throughout eternity as heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. In addition, he offers to the hosts of dead Israelites, through their living posterity, all of these same blessings, and thereby seals and connects all generations by covenant, into the covenant, and thus into the grand chain of the family of God.

How can we measure the significance of the ministry of Joseph Smith? “I was informed,” Joseph wrote of that first encounter with Moroni at age 17, “that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation.” 49 Indeed he was! Through the truths, keys, ordinances, and powers Christ restored through Joseph Smith, every member of the human family, living or dead, can enjoy all of the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant and ultimately become the sons and daughters of God—heirs of “all that my Father hath” (D&C 84:38).

 

VIII. Children of the Covenant in the Latter-days

The Work of the Seed of Abraham in the Latter-days

In the latter-days, under the direction of “the keys of the kingdom” restored to Joseph Smith and passed down through his successors, the gospel will “roll forth unto the ends of the earth … until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).  We live in the day when God’s kingdom is going “forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth” (D&C 65:5). As covenant members of the Lord’s Church, and the latter-day seed of Abraham, ours is the privilege to help “set up” the kingdom of God on earth in preparation for Christ’s return.

The Great Day of Gathering

The work begun by Joseph Smith is being amplified and accelerated in our day. Ours is the great day of gathering Israel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “the gathering of Israel and the establishment of Zion in the latter days is divided into three periods or phases. The first phase is past; we are now living in the second phase; and the third lies ahead…. The three phases of this great latter-day work are as follows:

Phase I—From the First Vision, the setting up of the kingdom on April 6, 1830, and the coming of Moses on April 3, 1836, to the secure establishment of the Church in the United States and Canada, a period of about 125 years.

Phase II—From the creation of stakes of Zion in overseas areas, beginning in the 1950s, to the second coming of the Son of Man, a period of unknown duration.

Phase III—From our Lord’s second coming until the kingdom is perfected and the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, and from then until the end of the Millennium, a period of 1,000 years. 50

In “Phase I” new converts were called to gather to Church headquarters (be it Nauvoo or Salt Lake City) because that is where the temples were. If they did not gather they simply could not receive the fulness of the ordinances of the everlasting covenant. In “Phase II” we no longer invite new converts to gather with the saints at Church headquarters. Rather, the prophetic call to the saints is, in essence, “Stay home; build Zion where you are; strengthen your stakes, and in time we will bring the temple blessings to you.”

In “Phase II” the Lord is, in fact, hastening his work of gathering on both sides of the veil. 51 The ultimate purpose of proclaiming the gospel is to gather all of the living into the family of God; and the ultimate purpose of redeeming the dead is to gather all of the dead into the family of God. Both works of salvation finally center on the work done in temples, and both of them help to fulfill the promise made to Abraham that “all the families of the earth”—living and dead—would be offered “the blessings of the Gospel” by his seed “in the latter days” (Abraham 2:11; 1 Nephi 15:18). We are the seed of Abraham sent to earth at this time to fulfill this covenant promise. 52 As Elder Russell M. Nelson declared, “Ours is the responsibility to help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world…. After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate! Isn’t that exciting?” 53

At some point in the on rolling of this latter-day work—whether in our day, our children’s day, or our grandchildren’s—Christ will come. “And whether on this side of the veil or the other,” Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “you and I will rejoice in His coming and thank the Lord that He sent us to earth at this time to fulfill our sacred duty of helping prepare the world for His return.”54 

 

IX. The Fulfillment of the Covenant: the Millennium and Beyond

The Millennial Day

When Christ reigns on earth in the millennial day, all of the promises of the covenant will be fulfilled. For example, in the millennial day the seed of Abraham will preach the gospel “with greater vigor and power than at any other time.” 55 This will continue until “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Also, the Lord’s people “will have revelations to know our forefathers clear back to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and we will enter into the temples of God and officiate for them,” President Brigham Young taught. “Then man will be sealed to man [fathers to sons] until the chain is made perfect back to Adam, so that there will be a perfect chain of priesthood from Adam to the winding-up scene. This will be the work of the Latter-day Saints in the Millennium.” 56

Additionally, the righteous will reign with Christ for “a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, 6; see also 5:10; D&C 43:29-30; 76:58-63; 84:119), and the promised lands of Canaan, Missouri, the Americas, and all other lands promised by covenant will be allotted to the faithful (see JST Genesis 15:9-12; Ezekiel 37:12-14; 3 Nephi 20:29-33, 46; 15:12-13; D&C 52:2, 42; 63:49; 2 Nephi 9:1-2; 29:14; 3 Nephi 21:28-29).

In sum, the millennial day is the day when “the saints shall be filled with [God’s] glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him” (D&C 88:107). It is the day when the faithful “shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:7).

Beyond the Millennium

After the millennial day, and after this earth has “filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; that bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever” (D&C 88:19). Elder Bruce R. McConkie summarized both the destiny of this earth and those who dwell upon it after the millennial day:

After the Millennium … there will be a new heaven and a new earth…. This earth will then be an eternal heaven, and the meek, who are the God-fearing and the righteous, shall inherit it forever and ever.

In their state of glorious exaltation, earth's inhabitants will then be as their God. They will have eternal life, which consists of life in the family unit and the possession of the fulness of the power of the Almighty. This is the final day toward which all things point.

When the elect are exalted, when the family unit continues in the highest heaven of the celestial kingdom, when the Saints have spirit children in the resurrection, then the cycle begins again….

Exalted parents are to their children as our Eternal Parents are to us. Eternal increase, a continuation of the seeds forever and ever, eternal lives—these comprise the eternal family of those who gain eternal life. For them new earths are created, and thus the on-rolling purposes of the Gods of Heaven go forward from eternity to eternity. 57

Conclusion

The new and everlasting covenant defines the path which fallen mortals must walk in order to be adopted back into God’s family kingdom. Through the new and everlasting covenant, God and man become partners in the work of salvation. The Lord covenants to be our God—giving us full access to the mercy, power, grace, and redemption of Christ’s atonement—and we covenant to be the Lord’s consecrated agents in building up the kingdom of God on earth and establishing Zion wherever we live. Neither we nor God will stop in this work until, through us and our posterity, all the families of the earth are blessed, with the covenant blessings of the gospel, “which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abraham 2:11).


Notes

1 Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995, 84.

2 See Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1902), 6:305; Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (1985), 64; Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary (1980),vol. 3:33.

3 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, November 1995, 102; see also “The Origin of Man,” in James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency (1970), 4:203, 205; Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 25, 52; Erastus Snow, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols.(1878), 19:270.

4 See, for example, President Spencer W. Kimball speaking of the “restrained, queenly elegance of our heavenly mother” (Ensign, May 1978, 4); William W. Phelps writing of our “Father in heaven, and Mother, the Queen” (History of the Church, 5:556), and Elder John Taylor referring to our Heavenly Mother as “one of the queens of heaven” (Journal of Discourses, 24:2-3).

5 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, November 1995, p.102.

6 See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (1938), 345-346, 354; “The Origin of Man,” Messages of the First Presidency, 4:205; Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams (1984), 4-5; M. Russell Ballard, Our Search for Happiness (1993), 70; Gordon B. Hinckley, “Don’t Drop the Ball,” Ensign, November 1994, 48; and Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 179.

7 Spencer W. Kimball, “The Lord's Plan for Men and Women,” Ensign, Oct 1975, 2.

8 John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, comp. by G. Homer Durham (1943), 139.

9 Joseph Smith declared that “those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 300). See also D&C 131:1-4; “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by The First Presidency and the Twelve,” June 1916, Messages of the First Presidency, 5:26-27; Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 Vols., ed. Bruce R. McConkie (1954-56), 2:288.

10 President Brigham Young taught, “[H]e that has overcome and is found worthy, will be made a king of kings, and lord of lords over his own posterity” (Journal of Discourses, 10:355). Elder Orson Pratt, of the Quorum of the Twelve explained, “Who will be the subjects in the kingdom which they will rule who are exalted in the celestial kingdom of our God?... Over whom then will they reign? Their own children, their own posterity will be the citizens of their kingdoms; in other words, the patriarchal order will prevail there to the endless ages of eternity, and the children of each patriarch will be his while eternal ages roll on” (Journal of Discourses, 15:319, January 19, 1873)

11 “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, November 1995, p.102.

12 The phrase “children of men” occurs 204 times in the LDS Standard Works, whereas the phrase “children of God” occurs only 22 times, many of which are in reference to only a specific portion of the human family.

13 Teachings of Presidents of The Church: Joseph F. Smith, (1998), p.100.

14 Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained why the covenant is called both “new” and “everlasting.” He said, “‘The new and everlasting covenant’ is the fulness of the gospel, and the gospel is the covenant of salvation that the Lord makes with men. It is new because it has been revealed anew in our day; it is everlasting because it has always been had by faithful people, not only on this earth but on all the earths inhabited by the children of our Father” (Brigham Young University, 6 November 1977).

15 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:156, 158.

16 President John Taylor said that “through the instrumentality of the atonement and the adoption, it is made possible for us to become of the family of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ” (Mediation and Atonement (1882), 145-146).

17 For more on this point see Dallin H. Oaks, “Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 1985, 81; and David A. Bednar, “Honorably Hold a Name and Standing,” Ensign, May 2009, 97.

18 Joseph Smith emphasized the importance of receiving all gospel ordinances in order to become joint-heirs with Christ. He taught, “All men who become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fullness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole” (History of the Church, 5:424).

19 On the importance of temple ordinances in the process of becoming joint-heirs with Christ see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, sel. Bruce R. McConkie [1954-56] 2:40-41.

20 To save space and for ease of reading, the many scripture references are omitted from this section. To learn more of the scriptural basis to each of these promises see http://www.scottwoodward.org/covenant_promisestoheirs.html

21 Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve explained that a child born into the covenant has a right by birth (a birthright) to “receive the fulness of the gospel, enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, and qualify for God’s greatest blessing—that of eternal life.” Further he taught, “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.” Note Elder Nelson’s distinction between having a right to covenant blessings by birth, and actually claiming those blessings. Such an arrangement keeps the covenant blessings within the grasp of each child while still perfectly preserving their agency. If the birthright is not acted upon by the child—if faith is not exercised, if personal repentance does not occur, and if the ordinances and covenants are not submitted to—then, as Elder Nelson says, they “lose the blessings of the covenant” (“Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 2011).

22 Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “When everything gets finished, we will all be one family—every member of the Church a member of one family, the family of God…. Why do we go into the temples to be sealed, husbands and wives, and children to parents, and why are we commanded to have this work done, not only for ourselves, but also to be sealed to our fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers before them, back as far as we can go? Because we want to belong to that great family of God which is in heaven…. That is why.... Thus eventually we will be one large family with Adam at the head, Michael, the archangel, presiding over his posterity” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:173-176). He also taught that “each family unit is to be linked to the generation which went before, until all the faithful, who have proved their title to family membership through obedience to the gospel, shall be joined in one grand family from the beginning to the end of time, and shall find place in the celestial kingdom of God. In this way all who receive the exaltation become heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ in the possession of eternal family relationships” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:67; emphasis added).

23 The scriptures briefly trace the lineage of the “chosen seed” from Adam to Seth, who received the promise that “his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth” (D&C 107:42). Then from Seth to Enos, from Enos to Cainan, from Cainan to Mahalaleel, from Mahalaleel to Jared, and from Jared to Enoch (see D&C 107:48). In Enoch’s day the priesthood order was renamed “the order of Enoch” (D&C 76:57; JST Gen. 14:27-28). Thus, all who received the full blessings of the priesthood in Enoch’s day were a part of this “order” of Enoch, or in other words, were children of “the covenant which God made with Enoch” (JST Genesis 14:27). From Enoch the covenant promises continued through the lineage of Methuselah to Lamech, and from Lamech to Noah (see D&C 107:52). “And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I will establish my covenant with you, which I made unto your father Enoch, concerning your seed after you…. And I will establish my covenant with you, which I made unto Enoch, concerning the remnants of your posterity” (JST Genesis 9:8-9, 11; see also Moses 7:51-52; 8:19). From the days of Noah we arrive at the day of Melchizedek. As to whether or not Melchizedek is Noah’s son, grandson, or later descendent we cannot say with certainty. The revelations simply inform us that the rights of the priesthood were given to Melchizedek “who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah” (D&C 84:14). What is important to note here is simply that the blessings of the covenant came to Melchizedek “through the lineage of his fathers.” It came by right as a child of the covenant.

24 For a list of the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant see http://scottwoodward.org/abraham_covenant_promises.html.

25   “Every person,” wrote Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “married in the temple for time and for all eternity has sealed upon him, conditioned upon his faithfulness, all of the blessings of the ancient patriarchs, including the crowning promise and assurance of eternal increase, which means, literally, a posterity as numerous as the dust particles of the earth” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (1982), 264; emphasis added). They “have been given through that ordinance every promise that Abraham received” (“The Promises Made To The Fathers,” Studies in Scripture: Vol. 3, The Old Testament [1985], 61). This highest ordinance is the gateway to godhood—eternal kingship and queenship. Through the eternal marriage covenant couples are promised “thrones, kingdoms, and principalities” (that’s eternal promised land), “powers, dominions, all heights and depths” (that’s eternal priesthood power), and “a fulness and continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (that’s eternal posterity) (D&C 132:19). After a couple remains true and faithful to the marriage covenant “then shall they be gods” (D&C 132:20), following the pattern set by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who “have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods” (D&C 132:37; emphasis added).

26 George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, 25:291; Exodus 19:5-6

27 The first step for the children of Israel to become “a kingdom of Kings and Priests” was to enter into the preparatory gospel of repentance, baptism for remission of sins, and carnal commandments (D&C 84:26-27). Exodus 19-24 gives an account of the children of Israel covenanting to obey this preparatory gospel, including the Ten Commandments. The next step was to receive the highest ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. To this end the Lord revealed to Moses these ordinances—referred to by the Lord as the ordinances of “my holy order” (JST Ex. 34:1)—as well as the pattern for constructing a portable Melchizedek Priesthood temple (aka. “the tabernacle”) (see D&C 124:37-39). In this way all things were prepared by the Lord for Israel to become “a kingdom of Kings and Priests.”

28 President Brigham Young taught, “If they had been sanctified and holy, the children of Israel would not have traveled one year with Moses before they would have received their endowments and the Melchizedek Priesthood. But they could not receive them, and never did. Moses left them, and they did not receive the fullness of that Priesthood” (Journal of Discourses, 6:100).

29 Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things (1945), 129-137.

30 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:313-315.

31 We might note that a “gentile” is not necessarily one who has no Israelite blood lineage, but rather is one who does not trace his lineage directly to the land of Judah from the time period of the kingdom of Judah. Joseph Smith, for example, though from the tribe of Ephraim, was yet referred to by Moroni as “the Gentile” who would interpret the Book of Mormon by the gift of God. Indeed, we may be of pure Israelite descent with the blood of Abraham coursing through our veins, and yet, if we live in a Gentile country (as we do), we are “identified with the Gentiles” (D&C 109:60) and may therefore be properly referred to as a “gentile.” Scripturally speaking, everyone who is not a Jew (ie. from the kingdom of Judah) is a gentile (see Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 221-222, 233).

32 Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 252.

33 In fact, the restoration of the gospel occurred precisely because of the covenant promises God made with the ancient fathers concerning their posterity in the latter-days (see 2 Nephi 29:1-2; 1 Nephi 15:18-20; 22:7-11). Only by restoring the covenant in our day could the Lord fulfill the promises he made to the ancient patriarchs.

34 Times and Seasons, 6 vols. (1840), 1:178; emphasis added.

35 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:536-537.

36 For an extended treatment of this idea see Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 554-566.

37 “As far as the gathering of Israel is concerned,” wrote Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “the Book of Mormon is the most important book that ever has been or ever will be written. It is the book that gathers Israel and that reveals, in plainness and perfection, the doctrine of the gathering of the chosen seed” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 554). President Ezra Taft Benson declared, “The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to ‘sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect’ (Moses 7:62)” (Ensign, November 1988, 4). And Elder Russell M. Nelson summarized that “if there were no Book of Mormon, the promised gathering of Israel would not occur” (Ensign, Nov. 2006).

38 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:422-424.

39 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:242; emphasis added.

40 Bruce R. McConkie, “The Promises Made to the Fathers,” 47-62.

41 Bruce R. McConkie, “The Promises Made to the Fathers,” 47-62.

42 The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (1980), 243-248.

43 Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, ed. Parley P. Pratt, Jr. (1938), 259-261.

44 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 300.

45 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:554-555; see also The Words of Joseph Smith, 243-248.

46 Joseph Smith, History of The Church, 5:422-427

47 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:425-427.

48 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:183-185.

49 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:536-537.

50 Bruce R. McConkie, “Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” Ensign, May 1977, 115–18.

51 See Russell M. Nelson, “The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Ensign, Nov. 2006

52 See David A. Bednar, “Becoming a Missionary,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 44.

53 Russell M. Nelson, “Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 2011.

54 Neil L. Andersen, “Preparing the World for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2011, 49-52.

55 Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. (1958), 2:200.

56 Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 15:138-139.

57 Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 22-23.