Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spiritual Sunday: New and Everlasting Covenant

A few days ago, I was reading in Ezekiel and came across ". . . I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant . . ." (37:26) the footnote for "everlasting covenant" was for the Topical Guide "New and Everlasting Covenant" and it got me thinking. I've never realized what exactly the New and Everlasting Covenant is. It's something I've just felt like I missed out on. Everyone else seemed to get it, so I figured there was something wrong with me. I never wanted to ask and be embarrassed, but on the flip side if it was something nobody knew, then the teacher would be embarrassed. And if it's something no one knows but everyone knows nobody knows (you still with me?) then asking would still be awkward. So I never asked and just figured I never knew and couldn't ever know. 

But I'm older now, and took research into my own hands. If it was listed in the Topical Guide, would it be listed in the Bible Dictionary? The answer is no. So I returned to the Topical Guide and looked at some of the related scriptures. They didn't clear anything up, but they did give me two ideas. 

1. Any promise the Lord makes is both new and everlasting. It is new when he makes it and everlasting because He, we, and the covenant are all eternal. My reasoning is that the different times it is used in the scriptures are mostly different. In the case of Noah and the ark, God promises to never again flood the earth: "And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth." (Gen 9:16)  There is no other promise where God promises to not flood the earth. He's already promise that; He can't promise it again. So it stands to reason that any more covenants He makes would also be new and everlasting. 

2. The New and Everlasting Covenant is the sealing, or binding, power of the priesthood. So often we hear "the new and everlasting covenant of [eternal or celestial] marriage" (D&C 131:2). D&C 132:19 also implies it's celestial marriage. Ergo, because of the power of the Melchizedek priesthood, we are able to sealed, and that is the new and everlasting covenant.  

I wasn't satisfied with my two ideas though. Could it be that simple and straightforward? Could I really figure it out by myself? I needed more "proof" so to speak. I needed someone to spell it out for me. 

Don't laugh, but I turned to Google. I wanted to know the church's stance on it, of course, but I also wanted to see what other religions thought. The phrase is in The Bible, even the Torah portion, so Christians and Jews should have something to say about it. The first page of Google was basically LDS sources; other religions almost see it as two separate covenants, which was unhelpful. It just didn't seem right. Other religions also vaguely referred to Jesus as The New and Everlasting Covenant himself. Other of the top Google results were from anti-/former LDS sites. Most of them think it refers to polygamy (from the D&C scriptures, I'm sure) or is taking away from the remembrance and importance of Jesus Christ as the New and Everlasting Covenant himself. 

The logic for Jesus as the New and Everlasting Covenant is that God made a covenant, the "old covenant," with the Jews. Jesus fulfilled that promise, law, covenant, and became the "new covenant" and because he is eternal, also everlasting. 

The first site I found was a BYU site written by D Cecil Clark (of whom I've never before heard and Google was unhelpful), who posits: 
The new and everlasting covenant is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sum of all gospel covenants that God makes with mankind is called "the new and everlasting covenant" and consists of several individual covenants, each of which is called "a new and an everlasting covenant." It is "new" when given to a person or a people for the first time, and "everlasting" because the gospel of Jesus Christ and Plan of Salvation existed before the world was formed and will exist forever (MD, pp. 479-80).
Baptism, marriage, and all other covenants from God necessary for salvation are new and everlasting (D&C 22:1;45:9;66:2;132:4-7). Holy covenants have been introduced anew in each of the dispensations of the gospel from Adam to Joseph Smith, and have been available whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ has been upon the earth. Therefore, these covenants are spoken of as everlasting. Covenants of salvation and exaltation are everlasting in the sense also that once entered into they are forever binding and valid only if they are not broken by transgression.
All covenants between God and mankind are part of the new and everlasting covenant (D&C 22;132:6-7). Thus, celestial marriage is a new and an everlasting covenant (D&C 132:4) or the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Some covenants, such as baptism, have force in all dispensations. Other covenants are made for special purposes in particular dispensations; circumcision as a sign of a covenant is of this type (MD, p. 479). The same eternal covenant conditions may be established through other ritual signs at other times.
Okay. That makes sense. But what else is out there? Who else thinks that? gives us a similar, yet more succinct, answer. "The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 66:2). It is new every time it is revealed anew following a period of apostasy. It is everlasting in the sense that it is God’s covenant and has been enjoyed in every gospel dispensation where people have been willing to receive it. The new and everlasting covenant was revealed again to men on earth by Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. It contains sacred ordinances administered by priesthood authority—such as baptism and temple marriage—that provide for man’s salvation, immortality, and eternal life. When people accept the gospel and promise to keep God’s commandments, God covenants to give them the blessings of his new and everlasting covenant."

Alright, I'm starting to get my answer. I can get that. It's the what everyone thinks put together. It's Jesus, the priesthood, every time the Lord makes a promise, it's the whole gospel. That makes sense. That's simple. (Why do I not like the simple answers? The church is full of them!) So I was right, partially. I was just incomplete. But now I know what exactly the New and Everlasting Covenant is. 

I'll let D Todd Christofferson (Quorum of the Twelve) close for me. The video sums it up quite nicely. I especially like the idea that it is "newly restored in each dispensation."

text of video: 
The scriptures speak of the new and everlasting covenant. The new and everlasting covenant is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, 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. If we were to state the new and everlasting covenant in one sentence it would be this: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Jesus explained what it means to believe in Him: "Now this is the commandment [or in other words, this is the covenant]: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day" (3 Nephi 27:20). (Ensign, May 2009)

But here's more "proof" if you need it, plus they're nice quotes:

Joseph Fielding Smith (while in the Quorum of the Twelve)
What is the new and everlasting covenant? I regret to say that there are some members of the Church who are misled and misinformed in regard to what the new and everlasting covenant really is. The new and everlasting covenant is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:156)
Now there is a clear-cut definition in detail of the new and everlasting covenant. 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. (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:158)
Bruce R. McConkie (Quorum of the Twelve)
"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) 
[Doesn't McConkie's read similar to :)]

1 comment:

  1. I encourage you to check out This website acknowledges the concerns you raised about the Bible Dictionary and the Topical Guide. The website’s video also points out that 3 Nephi 27:20, the verse Elder Christofferson refers to as Jesus’ own explanation of the covenant, isn’t listed in the Topical Guide.

    It isn’t important what religions say about God’s Covenant. What matters is what God’s word says. highlights many of the Bible verses that explain the New and Everlasting Covenant. Some of the verses mention the covenant by name, and then give details. Some of the verses are the words of the Savior Himself. And one passage, which spans across three chapters, specifically explains the New and Everlasting Covenant by contrasting it with the Law of Moses.

    In your research you discovered that there are two separate covenants because that is what the Bible teaches. Hebrews 8:6-10:17 repeatedly refers to the Law of Moses as the first covenant, and the New and Everlasting Covenant as the second. Hebrews 8:6-7 says that Jesus is the “mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.”

    I can relate to how you would have such angst over not understanding such an important topic. I found myself asking these same questions several years back. If you would like to discuss this further, you can email me at