Abraham's act of faith reflects 'a soul like unto our savior'

A good friend of mine had the following experience: "I stood at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem one evening watching the faithful Jews at worship. I noticed that some were actually in tears, including a tall, well-dressed man.

" Pardon me,' I said,are you Jewish?'"A smile broke upon his countenance. `I am,' he replied.

" May I ask you a rather sensitive question?' I inquired.Why are all these people crying?

"Once again he smiled. It's an old story,' he said. He bowed his head for a moment and then said thoughtfully,When I was in Poland, we Jews were hated and hunted. We were not safe and sometimes had to hide in order to preserve our lives. Every night before we retired my father would pray "Lord, next year in Jerusalem." It was the same prayer that his father and grandfather and great-grandfather and his fathers back for many generations had prayed.

" `One day the Nazis took my father away. We never heard from him again. I'm the privileged one. I'm here!'

" Then, with real tears streaming down his cheeks, he unashamedly asked,Wouldn't you cry too?'

"And I had to admit that I would.

"He was a professor at the University of Haifa with degrees from three leading universities. I asked, `Do you consider yourself a covenant person, a member of the chosen race?'

"Again he smiled. Of course,' he said,I wear the mark of the covenant in my body. We Jews regard ourselves to be chosen of God.'

"Then I blurted it out. `And what is it that you are under covenant to do? What is it that you are chosen for?'

"He stared hard at me for a moment while stroking his rather bushy beard. He finally answered: `Well, I guess we Jews have been chosen by God to suffer. That's mostly what we've done in our history - suffer.' " (Adapted from Leland Gentry's "I Will Establish My Covenant," Third Annual CES Religious Education Symposium, October 1979, pp. 97-98.)

People and purpose of covenants

Today, all members of the Church are of Israel and literally the descendants of Abraham or children by adoption through the covenant. Whether literal or adopted, the blessings and responsibilities are the same, and are intended to be had and enjoyed by all. Therefore, the questions asked the man at the wailing wall are equally appropriate for those of us who have entered the covenant.

"The greatest and most important blessings our Heavenly Father has for his faithful sons and daughters are received by covenant." (President George F. Richards, April 1945 Conference Report, p. 129.) Entering into and abiding by covenants is the way the Lord set up the plan of salvation so we might grow and progress in spirit and power as we move toward eternal life. By noting how well we keep the conditions of our covenants, we are able to evaluate our personal progress.

Abraham and the covenant

Abraham was born in Ur of Chaldea where his father and others of the patriarchal line had "turned from their righteousness . . . unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen." (Abr. 1:5.) The power and influence of Egypt, stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, had brought with it the worship of Egypt's false gods which were added to the hundreds already there. This cultivated a condition in which men's hearts were set to do evil continually, thereby bringing their society so low they allowed the abominable practice of human sacrifices. Abraham's refusal to join in their evil deeds irritated Pharaoh's wicked priests, so they attempted to take his life on the altar as they had done to many innocent children. (Abr. 1:7-12.)

The priests may have succeeded had not Abraham raised his voice in appeal to the Lord Jehovah who made divine intervention through an angel. Our noble ancestor did what few men do: he rose above the corrupt nature of his society and became a "follower of righteousness." (Abr. 1:2; History of the Church 6:300.) He was ordained by Melchizedek. (D&C 84:14.) He sought for and obtained priesthood blessings to which he was a rightful heir. (Abr. 1:2-4.)

Jehovah informed Abraham that he would become a minister to make the name of the Lord known throughout the earth (Abr. 1: 19), and elaborated on the blessings and responsibilities included in the promise that He would make to Abraham and all who would accept the covenant.

The Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is the fullness of the gospel and encompasses all the covenants of salvation and exaltation. (D&C 66:2; 132:47.) It was given to Adam and Eve and passed on to their worthy descendants down through the generations and restored in our time. It is called "new" because it is renewed in each dispensation and with each individual who accepts it. It is called the Abrahamic Covenant because the responsibility was given specifically to him and part of his posterity through Isaac and Jacob (Israel), to carry it to the rest of the inhabitants of the earth. From that time on, the responsibility for teaching about the covenant and exercising the power to put others under covenant, became a special responsibility of his descendants who are called Israel. Today, the supervision of this great work, carried on by the Church, is under the direction of the descendants of Ephraim. (D&C 133:32; Jer. 1:9.)

Details of the covenant. The two major accounts of Abraham's covenant may have been given at different times - Abr. 2:6-11 in Haran before his departure to the land of Canaan when he was 62 years old (v. 14), and Gen. 17:1-14 at Beersheba when Abraham was 99 years old (v. 1). Together, the two accounts give a more complete understanding.

Collated account of Abraham's Covenant from Abr. 2 and Gen. 12, 17.

"I will make of thee a great nation, bless thee, and make thy name great among all the nations. Thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and priesthood unto all nations, and I will bless them through thy name, for as many as receive this gospel shall be called after thy name, accounted thy seed, rise up and bless thee, as their father.

"I have purposed to make of thee a minister in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed for an everlasting possession, even the land of Canaan, when they hearken to my voice.

"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee and thy seed (that is, in thy Priesthood) shall all families of the earth be blessed with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even eternal life. And I will make my covenant between me and thee and thy seed for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee.

"Neither shall thy name be called Abram, but Abraham, for thou shalt be a father of many nations. And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised."

The crown jewel of the covenant, not explicit in the foregoing, prepares us for eternal life in the celestial glory. It includes entering into and being obedient to that order of the priesthood called the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (D&C 131:1-2), which provides a man and his wife an opportunity to achieve exaltation and eternal increase (D&C 132:22), thus obtaining all that the Father hath. (D&C 84:38.)

Questions about the covenant

Q. How do we first enter the Abrahamic covenant?

A. Paul says, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ . . . (are) Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:27,29.)

Q. Is the token of circumcision still necessary?

A. Christ said "the law of circumcision is done away in me." (Moroni 8:8.)

Q. What is meant by a token?

A. It is a sign that we have entered a covenant. It is like baptism, the laying on of hands, raising our arm to the square. They show our voluntary willingness to meet the responsibilities we agree to in the covenant.

Q. How are the covenants of baptism, priesthood, endowments, missionary service, and celestial marriage related?

A. Each of them is a covenant and part of the overall Abrahamic Covenant. For example, when an elder accepts a mission call, he is fulfilling part of his obligation under the Abrahamic Covenant, and celestial marriage is a new and everlasting covenant.

Q. In simple terms, how can we summarize our obligations and promises under the Abrahamic Covenant that lead us to eternal life?

A. We promise to take the name of Jesus Christ upon us, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments. The Lord, who is the other party to this covenant, agrees to bless us with his Holy Spirit, provide us with gospel blessings, and give us eternal life.

Our challenge. What a glorious heritage our great-grandfather Abraham left us. His demonstration of faith in offering Isaac and doing all else the Lord asked of him reflects a soul like unto our Savior. By pondering on how they humbly accepted God's will, we gain strength to meet our own tests in life.

What are we under covenant to do, and what are we chosen for? Not to suffer, but to live right and to serve well! (Isa. 41:8.) We show our gratitude for blessings under the covenant by accepting the Lord's injunction to "Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham." (D&C 132:32.)

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed