This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. (Click here to receive a free sample.)
This is a six-part series on the new and everlasting covenant, the first pillar of Zion:
(1) The Most Glorious Doctrine Ever Revealed
(2) The Covenant Reveals A Loving Relationship
(3) Power in the Covenant
(4) Safety in the Covenant
(5) Progressing in the Covenant
(6) Abiding in the Covenant
Of unparalleled significance is the fact that the Father created the new and everlasting covenant.i This is the “umbrella covenant under which all other covenants reside. The Father established the Covenant for the salvation of his children, and to that end he set the unalterable terms that result in the absolute promise of exaltation:
And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law. (3 Nephi 16:5; 20:12, 25, 27, 29, 46; 21:4, 7; 29:1; Mormon 5:14; 9:47; Ether 4:15; Moroni 10:33; D&C 84:40.)
No one having received the Covenant can thereafter deny or reject it without experiencing serious and eternal consequences:
I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. (D&C 132:6.)
Our ability to become Zion people and our eternal future hinge upon our diligence in keeping the terms of the new and everlasting covenant:
I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. (D&C 98:14–15.)
An additional thought-provoking verity is found in the oath and covenant of the priesthood: if we will abide (“remain in a place, and continue to be sure or firm” (American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. “abide.”) in the Covenant, the Father himself will teach us regarding it.(D&C 84:48.) This astonishing idea speaks to the importance that the Father places on the new and everlasting covenant. Truly, it is by this Covenant that he accomplishes his work that glorifies him. (Moses 1:39.)
The Covenant is founded on a Loving Relationship
The deeper we dig into the doctrine of the Covenant, the more we discover a loving relationship. A caring Father is offering us all that he has and is. To that end, he reveals the laws by which he lives, which are the commandments that he gives us, and he offers us the same eternal covenants of progression and exaltation that made him who he is. He knows that the Covenant will help us grow from dependence to independence. For all these reasons, he invites us into a covenantal relationship, whereby we, together with him, share his order of life and his pattern of celestial living. This is Zion!
Most certainly, Heavenly Father fully dedicates himself to offering us the Covenant, teaching us its intricacies, and walking with us step by step toward the Covenant’s stated purpose: immortality and eternal life.(Moses 1:39.) At each significant event along the way, “to fulfill all righteousness,”(Matthew 3:15.) we meet with him, often at an altar, of our own free will, to exchange vows and gifts. We promise and give our hearts, and he promises and gives us tokens and emblems, treasures that help us to remember his gift of a Savior and to retain in our remembrance the infinite price that was paid by the Father and the Son to make the Covenant possible.
Moreover, by the Covenant we become his “peculiar treasures” (Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4.) by treasuring up the words of eternal lifeiv for the everlasting salvation of our souls in the kingdom of God.(D&C 6:20; 84:5.) By the Covenant, he calls us out of the world and separates us for a holy purpose, so that one day he might elect (select) us for the highest manifestation of salvation called eternal life.
Clearly, the Covenant is all about relationship. Broadly, the relationship is called Zion, a celestial condition and an order of pure-hearted individuals who live in eternal marriages and families. The members of such families are pure, happy, and unselfish. They increase in number and joy forever. To make those relationships sure, and to confirm, or “make sure” the terms of the Covenant, three distinct offerings must be made:
The Father offers to share with us the supernal blessings of the Covenant.
2. The Son offers to cover the infinite expenses of the Covenant that we cannot meet.
3. We offer our hearts.
Yielding our hearts to God allows us to be assimilated into the celestial order. We do this by living the celestial laws of Zion in a telestial world, adopting the Father’s work of redemption as our own, and becoming experts at serving and saving his children. As covenant people, our responsibility is to draw the Father’s children into a holy circle of oneness that is indicative of Zion: safe, secure, peaceful, cooperative, merciful, charitable, and unified.
The Leavening Power of the Doctrine of the Covenant
After yet another run-in with the Pharisees, Jesus and the disciples entered into a boat to depart to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. This incident had been preceded by the Savior’s feeding four thousand men and their wives and families, the second time that he had miraculously fed thousands with very few resources. As the disciples were sailing to the other side, they discovered that they had taken with them only a single loaf of bread, hardly enough to feed thirteen men.
Jesus seized the teaching opportunity by connecting an ingredient of the bread with the doctrine of the Pharisees, whom they had just left: “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” Of course, leaven is yeast, the ingredient that expands quickly throughout the bread dough, making it rise. The connection of leaven to the Pharisees’ doctrine escaped the disciples, “and they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.”
We can hear some frustration in Jesus’ reply to their inability to see past their hunger: “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?”
Then came the lesson.
“When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?”(Mark 8:10–21.)
The lesson might escape us, too, if it were not for Matthew’s account of the incident: “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”(Matthew 16:11–12.)
Words are like leaven! Once planted in the soul, they grow. Leaven is like that good seed that Alma describes; if nourished, the seed will begin to swell, then to sprout, and eventually to grow into a bearing tree with delicious fruit.(Alma 32:28–41.) Both leaven and the seed are little things that become great things. On the other hand, if the words of Satan are planted and remain in the soul, they will take root and grow into a briar-like tangle that becomes very destructive.
Once the doctrine of the Covenant takes hold in the fertile ground of a receptive soul, the Father will come and teach us its sublime intricacies(D&C 84:48.) and empower us to abide in its precepts. More and more, the Covenant becomes a part of us, until we are totally “leavened” by it. Given a chance to grow, the Covenant will make of us Zion people.
As we become Zion people by the leavening power of the Covenant, we feel no urge to be drawn back to the great and spacious building or the filthy river or the mists of darkness, which also describe the church of the devil and Babylon. Zion simply looks and feels better than anything Babylon has to offer.
The Covenant Separates Us from Babylon
When we enter into the new and everlasting covenant by baptism, we are born again into a new life.(Mosiah 27:25; Alma 7:14; Moses 6:59; John 3:3–7.) That life is a Zion life. Baptism symbolizes death and rebirth or resurrection.(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 93.) That is, we die to our old life and are born into a new life with a new spiritual father, Jesus Christ, and a new family, the Church of Jesus Christ.
(Moses 5:7.) We are, and must remain forever, separate and unique, the Lord’s peculiar treasure(Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4.) and his covenant people. Alma taught,
And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people.(Alma 5:57.)
In our former, “natural man” life, we were identified with Babylon, but in our new life, we must never be identified with Babylon again. We are Zion now, separate and distinct. The kingdom of which we are now a part is “not of this world.”(John 18:36.) We, like Jesus, our spiritual father, must overcome the world “by valuing spiritual wealth and eternal treasure above earthly goods and attainments.”(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1587.) Whereas Babylon people are distinguished by “works of the flesh,” such as “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such,” Zion people are distinguished by the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”(Galatians 5:19–23.)
Zion people are commissioned to invite others out of Babylon and into Zion so that they, too, might partake of the Covenant and be saved. Just as the Father sent his Son into the world to offer the Covenant(John 17:18.) to the people of the world, so Jesus (beginning with his apostles) sends us into the world to offer the Covenant.ix We have no business being seduced or drawn back to Babylon in any degree. By doing so, we abandon our Covenant and commit treason against Zion.(Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 348–49.)
Zion People Are Distinguished by Observing the Sabbath Day
As mentioned, the Sabbath day is a sign that distinguishes and identifies us as people of the Covenant. By keeping the law of the Sabbath day, we signify among other things that we have abandoned Babylon in favor of Zion and that we intend to remain separate and distinct from the world. We have no desire to be “spotted” or contaminated by associating with the world.(D&C 59:9.)
Moreover, we live Zion’s law of consecration in part by consecrating this day—the Lord’s day(D&C 59:12.)—to him to do his work and no other. This is a concept completely foreign to Babylon, whose philosophy is to make profit, seek pleasure, and indulge in self-serving activities twenty-four hours a day, every day, including the Sabbath day. On the Sabbath, Zion people worship their God, while Babylon people worship the idols of moneymaking ventures and pleasure.
On the Sabbath day, Zion people go to the house of God to express gratitude to him, to offer to him the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, to confess to him their sins, to fast and bear testimony of God, and thereby to enter into his rest.
Conversely, Babylon people serve a different god on the Sabbath day. Babylon people cheer for the home team, indulge, play, shop, camp, and barbeque; they worship their boats, go rock climbing, escape into nature, watch television, go to movies, and do anything to gratify themselves. On the Sabbath day, Babylon people lounge or sleep, whereas Zion people rest.
For the obedience of the people of Zion, the Lord blesses them with rain in due season and with protection from their enemies and from adversity; he blesses them with peace and with abundance in family and in the good things of the earth; he will grant their posterity the right to the blessings of the Covenant; he will bless them with his presence and call them his chosen. The earth will yield up its bounty to Zion people who live the law of the Sabbath day.
On the other hand, by mocking the Sabbath day Babylon receives the Lord’s curse and spiritual death.
The First Pillar of Zion
The first pillar of Zion is the new and everlasting covenant, the most glorious doctrine ever revealed. Heavenly Father “instituted: the Covenant “for the fulness of [His] glory.” A sign that we are abiding in the Covenant is our devotion to observing the Sabbath day.
As we abide in the Covenant, we discover that it is founded on love; we are offered the Covenant because of a divine, loving relationship.
Over time, the initial seed of the Covenant that was planted in our soul at the time of baptism acts as leaven and swells until it becomes full and delicious. Additionally, the Covenant separates us from Babylon and keeps us safe in the process.
By no other law can we obtain exaltation. This is glorious potential of the new and everlasting covenant and the first pillar upon which a Zion life or priesthood society is built.
This is the second of six articles on the new and everlasting covenant.These articles were adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample.)