(This article was adapted from The Three Pillars of Zion, an 8-volume set. The PDFs are our gift to you. Click here to receive your free books.)
Of unparalleled significance is the fact that the Father created the new and everlasting covenant (Covenant).[i] He established it 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.”[ii]
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.”[iii] 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.”[iv]
An additional thought-provoking verity is found in a central part of the new and everlasting covenant: the oath and covenant of the priesthood. If we will abide (“remain in a place, and continue to be sure or firm”[v]) in the Covenant, the Father himself will teach us regarding it.[vi] 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.[vii]
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.[viii] At each significant event along the way, “to fulfill all righteousness,”[ix] 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”[x] by treasuring up the words of eternal life[xi] for the everlasting salvation of our souls in the kingdom of God.[xii] 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:
1. 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?”[xiii]
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.”[xiv]
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.[xv] 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[xvi] 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, or the World
When we enter into the new and everlasting covenant by baptism, we are born again into a new life.[xvii] That life is a Zion life. Baptism symbolizes death and rebirth or resurrection.[xviii] 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.[xix] We are, and must remain forever, separate and unique, the Lord’s peculiar treasure[xx] 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.[xxi]
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.”[xxii] We, like Jesus, our spiritual father, must overcome the world “by valuing spiritual wealth and eternal treasure above earthly goods and attainments.”[xxiii]
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.”[xxiv]
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 to the people of the world, so Jesus (beginning with his apostles) sends us into the world to offer the Covenant.[xxv] 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.[xxvi]
Power in the Covenant
In a sweeping vision of the last days, Nephi saw us, the latter-day followers of the Lamb of God, as the objects of Satan’s wrath. Our righteousness became our defense, righteousness which summoned the power of God and in turn empowered us to withstand the adversary so that we might go forth and accomplish our missions.
And it came to pass that I beheld that the great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.[xxvii]
Zion people derive their power from abiding in the Covenant!
Drawing upon the perspective of his experiences in escaping from Jerusalem (Babylon), his wilderness journey, and inheriting the promised land (Zion), Nephi recorded this profound insight: “I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”[xxviii] Thereafter, he narrates incident after incident in which the power of his covenant with the Lord saved him and his family. The Book of Mormon is a textbook on power in the Covenant.
Alma and Amulek experienced the power of the Covenant as they went forth in faith to minister among the people. When they had been cast into prison and suffered exceedingly for the sake of Christ, Alma cried unto the Lord for the power of deliverance, a power available because he had made the Covenant, remained faithful to it, and exercised faith in Christ. In an astonishing turn of events, Alma and Amulek broke the cords that bound them—in the same way that Nephi broke his cords[xxix]—and the earth shook until the prison fell and killed the abusers.
“And Alma and Amulek came forth out of the prison, and they were not hurt; for the Lord had granted unto them power, according to their faith which was in Christ.”[xxx] Of their ministry, Mormon wrote, “And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them.”[xxxi]
Zion people obtain the power of deliverance by abiding in the Covenant!
When Alma had served as leader of the Church for many years and now was instructing his son, Helaman, in the doctrine of the Covenant, he made this observation: “I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me.”[xxxii]
With perspective, we, too, can look back and point to constant demonstrations of God’s power in our lives. Because he and we abide in the Covenant together, we, by our righteousness, are ever in a position to draw upon his power to mitigate life’s difficulties. Like the ancient Israelites, we, too, can point to times when we have been delivered from bondage and captivity, and our enemies have been neutralized or destroyed. Like Lehi and his family, we, too, by God’s everlasting power, have been called out of a wicked environment, and he has delivered us from time to time even down to the present day.[xxxiii]
When the circumstances of our lives bind us with seemingly unbreakable bands that only God can break, we, like Alma, should retain in our remembrance our former experiences with the power of God. Because God never changes and because he keeps the Covenant, he will likewise intervene now and in the future, as he has intervened in the past, to help us to face our challenges.[xxxiv]
Our access to his power is a combination of our righteousness and our faith in Christ. We have confidence that he will not leave us forever bound in cords or held in prison or beaten or despised. We believe that our abiding in the Covenant has summoned his power many times, and our continuing to abide in the Covenant will summon his power of deliverance in the future.
Then we, like Alma, can declare that we have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, and in all manner of afflictions, and that God will yet deliver us from prison, and from bonds, and from death.
Therefore, we abide in the Covenant with the assurance that if we continue to put our trust in God, he will manifest his power and deliver us.
Other Powers Manifested in the Covenant
Power in the Covenant is manifested in other ways. For example, we enter the Covenant through the ordinance of baptism, which places upon us a name of power—Jesus Christ. The power of the name of Jesus Christ is unequaled. During His mortal ministry, Jesus ordained the seventy, gave them power to use his name, and then sent them on missions. He instructed them: “Heal the sick therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of heaven is come nigh unto you [i.e., We have come with power as authorized servants from the kingdom of heaven and have authority to use the name of Jesus Christ to bless you.].”
When the seventy returned from their missions, they were astonished at the power of the name of Jesus Christ: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.”[xxxv] Clearly, the name of Christ is “that ultimate statement of authority.”[xxxvi]
Concerning the importance of the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord commanded us as Zion people to “take upon you the name of Christ. . . . Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved [now or in the future]; . . . for in that name [Jesus Christ] shall they be called at the last day.”[xxxvii]
The name of Jesus Christ is a blessing that we often overlook. Given to us at baptism, the name of Jesus Christ opens the door to prayer and access to the Father. This power to ask for and receive blessings is one of the supernal powers of the Covenant. Prayer is perhaps most efficacious when it is preceded by sacrifice. Because the vicarious sacrifices that we offer in the temple are some of the most Christlike sacrifices—sacrificing for the sake of someone who could not otherwise achieve redemption—our subsequent prayers that we offer in the temple often carry added spiritual weight. We cannot quantify the power of prayers offered in the holy temple.
Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ speaks eloquently regarding our relationship with the Lord as it exists in the Covenant. If we would more readily respond to a request from a friend or a family member than we would from a stranger, would not Heavenly Father readily respond to us because we are in the Covenant with him and a member of the family of Jesus Christ? Moreover, if we were to ask a friend or a family member for help in assisting someone of our acquaintance, would they not be willing to respond favorably because of their relationship to us?
In like manner, when Zion people, who are of the Covenant, ask Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ to bless people of their acquaintance, he will respond to their request because of their covenant relationship. Because the law of heaven requires asking in the name of Jesus Christ to receive blessings, someone must ask.[xxxviii] We believe that it is because of our loving covenantal relationship with the Father that we can ask and he will respond—because we are family.
That is the power of the Covenant!
(This article was adapted from The Three Pillars of Zion, an 8-volume set. The PDFs are our gift to you. Click here to receive your free books.)
[i] 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.
[ii] D&C 132:6.
[iii] D&C 132:4; see also verse 6.
[iv] D&C 98:14–15.
[v] American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. “abide.”
[vi] D&C 84:48.
[vii] Moses 1:39.
[viii] Moses 1:39.
[ix] Matthew 3:15.
[x] Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4.
[xi] D&C 6:20; 84:5.
[xii] D&C 11:3; 12:3; 14:3.
[xiii] Mark 8:10–21.
[xiv] Matthew 16:11–12.
[xv] Alma 32:28–41.
[xvi] D&C 84:48.
[xvii] Mosiah 27:25; Alma 7:14; Moses 6:59; John 3:3–7.
[xviii] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 93.
[xix] Moses 5:7.
[xx] Exodus 19:5; Psalms 135:4.
[xxi] Alma 5:57.
[xxii] John 18:36.
[xxiii] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1587.
[xxiv] Galatians 5:19–23.
[xxv] John 17:18.
[xxvi] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 348–49.
[xxvii] 1 Nephi 14:14; emphasis added.
[xxviii] 1 Nephi 1:20; emphasis added.
[xxix] 1 Nephi 8:16–18.
[xxx] Alma 14:26–28; emphasis added.
[xxxi] Alma 8:31.
[xxxii] Alma 36:27.
[xxxiii] Alma 36:29.
[xxxiv] Alma 36:28–29.
[xxxv] Luke 10:9, 17; emphasis added.
[xxxvi] Packer, “An Evening with President Boyd K. Packer,” Feb. 29, 2008.
[xxxvii] D&C 18:21–24; emphasis added.
[xxxviii] Packer, “Personal Revelation,” 59–62.