Cover image: Moses Descending Mount Sinai, © Pacific Press, GoodSalt.com, used with permission.
Editor’s Note: much more is available to learn about this topic in Kathy’s latest book The Great Plan of Happiness and The Covenant – Threaded Through Old Testament Times. Books are available now. Order your copy HERE .
Cecil B. DeMille, producer of the movie The Ten Commandments, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, gave the spring commencement address at Brigham Young University May 1957.
President David O. McKay, who had developed a close relationship with DeMille over the years, said, “I have never felt the joy in introducing a speaker to an audience that I experience at this moment… One element of greatness, we are told, is the ability to choose the right with invincible resolution… he possesses this virtue… I love him because of his nobility.”
Mr. DeMille said, “…David O. McKay embodies, more than anyone I have ever known, the virtues and the drawing power of your Church. David O. McKay, almost thou persuadest me to be a Mormon!”
Mr. DeMille goes on to say, “If Brigham Young University chooses to honor me… It can only be in recognition of certain ideas which I have tried in one way or another to express in my lifetime and in my work. Those ideas are not mine. I am not their originator, but their servant… the same thought that prompted me to produce The Ten Commandments… that thought is a greater understanding of God’s law.”
“We are too inclined to think of law as something merely restrictive—something hemming us in… the opposite of liberty. But that is a false conception. That is not the way that God’s inspired prophets and lawgivers looked upon the law…”
“The Ten Commandments are not rules to obey as a personal favor to God. They are the fundamental principles without which mankind cannot live together. They make of those who keep them faithful, strong, wholesome, confident, dedicated men and women. This is so because the commandments come from the same Divine Hand that fashioned our human nature. God does not contradict Himself. He did not create man and then, as an afterthought, impose upon him a set of arbitrary, irritating, restrictive rules. He made men free—and then gave him the commandments to keep him free… They are not [archaic]. They are more modern than today’s newspaper—because they are timeless…”
“If man will not be ruled by God, he will certainly be ruled by tyrants—and there is no tyranny more imperious or more devasting than man’s own selfishness, without the law. We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them—or else, by keeping them, rise through them to the fullness of freedom under God… he gave us the power of choice. ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me,’ said Moses, holding aloft the tablets of the Law (Exodus 32:26). The same choice is ours today… What matters, and matters supremely, is not how many things we do but what we are.” [BYU Speeches.byu.edu, Commencement Address, May 31, 1957, emphasis added]
What does this have to do with Covenant? Another word for “Testament” is “Covenant.” The “Old Testament” is the “Old Covenant.” In the time of Moses and beyond, the “Book of the Law” was interchangeably called the “Book of the Covenant.” When our all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God gives commandments, He gives them to His “Covenant People.” Covenant is His best tool to bind (or keep) us in relationship with Him.
As we study the Old Testament, we witness the successes and failures of God’s people in maintaining their covenant relationship with Him. Jehovah (the God of the Old Testament) brought the children of Israel out of Egypt desiring to set them apart as a holy nation, a peculiar treasure, inviting them all to make a covenant with Him to become His. He invited them to take the covenant path back to our Heavenly Parents to ultimately inherit all that They have.
President Russell M. Nelson said, “This has been true since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife, Abraham and Sarah, Lehi and Sariah, and all other devoted disciples of Jesus Christ—since the world was created—have made the same covenant with God. They have received the same ordinances that we as members of the Lord’s restored Church today have made: those covenant that we receive at baptism and in the temple.” (April 2019 General Conference, “Come Follow Me”)
How can our covenant connection with Deity become more deeply personal? How can it be “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)?
President Russell M. Nelson helped us to see that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is NOT a thing! It is something marvelous that He did for us. [April 2017 General Conference, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives”] Through His atonement we have a personal relationship with Him. Renewing our baptismal covenant each Sunday during the Sacrament, we are reminded that IF we remember Him, and IF we are willing to be a witness for His name, His spirit will be with us. Because of this covenant, we have access to Him in a personal relationship. He is truly a personal Savior.
In the last General Conference, Elder David A. Bednar said, “Living and loving covenant commitments creates a connection with the Lord that is deeply personal and spiritually powerful. As we honor the conditions of sacred covenants and ordinances, we gradually and incrementally are drawn closer to Him… Jesus then becomes much more than the central character in scripture stories, His example and teachings influence our every desire, thought, and action. I frankly do not have the ability to describe adequately the precise nature and power of our covenant connection with the resurrected and living Son of God. But I witness that the connection with Him and Heavenly Father are real and are the ultimate sources of assurance, peace, joy, and the spiritual strength that enable us to ‘fear not, though the enemy deride.’” (April 2022 General Conference, “But We Heeded Them Not”)
Obedience to the Laws and Commandments of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (or getting on and staying on the covenant path) enhance our relationship with Him. As we put forth our imperfect effort over time, we are purified and sanctified through Him. It is a process. It is He that perfects us and gives us power to overcome and become. It is no surprise that throughout history there are constant covenant symbols, ordinances, tokens, and reminders pointing to our relationship with Him.
When Moses sprinkled the sacrificial animal’s “blood of the covenant” upon the people (Exodus 24:8), it was symbolic of the future “blood of Christ” that would be shed for us, where He would redeem us with a price. The Lord said, “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers… which my covenant they brake… But this… I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people… for they shall all know me…” (Jeremiah 31: 31-34, emphasis added)
Covenant connections are woven from the Pre-Existence throughout history, in the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets, and in the temple. It is fascinating to discover the similarities in each gospel dispensation’s covenant connection. It is also comforting to see the differences. As individual children of the covenant, He knows us perfectly. He knows our challenges and what will best bring us closer to Him. May we discover and teach the “deeply personal” nature of our own covenant connection.
The Great Plan of Happiness and The Covenant Threaded Through Old Testament Times is designed for a Latter-Day Saint audience from a Restored Gospel perspective. It was created to help the rising generation understand who they are, what they are here to do, and what covenant blessings are available to them. It is a 336 page, beautifully illustrated Family Heirloom. See sample pages HERE .