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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Covenants


“Understanding our Covenants with God
An Overview of our Most Important Promises
No particular author noted, but sent from the leadership of the LDS Church
…sacred covenants are to be revered by us, and faithfulness to them is a requirement for happiness.  Yes, I speak of the covenant of baptism, the covenant of the priesthood, and the covenant of marriage as examples.”
… President Thomas S. Monson
Compared to the Bible by Connie Raddon


Color Key:
Quotes from the LDS Ensign in blue.
Quotes from the Bible in red.
All my own words are black.

This article is found on pg. 22-25 of the July 2012 issue of the Ensign.

First of all, I want to explain what the Bible says about covenants…

In the Bible, God makes two covenants with man that relate to receiving eternal life.  (He does make others, but they are not directly regarding our eternal life.)

The two major covenants God makes with man are commonly known as the Abrahamic Covenant (the Old Covenant), and the Covenant of Grace (the New Covenant).  Another word for “covenant” is “testament”.  This is why we have two parts to the Bible – The Old Testament, and the New Testament – they describe each of the two “covenants”.

THE FIRST COVENANT:

God promises Abram that he will have a great number of descendants, he will inherit a great land, and through him, the families of the earth with be blessed.

Gen 12:1-3 “Now the Lord had said to Abram:  ‘Get out of your country, From your family, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The sign of this covenant is circumcision:

Gen 17:11 “and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.”

This covenant (testament) is fulfilled when Abraham does become a great nation (the nation of Israel), his nation inherits the land of Canaan, and finally all the families of the earth are blessed because Jesus Christ came (through the lineage of Abraham).

God gave His “covenant” people many things.  One was “the law”.  After God brought them out of slavery in Egypt with Moses leading them, He gave Moses the 10 Commandments for the people.  God knew that the people could not keep these commandments.  In fact, they were breaking most of them at the very moment God was giving them to Moses!  So, God instituted the Levitical/ Aaronic Priesthood.  The purpose for this priesthood was to sacrifice animals at the temple to cover the sins of the people in the sight of God.  This did NOT take away the sins, only COVERED them.  It was a picture of the greatest sacrifice yet to come – that of Jesus Christ to not just cover, but take away our sins.

THE SECOND COVENANT:

Hebrews 8:6-13 (which quotes from Jer. 31:31-34)
“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand and lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord:  I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people. 
…For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’. 
In that He says, ‘A new covenant’ He has made the first obsolete.  Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

So in this new covenant (testament), God no longer has his laws written on stone (like the 10 commanements), but puts them in the minds and hearts of those who believe in Him… and they shall be His people.  

This is the new covenant of grace – that our righteousness comes by our faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, and NOT by our own works.

The sign of this covenant is the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13-14
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Romans 8:16
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Now, let’s take a look at the Ensign article to see how the covenants within the LDS Church fit in with these two covenants of the Bible.

“In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood.  Some ordinances are essential to our salvation.  As part of these ‘saving ordinances,’ we enter into solemn covenants with God.”


As a Mormon, I did every ordinance and entered into every covenant that was possible for a woman to have – baptism, washing/ anointing, endowments, and marriage sealing.  Every covenant I made basically boiled down to keeping all the commandments (the law) and consecrating my life and blessings to the Church.  Look at what the Bible says about that.

Ephesians 2:14-15
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances…”

Abolished… hmmm… abolished….  That means “to do away with”.  And yet the LDS Church has disregarded what Christ did, and continues to burden its members with rules and laws and commandments, and unnecessary covenants.

“When we receive these saving ordinances and keep the associated covenants, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes effective in our lives, and we can receive the greatest blessing God can give us – eternal life.”

The Bible says that receiving eternal life has nothing to do with covenants or ordinances, but only our belief. 

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

John 5:24 “He who hears My word and believe in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”


BAPTISM AND CONFIRMATION

“Baptism by immersion in water, performed by one having authority, is the first saving ordinance of the gospel and is necessary for an individual to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When we are baptized, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments.”

“We are baptized because we believe and have been saved by His blood, not to believe or be saved by His blood.  To the Christian, water baptism is an outward, public pronouncement of an inward faith, symbolic that we are willing to be buried with Christ (thus turning our back on the former things of our life) and being raised with Him unto a new life.  It is the public profession of our faith.” 1

But the Mormon Church continues to claim that baptism is mandatory for eternal life, or in other words, claiming that we are saved by our works, in addition to grace.

“The ordinances of baptism and confirmation are the gate through which all who seek eternal life must enter. (see John 3:3-5)”

The Mormon Church leaders use this verse incorrectly.  They say it means that we must be baptized by immersion in water, and also receive the Holy Ghost – both ordinances to be performed by Mormon priesthood authority.

Here is what the verse ACTUALLY says:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’  Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’

Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

The explanation comes in verse 6 – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
So being born of water does not mean to have a baptism in water – it means “born of the flesh”… as in… being born.  When we are born, we come out of the water that we lived in for 9 months. 

Being born of the Spirit is what Christians refer to as being “born again”.



THE SACRAMENT

Those who have received the saving ordinances of baptism and confirmation partake of the sacrament each week to renew those covenants.

Remember – baptism and confirmation do NOT save – only Jesus saves. 

The “sacrament” that the LDS refer to is the Lord’s supper – taking the bread and wine to remember Him.  (The LDS use yeast-risen bread, and since they believe drinking wine is a sin, they use water – completely destroying the symbolism of both. Yeast represents sin – so the bread used is WITHOUT yeast – like Jesus was without sin.  The wine coming from grapes represents the fruit of the vine – Jesus is the vine. Using grape juice still creates this symbolism, but Mormons don’t even do that.)

Here’s a quick question you may ask a Mormon – “Why do they need to renew those covenants each week?  Did the covenant expire?  Did they break their covenants?  (Just wondering)

The ordinance of the sacrament is an opportunity each week to renew sacred covenants that allow us to be partakers of the Savior’s atoning grace with the same spiritually cleansing effect of baptism and confirmation.

So this is saying that the covenants that are being renewed are what allow us to be partakers of grace. 

What does the Bible say allows us to be partakers of grace?

John 1:17  “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

LDS covenants are basically promises to keep the law – so they mix up the law with grace.  The law came through Moses – but grace comes through Jesus Christ alone – not Jesus plus ordinances and covenants.

Romans 11:6  “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.  But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”

The Bible clearly says that grace and works (keeping the law) cannot be combined to earn our salvation.

The Bible also says that grace is a free gift – not based on our covenants, or worthiness. (The following verse is comparing the fall, or offense, of Adam to the gift of grace from Jesus Christ.)

Romans 5:15 “But the free gift is not like the offense.  For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.”


THE OATH AND COVENANT OF THE PRIESTHOOD

When men live worthy to obtain the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and “[magnify] their calling,” God promises they will be “sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.”  They become heirs of the promises made to Moses, Aaron, and Abraham. (See D&C 84:33-34)

Once again the LDS Church makes being “worthy” a requirement for something that is crucial for salvation – the priesthoods.  I won’t go into detail here about the priesthood, because I have in several other articles – but just as a quick review… 

The Aaronic Priesthood was based on being a descendant of Aaron in the tribe of Levi – NOT on personal worthiness.  Also, this priesthood is made obsolete when Christ made the FINAL sacrifice for sin. 

The Melchizidek priesthood is only held by Jesus.  He offered the final sacrifice and  was the final sacrifice.  He alone is our high priest now.

Holding the Melchizedek Priesthood is necessary for men to qualify to enter the temple.

The purpose of the temple was for sinners to receive atonement for their sins.  If people had to be worthy, or “qualify” to go to the temple, there would have been no point in having a temple.  So the LDS temples are clearly NOT a restoration of God’s temple in the Bible.  They are created and used for completely different purposes.

By receiving all of the saving ordinances of the priesthood, all people can receive the promise of “all that [the] Father hath”  (See D&C 84:35-38)

“Incredible blessings flow from this oath and covenant to worthy men, women, and children in all the world,” taught Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

As a Mormon, when I really thought about this, it caused me stress!  The Church always taught me that I had to be “worthy” – without clearly defining how much I had to do to achieve the point of “worthiness”.  The Church also promised “incredible blessings” – with absolutely no explanation of what they were.  So I believed that if I wasn’t receiving the blessings I thought I was worthy of, something was wrong, and I usually blamed myself.  I figured I was not worthy enough somehow – even though I was doing everything I thought I should.   I would remember sins I had committed, and figured that God hadn’t completely forgiven me yet.  What a horrible burden to carry!



THE SEALING
The temple ordinance referred to as “temple marriage” or “being sealed” creates an eternal relationship between husband and wife that can last beyond death if the spouses are faithful.

In Matthew chapter 22, the Sadducees were trying to stump Jesus about the resurrection by asking him a hypothetical question – If a woman’s husband dies, and she marries his brother – then that brother dies so she marries the next brother, and on and on until she has married all the brothers, whose wife will she be in the resurrection?

Matthew 22:29-30 “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven’.”

Mormons:  You are also mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures – there is no marriage beyond death.  So please stop putting the burden on people of being faithful to all their covenants in order to receive something that Jesus Himself said does not exist.



The teachings in the July 2012 issue of the Ensign
are NOT Biblical, and therefore,
NOT consistent with Christian beliefs.


Brigham Young issued a challenge on May 18, 1873 (as recorded in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16 p. 46):  “Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter Day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test.”

I have accepted that challenge from Brigham Young.

In the July 2012 issue of the Ensign, the LDS religion FAILS this test.


1 “Where Mormonism Meets Biblical Christianity Face to Face” by Shawn McCraney pg. 65

Resources used for this article:
The Word of God (The Bible)
The LDS magazine, “The Ensign”
Research partner, Art Haglund