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A covenant[1] [2] is an agreement, usually formal, between two or more parties to do or not do something specified[3]. The predominant use of the word covenant refers to an agreement between God and a person or group of persons, upon which eternal blessings are based.

Covenants With God

When God covenants with man, God usually sets specific conditions. If men are obedient to those conditions, then God promises to bless them[4]. In covenanting with God men are not on equal ground; God sets the terms.[5] Men are told that God may send angels to "do the work of the covenants"[6].

Saving Covenants

Some covenants are required for salvation. However, simply making these saving covenants does not make men worthy to return to live with God. The grace of Christ is required, making these covenants necessary, but not sufficient for salvation. Some well-known examples of these covenants include the baptismal covenant[7], the sacrament covenant (which renews the baptismal covenant)[8], the oath and covenant of the priesthood[9], the temple endowment, and the marriage covenant. Notice that in all these saving covenants, a priesthood ordinance is associated with it.

Covenants Not Required for Salvation

There are additional covenants that have been or are made with God, but they are not required for salvation. Examples of these include the Abrahamic covenant, covenants with the house of Israel[10], and the covenant that God has made with man that He will never again flood the earth[11]. While these covenants are important for a variety of reasons, neither the scriptures nor modern day prophets have listed them as covenants necessary for salvation.

Covenants With Others Than God

There are covenants in the scriptures that are not made with God, such as the covenant between David and Jonathon[12] and the (averted) covenant between the Israelites (of Jabesh-gilead) and the Ammonites.[13]

Covenant Signs and Tokens in the Scriptures

Sometimes a sign or token is given with the covenant. For example, the book of Genesis mentions that the rainbow "is a token of the covenant" that God made with all the earth,[11] and that circumcision was a token of the Abrahamic covenant.[14] Additionally, the wicked Jaredites[15] and Gadianton robbers[16] of the Book of Mormon had signs which were used to distinguish those who had made covenants as part of those "abominable" organizations.

Failure to Live Up to Covenants

If men keep the promises that they make in a covenant, then God will bless them. However, failure to live up to the covenants men make usually results in some sort of punishment[17], including being considered unworthy to be with God[18]

  1. For a definition of the word covenant from the LDS Bible Dictionary, go to http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/c/98
  2. Additional LDS teachings regarding covenants can be found at http://www.lds.org in the A-Z index, which is also at the following (shortened) URL: http://tinyurl.com/2p7fhd
  3. See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/covenant
  4. See Doctrine and Covenants 82:10
  5. Both the LDS bible dictionary and the LDS.org guide to the scriptures make this distinction very clear, although they do not cite any sources
  6. See Moroni 7:31
  7. see Mosiah 18:8–10
  8. See Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, 77, 79
  9. see Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–44
  10. See, for example, Jeremiah 31: 31-34
  11. 11.0 11.1 See Genesis 9:8-17
  12. See 1 Samuel 23:16-18
  13. See 1 Samuel 11:1-3
  14. See Genesis 14: 9-17
  15. See Alma 37:26-27
  16. See Helaman 6:22
  17. See Doctrine and Covenants 78: 11-12
  18. See Doctrine and Covenants 98: 13-15