Abrahamic Covenant

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The Latter-day Saint definition of the Abrahamic Covenant goes further than the common definition shared by most Christians and Jews. According to Jewish tradition, Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, bound by covenant to keep the laws of God and bless the earth with their knowledge and talent. As part of the covenant, Abraham was assured numerous descendants and the Land of Canaan as a legacy for them. The token of the covenant was circumcision. According to Christian belief, loyalty to God and personal righteousness qualify a person as a child of Abraham. Thus, when Christ was teaching among the Jews, He counted his dedicated followers as "children of Abraham," and claimed that the unrighteous, no matter what their lineage, could not be accepted into Abraham's family.

For Latter-day Saints the Abrahamic Covenant is the covenant God made with Abraham, the great patriarch of the Old Testament, promising him and his literal and adopted descendants throughout the world all gospel blessings, including the priesthood and eternal life, if they are faithful. The Abrahamic covenant includes celestial marriage, which enables people to form eternal families. Another part of this covenant involves the eternal possession of the land of Canaan by Abraham and his righteous posterity. It also includes the foreknowledge of God that Abraham's posterity would eventually be spread throughout the earth and would have a spiritual inclination to accept the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to share the gospel with all of mankind.

The Abrahamic covenant is introduced in Genesis 12 and Abraham 2 in the Pearl of Great Price, when the Lord told Abram (Abraham) to leave the land of his father (Ur, then Haran) and go into the land of Canaan, where "I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:2-3).

When Abraham arrived in Canaan, the Lord told him: "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Genesis 17:7-8).

The Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price adds additional insight into the covenant promises Jehovah made to Abraham:

And thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations; And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father; And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Abraham 2:9-11)

Mormonism teaches that Abraham was blessed with these covenant promises because he sought to regain the true priesthood and the true gospel possessed by his ancestors but lost through apostasy by his father's people, and because he was willing to follow the Lord's guidance and direction in all things, not withholding anything. Later, when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, in similitude of the atoning sacrifice which God the Father offers to mankind through the sacrifice of His Beloved Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Abraham showed his willingness to obey that directive and his faith in the resurrection of his son, Isaac.

Abraham became, by example and by covenant, the "father of the faithful." Mormonism explains that those who receive the "fullness of the everlasting gospel" and its covenants and priesthood have responded to spiritual promptings that Abraham was promised that his posterity and the Gentile nations among them would receive (See 3 Nephi 20:25-27).

The "everlasting possession" promised to Abraham's seed is this earth, which will become the sanctified dwelling place of those who inherit eternal life through their faithfulness in all things (Doctrine and Covenants 130:9).

An interesting and inspiring insight gleaned from the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price is his "fore-ordination" to be a great prophet. In other words, the Lord knew Abraham in the pre-mortal world and chose him from His most illustrious spirit children for his calling on earth:

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham 3:22-23)

To see a video of Russell M. Nelson teaching about the nature of the Abrahamic covenant, click here.