The New and Everlasting Covenant: A Review

Link to the December 2015 article by Seventy Marcus B. Nash: The New and Everlasting Covenant

Listen to an 8-part podcast series that aired January 18-27, 2016: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6   Part 7  Part 8

Note: This article—repeated word-for-word here—was written by Seventy Marcus B. Nash and printed in the December 2015 Ensign magazine on pages 40-47. Nash’s words are underlined, with my comments underneath

By Eric Johnson

The Purpose of Life

Each human being is a beloved son or daughter of heavenly parents.

According to Mormonism, Preexistence/Premortality means that all people were born as spirits prior to being born onto this earth. God the Father and Heavenly Mother(s)—after all, LDS leaders have taught that God has multiple wives in heaven—came together in a physical way to produce each person. This teaching was reaffirmed in a Gospel Topics essay titled Mother in Heaven (originally posted 10/23/2015) and responded to by MRM as we cover the essay point by point. (Also hear a Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast response that originally aired November 16-18, 2015: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3)

Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation provides to each the opportunity to receive eternal life, which is the life God leads.

This reference to eternal life includes the doctrine of eternal increase, which is the ability for Latter-day Saints to continue their marriages and families into the next life.  What is the life God leads? According to Mormonism, it’s godhood. Anybody who claims that Mormonism no longer teaches the Lorenzo Snow couple, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may be,” does not know his Mormonism.

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained the two types of salvation, salvation by grace (involving atonement and grace) and Individual salvation (more correctly termed “exaltation“):

Salvation is twofold: General – that which comes to all men irrespective of a belief (in this life) in Christ- and, Individual – that which man merits through his own acts through life and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (Doctrines of Salvation 1:134. Italics in original).

President Gordon B. Hinckley used both types of salvation in his explanation of eternal life:

I believe in the grace of God made manifest through His sacrifice and redemption, and I believe that through His atonement, without any price on our part, each of us is offered the gift of resurrection from the dead. I believe further that through that sacrifice there is extended to every man and woman, every son and daughter of God, the opportunity for eternal life and exaltation in our Father’s kingdom, as we hearken and obey His commandments ( “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1986, pp. 50-51).

The idea that eternal life is the goal in Mormonism is made clear by Mormon leaders. In the famous King Follett Discourse, Joseph Smith declared,

Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 346-347).

In a church manual, President George Albert Smith is quoted as saying,

Eternal life is to us the sum of pre-existence, present existence, and the continuation of life in immortality, holding out to us the power of endless progression and increase. With that feeling and that assurance, we believe that “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.” Being created in the image of God, we believe that it is not improper, that it is not unrighteous, for us to hope that we may be permitted to partake of the attributes of deity and, if we are faithful, to become like unto God; for as we receive of and obey the natural laws of our Father that govern this life, we become more like Him; and as we take advantage of the opportunities placed within our reach, we prepare to receive greater opportunities in this life and in the life that is to come (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2011, p. 71).

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,

All that we can do for ourselves we are required to do. We must do our own repenting; we are required to obey every commandment and live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. If we will do this, then we are freed from the consequences of our own sins. The plan of salvation is based on this foundation. No man can be saved without complying with these laws (The Way to Perfection, p. 172).

Spencer W. Kimball stated,

The other—eternal life—is a cooperative program to be developed by the Lord and his offspring on earth. It thus becomes the overall responsibility of man to cooperate fully with the Eternal God in accomplishing this objective. To this end God created man to live in mortality and endowed him with the potential to perpetuate the race, to subdue the earth, to perfect himself and to become as God, omniscient and omnipotent (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 2).

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explained,

Only those who obey the fulness of the gospel law will inherit eternal life … Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation; they are sons of God, joint heirs with Christ, members of the Church of the Firstborn; they overcome all things, have all power, and receive the fulness of the Father. They are gods (Mormon Doctrine, p. 237).

It seems pretty obvious that complete obedience is a requirement for a person to attain “eternal life.” Here are some additional articles on the topic:

There is no greater gift.

This is the first of five uses of the word “gift” in this article. As we will see, eternal life in Mormonism is not a gift. It is something that must be earned.

Knowledge of the plan of salvation explains the purpose of life and, if we so choose, will inform our decision-making from an eternal perspective.

Instead of receiving a “gift,” Mormonism is all about making correct decisions (read: obedience) to earn divine godhood. A person must choose Mormonism and then make all deeds correspond to what LDS leaders teach must be done (i.e. baptism/confirmation into the LDS Church, marriage in the temple for time and eternity, enduring to the end, etc).

The plan and its relevance to mortality were explained powerfully in an October 2015 Ensign article on the subject by Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As part of His plan, the Father established the new and everlasting covenant to enable His sons and daughters to return to His presence and inherit eternal life.

While all people receive “salvation” in the general sense of the word, what Hales (along with Nash) is referring to is individual salvation, as defined by Smith from his quote above. To hear what we had to say about Hale’s article “The Plan of Salvation” that played on November 19-20, 2015, click the following: Part 1  Part 2

In His preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord said: “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, …That mine everlasting covenant might be established.”

Christians don’t believe that the D&C is scripture, so they don’t hold this unique LDS scripture to be authoritative in their lives. In Mormonism, covenants are taken very seriously and must be obeyed.

This covenant, often referred to by the Lord as the “new and everlasting covenant,” encompasses the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including all ordinances and covenants necessary for the salvation of mankind.

Notice how Nash says that “all ordinances and covenants”—not “some” or ”most,” but “all.” We’ll talk more about this later. In Hales’ article referred to by Nash, the LDS expectations are made very clear:

We can qualify for eternal life only through obedience to the commandments. This requires having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in following the Savior’s example. In practical terms, we must receive all essential priesthood ordinances and endure to the end in keeping the associated covenants.

Although establishing the Lord’s new and everlasting covenant on the earth is a primary purpose of the Restoration, some Latter-day Saints do not understand the covenant’s significance and the promise of good things to come for those who abide within it. The purpose of this article is to help each of us better understand and live according to the new and everlasting covenant so that we may inherit eternal life. It will also explain how one of the most important ordinances and covenants of the gospel—eternal marriage—fits within the new and everlasting covenant of the gospel.

This paragraph is very important. Here Nash chides those who make covenants and yet don’t keep them, whether in ignorance or willful disobedience. This article, he says, is meant to help the reader “better understand and live” so that eternal life may be inherited. A Latter-day Saint who justifies his or her noncompliance with “I’m trying” or “I’m doing the best I can” is certainly not keeping “all ordinances and covenants necessary for the salvation of mankind.”

The Meaning and Purpose of the New and Everlasting Covenant

A covenant in the gospel sense is a pact, a contract, or an agreement between God and a person (or persons) who receives priesthood ordinances performed by one with priesthood authority and who agrees to abide by the terms and conditions of the associated covenant. These terms and conditions are established by God.

A church magazine explains in more detail:

A covenant is a two-way promise, the conditions of which are set by God. When we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to keep the conditions. He promises us certain blessings in return. 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 (see D&C 14:7). Because keeping our covenants is essential to our happiness now and to eventually receiving eter­nal life, it is important to understand what we have promised our Heavenly Father (“Understanding our Covenants with God,” En­sign, July 2012, p. 22).

The unsigned article adds,

A covenant is a two-way promise. God promises us certain bless­ings in return for our keeping the terms we accepted when mak­ing the covenant (“Understanding our Covenants with God,” En­sign, July 2012, p. 23).

Ezra Taft Benson, the 13th president of the LDS Church, said,

We go to our chapels each week to worship the Lord and renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. We thereby promise to take His name upon us, to always remember Him, and keep all His commandments. Our agreement to keep all the command­ments is our covenant with God. Only as we do this may we deserve His blessings and merit His mercy (The Teach­ings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 442).

Bruce R. McConkie wrote,

What then is the law of justification? It is simply this: “All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations” (D. & C. 132:7), in which men must abide to be saved and exalted, must be entered into and performed in righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can justify the candidate for salvation in what has been done. (1 Ne. 16:2; Jac. 2:13-14; Alma 41:15; D. & C. 98; 132:1, 62.) An act that is justified by the Spirit is one that is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or in other words, ratified and approved by the Holy Ghost. This law of justification is the provision the Lord has placed in the gospel to assure that no unrighteous performance will be binding on earth and in heaven, and that no person will add to his position or glory in the hereafter by gaining an unearned blessing. As with all other doctrines of salvation, justification is available because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, but it becomes operative in the life of an individual only on conditions of personal righteousness” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 408. Italics in original. See also Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 231 and 232, p. 50).

A popular church manual adds,

A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 44).

For more on covenants, check these out: Covenants: The (Unkept) Promises and Sacrament Promises That Will Always Be Broken

While LDS leaders say that the “atoning sacrifice of Christ” “becomes operative in the life of an individual only on conditions of personal righteousness,” the author of Hebrews 10 explains a much different—yes, better—way:

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

 17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

Titus 3:5-7 says,

5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Christians who hold to the authority of the Bible shudder when they hear someone say that fulfilling covenants allows a person to say he or she “deserve(s) His blessings and merit His mercy.” According to Mormonism, Jesus becomes a mediator, not a Savior. His “gift” merely provides the way for the faithful Mormon to do the work necessary in order to attain eternal life. Mormonism can be compared to the friend who knows someone to help you get a job. It is a gift to get the job. Then you find out that the job is in electrical engineering…and you have no idea how to do this. You won’t get a paycheck unless you fulfill your obligations, but the job is impossible to do…for you. Christianity, on the other hand, is receiving a gift based on nothing more than grace. You didn’t do anything to earn it, but it comes freely with no strings attached. According to the Bible, forgiveness is a gift, not a wage. And you don’t even have to understand electrical engineering to fully participate in this gift.

The new and everlasting covenant “is the sum total of all gospel covenants and obligations” given anciently and again restored to the earth in these latter days. This is explained in Doctrine and Covenants 66:2: “Verily I say unto you, blessed are you for receiving mine everlasting covenant, even the fulness of my gospel, sent forth unto the children of men, that they might have life and be made partakers of the glories which are to be revealed in the last days, as it was written by the prophets and apostles in days of old.” Because the covenant has been restored in the last dispensation of time, it is “new,” and because it spans all eternity, it is “everlasting.”

I get a bit confused when something can be called “new” when it is supposed to span all eternity. Mormonism’s version is decisively denigrated by Paul in his book to the Galatians. Consider some of what he wrote in Galatians 2:

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Paul continues his train of thought in chapter 3:

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

The law referred to by Paul certainly had a purpose: to point humanity to the understanding that God’s ways are perfect. It was only through what Jesus did on the cross—providing the free gift of eternal life—that allowed for the law to be fulfilled and have sin completely conquered.

In the scriptures the Lord speaks of both “the” new and everlasting covenant and “a” new and everlasting covenant. For example, in Doctrine and Covenants 22:1, He refers to baptism as “a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” In Doctrine and Covenants 132:4, He likewise refers to eternal marriage as “a new and an everlasting covenant.” When He speaks of “a” new and everlasting covenant, He is speaking of one of the many covenants encompassed by His gospel.

According to Mormonism, baptism is the entrance into eternal life. Marriage for time and eternity in an LDS temple is vital for this to become reality.

When the Lord speaks generally of “the” new and everlasting covenant, He is speaking of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which embraces all ordinances and covenants necessary for the salvation and exaltation of mankind. Neither baptism nor eternal marriage is “the” new and everlasting covenant; rather, they are each parts of the whole.

So just getting baptized and getting married in the temple are not the only things that can be done. According to Mormonism, “all ordinances and covenants” must be kept for salvation, or exaltation. Keeping the commandments—all of them—is required. Latter-day Saint, just how are you doing at this?

Those Who Endure to the End in the New and Everlasting Covenant Receive Eternal Life

The subheading is straightforward. Only those who keep the associated covenants and enduring will be allowed to receive eternal life.

Great and eternal blessings are promised to those who receive gospel ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, and who then keep the sacred covenants associated with the ordinances. These blessings include forgiveness of sins, the power of godliness, and the companionship of the Holy Ghost, together with the guidance, inspiration, comfort, peace, hope, and sanctification that attend that gift.

This is incredible. Notice the progression according to Nash:

  • Mormons receive gospel ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority
  • Mormons must keep their covenants (promises) that they have made in the temple and at sacrament.
  • Forgiveness of sins is the first blessing that can be attained.

Let me stop here. Lest anyone become confused by LDS friends and family saying Mormonism believes in salvation by “grace,” it is important to see what has been said. “Forgiveness of sins” only comes after a person keeps his or her covenants.

I am reminded of what twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball had to say on the topic of forgiveness of sins in his classic work The Miracle of Forgiveness:

This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfec­tion. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 208-209. See also church manual The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 1979, p. 386).

Kimball also said,

Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repen­tance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 324-325).

Someone may say that this is just Kimball’s opinion? Well, isn’t this the same opinion as Nash? And a current church manual reiterates what Kimball was trying to say:

But President Kimball warned: “Even though forgiveness is so abundantly promised there is no promise nor indication of for­giveness to any soul who does not totally repent. … We can hardly be too forceful in reminding people that they cannot sin and be forgiven and then sin again and again and expect repeated for­giveness” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 353, 360). Those who receive forgiveness and then repeat the sin are held accountable for their former sins (see D&C 82:7; Ether 2:15)” (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 231).

Current leaders do not disagree with Kimball or Nash. Apostle Boyd K. Packer told a general conference crowd,

When you meet all of the conditions of repentance, however dif­ficult, you may be forgiven and your transgressions will trouble your mind no more (“Washed Clean,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1997, p. 10).

Other blessings that comes from keeping covenants is “the power of godliness” and the “companionship of the Holy Spirit.” It appears this is a reference to keeping the commandments through the strength that is given by God.  Hales said the following in a general conference message:

I testify that if you are there for the Lord, He will be there for you. If you love Him and keep His commandments, you will have His Spirit to be with you and guide you (“Meeting the Challenges of Today’s World,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2015, p. 45).

Again, I ask the LDS reader: Have you been able to keep your covenants? If not, then you must not have the Holy Spirit. Shouldn’t this bother you?

The greatest of all the blessings and gifts of God is eternal life—which is the life God lives! This gift is given only to those who receive all gospel ordinances and abide by the covenants encompassed within the new and everlasting covenant

The verse quoted at the end is D&C 14:7: “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” Here we go again with the word “gift.” Yet Mormonism’s idea of a “gift” is really better defined by “wage.” Only when this work is accomplished can the Latter-day Saint receive what is promised. When can this ever be accomplished?

 In the Lord’s words: “The new and everlasting covenant … was instituted for the fulness of my glory.” Indeed, those who enter into the new and everlasting covenant and endure to the end “shall come forth in the first resurrection … and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.” The Lord emphatically declares that “it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods.” In summary, those who enter into the new and everlasting covenant and endure faithfully to the end will (1) receive the fulness of the glory of God, (2) enjoy the power of godliness in time and eternity, (3) be exalted, (4) enjoy eternal marriage and increase, and (5) become gods. Taken together, these blessings culminate in the gift of eternal life.

In Mormonism, becoming “gods” is the goal. Obtaining that goal only comes by keeping all covenants. This is an impossible gospel. Christians don’t believe they will become gods in their own right to follow the pattern of God the Father. Yes, Christians will be glorified and will reside with God forever. But to become “gods,” the Bible does not teach this concept.

For more on this topic, see How can a person get into heaven?

We Must Obey Each Covenant within the New and Everlasting Covenant

The Lord unequivocally declared that we receive these supernal blessings only as we obey His laws as set forth in the new and everlasting covenant: “The new and everlasting covenant … was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.”

The verse quoted here is D&C 132:6. The context is verses 4-6. According to the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, the context is referring specifically to marriage in a temple:

The “new and everlasting covenant” (D&C 132:4) is the covenant of celestial marriage, as President Spencer W. Kimball plainly stated: “Though relatively few people in this world understand it, the new and everlasting covenant is the marriage ordinance in the holy temple by the properly constituted leaders who hold the genuine, authoritative keys. This glorious blessing is available to men and women on this earth.” (“Temples and Eternal Marriage,” Ensign, Aug. 1974, p. 5). . . . those who reject this covenant are truly damned, or stopped, in their eternal progression because they do not inherit the blessings of eternal increase. (pp. 327-328)

BYU Professor Charles Harrell writes:

… the concept of eternal marriage isn’t found anywhere in the Book of Mormon or other Latter-day scripture prior to 1843. It was in Nauvoo, in the summer of 1843, that Joseph Smith formally introduced the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage” (D&C 132), which initially entailed plural marriage ( ‘This is my Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology, p. 318).

David John Buerger states how “celestial marriage was applied to and equated with plural marriage until the late nineteenth century” (The Mysteries of Godliness, p. 59) And Thomas G. Alexander writes on page 60 of Mormonism in Transition, “Generally, the terms “new and everlasting covenant of marriage,” “celestial marriage,” and plural marriage were thought to be equivalent.”

This is verified in a current church manual:

The law of celestial marriage, as outlined in this revelation [D&C 132], also included the principle of the plurality of wives. In 1831 as Joseph Smith labored on the inspired translation of the holy scriptures, he asked the Lord how he justified the practice of plural marriage among the Old Testament patriarchs. This question resulted in the revelation on celestial marriage, which included an answer to his question about the plural marriages of the patriarchs (Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341-43, 2003, p. 255. Brackets mine).

He also declared, “For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.” In the same section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord echoed this point: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.”

Latter-day Saint, once more I ask: How are you doing at what your scripture says must be done?

The Bible is completely different in its view of eternal life. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In Mormonism, eternal life could lead to boasting. On Judgment Day, imagine the Latter-day Saint answering the question of why she should be allowed into God’s kingdom. “I have kept my part of the bargain,” she would argue, “so now you owe me.” Isn’t this audacious for a creature to be addressed by the Maker? Yet when a Mormon is told she must make a covenant—remember, it’s “a contract, or an agreement between God and a person. . . who agrees to abide by the terms and conditions of the associated covenant” that was “established by God”—Jesus becomes nothing less than a mediator instead of a “Savior.”

The straightforward requirement that we must obey the laws of God in order to receive the glory He offers the faithful applies to all the ordinances and covenants within the new and everlasting covenant.

What role does “grace” have in Mormonism? It merely gets a person to the workplace. Everything else is pinned on him to accomplish what is supposed to be do-able. Contrary to this, Paul explained the biblical version of salvation in Romans 5:

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I sure like Paul’s version much better than what Nash proposes.

For example, if I do not receive the ordinance and keep the covenant of baptism, I will be damned, meaning that I cannot progress—I cannot inherit the fulness of His glory.

For more on baptism, consider this review of a chapter found in a church manual found here.

Likewise if I do not receive the ordinances of the temple and keep the associated covenants or, indeed, if I refuse to receive any of the ordinances of the gospel or if I refuse to abide by any of the associated covenants, I cannot be exalted. Instead, I will be damned, meaning that my progress will be stopped.

Temple work is a requirement in Mormonism, even though Jesus fulfilled everything that took place in the temple, as described by the New Testament book of Hebrews. For more on this broad topic, click here.

In short, I must receive every ordinance of the gospel and abide by every associated covenant if eternal life is my desire.

This sentence is straight to the point. A Mormon is required to “receive every ordinance of the gospel” as well as “abide by every associated covenant.” Who can do this? Nobody but Jesus!

The terms of the covenants we as Latter-day Saints agree to live can be grouped into four categories: (1) to take upon us the name of the Savior, to remember Him always, and to follow His example; (2) to keep all His commandments; (3) to willingly serve God’s children as part of His work of salvation, even at personal sacrifice; and (4) to consecrate ourselves and our means to the Lord’s work.

Over and over again, the message according to Mormonism is that all the commandments must be kept.

According to God’s law, the gospel (and the glories it offers) is received through specified ordinances administered by the authority of the priesthood. It is through the priesthood ordinances that the power of godliness is manifest in our lives—but only to the extent that we keep the associated covenants.

This says, Priesthood + keeping covenants = the Gospel

Yet in Christianity, it’s: Jesus + His Atoning work on the cross = the Gospel

Which of the two do you hang your hat on at night?

The covenant activates, or gives life to, the ordinance, just as an engine activates a car and enables it to transport its occupants from one place to another. In short, to the degree we thoughtfully and faithfully keep the covenants associated with the ordinances we receive, we will grow in our knowledge of God and experience the “power of godliness” by the grace of God through the Atonement of Christ.

Grace, in Mormonism, is not enough to obtain individual salvation. It’s keeping the covenants that is the main force.

The Place of Marriage in the New and Everlasting Covenant

In Doctrine and Covenants 132:4, the Lord stated that He was going to reveal “a” new and everlasting covenant and added, “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.” These words refer to the covenant of eternal marriage performed by proper priesthood authority, which is a central and essential part of “the” new and everlasting covenant (the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ). The Lord emphasized the great importance of the covenant of eternal marriage by telling us that those who reject this covenant will not receive eternal life.

As mentioned earlier, D&C 132 is referring to polygamy, or plural marriage. Consider these 19th century leaders:

The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy (Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:269).

You might as well deny “Mormonism,” and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned (Heber C. Kimball, October 12, 1856, Journal of Discourses 5:203).

Now, after having said so much in relation to the reason why we practice polygamy, I want to say a few words in regard to the revelation on polygamy. God has told us Latter-day Saints that we shall be condemned if we do not enter into that principle; and yet I have heard now and then (I am very glad to say that only a low such instances have come under my notice,) a brother or a sister say, “I am a Latter-day Saint, but I do not believe in polygamy.” Oh, what an absurd expression! what an absurd idea! A person might as well say, “I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I do not believe in him.” One is just as consistent as the other. Or a person might as well say, “I believe in Mormonism, and in the revelations given through Joseph Smith, but I am not a polygamist, and do not believe in polygamy,” What an absurdity! If one portion of the doctrines of the Church is true, the whole of them are true. If the doctrine of polygamy, as revealed to the Latter-day Saints, is not true, I would not give a fig for all your other revelations that came through Joseph Smith the Prophet; I would renounce the whole of them, because it is utterly impossible, according to the revelations that are contained in these books, to believe a part of them to be divine—from God—and part of them to be from the devil; that is foolishness in the extreme; it is an absurdity that exists because of the ignorance of some people. I have been astonished at it. I did hope there was more intelligence among the Latter-day Saints, and a greater understanding of principle than to suppose that any one can be a member of this Church in good standing, and yet reject polygamy. The Lord has said, that those who reject this principle reject their salvation, they shall be damned, saith the Lord; those to whom I reveal this law and they do not receive it, shall be damned (Orson Pratt, October 7, 1874, Journal of Discourses 17:224).

It was difficult for men and women from all parts of the world, who had lived in the monogamic order all their lives to accept this doctrine of the eternity and plurality of marriage.  It was ‘a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned, saith the Lord.’  This was the obligation that was laid upon the Prophet Joseph, and through him, upon the true believers of the Church, even all who were worthy to accept of these obligations.  It was herein that the Elders and their wives extended their faith, enlarged their obedience, and accepted the terms of the new and everlasting covenant extending not through time only, but eternity also (Franklin D. Richards, Journal of Discourses 26:341).

It is a glorious privilege to be permitted to go into a Temple of God to be united as man and wife in the bonds of holy wedlock for time and all eternity by the Authority of the Holy Priesthood, which is the power of God, for they who are thus joined together “no man can put asunder,” for God hath joined them. It is an additional privilege for that same man and wife to re-enter the Temple of God to receive another wife in like manner if they are worthy. But if he remain faithful with only the one wife, observing the conditions of so much of the law as pertains to the eternity of the marriage covenant, he will receive his reward, but the benefits, blessings and power appertaining to the second or more faithful and fuller observance of the law, he never will receive, for he cannot. As before stated no man can obtain the benefits of one law by the observance of another, however faithful he may be in that which he does, nor can he secure to himself the fullness of any blessing without he fulfills the law upon which it is predicated, but he will receive the benefit of the law he obeys. This is just and righteous. If this is not correct doctrine then I am in error, and if I am in error I want to be corrected. I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that (Joseph F. Smith, July 7, 1878, Journal of Discourses 20:30-31).

 

In today’s Mormonism D&C 132 and “celestial marriage” has come to be a reference to a monogamous marriage that takes place in the temple. As a church manual put it, “Consider this fact: Your marriage is a laboratory for godhood” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 65). According to Apostle Russell M. Nelson, marriage involves a “partnership with God”:

To qualify for eternal life, we must make an eternal and everlast­ing covenant with our Heavenly Father. This means that a temple marriage is not only between husband and wife; it embraces a partnership with God (“Celestial Marriage,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2008, p. 93).

However, you will not find such a teaching in the Bible. For more on this issue, I invite the reader to consider reading this.

Some people, including some Church members, inaccurately read Doctrine and Covenants 132:4 to mean that plural marriage is necessary for exaltation, leading them to believe that plural marriage is a necessary prerequisite for exaltation in the eternal realm. This, however, is not supported in the revelations. As recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 131 and 132, the Lord introduced the law of eternal marriage by expressly referring to the sealing of one man and one woman (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:4–7, 15–25). By setting forth the law of eternal marriage in the context of a monogamous marriage, the Lord makes plain that the blessings of exaltation, extended to each man and each woman who worthily enters into the covenant of eternal marriage performed by proper priesthood authority, are independent of whether that marriage is plural or monogamous.32

Doctrine and Covenants 132:19 makes it clear that eternal life is promised to a monogamous couple who are sealed by the authority of the priesthood and who abide in the covenant—with no additional condition or requirement. Any man and woman who are sealed in this way and who abide within the covenant will be exalted. Historical practice is consistent with the doctrine of eternal marriage as explained here. The ordinance that seals couples for eternity includes identical covenants and blessings for monogamous marriages and for the authorized plural marriages performed in the past. These same covenants and blessings will be made available after this life to the faithful who did not have the opportunity to be sealed in mortality.

When the context of D&C 132 is considered, it is obvious that monogamous marriages were never intended. Joseph Smith always meant for D&C 132 to refer to polygamous marriage. He practiced this in a clandestine way:

The demand for secrecy coupled with the need to warn others of unauthorized practices such as [John C.] Bennett’s led Joseph and the Twelve to develop a system of evasion. By employing “code words” the practitioners of the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage,” as taught by Joseph, felt they could publicly deny one thing and privately live by another – and do it with a clear conscience (Linda Newell King, Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Smith, 1994, pp. 112-113. Brackets mine).

If monogamous marriage was ever intended in D&C 132, then why did Joseph Smith not want to show Emma Smith this particular revelation?

On the 7th of October, 1842, in the presence of Bishop Newel K. Whitney and his wife, Elizabeth Ann, President Joseph Smith appointed me Temple Recorder, and also his private clerk, placing all records, books papers, etc., in my care, and requiring me to take charge of and preserve them, his closing words being, “when I have any revelations to write, you are the one to write them.”  On the morning of the 12th of July, 1843; Joseph and Hyrum Smith came into the office in the upper story of the brick store, on the bank of the Mississippi river. They were talking on the subject of plural marriage. Hyrum said to Joseph, “If you will write the revelation on celestial marriage, I will take it and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace.” Joseph smiled and remarked, ‘You do not know Emma as well as I do’” (William Clayton, February 16, 1874, History of the Church 5:xxxii).

Hyrum delivered the “revelation” to Emma and she became irate:

When Hyrum came back Joseph asked, “How did you succeed?” “I have never received a more severe talking to in my life. Emma is very bitter and full of resentment and anger,” Hyrum answered. Joseph quietly remarked, “I told you you did not know Emma as well as I did.” (Mormon Enigma, p. 152).

If the “revelation” included monogamy, why did Emma became so upset?

For more on this issue, see herehttp://www.josephswives.com.

After revealing the law and covenant of eternal marriage between one man and one woman, the Lord taught Joseph Smith that a man can in righteousness marry more than one wife within the covenant of eternal marriage when authorized or commanded by the Lord through His duly ordained prophet (who holds the relevant priesthood keys). The authorization and command to practice plural marriage, given by the Lord to Abraham and other prophets of antiquity, was likewise given to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things.”

So much can be said about this paragraph. For more on Joseph Smith and the issue of plural marriage, I recommend our website JosephsWives.com.

Years later, the Lord rescinded His authorization and command for Church members to enter the practice of plural marriage (in other words, be sealed to more than one living spouse) when President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) issued the Manifesto of 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage, meaning no member of the Church could be married or sealed to more than one living spouse. Notably, the Manifesto does not preclude any worthy man who has been sealed to a wife now deceased from being sealed to another, living spouse. The foregoing is consistent with the revealed doctrine that monogamy is the Lord’s standard for marriage unless He declares and authorizes otherwise through His duly appointed representative, meaning the President and prophet of the Church.

While polygamy in this life is currently banned by LDS leaders, spiritual polygamy has always continued. A man who was sealed to a woman who later dies is allowed to be eternally sealed to a second wife. Many Mormon men have participated in spiritual polygamy, including a number of LDS leaders. For instance, tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith was married for eternity to three different women. Harold B. Lee, the eleventh president of the church, also remarried after his wife’s death and was sealed to another woman and was looking forward to a polygamous relationship in heaven. He, in fact, wrote a poem in which he reflected that his second wife, Joan, would join his first wife, Fern, as his eternal wives:

My lovely Joan was sent to me: So Joan joins Fern
That three might be, more fitted for eternity.
“O Heavenly Father, my thanks to thee”

(Deseret News 1974 Church Almanac, p. 17)

On behalf of the First Presidency and in response to the question “Is plural or celestial marriage essential to a fulness of glory in the world to come?” President Charles W. Penrose (1832–1925) wrote: “Celestial marriage is essential to a fulness of glory in the world to come, as explained in the revelation concerning it; but it is not stated that plural marriage is thus essential.”

In 1933 the First Presidency declared: “Celestial marriage—that is, marriage for time and eternity—and polygamous or plural marriage are not synonymous terms. Monogamous marriages for time and eternity, solemnized in our temples in accordance with the word of the Lord and the laws of the Church, are Celestial marriages.”

Consistent with these statements, Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation. Nephi and his people were denied the power to have more than one wife and yet they could gain every blessing in eternity that the Lord ever offered to any people. In our day, the Lord summarized by revelation the whole doctrine of exaltation and predicated it upon the marriage of one man to one woman. (D&C 132:1–28.) Thereafter he added the principles relative to plurality of wives with the express stipulation that any such marriages would be valid only if authorized by the President of the Church. (D&C 132:7, 29–66.)”

I provided quotes above that contradicts this section. Remember what Brigham Young said:

The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy (August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:269).

If you’re a Latter-day Saint, check out the history of your church. There is so much out there to support what I’m saying. For instance, pick up a book such as Richard Van Waggoner’s Mormon Polygamy and see if your church leaders aren’t trying to buffalo those who either don’t know or perhaps have forgotten the real history. Of course the leaders quoted above are going to say—post 1890—that plural marriage in not essential. That is obvious. Consider the many quotes for pre-1890 leaders, however, who explain how vital plural marriage really is.

Today, as directed by the Lord through His prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer practices plural marriage, and individuals who do practice it are not allowed to join the Church or remain members of it. The Church affirms that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage except when He authorizes or commands otherwise through His prophet. The Church does not teach that participation in plural marriage is necessary for exaltation.

No argument here. Today the church teaches monogamy. This, however, was not always the case. I wonder what the church will do if plural marriage is legalized in our postmodern culture. I bet the leadership is nervous about this possibility, but if this practice becomes legal, it would seem that the church ought to revert to its polygamous ways. The Manifesto is nothing more than a political statement and ought to be considered a revelation from God.

Conclusion

There is much that we do not know about life in the hereafter; however, we do know that receiving and abiding within the new and everlasting covenant is necessary to inherit eternal life. We also know that for such, the “same sociality which exists among us here”—in mortality—“will exist among us there”—in the afterlife—“only it will be coupled with eternal glory.”

The supernal blessings available through the new and everlasting covenant are central to the grand purpose of the Father’s plan and the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. The “perfect brightness of hope” this glorious covenant inspires in the faithful provides “an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” For all who abide the terms of the new and everlasting covenant, the reward is joy and peace in this world and eternal life in the next.