“The Abrahamic Covenant”

Lesson 7 - Abraham 1:1-4; 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8; 17:1-9

 

Introduction

What is a patriarchal blessing?  The First Presidency said: “Patriarchal blessings [are] an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient, and also, where so moved upon the Spirit, an inspired and prophetic statement of the life mission of the recipient, together with such blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give….The realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord” (letter to stake presidents, 28 June 1957; quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 558).

 

Have you received your patriarchal blessing?  One of the declarations made in a patriarchal blessing is your lineage. When that lineage is declared, we know that we are descendants of the prophet Abraham through Ephraim, Manasseh, or another of Abraham’s lines.  In this lesson, we will review many of the blessings that we may be eligible to receive and the responsibilities that we bear as descendants of Abraham and participants in the Abrahamic Covenant.

 

The Covenant between God and Abraham

Abraham 1:2-4.  As a young man, Abraham wanted to be obedient and worthy before God.  Blessings he sought included ordination in the priesthood, great knowledge, an increased ability to follow righteousness, to be a father of many nations, to be a prince of peace, to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God.

 

Abraham 2:1-4 show that Abraham was directed to leave the family home in Ur and journey to Haran, where he was to settle.  Being obedient to that instruction, he then prayed for further guidance and beheld a vision.  In the vision, God covenanted to bless Abraham and his posterity. The covenant is known as the Abrahamic Covenant.  It should be noted that not all of the blessings were to be bestowed immediately. In fact, many were years in their fulfillment and some are being fulfilled today.

 

The following scriptural passages record the blessings promised in the covenant.

Earthly Blessings include: 

·         Abraham 2:6, 19; Genesis 12:7; 17:8 - A promised land to live in

·         Abraham 2:9-10; Genesis 12:2-3; 17:2, 4-6 - A great posterity

·         Abraham 2:9-11; Genesis 17:7 – The gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood for Abraham and his posterity

Eternal Parallels include:

·         D&C 88:17-20 – The celestial kingdom

·         D&C 132:19-22 – Eternal Marriage and eternal increase

·         D&C 132:23-24 – Exaltation and eternal life

 

We are heirs to the Abrahamic covenant—both blessings and responsibilities

We are privileged to know that all members of the Church are included in the “seed of Abraham”. We are indeed his descendants. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “The great majority of those who become members of the Church are literal descendants of Abraham through Ephraim, son of Joseph. Those who are not literal descendants of Abraham and Israel must become such, and when they are baptized and confirmed they are grafted into the tree and are entitled at all the rights and privileges as heirs” (Improvement Era, Oct. 1923, 1149).

 

Church members, as the seed of Abraham, are heirs to both the blessings and the responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant. When we are baptized into the Church, the Abrahamic covenant’s promise of salvation is renewed with us. When we are sealed in the temple, the Abrahamic covenant’s promise of exaltation is renewed with us.  To receive the blessings of the covenant, we must fulfill the associated responsibilities and live worthily.

 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation); then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase; finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity. (Abra. 2:6-11; D&C 132:29-50.)  Included in the divine promises to Abraham was the assurance that Christ would come through his lineage, and the assurance that Abraham’s posterity would receive certain choice, promised lands as an eternal inheritance. (Abra. 2; Gen. 17; 22:15-18; Gal. 3)  All of these promises lumped together are called the Abrahamic covenant.  This covenant was renewed with Isaac (Gen. 24:60; 26:1-4, 24) and again with Jacob (Gen 28; 35:9-13; 48:3-4.)  Those portions of it which pertain to personal exaltation and eternal increase are renewed with each member of the house of Israel who enters the order of celestial marriage; through that order the participating parties become inheritors of all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (D&C 132; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 3: 4.) (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 13).  

 

As members, the blessings we can receive through the covenant include the gospel, the priesthood, exaltation, and eternal family relationships.

 

Responsibilities, which we agree to assume through the Abrahamic covenant, include:

·         Abraham 2:9, 11 – We must assist all of God’s children in receiving the full blessings of the gospel.

·         Genesis 18:19 – We must be obedient to God’s commandments.

 

The first responsibility is accomplished by participating actively in the missionary work-both formally by interacting with and supporting the full-time missionaries as well as informally by being a member missionary who prays for and takes advantage of personal missionary opportunities, by performing temple ordinances for the dead, and by being examples of righteous living in our neighborhoods and communities.

 

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The responsibility of the seed of Abraham, which we are, is to be missionaries to ‘bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations’ (Abraham 2:9)” (Ensign, May 1987, 85).

 

Elder Boyd K. Packer made the following analogy to emphasize our responsibility to share the gospel with others: “Imagine that our bishop has appointed us to plan a picnic for ward members. It is to be the best social in the history of the ward, and we are to spare no expense. We reserve a beautiful picnic ground in the country. We are to have it all to ourselves.

“The day arrives and everything is perfect.  The tables are set and the feast is spectacular. Then, just as the blessing is being said, an old car turns into the picnic grounds and sputters to a stop. A worried man lifts the hood, and a spout of steam comes out. Several children climb out of the car. An anxious mother takes a box to a nearby table. She puts a few leftovers on the table, trying to make them look like a meal for her hungry children. But there is not enough.

“Then one of the little girls sees our table.  She pulls her little brother over to us and pushes her head between you and me. We move aside.  The little girl says’ “Look at that; I wonder what that tastes like.”

What would we do? Would we ignore the people or ask them to be quiet?  Would we show them back to their table and give them some of the food we really don’t need? Or would we invite them to come and join us, to sit between us and share the feast, and to let us help fix their car and give them something for their journey?

“Could there be more pure enjoyment than seeing how much we could get those hungry children to eat? Could there be more satisfaction than to interrupt our festivities to help [them] fix their car?…

“…There are people across the world and about us—our neighbors, our friends, some in our own families—who, spiritually speaking, are undernourished. Some of them are starving to death!  If we keep all this to ourselves, it is not unlike feasting before those who are hungry” (Ensign, May 1984, 41-42).

 

Elder Packer’s analogy teaches about our responsibility to help others receive the blessings of the gospel.  We have been blessed with the fullness of the gospel, the greatest feast the world has ever known [D&C 58:8-12].  God expects us to share this blessing with others, both living and dead.

 

The declaration of lineage in our patriarchal blessings as descendants of Abraham is like a call to fulfill our responsibilities as heirs of the covenant. The patriarchal blessing also reemphasizes our privilege to receive the blessings of the covenant.

 

Just as the ancient people of the covenant were placed in the middle of the ancient world, we are not separated, but are placed in the center of the modern world so that we may set an example and have ample opportunity to be a righteous influence on the world.  We must work diligently to fulfill our covenant to bless all the nations by sharing the gospel covenant with them.

 

These lessons are posted on the Internet at http://www.geocities.com/jeninstitute/