Alma 18:1-3, LeGrand Baker, the blessings of pre-mortal covenants.
The story begins with this comment about the ruffians who scattered Lamoni’s flocks.
35 Therefore they did not fear Ammon, for they supposed that one of their men could slay him according to their pleasure, for they knew not that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons out of their hands; neither did they know anything concerning the Lord; therefore they delighted in the destruction of their brethren; and for this cause they stood to scatter the flocks of the king. (Alma 17:35)
After Ammon’s success, this is what happened.
1 And it came to pass that king Lamoni caused that his servants should stand forth and testify to all the things which they had seen concerning the matter.
2 And when they had all testified to the things which they had seen, and he had learned of the faithfulness of Ammon in preserving his flocks, and also of his great power in contending against those who sought to slay him, he was astonished exceedingly, and said: Surely, this is more than a man. Behold, is not this the Great Spirit who doth send such great punishments upon this people, because of their murders? Probably a reference to the arms
3 And they answered the king, and said: Whether he be the Great Spirit or a man, we know not; but this much we do know, that he cannot be slain by the enemies of the king; neither can they scatter the king’s flocks when he is with us, because of his expertness and great strength; therefore, we know that he is a friend to the king. And now, O king, we do not believe that a man has such great power, for we know he cannot be slain. (Alma 18:1-3)
Even though it is shown more dramatically here than in many other places in the scriptures and in church history, the essence of this story is probably repeated many times in each of our lives. The principle is simply this: before we came into this world we made covenants with our Heavenly Father that we would accomplish specific things while here. Some of those things had to do with our personal progression, but the great majority had to do with helping other people.
These assignments were made and accepted by covenant— and that is very different from the military concept of receiving an assignment then going out at our own peril to try to do it. A covenant is a two-way promise. We covenanted that we would fulfill our assignment and God covenanted that he would make it possible for us to do so. In the following I would like to review some of the scriptures that deal with the conditions of that premortal covenant.
During the ancient Israelite performance of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, Psalm 82 was enacted as a depiction of our making covenants with our Heavenly Father. Watching the play not only gave the ancient Israelites the opportunity to review the covenants they had made in the premortal world; but as they participated in the drama that became a new covenant-making reality. As they spoke the words in unison, each individual covenanted to fulfill his own assignment in order that the Father’s purposes might be accomplished. If those assumptions are correct, then, as in the story of King Benjamin, even though the words were spoken in unison, making of the covenant was the personal act of each individual in the congregation.
Because the congregation’s participation in the drama was, for each of them, a present and personal act, the words of the psalm and the enactment of the story were, as Mowinckel and Nibley suggested ( Mowinckel, The Old Testament as Word of God, 99-100. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 224.), not just a remembering of the myth and a re-enactment of the ritual, but a new actualization of the event and a new covenant. For each member of the congregation who participated in the ancient drama, their making the covenant anew was a reaffirmation of an everlasting covenant, but it was also a new covenant, affirming one’s present relationship with God— a new and everlasting covenant.
The original scene depicted by Psalm 82 can more readily be understood by inserting it into the account recorded in Abraham 3, where it fits so perfectly that it does not even break the cadence of the story. Please note, by putting the two scriptures together in this way, I am not trying to imply that they were ever written as a single unit. Rather, they are combined here to illustrate an interesting—perhaps insightful—picture of how things might have been in the Council in Heaven, and how they might have been portrayed on the stage. In the King James Version, the last verse of Psalm 82 reads, “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.” The word translated “God” is elohim which is plural for “gods in the ordinary sense” and also the name of the Father of the gods. Elohim is translated both ways in the first verse of the psalm. In the last verse, “gods” makes more sense, showing that line to be the concluding words of the Father and the covenant made by his children. The members of the Israelite audience probably understand themselves to represent the members of the Council in Heaven. If that were so, then it was they who stood and spoke the words of the covenant.
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. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. [He asked,] How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course. I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O gods, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations. [After the covenant, God 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 & Psalm 82).
The covenant we made in the Council in Heaven is new because it is given to us anew in this mortal world. It is the fulness of the gospel, as the Lord explained.
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world (D&C 84:46-48).
It is everlasting because its principles are eternal.
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. (D&C 66:2)
Subsets of that covenant include the promises represented by Psalm 82, which are like the law of consecration. Baptism is another part of it.
1 Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.
2 Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works. (D&C 22:1-2)
Celestial marriage is another important part of it.
1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it (D&C 131:1-3).
The importance of that new and everlasting covenant is taught in D&C 132:1-14. At the conclusion of that explanation of the covenant, the Lord makes it clear that while the principles of the covenant are eternal and apply to everyone, certain aspects of the covenant are very specific to each individual.
8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.
9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was? (D&C 132:8-11).
Paul taught the early Saints about the covenant in his letter to the Ephesians. At the beginning of the letter he reminds them,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love (Ephesians 1:3-4).
He then gives remarkable details about our covenants with our Heavenly Father, concluding with the assurance that “ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession [ourselves], unto the praise of his [Heavenly Father’s] glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14). Paul then brings us from the premortal world into the present world where he prays that— by the spirit of revelation— “ye may know what is the hope of his calling [‘calling’ is a verb: Paul wants us to know what the intent of our assignment is], and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints [what blessings await those who fulfill their assignments], And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:15-19) In the rest of the chapter Paul explains that Heavenly Father will exercise the same power in our behalf that he exercised in the Saviour’s behalf, to empower us to fulfill our covenants.
In other words, God has given each of us an assignment that we must fulfill in this life (and that assignment probably extends to include the spirit world after this life). He has also given us the necessary tools to fulfill that assignment, and he has promised us that he will exercise his power in our behalf to keep any obstacle in earth or in hell from preventing us from keeping our covenants. He will not fulfill the assignment for us, and we may choose not to, but in the end we will never be able to say that the assignment was greater than our ability. The Lord expects us to succeed and has arranged for our success. That is one of the most comforting principles of the everlasting gospel, and the evidence of its truthfulness is not only found in the scriptures but also many times in our own personal lives.