John 1:1-4 — D&C 132:1-15 (part 13) — Keeping Eternal Covenants – LeGrand Baker

The importance of keeping our eternal covenants is spelled out in with great power in the first 14 verses of Section 132 There we learn about the new and everlasting covenant. Later in that section we learn about marriage in the new and everlasting covenant. They are not the same thing: the latter is a subset of the former. We also learned that first in Section 130 where it adds in brackets “meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” It says,

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.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase (D&C 131:1-4. Brackets in original).

It is those prepositions, in and of, that help make the first 14 verses of Section 132 become some of the most misquoted passages in the scriptures. What those 14 verses are not is a statement about plural marriage. What they are is an affirmation that God keeps the covenants he made at the Council in Heaven. Let us examine it carefully. (The verses from Section 132 are in bold so they can be easily identified.)

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines –

It is misreading of that verse that causes the problems. Joseph’s question was not about plural marriage, it was about the justification for specific individuals having more than one wife. So the Lord is now going to answer the question “wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants….” Later, verse 15 begins with the word “wherefore.” That is a conjunction which divides the premises from the conclusion. So in the first 14 verses he talks about the rationale, explaining the reason for the justification. That reason is based on Covenants made at the Council in Heaven, and he talks about the importance of those covenants. Then, beginning with verse 15, he talks about the importance of Celestial Marriage.

2 Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter. [“This matter” is the question of their justification.]

A word about justification: It is a legal term that lets circumstances get in the way of normal lawful accountability. For example, in law murder is a criminal act, but killing someone in self defense is justified. In the gospel there are two categories of justification: justification before the act, and justification after the fact. Both are dependent upon the Atonement and on the Savior as our “advocate before the Father.” Justification after the fact relies on repentance: If one repents, the Savior takes the burden of the sin and ultimately leaves one as though the sin had never been committed. Justification before the act is also dependent upon the Savior’s Atonement, but does not require repentance. The classic example is Nephi’s cutting off Laban’s head after a conversation with the Spirit in which Nephi learned that he would not be held responsible for Laban’s death. As far as I know, that kind of justification is very rare, but most crimes committed by religionists are based on their claim of that kind of justification. The Spanish Inquisition and the present atrocities in the Middle East are but two examples. But so are the less bloodthirsty crimes of intolerance and gossip. Self-justification based on religious claims are very dangerous because these claims leave people blind to their own needs for repentance and vulnerable to repeated sin. Claiming that kind of justification without having it affirmed by revelation from the Lord is a sure way of opening the gates of hell and jumping in.

What the Lord is about to explain to the Prophet Joseph is that the Patriarchs’ having multiple wives was a matter of prior justification, and that justification was based on assignments they received and covenants they made at the Council in Heaven. It is the nature and importance of those kinds of covenants that he talks about in the first 14 verses of this revelation.

3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.

“This law” that one “must obey,” as he is about to explain, is based on those eternal covenants we made at the Council, as he says in the next verse.

4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and 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.

When the Lord says “no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory,” that is serious business. The covenant he is talking about is “new” because it is renewed in the world, and it is “everlasting” because it was made before we came here and its consequences reach into eternity.

5 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 next verses he explains what that “new and everlasting covenant” is.

6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it 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.

7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

That is one of the most legalistic passages in the scriptures. If one sets aside the legal words and the part about only one prophet at a time holding the keys, it reads this way:

6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it 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.

7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, …that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise … are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

Then the Lord explains why that is so.

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?

This is the way I read those last four verses. The Lord will not consider what we do in this world as acceptable unless what we do is in accordance with the covenants we made with the Savior and his Father “before the world was.” And the Lord will require nothing of us in this life except those things which are inherent in those same covenants.

12 I am the Lord thy God; and I give unto you this commandment—that no man shall come unto the Father but by me or by my word, which is my law, saith the Lord.
13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.

These new and everlasting covenants do not preclude one’s free agency. There are all sorts of governmental, commercial, institutional, and individual powers that are exercised by persons who do not act in accordance to that “law.”

14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.

We are back to the idea of meekness. To be meek before the Lord is to keep the covenants we made at the Council. That kind of meekness is a sure way to eternal life. God keeps his covenants, but he will not be mocked. If one does not keep his covenants, one cannot receive the rewards promised by those covenants.

15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world….(D&C 132:1-15)

“Therefore….” he has now concluded his premise. Having established the principle of the importance of foreordination, the Lord will now apply that principle to the question of how those men could be justified for having more than one wife. The justification is simply this: that decision was made at the Council. Implicit in that justification is another principle: if that arrangement was not part of one’s premortal covenants, and a man takes multiple wives anyway, he is in very bad trouble.

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