Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Covenants and Contracts

D&C 84:21-22And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.

Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life." (Ensign Mag., Nov. 1998, pp. 70-71)

Some critics of the LDS Church claim Joseph Smith teachings about the Priesthood and the First Vision are contradictory. They point to D&C 84:21-22 which says that without the priesthood authority, God cannot manifest Himself to man. Yet, Joseph Smith didn't claim to have received the priesthood from the hands of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John until long after the First Vision. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is rooted in their misunderstanding between the difference between covenants and contracts.

A contract is only in force a the moment it is entered into and not before. In contrast, a covenant like the oath and covenant of the priesthood is in effect even before the actual covenant is made. This is how the Melchizedek priesthood is from eternity to eternity. Remember that God is not confined by time and that He dwells in the Eternal Now where all things are present before Him.

The Atonement of Christ is also an eternal covenant. This is why Christ is called the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. And those prophets and saints living before Christ came in the flesh could have faith in Christ and enjoy the blessings of the Atonement as if Christ had already come. This is how Enoch and other prophets walked with God and Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire even before the Atonement was done despite the Fall of Adam.

And there is a personal application to this. Because covenants are eternal and apply before you make them. Sometimes LDS are guilty of having to change their wardrobe after they go the temple and choose to wear the modest temple garment. If we understood the principle of covenants, we would be modest in dress even before we went to the temple. Although we all require repentance, ideally there should be no major changes in our behavior leading up to vs. following the making of covenants with God.

This applies to marriage which is another covenant and not just a contract. Many people today consider pre-marital sex okay as long as they are faithful once they are married. But if you know that you will be covenant married to your wife in the future, why not be faithful to her now.

So, this is how Joseph Smith was able to See God the Father and Jesus Christ before actually entering into the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Because God knew that Joseph was going to enter into the covenant in the future, in God's eyes where time doesn't exist, the covenant was already made.

Mosiah 3: 13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.

1 comment:

Main Claim of Mormonism said...

It truly is a bold claim for the Mormon Church to say that it is the "re-established original Christian church" here upon the earth. That this transpired because of the faith of the boy Joseph - is astounding. I am grateful for The Book of Mormon, which bears witness to the divinity of these things - to those who will sincerely read and pray about it.

Kathryn Skaggs