The last couple of years, I have enjoyed reading books on philosophy, science and classic literature for learning and faith (D&C 88:116). Brigham Young said:
It is our duty and calling as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels…or any of the various and numerous different sects and parties…it is [our] business to gather all truths in the world… (DBY, 248)
In this reading venture, I am, in part, searching for little gems of truth (D&C 93:24) that can be found in writings of philosophers, authors or have been passed down in various world religions. Ever since my eclectic approach of devouring books, I feel like I have become quite competent at evaluating writing prose.
In Sunday School, we were talking about the purpose of gathering. The teacher stated simply that the Lord gathers His people is for temple worship. He said that the bringing of Israel out of Egypt and, the eventual returning into the promised land, was not complete until King Solomon built a permanent temple; and, so it is now, that God is gathering the saints for them to build temples. This concept rang true to me. I, then, began to ponder on the significance of temples. Then it dawned on me: the value of the Holy Bible is not its great literary prose, irrefutable truths and wisdom for all humanity (although there are many), or well-developed stories—they are the covenants! The Bible is proof that God personally makes and keeps covenants with His children. A covenant is, as the LDS Church traditionally defines it, “a two-way promise.”
The Old Testament is full of covenants, here is a list of a few of the far-reaching ones:
- God promises not to flood the Earth again. (Genesis 9:8-17)
- The Abrahamic Covenant: a promised land for Abraham’s descendants [the House of Israel] (Genesis 17:6-8), his seed multiplied as “the stars of the heaven” and the sand of the sea shore (Genesis 22:17), and a blessing for all families of the Earth through him [Abraham] (Genesis 12:3).
- The promise of a Messiah. (e.g.: Deuteronomy 18:15, see Act 7:37)
The Abrahamic Covenant is especially significant, in my opinion, because it is the reason why God is so concerned with gathering the House of Israel—to fulfill his promises. Moses brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt to bring them back to their promise land. God keeps inspiring prophets to call them to repentance and to turn back to the one true and living God. (Jeremiah 10:1-15) Later, prophets began to prophesy that the twelve tribes of Israel would be scattered among the whole earth to be regathered in the last days (See Jeremiah chapter 10 as one of the many examples). Jesus came to make “a new covenant with the house of Israel” (Jer. 31:32) and “[he] put the law…inward” (v. 33). (The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of how Jesus taught the law should be put in the hearts.) Jesus taught the Apostles to give His followers bread and wine in memory of His body and in His blood (Matt. 26:26-28), which is the “new testament [i.e.: covenant].” God knows the beginning to the end. His covenants are for all His children.
It was necessary for Jesus Christ to come among the Jews, and then be rejected and killed as “an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53); so that the promise God made to Abraham to bless all families of the Earth could be fulfilled. How could God not offer salvation to all when His chosen people rejected “the Word made flesh?” (John 1:14) And so the Jesus was a “light to the Gentiles, that…[he] mayest be… salvation unto the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) Now, by lifting up his “hand to the Gentiles,” and setting up His “standard” through the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 49:22) after the “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4), he can bring the Children of Israel back to their promised land on gentiles shoulders; so that all shall know that God makes and keeps promises with His children.
I am grateful that the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon testify of the covenants of a loving Heavenly Father with His children. (Ezekiel 37:15-28, 2 Nephi 29) The Bible is still the most popular book in the world (http://www.businessinsider.com/the-top-10-most-read-books-in-the-world-infographic-2012-12) —perhaps it’s the covenants!