Sunday, April 5, 2009

New and Everlasting Covenant: Elder Christofferson

General Conference, Saturday morning. In a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson the everlasting covenant was mentioned, and I wondered what you all thought about this topic.


Elder Christofferson equated the everlasting covenant with John 3:16--"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It seems to me that this is a much more evangelical Christian definition of the everlasting covenant than has been given before by the LDS. Do you think this is a reconstruction or a redefinition of Mormon doctrine? Do you think such a definition is a profound and deeper way of thinking of the new and everlasting covenant, or is it moving away from the original doctrinal concept?

Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“The new and everlasting covenant is the fulness of the gospel. It is composed of ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations’ that are sealed upon members of the Church by the Holy Spirit of promise, or the Holy Ghost, by the authority of the President of the Church who holds the keys. . . Marriage for eternity is a new and everlasting covenant. Baptism is also a new and everlasting covenant, and likewise ordination to the priesthood, and every other covenant is everlasting and a part of the new and everlasting covenant which embraces all things.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:65)

Do you think that boiling the everlasting covenant down to the atonement is an oversimplification of all of the contracts, vows, performances, etc. that have traditionally been required in Mormon theology, and moving closer to the evangelical view of grace without the necessity of works or ordinances? If the everlasting covenant is synonymous with John 3:16, then what constitutes the "fulness of the gospel" which had to be restored?

I will be interested to go back and read this talk when it is published, and I'm sure I will have more to say about the subject when I have Elder Christofferson's words in front of me. What were your initial impressions, readers?

16 comments:

adam said...

I like equating marriage with 3:16. It makes a lot of sense to me when you think of the actual symbolism involved with a temple sealing. It seems to me that a couple being sealed in the temple is symbolizing or at least referencing Jehovah. It's a bit difficult to explain more in a comment though.

Bored in Vernal said...

Well, Adam, I was under the impression that Elder Christofferson's analysis of the everlasting covenant had the effect of further separating it from the marriage ordinance. As well as the baptismal ordinance, and priesthood covenants, all of which have formerly been linked to the "new and everlasting covenant." Can you explain a little more about the symbolism you see in this scripture?

Bored in Vernal said...

Interesting, too, that Elder Christofferson's talk at last April's conference is entitled, "Born Again: Spiritual rebirth originates with faith in Jesus Christ, by whose grace we are changed." He certainly lines up with current efforts in the Church to appeal to mainstream Christianity.

brooke said...

that isn't just an evangelical look at it.. it's also a liberal protestant view as well. i'm not sure about the evangelicals, but there's also the grace of god to throw in the mix. everyone is afforded the grace of god. it isn't about works or being righteous enough to get to places like the celestial kingdom, it's about believing in the death and ressurection of christ (john 3:16) and knowing that all god wants is to love us, imperfections and all.

adam said...

Oh whoops. I was totally just going off of your post, and may have been chasing my 2 year-old around during that talk... forgive me. :)

However, I would love to explain more--here it goes. If it's just out in left field, or another one of those trust mormon myths, just smile and nod.

I had an institute teacher who was learned in some Hebrew, and he talked about the significance of Abram and Sarai's names being changed to Abraham and Sarah. Apparently the character (in Hebrew) that was added to their names, which represents the letter H, fits into the word for Jehovah. (see this wiki article for the hebrew word. In the word Jehovah, one of the characters is male and the other female, and the are joined in the middle by a character referencing--you guessed it--a nail.

Also from D&C 132:18 - it talks about a man and a woman being "joined" by Christ, or by "my word," which makes a lot of sense if you think of Christ as "the Word."
So, when we are sealed to our spouse we are symbolically joined by Christ, on the alter.

I'm kind of just getting at some of this, but it's all really cool to me. I could be totally off, or just a little off, but I like it. It makes the sealing really powerful to me.

I hope some of that makes sense.

adam said...

whoops, I meant "trusty mormon myths"

adam said...

I was also just thinking (again maybe carrying it too far) that not only are we symbolizing Christ in the sealing, but we are symbolically spelling out Jehovah. Therefore, it makes sense to equate the new and everlasting covenant of marriage with the atonement.

But I guess I missed the point of the talk, and gave myself my own sermon, lol.

Bored in Vernal said...

Adam,
Awesome.
I am sure Elder Christofferson was totally thinking about all this symbolism when he was giving his talk. Maybe there is even more. Can't wait to get the transcript.

adam said...

"I am sure Elder Christofferson was totally thinking about all this symbolism when he was giving his talk"

Or maybe I'm just up too late. ;)

I think all the ordinances point to Christ and the atonement, especially baptism, parts of the endowment (especially the veil, which in the NT is referred to as the flesh of Christ), and the sealing.

Doc said...

I don't understand why the atonement and the ordinances have to be mutually exclusive. Are not the ordinances rather pointless without the atonement?
I just don't understand the conflict so many others see when we say anything in agreement with mainline Christianity. Having lived the experience of spiritual rebirth and having lived the ordinances, I have to admit both are real and powerful pillars of my faith.

Jacob J said...

I've never been convinced by JFSII's definition, but I'm not sure I like this one any better. It seems like this term took on an esoteric meaning late in Joseph Smith's life (I'm thinking of D&C 132:27 here) even though it was more widely used to mean "the restored gospel" in other contexts. Equating it to John 3:16 seems to suck all specific meaning from the term rendering it essentially meaningless (we already have words for "the gospel" and "the atonement") which bothers me a bit.

Darin J said...

I absolutely agree with what Doc said:
"I don't understand why the atonement and the ordinances have to be mutually exclusive. Are not the ordinances rather pointless without the atonement?
I just don't understand the conflict so many others see when we say anything in agreement with mainline Christianity"
Consider President Young's definition of the Endowment. All of the ordinances lead to and are built upon by the Temple ordinances and covenants. I think Elder Christofferson simply brought to our attention (just like Elder Holland did)a fresh perspective on an important scripture. I believe that mainstream Christianity endears John 3:16 so much because they feel that it is so important. Considering the gospel principles of grace and mercy,along with this scripture, through a Temple lens is very rewarding.

Bored in Vernal said...

Yes, Jacob, I'm afraid if we equate this covenant (of the RESTORED gospel?) with John 3:16 or simply with the atonement, we miss the NEW part of the "new and everlasting covenant." Why would anything have had to have been restored?

Gary R said...

The 'everlasting' and 'new and everlasting' are not necessarily the same.

JFS stated that 'ALL' covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations are part of the new and everlasting covenant; not just one act.

He continues - "and every other covenant is everlasting and a part of the new and everlasting covenant." Thus all the peices of the Gospel, when combined, make up the whole.

The atonement is a piece, as is marriage, as is baptism, as is, etc etc. I don't think he was boiling it down. I think that it is milk and bread as compared with meat.

I see no conflict in the statements.

Fawn said...

You should read this essay:
http://www.geocities.com/eleazarbenyair/covenant.htm

Anonymous said...

In D&C 132:7, the Lord defined the new and everlasting covenant in terms of being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. In D&C 88:3-4, the Lord defines the Holy Spirit of Promise not as the Holy Ghost, but instead He defines it as the promise of eternal life. When one is sealed up with the promise of eternal life by the President of the Church (see D&C 132:7) it is that ordinance which seals up all the other ordinances that one has received up to that point, and that is the point at which they then become "everlasting" covenants.
--Tragula