This article was adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. (Click here to receive a free sample.)
This is a six-part series on the new and everlasting covenant, the first pillar of Zion:
(1) The Most Glorious Doctrine Ever Revealed
(2) The Covenant Reveals A Loving Relationship
(3) Power in the Covenant
(4) Safety in the Covenant
(5) Progressing in the Covenant
(6) Abiding in the Covenant
We began this 6-part series by quoting the Lord’s requirement of those who have received the Covenant:
I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. (i)
Our access to power, our safety, our progression, and our future glory pivot on our abiding (staying put) in the Covenant. The Covenant secures us to Jesus Christ, the True Vine, from whom we, the branches, receive life and sustaining nourishment. Jesus taught:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (ii)
Notice that the branches are already producing when the husbandman (God) comes, but he wants to urge them to produce at a higher level. Therefore, he begins to prune, that is, to “purge and purify.” With regard to the Covenant made between the Husbandman and the branches, purging and purifying is exactly what each party agreed must happen.
The branches (us) agreed to endure (abide) the Husbandman’s purging and purifying process with the assurance that they would progressively gain greater strength and produce more fruit. With that goal in mind, the Husbandman begins to cut away from the branches anything that saps their strength. He carefully directs the new growth so that the branches might perform optimally. For a period of time, the branches might appear (and probably feel) pitiful and barren. For a season, they might not produce much fruit. But the Husbandman knows that in time the purging and purifying procedure will cause the branches to mature and bring forth more than they ever have before.
Returning to the Lord’s commandment—“abide in my covenant”—we see the two meanings of abide represented in the purging and purifying process:
(1) The branches must remain attached to the True Vine for the duration of the process;
(2) The branches must endure the husbandman’s purging and purifying efforts.
Sometimes this procedure is called chastening. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” In this case, to chasten means “to make chaste” (iii) or to purify. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (iv) “Without sufferings [chastisement],” we are reminded, “[we] could not be made perfect.” (v)
Abiding in the Covenant Summons Divine Love
Our faithfulness in abiding in the Covenant directly affects our ability to draw upon the Savior’s love. Jesus said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.” (vi) The stated reward is remarkable: “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
” (vii) We will never lack for nourishment or strength if we (the branches) abide in Christ (the True Vine), and if we will endure the purging and purifying process. To lack nothing is a central principle of Zion. Our determination to remain unfailingly attached to the True Vine allows us the covenantal right to ask for blessings and to receive accordingly.
Abiding in the Covenant disproportionately rewards the sacrifice that we make to remain and endure. King Benjamin reminded us that God’s blessings always exceed our efforts in faithfulness: “If ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (viii) Eternal law states that God cannot be in debt or beholden to anyone; we are always in debt to him. King Benjamin illustrated this truism by pointing out that God blesses us with our lives and supports us from moment to moment—indebtedness that we can never repay.
Beyond life and support, God has also blessed us with the Atonement and the Covenant. By means of the Covenant, he has blessed us by revealing his lifestyle—his commandments. When we obey his commandments, he rewards us immediately, which creates an even greater imbalance in his favor: “And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever.” (ix) Hence, by abiding in the Covenant we learn that there is risk neither in trusting him nor in sacrificing to obey him. We are always blessed in excess of our sacrifice.
Beyond receiving abundant blessings, abiding in the Covenant also defines the relationship between us and the Lord, which is founded on love. Blessings flow to us in this covenantal relationship. Just as a loving husband showers his wife with gifts of affection, so God generously and voluntarily showers us with blessings that speak of his love for us—indisputable evidences of his affection.
Blessings are also a means by which God and man are reconciled through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Moreover, blessings comfort the righteous (x) and lift the hearts of the oppressed. (xi) Blessings describe the Lord’s devotion to the Covenant and his gratitude for our likewise abiding in it. Blessings reveal the Lord’s perfect set of attributes and characteristics, including his power, his awareness, and his love, all of which he consecrates to us in the Covenant. Blessings attest to his nearness and his interest in our welfare. They communicate, “I am aware. I am near. I love you.” Blessings anchor us to our hope in Christ, which strengthens us to continue to abide in the Covenant until we have arrived at its exalted destination. Blessings communicate that we are never alone; in the Covenant that would simply be impossible.
Abiding in the Covenant through the Sacrament
One way that we abide in the Covenant is through the covenant of the sacrament. By means of this singular ordinance, we “retain a remission of sins” (xii) and “remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God.” (xiii)
The sacrament allows us to renew our baptismal covenant by worthily partaking of “the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ.” (xiv) Once again, we agree to
(1) Take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ;
(2) Always remember him, his Atonement, his teachings, his example, and his love for us;
(3) Keep all the agreements that we made at baptism, including every commandment of God, and “to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (xv)
The sacrament is significant in that it assures us a continuing remission of our sins, which is essential for pure-hearted Zion people.
It is by the ordinance of the sacrament that we receive the assurance of our retaining the gift of the Holy Ghost, which we were commanded to receive at baptism. Always having the Lord’s Spirit with us is the Lord’s sign to us that we are yet retaining a remission of sins by the merits of Jesus Christ. (xvi) This allows us imperfect beings to progress in the Covenant until we become Zionlike and receive the ultimate promise concerning the sacramental covenant: eternal life. Elder McConkie wrote: “As his part of the contract, the Lord covenants: 1. That such worthy saints shall have his Spirit to be with them; and 2. That in due course they shall inherit eternal life.” (xvii)
The Glorious New and Everlasting Covenant
We end as we began: Of all the doctrines that God has ever revealed, the one that stands preeminent is the new and everlasting covenant, the “umbrella covenant” under which all other covenants reside.
No other doctrine contains the greatest hope or the most impressive promises.
The Covenant is the most concise revelation of the loving relationship that exists between God and us. By means of the Covenant, we access the power and knowledge of God. Moreover, as we sojourn in this benighted world, the Covenant wraps us in the arms of safety. The Covenant orders our lives in such as way that we assume the lifestyle of God and are made fit for celestial glory. If we enter into and abide into the path of the Covenant, we will most assuredly achieve our destination: the celestial kingdom of God and exaltation.
This is the last of six articles on the new and everlasting covenant. These articles were adapted from my new book, The Three Pillars of Zion. Click here to receive a free sample.
i. D&C 98:14–15.
ii. John 15:1–8.
iii. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 264.
iv. Hebrews 12:6–7, 11.
v. JST Hebrews 11:40.
vi. John 15:10.
vii. John 15:8.
viii. Mosiah 2:21.
ix. Mosiah 2:22–24.
x. Daniel 9:4.
xi. Psalms 74:20–21.
xii. Mosiah 4:12; JST Matthew 26:22–25; JST Mark 14:20–25; JST Luke 22:17–20.
xiii. Mosiah 4:12.
xiv. D&C 20:40.
xv. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 660; D&C 84:44.
xvi. 2 Nephi 31:19; Moroni 6:4; D&C 3:20.
xvii. John 6:5–4; McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 660.