[Editor: This is the tenth article in a series of excerpts from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s new book, entitled “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.” Links to the full series can be found at the end of the article. Color and black-and-white editions of the book are available on Amazon.com and at selected LDS Bookstores (including EbornBooks, BYU Bookstore, and the FAIR LDS Bookstore). An iBooks version is can be purchased from the Apple iBookstore. Downloadable articles and a pdf version of this book are available at www.templethemes.net]
Author: In discussing temple matters, I have tried to follow the model of Hugh W. Nibley, who was, according to his biographer Boyd Jay Petersen, “respectful of the covenants of secrecy safeguarding specific portions of the LDS endowment, usually describing parallels from other cultures without talking specifically about the Mormon ceremony. This approach earned him a great deal of trust from both General Authorities and from Church members” (B. J. Petersen, Nibley, p. 354). For Nibley’s views on confidentiality as it relates to temple ordinances, see, e.g., H. W. Nibley, On the Sacred and the Symbolic, pp. 553-554, 569-572.]
In previous articles, we have examined the significance of each of the phrases of D&C 84:34, a key verse in the passage describing the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood:
They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
The ordinance of the endowment portrays the process of the Saints becoming “the sons of Moses and of Aaron,” and the sealing ordinance of celestial marriage symbolizes their becoming “the seed of Abraham.” The phrase “the church and kingdom” refers to the blessings of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, belonging to one who is made a “king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.”[i] Correspondingly, worthy women may receive the blessings of becoming queens and priestesses.[ii]
Continuing with this description of the required sequence of temple blessings, in this article we will examine the phrase “the elect of God.”In the language of scripture, to be “elect” is to be “chosen.” The scriptures and the teachings of Joseph Smith[iii] refer to the blessing of election as having one’s calling[iv] and election made sure[v] or as having received the “more sure word of prophecy”[vi](i.e., “a man’s knowing that he is sealed up to eternal life”[vii]).
The knowledge received by this means is something even more than a personal vision or visitation of Jesus Christ or a testimony from heaven that He is the Son of God.[viii] Specifically, those who have received the fulness of the priesthood and who have afterward demonstrated their determination to serve God “at all hazards”[ix] eventually will be privileged to hear the solemn oath from the Father Himself that they shall obtain the fulness of the joys of the celestial kingdom forever and ever.[x] For example, although Abraham previously had received the blessings of patriarchal marriage, and then had been made a king and a priest under the hands of Melchizedek,[xi] Abraham’s “election sure” came only afterward, when he demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.[xii]
Whether or not one receives “the more sure word of prophecy”[xiii] in this life or in the hereafter, it is certain that the unique form of knowledge received by this means is a prerequisite for exaltation, since we are told elsewhere in scripture that it is “impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.”[xiv] As a warning to those who may fail to live up to the ultimate privileges of the priesthood—namely the assurance of the blessings of exaltation in the eternal worlds—the Lord instructed:[xv] “there are many called, but few are chosen.”
The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood
Man and Deity enter into the covenant of the priesthood, but only the Lord, meaning the Father, swears the oath. This same oath, by which one enters the Church of the Firstborn[xix] and receives the knowledge of his “election sure”—and to which allusion is made throughout scripture[xx]—is perhaps most clearly expressed in Psalm 110:4:[xxi]
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
Here, then, are two irrevocable acts … to give powerful encouragement to us, who have claimed his protection by grasping the hope set before us. That hope we hold. It is like an anchor for our lives, an anchor safe and sure. It enters in through the veil, whose Jesus has entered on our behalf as a forerunner, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
The Woman at the Tomb and the Ascension, ca. 400
Alluding to the blessings of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, the author of Hebrews assures the Saints of the firmness and unchangeableness of God’s promises.The “two irrevocable acts” mentioned are “God’s promise and the oath by which He guarantees that promise.”[xxiv] By this scripture, we are meant to understand that so long as the we hold fast to the Redeemer, who has entered “through the veil on our behalf... as a forerunner,” we will remain firmly anchored to our heavenly home, and the eventual realization of the promise “that where I am, there ye may be also.”[xxv] There is also undoubtedly the sense that “Jesus, the high priest, [stands] behind the veil in the Holy of Holies to assist those who [pass] through.”[xxvi] “The anchor would thus constitute the link that ‘extends’ or ‘reaches’ to the safe harbor of the divine realms… providing a means of access by its entry into God’s presence.