As Nephi’s vision continued he saw the restoration of the gospel, as well as the missionary effort among the Gentiles, which will spread the gospel of Jesus Christ across the globe. However, compared with those numbered among the great and abominable church, the numbers of converts to the restored gospel would be small. Indeed today, despite the fact that the church numbers some fifteen million, compared to the billions alive today, our numbers represent a fraction of 1%. Interestingly enough this ratio is very similar to the amount of salt to other ingredients in a traditional bread recipe – have you ever tasted bread where the salt was omitted? Despite the humility of our numbers, as the salt of the earth, our small numbers still make a big difference to society as a whole.
Regarding the latter-days, the angel makes a very interesting comment to Nephi, something that many might overlook, but that contains a key of knowledge for these last days.
And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the House of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish. Therefore, wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.[i]
In the context of the latter-days this verse is exceedingly relevant. It is comprised of two sentences. By design, ideas conveyed within a sentence are related. Therefore, it is not coincidental that the angel references the Lord’s covenants with Israel in the same sentence that he states that the gentiles will perish if they don’t repent. The destiny of the gentiles is somehow inextricably linked to the Lord fulfilling His covenants with Israel. As we continue, this fact will become very clear. If the gentiles repent, the Lord’s fulfillment of His covenant will bless their lives. If not, the fulfillment of the Lord’s covenants unto the House of Israel will result in their destruction.[ii]
Given this latter-day relationship between the Gentiles and the Lord’s covenants with the House of Israel, it is imperative that we understand what those covenants are. Indeed, one of the predominant latter-day missions of the prophet Elijah was not only to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, but to plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to their fathers.[iii] Which promises? Most latter-day saints understand the Abrahamic Covenant to one degree or another. However, in addition to that well known covenant, the Lord made other covenants – covenants with tremendous latter-day ramifications.
On the very day that the Lord delivered the children of Israel through the Red Sea He promised them that He would make a covenant with them. I refer to this covenant as the Covenant of Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai. Then, after Israel had wandered in the desert for forty years, but before they entered into the promised land, the Lord made another covenant with them in Moab. The Abrahamic covenant, the covenant of Moab, and the covenant of Mount Horeb together summarize the Lord’s covenants with the Children of Israel. Given their profound impact upon the latter-day gentiles, we will review these last two starting with the covenant of Mount Horeb.
The Covenant of the Lord to Israel made in Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai):
This covenant can be found in Exodus chapters 19 and 20. A detailed study should be made of these chapters as only a summary of this covenant will be provided here. This covenant is summarized as follows:
In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the House of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, all that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee forever.[iv]
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount.
And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice.[v]
And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the House of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness
Thou shalt not covet
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.[vi] And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.[vii]
This awesome display of the Lord’s power is truly awe inspiring. What would it have been like to witness Jehovah’s limitless might, under whose foot Mount Horeb itself appeared to be on the verge of bursting into flame? At the sound of His voice both the heavens and the earth shook. In the presence of such a being, Israel retreated in fear, terrified that just the sound of Jehovah’s voice would destroy them. The covenant the people made with the Lord on this occasion was that they would keep His commandments. In exchange, the Lord would make them a “kingdom of Priests”, and “an holy nation”. This promise should remind the discerning reader of another promise, one given to the faithful that they will be made kings and queens, priests and priestesses unto the Most High God. In chapter seven of Orson Pratt’s book The Seer, he gave some valuable insight into the meaning of this phrase.
The Kingly authority is not separate and distinct from the Priesthood, but merely a branch or portion of the same. The Priestly authority is universal, having power over all things; the Kingly authority until perfected is limited to the kingdoms placed under its jurisdiction: the [priest] appoints and ordains the [king]; but the [king] never appoints and ordains the [priest]: the [priest] controls the laws of nature, and exercises jurisdiction over the elements, as well as over men; the [king] controls men only, and administers just and righteous laws for their government. Where the two are combined and the individual perfected, he has almighty power both as a King and as a Priest…
Beyond this we know that Kings and Queens, exercise their sovereign powers as families. Deeper reflection upon the Covenant of Mount Horeb demonstrates that this is a mighty covenant in deed!
The Covenant of Lord with the children of Israel made in Moab:
The details of this covenant are found in the book of Deuteronomy. I will summarize this Moab covenant by pulling select scriptures from Deuteronomy chapters 8, 28, 29, and 30. For a more comprehensive understanding of this covenant, the reader must make a personal study of these chapters. The covenant is summarized as follows:
These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.[viii]
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water.
That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.[ix]
But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.[x]
See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. [The reference to prospering in the land is made dozens of times in the Book of Mormon as is a testament that these covenants were taken seriously by the righteous Nephites.]
But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.[xi]
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee. The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.[xii] And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.[xiii]
How many times did the Israelites, whether in America or the Middle East, perish because they forgot the Lord their God? How many times were they scattered and smitten before their enemies? It happened so often that Latter-day Saints attributed the phrase “pride cycle” to this particular phenomenon. The “pride cycle” is the manifestation of the literal fulfillment of the Moab covenant. As Israel remembered the Lord their God, they were blessed and prospered in the land, as they forgot the Lord, they were scattered and smitten before their enemies. Israel’s omniscient God knew that Israel would forsake their covenant and forget Him, and would as a consequence be scattered among the nations of the earth. The Lord, therefore, made a very important provision as part of His covenant with Israel. Consider the following verses:
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee.[xiv]
The Lord states, that once His covenant people begin to remember Him, He will once again gather them from the nations to which they have been scattered, or as applicable, from “the outmost parts of heaven” as stated. Israel was to take the name of their God upon them, to always remember Him, to remember His pending sacrifice via the statues and ordinances of the law of Moses, and to keep His commandments. To the degree Israel kept their covenants, they were prospered with the ultimate potential of becoming “an holy nation”, and “a kingdom of priests”. In their righteousness they were blessed beyond all the nations of the earth. To the degree that they did not, they were to be scattered until such time that they did.
When the angel queried Nephi regarding the Covenants the Lord had made with the House of Israel, these were the covenants and meanings to which he was referring. The covenants remain in full-force, and must become part of our daily walk. To this end, the Lord promised to send Elijah before the Great and Terrible day of the Lord to “plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers”.[xv] If you have been blessed enough to have had the spirit of Elijah rest upon you, whispering to your heart and mind the importance and relevance of these promises, see that you nurture it that these covenants may bear their precious fruits in your life. Without question these covenants that the Lord made to Israel are relevant to us in the latter-days. They are precious gifts, and we must remember them, and live worthily of them – remembrance of them is a condition of their fulfillment. It is my strong belief that these ancient covenants will shape the events preceding the Second Coming in ways that most have never considered. To better understand this important fact, the next chapter will demonstrate how these covenants have impacted the House of Israel from antiquity to our day.
[i] 1 Nephi 14:5-6
[ii] 3 Nephi 20:15-16
[iii] D&C 2:2; 138:47; JSH 1:39
[iv] Exodus 19:1, 3-9
[v] Exodus 19:16-19
[vi] Exodus 20:1-18
[vii] Exodus 20:22
[viii] Deuteronomy 29:1
[ix] Deuteronomy 29:9-13
[x] Deuteronomy 8:18
[xi] Deuteronomy 30:15-18
[xii] Deuteronomy 28:15 & 25
[xiii] Deuteronomy 8:19
[xiv] Deuteronomy 30:1-4
[xv] D&C 2:2