8) For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
Just how the Book of Mormon is this new covenant is the focus of this second post.
The word “Covenant” defined
Before exploring this topic deeper, it will be helpful to establish a definition for the word covenant. For this purpose, we will refer to the definitions in use when the Book of Mormon was translated into English. From an online 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, the word covenant has the following meanings when used as a noun (emphasis added):
COVENANT, n. [L, to come; a coming together; a meeting or agreement of minds.]
- A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed; or it may be implied in the contract.
- A writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties; or the clause of agreement in a deed containing the covenant.
- In theology, the covenant of works, is that implied in the commands, prohibitions, and promises of God; the promise of God to man, that mans perfect obedience should entitle him to happiness. This do, and live; that do, and die.
- The covenant of redemption, is the mutual agreement between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of sinners by Christ.
- The covenant of grace, is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel.
- In church affairs, a solemn agreement between the members of a church, that they will walk together according to the precepts of the gospel, in brotherly affection.
Based on this list of definitions, the Book of Mormon qualifies as a covenant. It is a written document to which are attached certain terms and conditions. For example, Lehi testified that he had obtained a land of promise according to a covenant the Lord made with him. In this regard, the Book of Mormon was brought forth by the Lord to bring Lehi’s posterity to the knowledge of this and other the covenants which the Lord had made with their ancestors. While these witnesses qualify the Book of Mormon as covenant document, it does not prove it is the new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8. To make this connection, we will need to look at the covenant terms set forth in the Book of Mormon and related scriptures that clarify its role and relationship with the new covenant spoken of in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Not Only to Say, But to Do
Latter day revelation supports the witness that the Book of Mormon is the new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8. It also expands greatly on this understanding. Consider, for example, the following passage from the book of Doctrine & Covenants. Here, the Book of Mormon is clearly represented as the new covenant.
8a) And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and unbelief hath brought the whole church under condemnation.
8b) And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all; and they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written,
8c) that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom, otherwise there remaineth a scourge and a judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion; for, shall the children of the kingdom pollute my holy land? Verily, I say unto you, Nay.
But is this the same new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8? Consider how there are a number of revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants, like D&C 26:2a,2b quoted below, in which the Lord speaks of the Book of Mormon as containing the fullness of His everlasting gospel.
2a) Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fullness of my everlasting gospel;
2b) to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim…
Would the Lord have two new covenants directly linked to the fullness of His everlasting gospel as it is to be preached in these latter days? It doesn’t seem likely that He would. Otherwise, the Lord’s gospel and thus His kingdom would soon be divided and could not stand. Given that the new covenant described in the Book of Mormon is to be fulfilled in these latter days in exactly the same manner as the new covenant described in the Bible, both books must be describing the same covenant.
The above passages from the Doctrine & Covenants are referenced here for an additional purpose. They show what results from either treating lightly the Book of Mormon or from receiving it fully. Simply stated, treating this covenant document lightly brings condemnation while receiving it as the new covenant holds the promise of our partaking together of the fruit of the vine with Jesus Christ in His kingdom.
So which of these two judgments apply to us today? Given that the Lord has testified in D&C 83:8a-8c against the restored church for treating lightly the Book of Mormon, and since that time the Lord has yet to commend the church for being the valiant witness it was called to be of this covenant document, it is manifestly evident that we have remained under the condemnation spoken of in this revelation.
For this condemnation to be lifted from off the restored church, the Lord informed us that we must learn not only to say, but to do according to that which He has written. Only by diligently and prayerfully searching out the covenant purposes of the Book of Mormon and its governing covenant terms and conditions – which are written plainly within it – can we hope to begin to pass from condemnation unto being blessed of the Lord according to His covenants with Abraham, and with Enoch and Noah before him, and with Lehi after him.
While learning about the new covenant is necessary, this alone is not sufficient to remove the condemnation that rests upon the church. Reviewing the prophetic records will definitely help in the process, but much more than just comprehending this unique identity of the Book of Mormon as the new covenant is needed on our part. We must become fully engaged in the Lord’s work by seeking first to build up His kingdom and to establish His righteousness through living in accordance with the new covenant. Otherwise we will continue to be hindered in our progress of realizing the intended blessings God has for us and for those to whom the restored church has been called to take the gospel of the kingdom.
That We Might Know the Things that are Freely Given to Us of God
Laying some groundwork will be helpful in showing just how the Book of Mormon is the new covenant. First, we need to keep in mind the description of this unique covenant as it is revealed in the scriptures. As noted in the prior post, Hebrews 8:8 is a reference to Jeremiah 31:31-34, and from both of these passages of scripture we learn some essential elements and characteristics of the new covenant. For instance:
- This new covenant will be with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.
- It is not like the covenant which the Lord made with the house of Israel when He led them out of Egypt (because they failed to keep that covenant).
- It will involve the Lord placing His law in their inward parts, and writing it in their hearts to the intent that He will be their God, and they shall be His people.
- This new covenant involves forgiving their iniquities based on the one and only reason the Lord would no longer remember their sins, meaning the atonement of Jesus Christ.
- The result of this covenant will be so convincing (like on the day of Pentecost) that no one will need to teach others about the Lord because, in the Lord’s words, “they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”
The question then becomes, does the Book of Mormon and its coming forth in these latter days embody each of these unique characteristics and thus fulfill the prophecy? And if it does, how exactly does it do so? Before addressing each of these points directly, we must acknowledge and anticipate that the only way we can truly receive and understand answers to questions like these is for the Lord to reveal them to us by His Spirit. Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, explains why:
4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power;
5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
6) Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to naught;
7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory;
8) Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9) But as it is written [in Isaiah], Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10) But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11) For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God.
12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Through what he wrote, as quoted above, Paul actually reveals the key to understanding the new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8. That is, he described for us how the Lord actually writes His law, called the law of the Spirit of life, in our heart. And it is through this perfect law of liberty, as James calls it, that the Lord is able to reveal Himself fully to us and through us as spoken of in the scriptures describing the new covenant. Here’s how Paul described this provision of the new covenant to the church in Rome:
1) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh;
4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5) For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
6) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. …
14) For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
As we shall see throughout this study, it is in this process of the Lord revealing spiritual truths within us and through us by His Spirit of truth that the Lord puts His law in our inward parts and writes them upon our hearts. And through this process He causes us to know Him as the one true and living God. In keeping with Hebrews 8:8, we must therefore be determined to look to the Spirit of God abiding within us to realize the fulfillment of the new covenant both in and among us. So I encourage you to pray earnestly as you review the many scriptures about the new covenant for this specific purpose, that the Spirit of the Lord would lead you according to His promises:
15) If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
17) Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18) I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.
26) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come.
14) He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.
15) All things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.
With this groundwork in place, we next need to connect the new covenant with both Old and New Testament scriptures.
Able Ministers of the New Testament
To begin connecting the new covenant with scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, we will again look to Paul’s writings for a confirming witness of the new covenant described for us in Hebrews 8:8. As he testified, Paul was appointed by Jesus Christ to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 1:1-7 with Romans 11:13). His calling to this ministry is as significant to our day as it was to the generation in which he lived. Recall how it was necessary that the gospel first be taken to the Jews; then, because it was rejected by them, the Lord called Paul along with others to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 13:44-49). This was done to fulfill that which was written, the first shall be last and the last shall be first (see Romans 1:16 & Romans 11:1-36 with Matthew 20:15 & I Nephi 3:197-200).
Now, in these latter days, this same gospel is to be taken first to the Gentiles and then to the Jews (D&C 104:12-13b). And it is to be taught first among those called Gentiles in these latter days for a specific purpose, to build up the Lord’s church among them to bring about what is prophesied as the fullness of the Gentiles. From the church built upon in this fashion, the gospel is then to go to a remnant of the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
25) For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.
26) And then all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27) For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30) For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief;
31) Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32) For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
Reading on in the Romans we come to Paul’s ultimate injunction to put on Jesus Christ, and this for a specific reason, that we love each other as our Lord has loved us.
8) Therefore owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11) And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
12) The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
13) Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not is chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14) But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to gratify the lusts thereof.
The key elements of this passage pertaining to the new covenant are these:
- Love is the fulfilling of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:1,2)
- We are to put on the armor of light, which is the whole armor of God, and thereby stand in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10-18)
- Briefly comprehended, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ; we are to do this by putting on the new man which is created in Christ Jesus unto good works (Colossians 3:1-17 with Ephesians 2:10)
- Through our putting on Christ. He is able to put in His law in our inward parts, for says He, “I am the law.”
With teachings like these we see why Paul was referred to as an able minister of the new testament or covenant. In these quotes from his letters Paul has provided us with key insights that help us understand why the Book of Mormon is the new covenant. As we would expect, then, Paul spoke plainly of the new covenant as foretold by the former prophets.
3) Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.
4) And such trust have we through Christ toward God.
5) Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6) Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.
7) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away;
8) How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?
13) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree;
14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that they might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
15) Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
16) Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
18) For if the inheritance is of the law, then it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19) Wherefore then, the law was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made in the law given to Moses, who was ordained by the hand of angels to be a mediator of this first covenant, (the law.)
20) Now this mediator was not a mediator of the new covenant; but there is one mediator of the new covenant, who is Christ, as it is written in the law concerning the promises made to Abraham and his seed. Now Christ is the mediator of life; for this is the promise which God made unto Abraham.
21) Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
22) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster until Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
26) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
27) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29) And if ye are Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Great are the Words of Isaiah
Next we will look at Isaiah. Why Isaiah? When speaking of the fulfillment of the new covenant in the latter days, Jesus instructed a remnant of His covenant peoples to read Isaiah, for in His words, great are the words of Isaiah.
46) And it came to pass that when they had all given glory unto Jesus, he said unto them, Behold, now I finish the commandment which the Father hath commanded me concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Israel.
47) Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled, behold they are written, ye have them before you; therefore search them.
48) And verily, verily I say unto you, that when they shall be fulfilled, then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people.
27) Yea, a commandment I give unto you, that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
28) For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.
29) And all things that he spake, hath been, and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.
30) Therefore give heed to my words; write the things which I have told you, and according to the times and the will of the Father, they shall go forth unto the Gentiles.
31) And whosoever will hearken unto my words, and repenteth, and is baptized, the same shall be saved.
32) Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.
Among the many quotable verses in Isaiah addressing the new covenant of Hebrews 8:8 are these:
1) And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots;
2) And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
3) And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears;
4) But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5) And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
6) The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7) And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8) And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
9) They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
10) And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious.
11) And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
12) And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
13) The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.
21) As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever.
To summarize, Isaiah clearly prophesied of the new covenant. And according to his prophecies, the Lord will set His hand a second time in the latter days to recover the remnant of His people. In doing so, and in the words of the prophet, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah provides even more detail by relaying how, according to the Lord’s covenant with His people, that His word will not depart from there mouths from henceforth and forever.
In the prior post on this topic it was noted how the prophesied rains spoken of in the book of Joel are also references to the fulfillment of the new covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34. With this connection between the several prophecies, we understand that the Book of Mormon has been brought forth by the Lord, and according to His timing, to bring forth the latter rain promised in these latter days, which constitutes the Lord setting His hand a second time to recover the remnant of His peoples. Thus, it embodies God’s promised blessings, demonstrated initially on Pentecost, that are yet to come. Making this connection links the Book of Mormon directly with the day of Pentecost in which the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Lord’s church unto the astonishment of many peoples form all nations who dwelt in Jerusalem.
Looking back at the former rain we can gain valuable insights into the latter rain. For example, it’s worth noting how it is written that the former rain was considered to be a moderate rain compared to the prophesied latter rain. This suggests that the latter rain will be the more substantial and prominent of the two rains.
Draft Version – To be Continued