The purpose of this essay is to attempt to uncover the meaning of the New and Everlasting Covenant. It is not unusual to find disagreements among individuals in the LDS or other restoration groups as to the true meaning and identity of this covenant. Some will say that it is temple marriage or that it pertains to plural marriage, others will say that it is the gospel, and others that it is the doctrine of baptism and the church organization itself. Most can locate a particular scripture that supports their particular (carnal) idea and while these ideas may contain a measure of truth, they all miss the mark. There also may be some who have had the everlasting covenant restored in their own individual lives, but are not able to comprehend the full meaning of the covenant, despite it being that within which they themselves operate in their daily activities. While this essay is primarily written to the former group, it is also written to the latter, that they may know what they worship and how they worship (D&C 93:19).
Thus, this essay comes with a word of warning to many who will read these words: The fullest meaning of the new and everlasting covenant cannot be comprehended with the carnal mind. Natural man will never understand the deepest meaning of the everlasting covenant no matter how plain it is explained to him because the covenant can only be comprehended by partaking of it. Moreover, it can only be partaken of when the natural (carnal) man is cast off and the spiritual man revealed. Thus, it may seem that writing this essay is futile because carnal methods (words and reasoning) are being used in an attempt to uncover the spiritual. However, the real intent of this essay is to aid those who are sincerely and diligently seeking by providing food for thought that will assist in the seeking process.
Symbolism and the deeper meanings. Prior to proceeding with this essay, it is important for the reader to comprehend that scriptures and ordinances contain deep meanings that are rooted in allegory and symbolism. Natural (carnal) man is forever filtering the meanings through his external senses and therefore only sees the surface meanings. He hears but does not understand and sees, but does not perceive (the true meanings). In one sense, these hidden (symbolic) meanings have a great purpose, because they hide that which is holy from the dogs (carnal and natural beings who are not ready to receive them).
Of course, one might ask whether this essay is casting that which is holy before dogs. However, there is a reason such an essay as this should be written at this time. Part of it is because of the special dispensation in which we live. Not only must the Sons of God begin to awake from their slumber, but all things are to be revealed in their plainness (secrets will be shouted from the housetops).
Returning to the topic at hand, it is very important, again, for all to realize that the endowment and what we call scriptures is highly encoded material that is deeply symbolic. This not only applies to the endowment and scriptures, but to all other things including what we refer to as the other "saving ordinances". Once one realizes that this deeper symbolism exists, then one can begin a journey to seek for the deeper (symbolic) meanings.
Some examples of deeper symbolic meanings. Prior to proceeding with discussing the new and everlasting covenant, it may be necessary to explore this concept of deeper symbolism further. Hopefully, the reason for doing this will become more clear as this essay proceeds.
Many are familiar with the saying by Jesus that is recorded in the New Testament where he says "And ye shall know THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH will make you free." (John 8:32)(capitals added for emphasis). Many who read this scripture miss the deeper meaning of this passage entirely. They think that "the truth" is that which is not false. To them, the truth is a set of facts that are accurate. However, this understanding of the passage is a profane or carnal understanding. In another passage, Jesus says "... I AM the way, THE TRUTH, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Thus, the deeper (spiritual) meaning is that the truth is Christ himself. According to the passage, we have to KNOW Him (Christ) to become free. This idea is stated openly a few verses after the original passage, albeit it seems that almost none notice the words... "And ye shall know the truth and the truth will make you free... If THE SON therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:32-36)
Another example of this symbolism is in the familiar story of Lehiís dream in the Book of Mormon (1Nephi chap. 8-15). Most are aware that the "iron rod" that leads beside the path to the Tree of Life represents the "word of God" (1Nephi 15:23-24) and that it is by clinging to this rod that one is able to make it through the dark mists that are cast upon the path. Again, the profane (carnal or natural) meaning of this passage is that which seems to be the most obvious. Many think that the iron rod is the scriptures (words of the prophets), but in reality this is the (natural) understanding that brings damnation rather than life eternal.
A higher (spiritual) meaning lies in Jesus himself as being the word (the meaning of the rod of iron).... "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, THE WORD, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." (1John 5:7) Thus, it is Christ himself that is represented by the rod of iron in Lehiís dream to which all must cling to reach the Tree of Life. In reality, Jesus condemned those who relied upon the scriptures rather than clinging to the true "rod of iron".... "(Ye) Search the scriptures; for in them ye THINK (carnal understanding) ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And YE WILL NOT COME UNTO ME THAT YE MIGHT HAVE LIFE." (John 5:39-40) Most should notice that this is a restatement of the idea that "salvation cometh by none other than Jesus Christ" (cf. John 14:6). Moreover, it may not be plain at this time, but this points directly to the everlasting covenant. As we study further, it will hopefully become more plain that THE EVERLASTING COVENANT IS THE CULMINATING PRINCIPLE OF THE SCRIPTURES, THE OUTWARD ORDINANCES, THE (MELCHEZIDEK) PRIESTHOOD, AND ALL OF THE GOSPEL.
The symbolism of (eternal) marriage as a token of the everlasting covenant. Marriage is used often in token (symbolic of) the (new and) everlasting covenant, albeit temple marriage is not the covenant. Much of the confusion derives from a carnal understanding of D&C 132 which is the section on eternal marriage. This confusion is augmented by our own misunderstandings of what the endowment ordinances mean. In actuality, sealing of husband to wife in the temple ordinance is meant to teach the meaning of the (new and) everlasting covenant through the symbolism and allegory of marriage.
Most will notice that marriage (and sealing of children to parents) is the culminating ordinance in the (LDS) temple experience. Moreover, Christ is often referred to as "the Bridegroom" in the temple and many places throughout the scriptures. It is Christ (the bridegroom) who (symbolically) stands on the other side of the veil and reaches forth his hand to pull us across. The church (all of us) is often referred to as "the bride". In the scriptures (as well as the endowment), we find the allegory of marriage is used many times to teach us (through symbolism) about our relationship to Christ. This is why the great abominable church is called THE WHORE... "... with whom the kings of the earth have COMMITTED FORNICATION, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Revelation 17:2) It is also why rebellious Israel is likened to "... a wife that COMMITTETH ADULTERY, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!" (Ezekiel 16:32) Thus, the allegory of the betrothal of a bride to the groom and the marriage covenant is used to symbolize our own relationship to Christ and the world around us. When we (the bride) stray from Christ (the bridegroom) and seek after other Gods, we are as a bride who commits (spiritual) adultery.
The meaning of the new and everlasting covenant. Then if marriage is a token of the everlasting covenant, then what is the covenant? Why is it a "new" covenant and why is it "everlasting"?
A great key to understanding is given in the first section of the D&C: "For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall..... Wherefore.... The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, THAT MAN SHOULD NOT COUNSEL HIS FELLOW MAN, NEITHER TRUST IN THE ARM OF THE FLESH- BUT THAT EVERY MAN MIGHT SPEAK IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the Savior of the world; That FAITH ALSO MIGHT INCREASE in the earth; THAT MINE EVERLASTING COVENANT MIGHT BE ESTABLISHED;" (D&C 1:15-22)
Similar words are used in the old and new testaments: "... 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: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt (the carnal Law of Moses); because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MIND, AND WRITE THEM IN THEIR HEARTS: AND I WILL BE TO THEM A GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE TO ME A PEOPLE: AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERY MAN HIS NEIGHBOR, AND EVERY MAN HIS BROTHER, SAYING, KNOW THE LORD: FOR ALL SHALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:8-13; see also Jeremiah 31:31-34)
A careful examination of these (and other) scriptures reveal some of the same principles spoken about in the previous section on marriage being in token of the covenant. One will notice that "men will not counsel their fellow man" (an adulterous relationship).... but that the Lord will "write his laws in their minds and hearts and he will be unto us a God and we to him a people" (the symbolic marriage relationship). Hopefully it becomes clear why the covenant is everlasting (it exists from age to age and is eternal) as well as new (it is a new covenant that replaces the old covenant of carnal laws).
The covenant as exemplified by Christ. The everlasting covenant is further revealed in the relationship of Jesus to his own Father and this relationship is meant to teach us about our own relationship to Christ (who is the Father and the Son). Many times, Christ prayed that we would have this same relationship (ie. restore the everlasting covenant). What follows are a few passages of scripture that show this:
"And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I AM IN THE FATHER, AND THE FATHER IN ME, AND THE FATHER AND I ARE ONE" (3Nephi 11:27)
Notice that this is a relationship of one-ness (At-one-ment) with the Father that is an underlying theme in the life of Jesus. Moreover, he prays that we can have this same relationship that he has with his Father:
"I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.... And now I AM NO MORE IN THE WORLD (no longer carnal), BUT THESE (referring to us) ARE IN THE (carnal) WORLD, and I come to thee (in the new and everlasting covenant). Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, THAT THEY MAY BE ONE, AS WE ARE ONE (become at-one in the covenant).... Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE; AS THOU, FATHER, ART IN ME, AND I IN THEE, THAT THEY ALSO MAY BE ONE IN US: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that THEY MAY BE ONE, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE: I IN THEM, AND THOU IN ME, THAT THEY MAY BE MADE PERFECT IN ONE; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (ie. the allegorical marriage covenant)." (John 17:9-23)
"And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost. And the Father and I are one. I am in the Father and the Father in me; and INASMUCH AS YE HAVE RECEIVED ME, YE ARE IN ME, AND I IN YOU (referring to a restoration of the new and everlasting covenant). Wherefore, I am in your midst (the light that shines in darkness which few of us comprehend), and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock (which is to KNOW Christ) shall never fall. And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and KNOW that I am." (D&C 50:42-45)
The new and everlasting covenant as a culminating principle. Again, the new and everlasting covenant can be considered to be the culminating principle of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ. A careful examination of the endowment ceremony reveals that it is given as a parable that tells us all about ourselves and what we should BE to (re)enter the presence of God. This is particularly pointed out in the true order of prayer and the ceremony at the veil. Most will notice that the true order of prayer teaches us of an allegorical union (marriage) of our bodies (Eve) with our spirits (Adam) as well as a union (marriage) of our spirit (Peter) with the Father. We are to become one! This is the at-one-ment or the culminating principle of all things! It is (allegorical) marriage (in the temple) to the bridegroom (Christ) and just as Adam and Eve are commanded to become one flesh, we are taught to become one (with God).
In the ceremony at the veil, most will notice that we are not allowed into the presence of the Lord until we have "... conversed with the Lord through the veil". This is done on the five points of fellowship (pre 1990 ceremony), symbolizing oneness with God, and mouth to ear, symbolizing the whispering of the spirit (of God) within each of us. Even in the washing and annointing ceremonies, the symbolism points to the everlasting covenant. We are admonished to "...become clean from the blood and sins of this generation", which words point to the atoning blood of Christ, but which words should give us cause for concern in wondering why this has not happened to us yet.
The everlasting covenant is the central theme that pervades the scriptures and we can see it if we cast off our carnal being and use our spiritual eyes and spiritual understandings. Let all who have (spiritual) ears to hear, hear (understand) it, and (spiritual) eyes to see, see (perceive) it. Dear reader, go back and re-read the section with the heading "Some examples of deeper symbolic meanings" and ask if it now begins to make sense.
"And ye shall KNOW THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE." (John 8:32)
The culminating theme of the scriptures, the outward ordinances, the (Melchezidek) priesthood, and all of the gospel is to COME UNTO CHRIST (in the new and everlasting covenant) AND BE SAVED, for there is no other name under heaven that bringeth salvation. The (new and) everlasting covenant is to KNOW God and Jesus Christ, who He has sent.... it is to BECOME ONE with Him.... it is the EVERLASTING ATONEMENT of God which unites all things in one (at-one-ment) with Him.... it is ETERNAL MARRIAGE TO THE BRIDEGROOM. If you have not yet done so, may you make the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, casting off all unGodliness, and experience it for yourself.