The Covenant Concept in the Book of Mormon

Noel B. Reynolds, Brigham Young University - Provo


By the middle of the twentieth century the biblical notion of covenant had taken center stage for many leading students of the Bible. Following such scholars as Walther Eichrodt, many of these increasingly recognized God’s covenant with Abraham as the principal unifying thread for the entire Bible.[1] But the covenant concept itself became controversial and was understood quite differently in the competing interpretive traditions. No small part of the difficulty stemmed from the fact that for a variety of reasons the Hebrew term berit, which is usually translated as covenant, firmly resisted the most competent efforts to ascertain its original meaning in the times of Abraham and his successors. LDS discourse has generally invoked the modern legal concept of contract as a suitable synonym—as a casual review of LDS reference works makes clear. But this approach may not adequately recognize that the covenant concept permeating Old Testament and Book of Mormon discourse derives from pre-legal societies, and that our modern notions of contract have evolved significantly over the last three millennia.