Keywords

covenant, berit, theology, Book of Mormon

Abstract

In this essay I have tried to provide a broad survey of the concept of covenant for Latter-day Saint students of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I began with a sketch of the history of covenant theology in the Christian tradition showing how the early New Testament idea of a baptismal covenant was soon replaced by the Christian institution of sacraments. Although the covenant idea played little role in the historical developments of Christian theology, it did resurge in the Reformation, but without widespread theological impact.

In contrast, over the last century, the role of the covenant idea in the Hebrew Bible has occupied center stage for many scholars as competing schools of thought rise and fall. New stability has come to that discussion from the realizations (1) that the covenant texts in the Old Testament are genuinely ancient and (2) that the concept and language of covenant in the Bible tradition fits easily with the ancient desert tribes understood as kinship associations. While the Israelite adaptation of that covenant culture has its own distinctive features, especially in the characterization of its god Yahweh and his love for his people, it fits comfortably in that cultural context and persists in the language and ideology of kinship-by-covenant long after Israel became a settled, urbanized monarchy.

Finally, in comparing that pre-exilic covenant culture of ancient Israel with the language and teachings of the Book of Mormon, it becomes evident that the Nephites are even more clear-mindedly committed to a world structured by their covenants with God. Not only were they continually mindful of their ancient covenant connection as descendants of Joseph to Abraham, but they also had their own parallel covenant promises and promised land as given by the Lord to their ancestors Lehi and Nephi. Even more impressively, the Nephites accommodated their covenant culture to the revelation of Jesus Christ and his gospel as given to their founding fathers. And in the process, they successfully propounded an even more powerful and explicitly developed version of Biblical hesed and its covenant culture.

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date

2019-11-09

College

Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Department

Political Science

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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