Sunday School – Old Testament: Lesson 7

01 February

old-testament-gospel-doctrine-teachers-manual-35570000This next lesson centers on the Abrahamic covenant, or at least the Mormon Church’s view of the covenant. In all honestly this lesson has been a bit of a head scratcher for me, as many of these lessons have been because truthfully I don’t know where to begin. I feel like the lessons go in circles with no real nugget of truth for the audience to hold onto.

What’s interesting is the thing the audience is to take away from this lesson has nothing to do with the actual covenant God made with Abraham.  The class is left believing the covenant was all about the works, or it put it the language of Mormonism the “blessings and responsibilities” of the Abrahamic covenant.” Which we’ll see soon is a bit of a conundrum for those who will study this lesson.

The lesson begins by stating that Abraham sought to be righteous, and live worthily of God’s blessings. In turn God covenants with him, and promises his posterity will receive “the blessings of the priesthood and the gospel.”

Let’s look at the biblical view of the covenant God made with Abraham, then Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 it reads:

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: (2) And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: (3) And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

In this passage we see three things the covenant promises to Abraham:

1. God calls Abraham and his family out of the land of the Chaldees.

2. From Abraham a great nation will arise and God will bless them.

3. Abraham and this nation will have God’s protection and blessings.

This covenant is also mentioned in Genesis 15; it was an unconditional covenant and required nothing on Abraham’s part. Of course in Abraham 2:9:11 Joseph Smith, the author of this book placed a few addendums to God’s covenant with Abraham. One being Abraham and his posterity would receive the Priesthood, and would accept “the Gospel” and all that entails.

The manual cites Genesis 17:7 as going hand in hand with the previous verse in Abraham, when it says nothing about these additions to the covenant. It reads:

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”

Another thing I want to bring up about the real covenant God made with Abraham that Mormon version is missing in this lesson is the blood. Where’s the mention of the blood sacrifices Abraham gave to God in chapter 15 of Genesis? The manual makes no mention of this, yet claims there were responsibilities Abraham and his descendants had to fulfill in order for the covenant to be valid, i.e. receiving the priesthood, baptism and so on.

Along those lines of Abraham’s descendants the lesson goes on to say:

“All Church members are the seed of Abraham, which means we are his descendants and heirs to the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant. These great blessings come to us when we keep gospel covenants. The first covenant we make is baptism. We later receive the fulness of the Abrahamic covenant in the temple.”

(Again Abraham’s covenant with God was unconditional, why must one do temple works to receive its “fullness”?)

Patriarchal Blessing

Before I go any further allow me to define what a patriarchal blessing is for those who might not know.

“Patriarchal blessings [are] an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient, and also, where so moved upon by the Spirit, an inspired and prophetic statement of the life mission of the recipient, together with such blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give. … The realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord” (letter to stake presidents, 28 June 1957; quoted in Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 558).

When someone converts to the Mormon Church as an adult, or becomes a young adult member they receive their patriarchal blessing from the Stake Patriarch. I received my patriarchal blessing not long after I converted to the church in my early twenties. It states that I’m from the tribe of Ephraim, which is very interesting considering according to her blessing Michelle’s mom, who was born into the church is also from the same tribe.

How can we both be from the same tribe if as a convert I wasn’t “born under the covenant” as the Mormons say?

Furthermore how could anyone be a descendant of Ephraim when his tribe was wiped out? The book of Obadiah explains how it’s impossible for anyone living to be descendant from that tribe. Michelle and I were talking about this just the other day. She has a way of explaining things so much better than I can, so here’s how she explained it to me.

“Edom in vs 1 is the pet name for Esau as you probably already know.  The behavior of the Edomites was atrocious and God wiped them out when they were a dependent state under the southern Kingdom of Judah.

The Edomites could never leave well enough alone and were in constant border struggles with the Kingdom of Judah and even helped the Babylonians sack Jerusalem in BC 587 – they were responsible for looting all Judah’s riches after they were taken over by the Babylonians. Little did they know it was all for naught as the Babylonians pummeled them as well.

This brings us to the fields of Ephraim mentioned in vs. 19.  This is in reference to Obadiah’s vision of Ephraim being in charge of the area just north of the Kingdom of Judah which didn’t happen until after both the Assyrian and Babylonian takeover had taken place.

When the Northern Kingdom was taken over by the Assyrians around the time of Isaiah and Obadiah the Ephraimites were put into exile – circa BC 722.  The northern kingdom was strewn from one end of the Middle East to the other by the war and all living people were hauled off in small groups and forced to live amongst and marry locals in various villages to dismantle their kingdom.  This is where the phrase “The Ten Lost Tribes” comes from.

Also see Psalm 78:67-68 where God says that He’s rejected the offerings of Ephraim and will only recognize Judah.

“Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: 68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.”

Ephraimites were part of the northern kingdom and descendants of the younger son of Joseph, the elder being Mannaseh. Ephraim received Jacob’s blessing over Mannaseh. 

Because of the exile they’re no longer remembered except for splinter groups claiming they’re from that tribe – i.e. Mormons, some fringe groups in England, etc.  It’s believed some Ephraimites were living in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the Babylonian siege.

After the total destruction of both Israel and Judah and even after they came back after the 70 years of captivity in Babylon and were wiped out again in 70 AD in the Jewish Rebellion, the tribe of Ephraim is no  more.  The book of Obadiah was a prophecy God would wipe that area out because of sin.”

New Covenant

As the lesson progresses it goes on to suggest that we become heirs to the blessings and the responsibilities Abrahamic Covenant through first joining the Church then attending the temple. The lesson states:

“When we are baptized into the Church, the Abrahamic covenant’s promise of salvation is renewed with us. When we are sealed in the temple, the Abrahamic covenant’s promise of exaltation is renewed with it. To receive the blessings of the covenant, we must fulfill the associated responsibilities and live worthily.”

It always comes back to works with them doesn’t it? If they do what’s “required” of them then God will bless them. As I’ve said earlier the covenant God made with Abraham was unconditional. In fact this covenant is what leads us into the New Covenant God made with everyone who repents and calls on Him to be saved.

In Jeremiah 31:31-34 we read about this New Covenant God is going to make with the people. And unlike the Mormon version of a covenant, this covenant is sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

The concluding thought the class members are left with is to think about how they can “fulfill their responsibilities as heirs of this covenant”. But …according to Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Earlier in the third chapter of Galatians we read that we become heirs to this covenant through faith, just as Abraham was justified through his faith, not through Mormon works and this lesson would insinuate.

Galatians 3:7-9 reads:

“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. (8) And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. (9) So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”

As I conclude with a quote by John MacArthur on this topic I’m reminded how Mormons object to the biblical view of being saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. As a Mormon I was never taught to go deeply into God’s word, but when I did study it I was to study it in light of the “restored gospel”. In other words if I read something in the bible that conflicted with what I knew about Mormonism I was to dismiss what I read in the bible as being not translated correctly.

I pray our series on their Old Testament lessons gets Mormons to look a little further and to dig a little deeper in God’s word. And when they find something they believe doesn’t line up with what the Church has told them I hope they take it to the Lord. He’ll show them the truth, if they’re open to it.

“All believers are heirs to the spiritual blessings that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant—justification by faith.” (John MacArthur, Study Bible)

In Christ,

Melissa Grimes (melissa@lifeafter.org)

References:

Old Testament: Lesson 7

Book of Abraham – 

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