WHAT ARE MORMON COVENANTS?
“What does the word ‘covenant’ mean to Mormons? My LDS friend talks a lot about keeping his covenants in Mormonism. I don’t know what he’s talking about and I would like to know what these covenants are in the Mormon Church. I would like to know what they are for, who they are between and what each party of the covenant has to do in the covenant.”
Mormonism is a religion of ordinances (rules), covenants (promises) and rituals that Latter-day Saints (LDS) believe they must follow and perform in order to make themselves good enough to merit the highest level of Heaven. The word “covenant” in Mormonism means a commitment, promise or binding contract between two individuals. Most Mormons take their covenants seriously because they believe these covenants take place between man and God or a husband and a wife. They believe that they must keep these covenants to gain “exaltation” as “gods” and “goddesses” in the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven. A description of the covenants of Mormonism is as follows:
1. THE COVENANT OF BAPTISM
The first covenant that is made by Mormons is baptism. In this covenant, men and woman promise to take upon themselves Christ’s name, to always remember Him and to keep His commandments. Mormons are told that if they keep this covenant, God promises that they will always have His Spirit with them.
2. THE COVENANT OF SACRAMENT
Tied in with the covenant of baptism is the “Sacrament.” The Sacrament is a resemblance of the Christian “communion” ritual. It is similar to communion in that it contains bread to represent Christ’s body that was broken on the cross, but the LDS Sacrament meeting differs in that the wine or grape juice (representative of Christ’s blood) is replaced with water. The Sacrament is a renewal of the Mormon’s baptismal covenant to keep the commandments of Christ. It is performed weekly at Mormon Church services.
3. PRIESTHOOD COVENANTS
When male members of the LDS Church receive the priesthood, they covenant the following:
1. To receive the priesthood in faith.
2. To magnify callings by being obedient to perform the duties asked of them by the LDS leadership.
3. To obey the commandments.
4. To live by every word of God.
When a Mormon follows his end of the covenant, he is told that God promises to do the following:
1. Sanctify men by the spirit.
2. Count these men as the elect of God.
3. Give each man “all” that God has (including exaltation as a ‘god’ in the Celestial Kingdom).
4. THE TEMPLE ENDOWMENT COVENANT
All worthy Mormons enter the LDS temple to receive his or her “endowment” (gift of knowledge and blessing). The “endowment” ceremony consists of the ritual of washing and anointing various parts of the body, dressing into holy under-garments and temple robes, the ritual of special handshakes (similar to Masonic handshakes) given for spiritual power, oaths of secrecy taken to protect the content of the rituals from outside exposure, a re-enactment of the creation of the world, the fall of Adam and Eve and teachings and symbols given to represent the Mormon view of salvation and the afterlife. As Mormons practice these “ordinances” or rituals of the “endowment” ceremony, they covenant to obey all LDS laws and commandments. LDS apostle James E. Talmage explained:
“The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King — the Lord Jesus Christ. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.” (The House of the Lord, 1976, 1984)
5. THE TEMPLE MARRIAGE COVENANT
Mormons view their Marriage ceremonies as a three-way covenant between the man and woman getting married and God. Part of the covenant is for the husband and wife to be completely faithful to each other in thought, word and deed. If they follow all the steps of this covenant and are united through the Temple marriage ceremony, they are told that their marriage will extend beyond “time” into “eternity” and that they will be granted an “increase” of their family unit through the raising of children both here in mortality and beyond into the spirit world where they hope to populate planets (like our earth) in the Celestial Kingdom.
HOW MORMON COVENANTS DIFFER FROM BIBLICAL COVENANTS
Unlike the covenants found in the Bible that required the shedding of blood for the covenant to be binding (Hebrews 9:15-22), Mormon covenants have no blood. Even the Mormon covenants made at their sacrament meetings replace the wine (or grape juice) that represents Christ’s blood with water.
Mormons are repeatedly told that their sacrament meetings are to be a renewal of the baptismal covenants they made to God to “keep the commandments.” But such keeping of the commandments “continually” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:15) is impossible due to the sinfulness of human nature. This emphasis on human effort during the LDS Sacrament ritual is a stark contrast from the salvation by grace alone emphasis of the Christian “communion” service. Replacing the wine with water is another way that the LDS Sacrament shifts the focus off the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to man’s efforts of baptism and commandment-keeping to merit the highest level of Heaven. Indeed, apart from the marriage covenant that extends only to the end of one’s life here on earth (Matthew 22:28-30), the ONLY spiritual covenant that Biblical Christians are to partake in today is the New Covenant:
“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24, KJV)
“In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25, NKJV)
Notice that in both of these verses that speak of the New Covenant, there is no mention of remembering the promises made at one’s baptism, nor is there any mention of making or renewing other spiritual “covenants” that would be in addition to or under the “New Covenant.” Indeed, there is only one spiritual covenant for the Christian and it is one that is dependent completely upon the grace of God, apart from the merits of human worthiness:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
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