Or: Everything You Should Know About Mormonism (But Probably Don’t)
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter abbreviated “LDS”) are a covenant people. They’re actually a “covenants” people because there is more than one covenant, or agreement into which they enter. The people agree to obey a certain set of laws and in exchange are blessed by God with certain assurances, blessings, promises, etc.
The initiation of each covenant is tied to an ordinance and these are performed in a specific step-wise sequence, or “covenant path” as church leaders have been saying lately. This path begins with baptism and culminates in eternal marriage, more formally known as the New and Everlasting Covenant. The New and Everlasting Covenant is the capstone of LDS doctrine and the pinnacle of Mormonism.
The New and Everlasting Covenant is THE covenant. It is the destination of the covenant path. Everything in Mormonism flows to it and everything in Mormonism flows from it. When LDS go to the temple, this is the covenant they are being anointed for. When they get married in the temple, this is the covenant they are entering. When they go to the temple again, this is the covenant they are renewing. Knowing the destination explains every step along the way.
In early 2019, the LDS temple endowment ceremony underwent a number of wording changes centered mainly around some previous gender inequalities in the language. The older language had men covenanting directly with God while women covenanted to “hearken to the counsel of her husband, as her husband hearkens unto the counsel of the Father.” The (quietly) celebrated changes appear to equalize men and women as they each covenant directly with God.
Below is an excerpt from a transcript of the 2019 temple endowment ceremony with track-changes annotation. The only way to acquire a transcript is to smuggle one. I could write an entire separate piece on the immorality of executing contracts which one party is not allowed to read or retain a copy, but here we go:
This change is great! Right? Equality, right? My argument is that no, it is not, because it is a lie. By this point in the ceremony, one may have forgotten some very key (new) language from its introduction:
“Brethren… You have been anointed to become hereafter Kings and, Priests unto the Most High God, to rule and reign in the House of Israel forever.” This is pretty big stuff! But wait, the women’s anointing doesn’t quite mirror the men’s… “Sisters, you have been washed and pronounced clean and anointed to become hereafter Queens and Priestesses in the new and everlasting covenant.” So women are no longer queens and priestesses to their husbands, but there’s no ruling and reining for them noted here. And they’re not Queens and Priestesses to the Most High God like the men are, they’re Queens and Priestesses “in the new and everlasting covenant.” So women no longer covenant to their husbands, but to a covenant… which places them under their husbands anyway.
The wording change did not actually change anything. Seriously, they say that in the introduction to the endowment.
So what do I mean? What is the New and Everlasting Covenant?
LDS have an expanded canon of scripture that includes the Holy Bible as well as the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), and Pearl of Great Price. The LDS printing of the Bible contains a Study Helps section with a Bible Dictionary and a Topical Guide. Let’s look at “New and Everlasting Covenant” in the Topical Guide
The Topical Guide does something interesting in this scripture reference list. It includes references to “covenant” and “new covenant” and “everlasting covenant” and even “a new and an everlasting covenant,” but there are only two sections of the D&C that use the specific term “the new and everlasting covenant.”
Feel free to read the other references yourself, but the pattern is that the Old Testament speaks to an/the “everlasting covenant” regarding God being the god of Israel. The New Testament (all in the book of Hebrews) speaks to a/the “new covenant” regarding the blood atonement of Jesus Christ. The first reference that combines “new” and “everlasting” is D&C 22 that says “a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.” This section speaks to baptism by the priesthood authority found exclusively in the LDS church (and strangely says something new was from the beginning, which is inherently the opposite of new…).
Since baptism for LDS is how one joins the church (as young as age 8), it seems that the temple endowment must be referring to something higher and more advanced than this. The first use of the specific title “the new and everlasting covenant” appears in D&C 131.
So the New and Everlasting Covenant (of marriage) is how LDS get into the highest level of heaven. This is widely taught in the LDS church with D&C 131 and 132 forming the scriptural basis for this teaching. Getting married in the temple is taught as the great and ultimate ordinance necessary for the salvation and exaltation of anyone. But seeing as how D&C 131 is only eight verses long, the meat of the New and Everlasting Covenant must come from elsewhere.
Continue to Part 2 for the deep dive.