Education Week: The difference between God’s oath and man’s covenant

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19 09:19:23
Emeritus BYU professor of ancient scripture Robert L. Millet teaches about the difference between an oath and a covenant.

Religious covenants bind the participants together in obedience to God, who gave his oath to pour out blessings upon those who keep these promises.

Robert L. Millet, an emeritus professor of ancient scripture at BYU, described the difference between an oath and a covenant and the eternal importance of both to a large audience at Education Week.

Millet, who has a Ph.D. in religious studies, said the phrase “I promise” is rather shallow in a society where talk is cheap. People need to make promises and commitments, but a covenant means far more.

Because members of the LDS Church hear the word covenant so often, Millet said he is concerned that many may not understand what the concept truly means. Covenants are more than a two-way agreement; covenants bind the participants together.

Millet referenced several instances in the Old Testament where the Lord states that his people do not know him. The people could have described Jehovah clearly, but they only knew about him. They did not know him in the intimate, personal way that the Lord was describing. This was because the people of Israel had made an agreement that was not at the level of a covenant.

On the last page of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni taught how covenants allow people to become perfect in union with Christ. Millet referenced the phrase “the covenant of the Father” that Moroni used to show how the covenant Christ made with the Father bound them together in total unity.

19 09:19:19
Robert L. Millet, emeritus BYU professor of ancient scripture. teaches on oaths and covenants at Education Week. People make promises and commitments, Millet said, but a covenant means far more.

He quoted several General Authorities on how covenants bind people to God. Elder John A. Widtsoe said, “We agreed in the premortal life to not only be saviors for ourselves, but saviors for the whole family. The plan then also became our work. The least of us is in partnership with the Almighty.”

He also used the story of a new stake president who always seemed to have things in order. According to President Boyd K. Packer, this stake president said, “I did not serve because I was under call. I served because I was under covenant.”

“This is the kind of covenant we’re talking about,” Millet said.

Turning to Doctrine and Covenants 84, Millet discussed the scriptural section referred to as the “oath and covenant of the priesthood.” He pointed out the things members of the church promise to do, such as to obtain the priesthood, magnify callings, receive the Lord’s servants, give diligent heed to the words of eternal life and live by every word of God.

God promises to those who keep their part of the covenant that they may be sanctified and renewed, enter the church and kingdom of God, become the elect of God and ultimately receive all the Father has, he said.

Millet distinguished between an oath and a covenant. The covenant rests with man, the oath with God. God forms the oath when man has lived the covenant, he said.

Millet turned to the scriptural stories of Melchizedek and the prophet Nephi, to whom God granted power over the elements, or godlike power, because of their faithfulness. This is the oath that God swears to the faithful.

He asked his audience to recognize how significant receiving the priesthood is in today’s world. Given how small the membership of the church is in comparison to the world’s population as a whole, this gift of the power of God must be held in the highest regard, Millet said.

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