Lesson #1 What is the Covenant Relationship?
The covenant relationship is the most sacred, solemn agreement possible.
Most of us belong to what is called "western civilization". People in this category know less about the concept of a covenant than any other category. Every native tribe and most third-world peoples understand covenants and use them in their daily lives. We do not. We hire lawyers instead. The true story of Stanley and Livingstone is a good example. Stanley wanted to find Livingstone, so he organized human caravans to escort him through the jungles of Africa.
In the 1800s Africa was a closed continent. It was not easy to travel. Every attempt that Stanley made met with failure. His cargo bearers would disappear into the bush, taking with them his supplies. One day, after several failures, his right-hand man, a native who had lived for a while in England and knew the language and customs, told Stanley that the only way he could travel successfully through Africa was to make covenants with the heads of the various chiefdoms or tribes through whose territory he was passing.
Stanley did not like this idea because, being a proper Englishman, (and therefore part of the same western civilization as most of us are) he thought that the native customs were primitive, barbaric and certainly beneath him. He did not realize that the idea of making covenants and thereby having a covenant relationship was originated by God with Adam and that the covenant relationship was God's chosen way for dealing with His creation. He did not realize that although the physical way in which the covenant was put into force was changed and perverted through the centuries, the seriousness and effectiveness of the covenant remained. However, Stanley finally consented to make a covenant because he had no other alternative.
Part of the covenant procedure required that Stanley give a gift to the chief. The chief wanted Stanley's goat so Stanley had to give it to him. Stanley had stomach trouble and thought that the only way he could survive was on goat's milk. Stanley did not want to part with his goat but he had to. In exchange, the chief gave Stanley a wooden staff decorated with strips of copper. This did not mean anything to Stanley. He did not understand covenants.
Nevertheless, Stanley went through the covenant process and continued on to the next village with the staff in hand. Although Stanley did not know the meaning of the staff, the people in the next village did. It meant that Stanley had a covenant with the chief in the previous village and that all the resources of that chief, which were extensive, would be used against them if they did not treat Stanley as a friend. (It is revealing to note that the word "friend" in the word of God does not mean the same as we think. To be a friend means to have a covenant and not just to be someone you are acquainted with and like to be with. Abraham was called a friend of God. That means he had a covenant with God.)
Having no doubt as to the consequences if they mistreated Stanley, they treated him like a king. Stanley's eyes were opening. He was now receiving a revelation of what a covenant relationship was. If Stanley had desired, every goat in the village would have been given to him. The cargo bearers no longer disappeared into the bush with Stanley's supplies. They knew the judgments that would come upon them. Like the villagers, they had no doubt.
Covenant people have the fear of the Lord, which is defined as awe and reverence. Having the fear of the Lord and having no doubt are two attributes of covenant people. In the course of his journeys, Stanley made covenants with over fifty chiefs and tribal leaders. Needless to say, Stanley's journey was a success. Stanley was the one who said, "Dr. Livingstone I presume?"
Stanley had to give up his one goat. But because of the covenants which he made, he could have had all of the goats in Africa if he had needed them. If we give ourselves fully to the Lord according to the covenant relationship then the Lord will make available to us all of the direction and resources needed to accomplish our stewardship and complete our journey to the Promised Land.
The covenant relationship is the most important subject in all scripture.
The covenant relationship is the reason for the Restoration Movement.
The covenant relationship is the most ignored and least understood subject among our people. In asking people about the subject of the covenant relationship in the last 9-10 years I have discovered that this subject has not received any emphasis at all as far back as people can remember, which takes us back three generations. In my own experience in my first 30 years in this movement, I had not heard or even heard about a single sermon on the covenant relationship and I had only heard about one class with the word covenant in the title. The Lord officially informed us in 1832 (D&C 83:8) that we were ignoring or treating lightly the covenant. What does all of this tell us about our spiritual condition if, in fact, the covenant relationship is the reason for the Restoration Movement?