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The Abrahamic Covenant

1. A Promise of Land

Specifically designated as the land between the River of Egypt in the south (now known as the Wadi El Arish in the northern Sinai) and the river Euphrates in the north. The western boundary is the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern boundary is undefined. See Abraham 2:6, Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7, 13-14, 16, 18; 17:8. In the case of Joseph's descendants, it appears that this territory is expanded even further (i.e., America, from whence his descendants will conduct the work of the Gospel Restoration; see Genesis 49:22, 26; 1 Nephi 15:12; 3 Nephi 15:12).



2. A Promise of Posterity

Abraham 2:9-10; Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 17:4-6, 18:18

3. A Promise of Priesthood Blessings

Abraham 1:18

4. A Promise of Gospel Blessings for All Families of the Earth

Out of Abraham’s seed shall come the Messiah. Also, his descendants shall bear the gospel (and priesthood) unto all nations. All who accept it will be called after his name and counted among his seed (Galatians 3:26-29). They become partakers of the blessings and the responsibilities of the covenant. Ephraim, who received the birthright, plays the main role in this effort (see Jeremiah 31:9). A major part of the covenant is the temple endowment and eternal marriage. Essentially, we enter into the part of the Abrahamic Covenant that pertains to exaltation and eternal increase by keeping these two covenants (Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual-see Abraham 2:6, 9-11; Genesis 12:3; 17:7, 19-21; 22:15-18; D&C 132:30-31).

Although the Abrahamic Covenant has never been nullified, it appears that parts of it had to be either restored, reiterated, reaffirmed or clarified during the restoration (D&C 110:12-16; 132; 1 Nephi 22:8-11).

THE BIRTHRIGHT

To fully understand what the Abrahamic Covenant is, it is important to understand the implications of what a “birthright” is.

“A birthright comprises certain privileges, blessings and responsibilities to which a child is entitled by virtue of his or her birth….. Evidently, the firstborn’s rights included the right to be shown deference by his siblings throughout his life (Genesis 43: 33) and to inherit a double portion of the family holdings (Deuteronomy 21: 17). This would help him to care for his mother and unmarried sisters when the father passed away. The firstborn also was given the right to preside over the family after the death of the father, though this right could be bartered away, as happened to Esau (Genesis 25: 29-34) or forfeited by unrighteousness, as happened to Reuben and the rest of the sons of Leah (Genesis 35: 22, 37:26-27; 49: 3-4, 5-7; 1 Chronicles 5:1)” (Book of Mormon Reference Companion, pages 95-95).

The birthright was, by custom, usually given to a man’s oldest son, though there have been some rather striking exceptions to this rule (e.g., Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim-none of these was the oldest son in his generation). It also appears that the birthright could not be passed-on to the son of a concubine, but to the son of a full-fledged "wife" only. Hence, a major reason why all of the sons of Jacob's concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah (who were all older than Joseph), had no claim to it. Note, also, the order in which the sons of Jacob are mentioned in Genesis 35:23-26. Displayed here is an apparent preference for the sons of wives over those of concubines. Obviously, in regards to Old Testament and Book of Mormon times, there is also a side to this subject that involves significant spiritual blessings for the recipient of the birthright and his descendants. This point is more than made clear by Jacob’s words when he bestowed the birthright upon his son Joseph. Though the term “birthright” is not specifically used in the Book of Mormon, it is clear that its conferring upon their younger brother Nephi has much to do with the animosity Laman and Lemuel feel toward him (see 1 Nephi 2: 22-23, 7:8, 16:37; 2 Nephi 1:24, 27-29, 5:3-6).

As pertaining to the Birthright and the Abrahamic Covenant, there is one last important point to keep in mind: They are not the same thing. Therefore, they cannot be spoken of interchangeably.

Beginning even in the days of the patriarchs, the covenant was “spread” (either in part or in whole) among the various descendants of Abraham. Indeed, in the Old Testament the whole nation of Israel (as the offspring of Abraham and those whom the Lord brought out of Egypt) is referred to as a “covenant people.” It appears that even the Ishmaelites, as descendants of Abraham, received some measure of blessings (Genesis 16:8-10; 21:12-13, 17-18).

However, only Ephraim and his descendants were given the responsibilities and blessings of the Birthright. Not even the tribe of Judah (through which came King David and King Solomon) possesses this unique gift. Judah did, however, receive a blessing of leadership (Genesis 46:28, 49:8-10), made evident by the future kings of Israel and the coming of the Lord Himself through his lineage.

The Birthright is the means through which the Abrahamic Covenant is being brought into full effect in the latter days. Most current members of the restored church are descendants of Ephraim and, as his descendants, are now using their Birthright to “preside over”/conduct the work of restoring the Gospel and spreading it among all nations. In the process, Ephraim is ensuring the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant are fully executed and made available to everyone so that “all families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; 48:19-20; D&C 133:25-34).

As a major part of this process, Ephraim is also gathering-in the scattered and lost tribes of Israel (Deuteronomy 33: 16-17). Jeremiah 16:14-16, 21 describes the seeking-out and the gathering of the Lost Tribes in the last days. These verses portray a massive-scaled work involving, literally, millions of people, which could only be orchestrated by a worldwide organization; we understand this "organization" to be the Lord's restored church carrying the message of the Everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6-7; D&C 133:36-39). Once they are gathered to Zion, the lost tribes will "fall down" and be "crowned with glory" at the hands of Ephraim's descendants (D&C 133:32-34). This is probably in reference to the lost tribes finally receiving the priesthood and their temple endowments (from Ephraim), which they have been without for so many years.

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