|Ogden Utah Temple - © Stuart Gardner |
When we hear the question, "What were the promises made to the fathers?" we think of the Patriarchal fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We tend to think first of the Abrahamic Covenant. Did you know that the promises actually started with the first Patriarch Adam?
"Although we generally speak of the Abrahamic covenant beginning with Abraham, he was actually the inheritor of promises, passed down through the lineage of his fathers, that began with Adam. Abraham himself wrote: “And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness” (Abr. 1:2). Abraham desired and “sought” the priesthood with all its accompanying promises. These blessings “came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time” (Abr. 1:3)."
- S. Michael Wilcox. The Abrahamic Covenant, Ensign, January 1998.
"Abraham first received the gospel by baptism (which is the covenant of salvation). Then he had conferred upon him the higher priesthood, and he entered into celestial marriage (which is the covenant of exaltation), gaining assurance thereby that he would have eternal increase. Finally he received a promise that all of these blessings would be offered to all of his mortal posterity (D&C 132:29–50; Abr. 2:6–11). Included in the divine promises to Abraham were the assurances that (1) Christ would come through his lineage, and that (2) Abraham’s posterity would receive certain lands as an eternal inheritance (Gen. 17; 22:15–18; Gal. 3; Abr. 2). These promises taken together are called the “Abrahamic covenant.” It was renewed with Isaac (Gen. 26:1–4, 24) and again with Jacob (Gen. 28; 35:9–13; 48:3–4).
"The portions of the covenant that pertain to personal salvation and eternal increase are renewed with each individual who receives the ordinance of celestial marriage (see D&C 132:29–33). Those of non-Israelite lineage, commonly known as Gentiles, are adopted into the house of Israel and become heirs of the covenant and the seed of Abraham through the ordinances of the gospel (Gal. 3:26–29).
"Being an heir to the Abrahamic covenant does not make one a “chosen person” per se but does signify that such are chosen to responsibly carry the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. Abraham’s seed have carried out the missionary activity in all the nations since Abraham’s day. (Matt. 3:9; Abr. 2:9–11.)
"To fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham—having particular reference to the fact that the literal seed of his body would be entitled to all of the blessings of the gospel (Abr. 2:10–11)—a number of specific and particular things must take place in the last days. The gospel must be restored, the priesthood must be conferred again upon man, the keys of the sealing power must be given again to mortals, Israel must be gathered, and the Holy Ghost must be poured out upon the Gentiles. All this has already taken place or is in process of fulfillment."
- LDS Bible DictionaryWhat about our ancestral fathers? What were the promises the Lord made to them?
The answer is found in Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This section contains a vision of the redemption of the dead given to President Joseph F. Smith on October 3, 1918.
This is the verse break down of the section:
1–10, President Joseph F. Smith ponders upon the writings of Peter and our Lord’s visit to the spirit world; 11–24, President Smith sees the righteous dead assembled in paradise and Christ’s ministry among them; 25–37, He sees how the preaching of the gospel was organized among the spirits; 38–52, He sees Adam, Eve, and many of the holy prophets in the spirit world who considered their spirit state before their resurrection as a bondage; 53–60, The righteous dead of this day continue their labors in the world of spirits.
Pay particular attention to the following verses - D&C 138:28-35, 58-59
31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
58 The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,
59 And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.
The Lord himself promised all of our ancestral fathers they would have the opportunity for vicarious baptism (covenant of salvation) and redemption through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God (covenant of exaltation).
“My beloved young brothers and sisters, family history is not simply an interesting program or activity sponsored by the Church; rather, it is a vital part of the work of salvation and exaltation. You have been prepared for this day and to build up the kingdom of God. You are here upon the earth now to assist in this glorious work. I testify Elijah returned to the earth and restored the sacred sealing authority. I witness that what is bound on earth can be bound in heaven.”
- Elder David A. Bednar, The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn, Gen. Conf., October 2011.