The Family of Adam and Eve & the Abrahamic Covenant
Posted by Karen on November 17, 2012
In Abraham’s day there was confusion as to who actually held the right to priesthood. The Pharaohs claimed they had it from Ham, and Abraham’s fathers – who did actually have the right – didn’t believe in their own tradition (Abr. 1:27). Abraham said that the right he claimed – known today as the “Abrahamic Covenant” – was the one that “came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time … or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me” (Abr. 1:3) – and he had the book to prove it (see Abr. 1:31 and Moses 6).
What was this right, or Covenant?
Abraham explained that it actually began with Adam. According to Genesis, Moses, Alma, etc., after Adam and Eve left the garden angels were sent to teach them the gospel and give them commandments and covenants. In this post I am going to look at what this had to do with Adam and Eve’s children, and what connection this may have with Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant.
(I’m going to follow carefully the account in Moses, starting in chapter 5.) After many children had been born, divided “two and two” on the earth, and had their own families, God spoke to Adam and gave him a commandment to offer sacrifices. Adam was obedient, and God sent an angel to teach Adam what those sacrifices meant. The angel explained that they meant that God’s son will also be sacrificed, and that Adam had the opportunity to call upon God and repent. God also allowed Adam to hear (through the Holy Ghost) Christ say: “I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will” (Moses 5:9). Imagine the relief and joy Adam must have felt!
Adam and Eve rejoiced, prophesied, and taught their children what they had just learned (Moses 5:12). Unfortunately, Satan came too, and Adam and Eve’s children didn’t believe what had been taught them (Moses 5:13).
And so God tries another way to teach their children the gospel: “the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent” (see Moses 5:14-15).
Or, as it is summarized later on in the chapter:
And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen. (Moses 5:58-59)
(Note that the Gospel will be in the world “until the end thereof.” This is the first of three things that God promises will remain until the end of the world. We’ll see the other two shortly.)
Though Adam and Eve taught their children and God called upon them by the Holy Ghost, it is unclear to me if any of Adam and Eve’s children believed before Cain and Abel came along. If not, then I can hear a great hope in Eve’s words about Cain in Moses 5:16: “I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words.” How great must have been her sorrow in this her conception, what she hoped would be a faithful son.
Fortunately, along came Abel. Finally, someone who “hearkened unto the voice of the Lord” like Adam and Eve did (Moses 5:17). Finally someone who believed the gospel. Someone who could receive those commandments and covenants that the angels had taught.
But, as we all know, Cain listened to Satan’s promise and killed Abel. Soon Seth was born and Adam declared, “God hath appointed me another seed, instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Moses 6:2). It is interesting to hear Adam so concerned with having seed: he had had many children by now, and of course all of the billions of people on earth today are descended from him. There must be something more going on here: it is not seed Adam is worried about apparently, but an “appointed seed” or a “chosen seed.”
In D&C 107: 41-42, we read something about this “chosen seed:”
This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner:
From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth.
So Seth’s seed was blessed to be “the chosen of the Lord.” And apparently part of what it means to be the “chosen” seed or posterity is that you will have descendants who are alive at the very end of the world; your seed or family line will never die out completely.
Another part of being the “chosen seed” seems to have to do with priesthood. The verses from D&C 107 I just quoted come in the context of priesthood. (They seem to say that originally the chosen seed was also responsible for holding the Melchizedek priesthood and making sure the ordinances were available.) Returning to the Moses account, it is soon after the birth of Seth and Enos that we find Adam saying:
Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also. Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and a genealogy was kept of the children of God. (Moses 6:7-8.)
This announcement of priesthood comes just after Adam, Seth, and Enos “began … to call upon the name of the Lord” (Moses 6:4). I think that Adam was calling himself, Seth, and Enos a priest-hood, a group of ordained High Priests. And I think he was saying that there will also be a group of ordained High Priests in the end of the world too. It also seems that the fact that there needs to be High Priests alive at the beginning and the end of the world is what prompted the keeping of genealogy. (Which is how we know that the promise of chosen seed passed from Adam to Seth, from Seth to Enos, from Enos to Cainan, from Cainan to Mahalaleel, from Mahalaleel to Jared, and from Jared to Enoch – see Moses 6:7-21 and D&C 107:41-53.) And coming back, for just a moment, to the verses mentioned at the beginning of the post, this is the record (or a copy of it) that Abraham describes in Abr. 1:31.
So, we now have three things that will be “in” or “unto the end of the world”:
1) The gospel (Moses 5:59)
2) The chosen seed (D&C 107:42 and Moses 6:2)
3) The Priesthood (Moses 6:7)
And I hope it’s clear by now that these three things are not unrelated. The Adam-Seth-Enos line was both the chosen line and the line carrying the Priesthood. But, they were also “preachers of righteousness, and spake and prophesied, and called upon all men, everywhere, to repent; and faith was taught unto the children of men” (Moses 6:22-23). Those of the chosen seed held the priesthood, and used that priesthood to teach the gospel and administer the ordinances of the gospel.
I think it is safe to say that this is “the Promise” or “the Covenant” given to fathers Adam, Seth, Enos, etc.
And so now, finally back to Abraham. What was it that Abraham wanted?
I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right where unto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.
And this is exactly what Abraham received. In Abraham 2:8-11, God promises:
My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.
So what was the Abrahamic Covenant? At the heart of it, it was a promise that contained all three promises given to Adam and the fathers: a chosen seed, with the Priesthood, that administers and teaches the Gospel.
There’s much more to study in Abraham and those who followed after. How did this play out for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Lehi, and even scattered Israel? Certainly more than can be discovered in just one post! But it does mean at least this much: it means that their family lines don’t completely die out. It means that even when their children become wicked, there will be always be a remnant kept alive. It means God will keep calling them to repentance. It is why God preserves scripture and sends prophets. It is all that Isaiah talks about, and what the Book of Mormon repeatedly proclaims itself written to fulfill: “it is an abridgment … unto the remnant of the house of Israel … they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever” (Title Page).
And somehow, all this involves us. Abraham was promised that all who recieve the gospel would call him their father – not just one, chosen line. Whether we are literally descended from Abraham, or Lehi, or another ancient father who received this Promise, or whether we are “counted” as Abraham’s seed through receiving the gospel and its ordinances, we are connected to the Abrahamic Covenant. We bear the responsibility given to the chosen seed: we have the Priesthood, we teach the Gospel, and we can bless “all the families of the earth.” We are members of Abraham’s vast family, and our work is to bring everyone, literal descendants or not, into that same family.