There are 12 thoughts on “Witness of the Covenant”.

  1. That’s a beautiful chiasm, in the story of Noah, as displayed at the end.

    Interesting article; thank you for the expanded ideas.

  2. The conversation seems to have taken a contentious turn, so I will not be responding to any further comments. If anyone would like to discuss any of these issues one-on-one you may contact me at Please keep the conversation civil. Thanks.

  3. “By no means am I trying to prove that any of the brethren are wrong or teaching false doctrine.”

    Yet you then follow that up with: “However, I do believe that incorrect traditions can and do enter into the church and that we need to look to the scriptures to reorient us. None of us is immune to the possibility of wresting the scriptures. And I believe that we have veered away from correct scriptural teaching when it comes to baptism and the sacrament.”

    So, clearly you think that the Brethren, who are the ones who lead the Church, “have veered away from correct scriptural teaching when it comes to baptism and the sacrament.”

    The problem with this thinking is that it’s bass-ackwards: the Brethren are not subject to the scriptures, but the scriptures are subject to them. As living oracles, their doctrinal teachings and practices supersede anything which has come before, be it teachings of previous modern prophets or ancient ones.

    So, if the Brethren are veering away from the ancient understanding of covenants & ordinances (according to you) then that is the new and improved understanding which we are to embrace, rather than hold to the old way of thinking while flattering ourselves that we are right and they are wrong. For “we believe all that God has revealed, all that he does NOW reveal, and we believe that he will YET reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (AOF 9).

  4. I can see baptism as being referred to in the quote and D&C 22 as a covenant in the same way that the Book of Mormon is called a covenant in D&C 84. Or, I could see “baptism is a covenant” being shorthand for “baptism is the ordinance by which we enter into a covenant” or “baptism is the ordinance by which we enter into our first covenant”.

    > The problem is that the Book of Mormon does not teach this.

    > However, I do believe that incorrect traditions can and do enter into the church and that we need to look to the scriptures to reorient us.

    We do not believe in Sola Scriptura. What does it matter if the Book of Mormon does not teach this and why do we need to look to the scriptures to reorient us? Isn’t that why we have modern revelation?

    As for the people entering into covenants prior to baptism, I don’t see where it describes how they entered into those covenants. How do we know that it wasn’t be an ordinance?

    As for the covenant that Limhi and his people entered into, what was the nature or it and how did they enter into it? Did it still require baptism and having it recorded?

    When I read Moroni 6:1-4 I read that prior to baptism the people brought forth fruit that they were worthy of baptism: had a broken heart and a contrite spirit, witnessed that they had truly repented, took upon themselves the name of Christ – having a determination to serve him to the end.

    This reads to me as the same covenant as the baptismal covenant:

    Always remember Christ by following Him in faith through the sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit (2 Nephi 31:13, Mosiah 18:9, 3 Nephi 18:3,7; 3 Nephi 18:11, Moroni 6:1-2, D&C 20:37, 77, 79; Moses 5:5-9, 3 Nephi 9:19-20))

    Repenting of our sins through His Atonement and being obedient to His commandments – including being baptized (2 Nephi 21:13-14, Mosiah 18:10, Alma 7:15, 3 Nephi 18:8,10; Moroni 6:2, D&C 20:37, 77)

    Being willing to take upon us the name of the Son by serving him to the end by serving others (2 Nephi 31:13, Mosiah 18:8-10, 13; Mosiah 21:35, D&C 20:37, 77; Modiah 2:17)

    But, Moroni 6:4 then says that “after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken…”

    I read their names being taken as their baptism was recorded in some manner. But, they were not “wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost” until after the baptism. So the fulfillment, token, sign, etc. of the covenant was not received until after baptism. I could see the same thing applying to Limhi’s people. They entered into a covenant, but God was under no obligation to fulfill the terms of the covenant (the Holy Ghost might always be with them), until after baptism had taken place. Just like water baptism without confirmation is but half a baptism, perhaps the covenant without the ordinance is but half a covenant.

  5. Thanks Theodore. I agree that the baptismal interview questions can help the candidate come to an acceptance of the covenant.

    While we were serving as senior, full-time missionaries, the young missionaries conducting baptismal interviews would often discover past or current conduct of the baptismal candidates. At times they would discuss these issues with me and ask how long the candidate needed to wait to be baptized. If I had this improved understanding of covenants and witnesses at the time that we served my answer would have been very different than what it was. I would have asked if the brother or sister had sincerely accepted and entered into the gospel covenant and was willing to witness that acceptance through baptism. If so, my answer would have paralleled that of Ananias: “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized.”

  6. Excellent, comprehensive and well explained!

    Loren, you wrote:
    “It is my belief that we should be encouraging those who are learning about the Church, studying its doctrines, and planning for formal membership within the Church to enter into the gospel covenant well in advance of their baptism, and to view their baptism for what it is — a public witness of entry into that covenant.”

    I believe that the baptismal interview explanations and questions are structured so that the candidate’s answers constitute his/her acceptance of the covenant.

  7. > However, we should avoid confusing the covenant (to keep God’s commandments) with the witness of that covenant (baptism). Even though the making and witnessing of the covenant may take place in close temporal proximity to each other, as probably occurred in Gideon, they are still separate, although interrelated, matters.

    I am confused about the assertion that we do not make covenants through ordinances.

    The general handbook of instruction says

    Members make these covenants as they receive priesthood ordinances. (See Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–20.)

    Members make covenants with God as they receive the ordinances of salvation and exaltation (see 18.1).
    Parents, Church leaders, and others help individuals prepare to make covenants as they receive the ordinances of the gospel.

    In many ordinances, individuals make covenants with God. Examples include baptism, the sacrament, the endowment, and the marriage sealing ordinance. In other ordinances such as patriarchal blessings or blessings on the sick, individuals do not make covenants, but they do receive guidance and strength to keep covenants.

    Can you help me understand?

    • I think this is a matter of culture. In our culture the witness and agreement are the same thing. For example signing a contract is the act of making the agreement and simultaneously making proof.

      It may have been different anciently.
      God promised to not flood the earth again. That was the promise. Totally separate from that was a witness (the rainbow) perhaps that was needed because we would break the covenant and we need to see He is still reaching out. As far as I am concerned the witness was for our benefit. God promised. That is good enough for me.

      Witnesses appear to be a social construct based on the culture of the time. They help us keep covenants. For example, the people in Nehemiah’s day. They individually sealed (signed) a document stating they made an agreement with God. Perhaps that had power for them. I doubt God cares about paperwork. I bet they hung those agreements on their walls and saw it everyday it became sacred to both parties.

      In our cultural perspective baptism is perhaps seen as simultaneously making and witnessing the covenant.
      However, there are other witnesses. President Nelson said, “my attitude on the Sabbath constitute[s] a sign between me and my Heavenly Father.”

      So you could say that the covenant is made at baptism but the sabbath day observance is (one of) the witness(es). By going to church we remember our covenants often and witness publicly and to God our status.

      We should be careful not to make up witnesses… I would say obedience is greater than sacrifice. We can inconvenience ourselves or self-flagellate our selves as “proof.” It is probably fine to offer up additional witnesses as long as we are doing what God actually commanded. Let’s keep in mind the point of witnesses.

      For example, in Nehemiah… were those sealed agreements viable in God’s eyes? Were they made in sincerity? The Title of Liberty was a witness… Was that because Moroni knew it would motivate people to rally? I personally can’t tear my coat, write on it and expect to go to heaven. The prophet of the day has to say what is an acceptable witness. That is why I go to church. It is a sign to God. So I would say baptism is one of the witnesses we give/make. It also happens to be the act of making the agreement (because we make agreements individually now… not based on the leader of the people). But church attendance is also a witness.

      On a separate topic. The tablets of the 10 commandments were God’s witness to the covenant. They were sealed in the ark and unseen. The a copy was a witness of the tablets which was a witness of the covenant. People can see these witnesses and rejoice forever.

      if interested in more: Katherine E. Brown, “Silent Idol, Speaking Text: Prophetic Writing as Material Mediation of Divine Presence” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America, 2018), 102-106,

    • John, thanks for your post. First, I do not assert in the article that we do not, or cannot, make covenants through ordinances. Although I do not mention the temple in the article, it seems clear that covenants made there are intrinsically linked with ordinances. What I do state in the article is that ordinances are not connected with covenants in the Bible or Book of Mormon. One would be hard pressed to identify any covenants that are reliant on priesthood ordinances in either of those books of scripture.

      In the modern church we often teach that baptism is the covenant itself (i.e. baptismal covenant), but this idea cannot be supported by the scriptures. In fact, this idea contradicts the scriptural teaching that baptism is the witness of a prior covenantal agreement. In the Book of Mormon baptism is consistently portrayed as the witness of the covenant and not as the covenant itself.

      In the paper I intentionally omitted any discussion of what general leaders or policy manuals of the church say relative to these matters. Rather, I chose to have the scriptures speak for themselves. I was well aware of the cognitive dissonance that would likely occur in readers’ minds, but I also felt that the scriptures needed to have a voice. Tradition is a sticky thing; once it becomes embedded in our minds we often struggle to root it out, even in the face of contradictory evidence. None of us are immune to this.

      • > In the modern church we often teach that baptism is the covenant itself (i.e. baptismal covenant)

        I’m not sure what “baptism is the the covenant itself” means. I’ve never heard anyone teach that the ordinance is the covenant. What I have heard taught is that through the ordinance, we enter into the covenant. That the ordinance is like signing our names to a document (witnessing the covenant).

        My understanding is that it is like when I purchase a house. I receive the contract (covenant) ahead of time so that I can read over it and mentally agree to the conditions, but mentally agreeing to it doesn’t put the contract or covenant into effect. The next step is going to the title company and signing the document before witnesses who notarize that they have witnesses the signing of the contract/covenant. But, even that doesn’t put the contract into effect. The documents have to be submitted to the government and duly recorded before they really go into effect.

        I have been taught, and everything I’ve read agrees that baptism is similar. I might mentally agree to the covenant ahead of time, but that doesn’t put the covenant into affect. Through the baptismal ordinance I in effect put my signature upon the covenant before witnesses. The ordinance is my witness or signature that I am entering into the covenant of my own will. But, it doesn’t really go into effect until it is duly recorded (on earth and in heaven D&C 128). That is my understanding of what is meant by entering into the baptismal covenant through the baptismal ordinance.

        If you have quotes by those in authority asserting that the ordinance and the covenant are the same thing, I’d be interested in reading them.

        • I should probably reword my statement above. I believe that the baptismal interview constitutes the administration of the covenant by the Priesthood holder and the subsequent agreement by the candidate to the explained conditions, constitutes the making of the covenant. The baptism that follows is the sign or token of the covenant.

        • Hi John. Thanks again for your comments. To begin with there is the alleged quote from Joseph Smith that I cite in the paper that states that “baptism is a covenant with God that we will do His will.” Notice that this does not state that the covenant is entered into when we are baptized but that baptism is “a covenant.” Second, as also pointed out in the article, there is the section heading of D&C 22 that states that “Baptism is a new and everlasting covenant.”

          Third, this link from the church’s website: ( Under the section titled “Baptism, Our First Covenant” you will find this citation from a late member of the twelve:

          “At baptism we make a covenant with our Heavenly Father that we are willing to come into His kingdom and keep His commandments from that time forward, even though we still live in the world. We are reminded from the Book of Mormon that our baptism is a covenant to ‘stand as witnesses of God [and His kingdom] at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life’”

          The above citation states that “at baptism we make a covenant” and that the Book of Mormon teaches that “our baptism is a covenant…” Notice that in addition to being the way we enter into a covenant with God, this late member of the twelve also states that baptism is “a covenant.” The problem is that the Book of Mormon does not teach this. The language in the Book of Mormon is very clear – baptism is the witness of the covenant and not the covenant itself or even the means by which we enter the covenant. If we cannot enter the gospel covenant without baptism then how did the people of Limhi enter into the covenant without it? According to Mormon both the people and Alma and the people of Limhi entered into the same covenant. Mormon even used the exact same wording to describe the covenant – “to serve God and keep his commandments.” And Mormon is very clear that the people of Limhi entered into this covenant well in advance of their baptism in the land of Zarahemla, and that their baptism served as a witness of this prior covenantal agreement. Importantly, Mormon does not tell us that the covenant that the people of Limhi made prior to their baptism only became effective when they were baptized. It seems clear from Mormon’s writing that he viewed the covenant made by the people of Alma and the people of Limhi as equally valid.

          As I wrote in my prior response, it would be difficult (impossible is probably a better word) to identify any covenants in either the Bible or the Book of Mormon that are entered into with any type of priesthood ordinance. On the other hand, their are numerous covenants mentioned in those books that are clearly made without priesthood ordinance. Many of these are covered in detail in the article, so need to recite them here.

          By no means am I trying to prove that any of the brethren are wrong or teaching false doctrine. However, I do believe that incorrect traditions can and do enter into the church and that we need to look to the scriptures to reorient us. None of us is immune to the possibility of wresting the scriptures. And I believe that we have veered away from correct scriptural teaching when it comes to baptism and the sacrament.

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