Friday, September 17, 2004

Oath and covenant

D&C 84:33-42 is often called “the oath and covenant of the priesthood.” But I don't think it is. It makes reference to the oath and covenant, and gives a description of the blessings associated with them, but I do not think they are contained in this section. Rather, I think they are administered in the temple. I think this section points us in that direction. Let's take a close look at portions of the section:

4Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. 5For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house. 6And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro;

This is followed by Moses' line of authority (which itself is interesting enough for another post). But the key here is the “And the sons of Moses” beginning verse 6. The whole discussion that follows about the descent of the priesthood and the different orders of the priesthood are all parenthetical, up to verse 31, where we pick up again:

31Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed— 32And the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord's house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church.

Note again that this is talking about the temple. The temple is where the keys of the priesthood are administered, and where the fulness of the priesthood may be obtained. The next verses parallel aspects of the temple endowment. While I will not go into great detail, I hope that my allusions to the endowment ceremony will be familiar to those who have been through the temple.

33For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

Two things to note about verse 33: obtaining the “two priesthoods:” the endowment ceremony is divided into Aaronic and Melchizedek portions. Brigham Young considered splitting up the temple ceremony so that one could receive the Aaronic portion first, and then, after a time of proving, prepare to receive the Melchizedek portion:

The reason of this is that when we give the brethren their endowments, we are obliged to confer upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood; but I expect to see the day when we shall be so situated that we can say to a company of brethren you can go and receive the ordinances pertaining to the Aaronic order of Priesthood, and then you can go into the world and preach the Gospel, or do something that will prove whether you will honor that Priesthood before you receive more. Now we pass them through the ordinances of both Priesthoods in one day, but this is not as it should be and would if we had a Temple wherein to administer these ordinances. But this is all right at present; we should not be satisfied in any other way, and consequently we do according to the circumstances we are placed in.

(Journal of Discourses, 10:309)

The second thing to note is that those who receive these priesthoods are “sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” This may have reference to the resurrection of the just, which is figured in the veil ceremony in the temple. Continuing with D&C 84:

34They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

This deals with the progressions of priesthood: Aaron (Aaronic priesthood), Moses (Melchizedek priesthood), and Abraham (Patriarchal priesthood). Becoming the seed of these men occurs through the Abrahamic covenant administered in the temple, and the sealing into the Patriarchal Order.

35And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; 36For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; 37And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; 38And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father's kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

This also follows the pattern of the endowment in two ways: first, the way the gospel and the keys are administered from Father to Son to servants to us; second, the progression of names and references through the endowment. Receiving the Father's kingdom is symbolized by entrance into the celestial room.

39And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

Where are oaths and covenants belonging to the priesthood administered? In the temple. There are many references in the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets to this effect. The fulness of the priesthood can only be obtained by oath in the temple.

40Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. 41But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.

All covenants we make with God are conditional, and we can repent if we break those covenants -- except for the “unconditional” covenant that is the culminating ordinance of the temple: the sealing up unto eternal life. This is not the same as eternal marriage, though eternal marriage is a prerequisite. This is the sealing up that we are informed early in the endowment may be ours if we are faithful to our covenants. It is the sealing up that accompanies the receipt of the fulness of the priesthood as husband and wife: the second anointings. With reference to this, D&C 132 further explains (emphasis mine):

27The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.

After we have received the fulness of the new and everlasting covenant of the priesthood, if we turn from it altogether, we have committed the unpardonable sin.

So, to sum up: I have tried to show that the oath and covenant of the priesthood is not contained in Doctrine & Covenants 84; rather, it is referred to there, and administered in the temple. It is there that the keys of the priesthood are administered; it is there that we become the seed of Aaron, Moses, and Abraham; it is there that we take upon ourselves the names of the Son and the Father; it is there that we enter into the Patriarchal Order and the fulness of the priesthood.


  1. I think you are right about the context. The Oath and Covenant is clearly connected with the fulness of the priesthood. If you haven't ever read Paul Toscano's Sunstone article "The Oath and Covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood: An Exegesis," Sunstone 1987, Issue 61 (see online at, you should check it out. This was later published as a chapter in his book, Strangers in Paradox. There is an expanded earlier copy of this as well.

    In the original manuscript for section 84 the word "that" is found between the present day verses 33 and 34: It conveys a stronger meaning that it is as a result of receiving "these two priesthoods" and being "sanctified by the Spirit unto the receiving of their bodies" that "they become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God."

  2. Thanks, Brian. I hadn't heard of Toscano's exegesis. I read it over the weekend. It's always nice when someone else independently comes to similar conclusions.