Lesson 6: Overcoming the Fall – Covenant Making By Righteous Fathers & Mothers (For Our Day)

Set the Course

Both Lehi and the Reformers/Pilgrims/Early Colonists were born in a bleak world of darkness, oppression, and suffering. Like all of us, they had to plead with God to find Jesus Christ, the rod of iron, and His path back to the Tree of Life.

Lehi redeemed his family from darkness by restoring and teaching covenants of redemption to his children. (2 Nephi 1-2) Similarly, early Christian colonists were born into a world of apostasy and darkness but taught their children the understanding of covenants they obtained from the Bible. They laid the foundation for the fullness of the Gospel, including sacred ordinances that would eventually be restored through Joseph Smith.

Consider the Lord’s history as contained in the scriptures with secular history as it has been recorded. The history of the Lord deals with covenants and those that are willing to make and keep covenants with Him. In contrast, secular histories generally record events or details that seem to be climactic according to worldly standards. They often include wars, councils, leaders or general details of a period of time. All of this will pass away and be considered of little significance eternally, while covenants made and kept will remain.

If the early colonists do indeed parallel Lehi and Nephi in the early part of the Book of Mormon, did these emigrants who were “fair and beautiful” make and keep covenants? The record shows that those who later became known as the Pilgrims, Puritans and Covenanters followed this saintly pattern.

Let us discover some of the parallels between Lehi and the early Pilgrims & Puritans—specifically their central belief in covenants.

Israelite Blood in America

It is the House of Israel who makes covenants with God throughout history. In Lesson 4, we shared a clip from For Our Day: Covenant on the Land detailing the fact that many of the early colonists of America were Israelites. If you missed this clip, view it here!

In this second clip, we discover that the Israelite ancestry of the colonists is itself a parallel with the Book of Mormon. Within the Nephite nation, at least 3 of the tribes of Israel were present: Judah through Mulek, Joseph and Manasseh through Lehi, and Joseph and Ephraim through Ishmael. Likewise, you can find evidence of the blood of Judah and Ephraim united in Northern Europe.

The “History of the Age of the Earth” timeline demonstrates genealogical evidence of European ancestral lines that trace directly back to Jacob and the 12 tribes of Israel. This new timeline brings together historical and sacred revelations for the House of Israel, including dates and documented life spans. In addition to the Biblical record, this timeline includes key figures and nobility through the dark ages and up through the founding of our nation and the restoration of the gospel. Even significant astronomical events are noted.

Receiving a Promised Land

In the Book of Mormon we find that the Lord is merciful to those that will follow Him with full purpose of heart. Lehi, being faithful in declaring the word of God, had not sought to be popular or accepted. Instead, he sought to perform the work God had committed to him.

Rather than permitting Lehi to be destroyed, the Lord warned him to flee from Jerusalem into the wilderness. Later his family was promised that if they were faithful a land of promise would be prepared for them.

And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.

Through the ages, time and time again, the story has been the same. The faithful seek the Lord and find Him. They attempt to share the message of hope and salvation with those around them, and are met with bitter persecution and, frequently, death. Often however, the Lord delivers those who are true to Him by leading them to a new land.

This happened with the Nephites as well as the Jaredites in ancient American history.  Recent American history parallels the Book of Mormon record with several other groups desiring to establish new homes, apart from the wicked, where the settlers could establish a Zion and worship God in freedom.

And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

Making Covenants

The Book of Mormon is clear that in general God has covenanted America to those who will be led here out of other countries because of their righteousness.

Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto [the Nephites] . . . and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.

Remember that with covenants it is the Lord who sets the terms and establishes the conditions. He makes a promise that is contingent upon his people obeying His commands. Such was the case with the Nephites; such also is the case with the early colonists who were led to America. John Winthrop, an early Puritan founder and leader in Massachusetts, prophesied that if the people kept their promises and lived worthy lives:

. . . we shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the lord make it like that of New England: for we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us;

Conversely, Winthrop prophesied that if the people forgot the Lord and did not keep the covenant of this land:

. . . we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us ‘till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going:

The Pilgrims, Puritans, Covenanters and other groups correctly viewed themselves as modern Israel, and desired to make a new covenant with their Lord similar to the covenants that Israel had made with their God in the past.

No Christian community in history identified more with the People of the Book [Bible] than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the Biblical drama of the Hebrew nation. They themselves were the children of Israel; America was their Promised Land; the Atlantic Ocean their Red Sea; the Kings of England were the Egyptian pharaohs; the American Indians the Canaanites (or the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel); the pact of the Plymouth Rock was God's holy Covenant; and the ordinances by which they lived were the Divine Law. Like the Huguenots and other Protestant victims of Old World oppression, these émigré Puritans dramatized their own situation as the righteous remnant of the Church corrupted by the "Babylonian woe," and saw themselves as instruments of Divine Providence, a people chosen to build their new commonwealth on the Covenant entered into at Mount Sinai.

William Bradford explained this covenant that was entered into by the Pilgrims. As a people, they separated themselves from the political and religious traditions of the day and promised the Lord that they would follow the teachings and Spirit, thus opposing the opinions of the day.

Those reformers who saw the evil of these things, and whose hearts the Lord had touched with heavenly zeal for his truth, shook off this yoke of anti-Christian bondage and as the Lord’s free people, joined themselves together by covenant as a church, in the fellowship of the gospel to walk in all His ways, made known, or to be made known to them, according to their best endeavors, whatever it should cost them, the Lord assisting them.

As Lehi and Nephi led their families in righteousness keeping their covenants, the Lord blessed and covenanted to them a righteous posterity and a land choice above all others. (1 Nephi 5:20)

Even Lehi and Nephi with the spiritual stature that they possessed could not have understood the full extent that their own posterity would have on the history of the world. The record of the Nephites is an ensign to the world calling for Israel to gather in the last days. Millions at this time and many billions in the future will look to Nephi and the other prophets in the Book of Mormon for their examples.

Similarly, the Pilgrims and Puritans understood in a small way the part that they were playing in the unfolding of the marvelous works of God in the Last Days. Through inspiration they gained a vision of the future of America and an understanding that those that “possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God” Little did they realize the destiny of their own posterity in restoring the true gospel of Jesus Christ and of its spread throughout the earth in fulfillment of the words of the ancient apostles. The early leaders of the Church (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Eliza R. Snow, and others) were all descendants of these Pilgrims and Puritans. In like manner, if we would like to obtain a righteous fruitful posterity for ourselves, we should follow the example of Lehi and these righteous Pilgrim forefathers and foremothers.

Strict Obedience to the Commandments

As shown above and in previous lessons, the early Pilgrims and Puritans were also led by the Spirit of God in their lives because they lived the commandments with great strictness. (1 Nephi 13:13-15) They strove to return to the true principles given by the Savior to His ancient apostles and prophets. John Palfrey commented in 1859:

The Puritan searched the Bible, not only for principles and rules, but for mandates, – and, when he could find none of these, for analogies, – to guide him in precise arrangements of public administration, and in the minutest points of individual conduct. . . . The history of the Israelitish tribes was his favorite storehouse for topics of argument and eloquence, and he named his children after the Christian graces, still oftener after the worthies of Palestine. . .The Puritan was a Scripturist, – a Scripturist with all his heart, if, as yet, with imperfect intelligence. . . He cherished the scheme of looking to the word of God as his sole and universal directory.

William Bradford commented on the unity and peace obtained by the Separatist Pilgrims in one of their early communities:

. . . such was the true piety, the humble zeal, and fervent love, of this people, whilst they thus lived together, towards God and His ways, and the single-heartedness and sincere affection of one towards another, that they came as near the primitive pattern of the first churches as any other church of these later times has done.

Likewise, the Nephites were continually warned that they must keep their covenants or the promises of the Lord would be taken from them. Being a chosen or covenant people alone does not qualify one for the Spirit of the Lord or the blessings of Heaven. It is not in being baptized, taking the sacrament, or attending the temple that we are blessed, but in keeping our baptismal covenant, taking the sacrament with a broken heart and contrite spirit and keeping temple covenants. We must watch that we do not become pharisaical in performing established rituals, but humbly live clean and active lives. Otherwise, we become as those from whom the Nephites and Pilgrims were separated. The Nephites were continually admonished that only the obedient eat the good of the land.

And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.

As with Lehi and Nephi, the Pilgrims and Puritans understood that many make covenants with the Lord, but in order to receive the Lord’s blessings, covenants made must be kept. Governor John Winthrop warned:

Thus stands the cause between God and us. We are entered into Covenant with Him for this work. . . . Now if the Lord shall please to hear us, and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath he ratified this covenant and sealed our Commission, and will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it; but if we shall neglect the observation of these articles . . . [and] shall fail to embrace this present world and prosecute our carnal intentions, seeking great things for ourselves and our posterity, the Lord will surely break out in wrath against us; be revenged of such a [sinful] people and make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.

As they lived and sacrificed for the Lord, the Lord covenanted with these American colonists a righteous posterity which has and will continue to include many of the faithful saints as well as the prophets and apostles of this last dispensation. They understood that they were preparing for a greater work that would come later:

. . . they cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.

Little did they realize the destiny of their posterity in restoring the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth and of its spread throughout the earth in fulfillment of the words of the ancient Apostles.

Anticipating a Restoration

The colonizers would read in the Old Testament and they would feel in their hearts that they were latter-day Israel, the new Israel. They knew what Moses and the prophets had written concerning the restoration of Israel and many of them knew that they were part of this restoration.

We find many interesting similarities between the Puritan churches and the gospel as restored by Joseph Smith. The societies are so close in so many ways that some have sought to discredit Joseph Smith, teaching that he stole the ideas rather than receiving revelation from God. But, on the contrary, the similarities prove that both were endowed with inspiration from the same source.

Notwithstanding their strengths, however, it is important to note that the early colonists and their covenants did not include ordinances with authority from God. They did not have the fullness of the Gospel, the priesthood nor a fully correct understanding of the nature of God. They did not have the true Church organization as it would later be revealed with apostles and prophets.  This must be kept extremely clear. However, some understood vaguely that there would be a greater restoration at a later time. The great separatist Roger Williams understood this and taught:

There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking.

Additionally, John Wesley, understanding that spiritual gifts were not optional in the true Church, stated later:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;...From this time they almost totally ceased;...The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens....This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left.

Much later, Thomas Jefferson taught repeatedly and plainly that the Church and doctrines that had been established by Jesus Christ had been changed by religious adherents that held more strongly to the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle than to the teachings of Christ.

I adhere to the principles of the first age,” he noted, “and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of His religion, having no foundation in what came from Him. . . .

Jefferson then looked to someone in the future to restore the true gospel:

Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologies of the middle and modern ages.

Without authority to minister in sacred matters these early forefathers were however blessed of the Lord with inspiration and promised blessings according to their faithfulness.

For example, the Lord himself has placed His stamp of approval on the faithfulness of the Puritan fathers who settled Salem Massachusetts. In recent years the history of these righteous founding settlers has been maligned. Revisionist historians have misrepresented the Puritan fathers focusing only on occurrences like the Salem Witch Trials. It is analogous to judging the entire history of Mormonism by the Mountain Meadows Massacre. 

In contrast, the Lord declared the “ancient inhabitants” and “founders” of Salem Massachusetts, the Puritans that are so often misrepresented, to be a “treasure . . . for the benefit of Zion.” Joseph Smith was commanded by the Lord to “inquire diligently concerning the more ancient inhabitants and founders of [Salem Massachusetts]” and that in due time He would gather out from the descendants of these worthy forebears a faithful seed that would be a benefit to Zion. (D&C 111:2-10)

Have we followed the counsel of the Lord and honored the Puritan founding of this Nation?  Have we sought the true history of these faithful founders? Throughout the For Our Day course, we are seeking to follow the lead of Nephi and the command of the Lord by exploring the history of those saintly colonizers that are mentioned implicitly or explicitly in scripture.

As a people, we have little realized the importance of the foundation laid by the Pilgrim Fathers on our present civilization and the restored gospel. Note that very few groups are mentioned specifically in scripture. Those that are recorded did not find their way into the account by accident. The Pilgrim and Puritan forefathers were shown to Nephi in vision and recorded in the Book of Mormon that we may know of their eminent importance.

Embark on the Journey

Monthly “I Am a Latter-day Nephite” Theme!

I will covenant to maintain our rights and our religion.

Remember: While you absolutely may do every activity suggested if you would like, it is certainly not needed, nor are you limited by the ideas given here. Choose one or more that will work with your learning style, available time, or the group that you are working with. Even if you are an adult, don’t hesitate to choose an activity originally aimed at children—those can be the most fun!

Feel free to run with any other ideas that come to your mind! Allow the Lord to guide you in choosing the best activities for you. The ultimate goal is to engage with the material and become a “doer of the word.”

  • If this is your first week here, welcome! Please review our “Welcome & How to join the Quest” for some helpful information on how to use this resource. You may also want to check out the Embark on the Journey section of Lesson 1 for some activities that will be helpful in getting you started on this quest. In particular, you’ll want a journal, and perhaps the “I Am a Latter-day Nephite” resolution and a fun Book of Mormon reading chart. Just start where you are in the year—don’t feel like you have to backtrack and do every lesson, but grab these helpful tools and you’ll be good to go from here!
  • Listen to President Nelson teach about covenants and read “The Everlasting Covenant” article written by him. Reflect in your journal or discuss with your family the responsibilities and blessings of living in covenant with God.
  • Preparing for and receiving temple ordinances are a part of being in a covenant relationship with God. Because of the restoration of priesthood keys, in our day we are able to attend the temple and make additional covenants with God. If you have not received your endowment, here are some suggestions for study to learn more about it. If you have already received your endowment, you may appreciate becoming familiar with the resources that the church has available for those preparing as you assist in the work of salvation.
  • As described in this week’s lesson, the early colonists understood their identity as Israelites. We are of the same House of Israel and we receive blessings and gifts, both generally and individually, as a result of this heritage. Take time to really study your patriarchal blessing this week. For this activity, you can use either your own patriarchal blessing or one of your ancestor’s patriarchal blessings. Here are some suggestions on how to do this:
    • Make a copy that you can mark up. Highlight in pink anything that teaches about your divine identity and God’s opinion of you. Highlight in yellow any spiritual gifts that you have been given. Highlight in green any counsel that you are given. Highlight in blue your lineage in the House of Israel.
    • Make a list of key words and look up their definitions in a couple of different dictionaries (regular dictionary, 1828 dictionary, bible dictionary, etc.), then write out what you think that the Lord intends for you to understand from that term.
    • Write a letter back to God reflecting on your blessing. What would you tell Him or ask Him if you were talking to Him about it? Include in the letter any ways that you have already seen the blessing fulfilled.
  • If you have not yet received your patriarchal blessing, read or listen to “When to Receive Your Patriarchal Blessing,” by Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita and “Your Patriarchal Blessing – Inspired Direction from Heavenly Father,” by Elder Randall K. Bennett. Prayerfully consider whether or not it is time for you to receive your blessing. If it is, schedule an appointment with your Bishop this week.
  • This LDS Living article has some suggestions for parents to help their children prepare to receive their patriarchal blessing.
  • If you choose to download or purchase a designed cardstock version of the “I’m a Latter-day Nephite” resolution, you may want to post it where you will see it every day—on the fridge or your mirror, for example. Ponder on this month’s statement “I will covenant to maintain our rights and our religion.”
    • Discuss with your family or record in your journal what your rights are as a covenant child of God. What are the covenant blessings promised by God for those who are faithful? Where and when have you seen those blessings in your life?

Unless otherwise stated, reference to any products, services, hypertext link to third parties or other information by trade name, trademark, supplier or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement or sponsorship by us. They are for convenience only.

All Hands on Deck

  • Pray each morning this week for the Lord to give you an opportunity to share your thoughts on the Book of Mormon and/or what you’ve learned this week with someone.
  • Join the For Our Day community on social media for uplifting shareable content, ideas on how to implement For Our Day in your home and classes, and to connect with others on the journey. You can find us here: Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
  • Share on social media or with another individual what your covenants mean to you and how you have seen covenant blessings in your life. If you share on social media, remember to add #ForOurDay so we can find you!

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