In the October 2019 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the year before at a BYU Women’s Conference, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve introduced the phrase, “covenant belonging.” In doing so, he offered us a term that suggests much deeper meaning is embedded in the now-common phrase, “covenant path.” His messages about what covenant belonging might mean are absolutely beautiful and empowering.
Sensing this richness, Faith Journey Foundation board member and frequent guest on Latter-day Faith (and Mormon Matters previously) Mark Crego and LDF host Dan Wotherspoon came together for the discussion that is featured in this episode. In it, Mark takes us through the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in order to discern the nature of the Covenant that God made with Israel. Moving from Adam to Noah to Abraham and Moses, he demonstrates that although each figure’s covenant with God had different specifics, each still falls under the larger framework of Covenant (singular). This one Covenant is essentially that God will be our God, and we will always be His/Her/Their people. It’s a fundamental fact for every person on earth, and it is not a covenant of “works” but of “grace.” The Covenant undermines the typical quid pro quo understanding of most Latter-day Saints that suggests IF we keep our covenants (plural) THEN we will receive God’s blessing/approval/reward. The Covenant, instead, is not a transactional agreement. Through dynamic and excellent scriptural exegesis, Mark unpacks for us how the idea of God always considering Israel (and we are all Israel: all who wrestle with the Divine) as God’s own has been present all throughout the Biblical narrative, ultimately repeated in the teachings of, and made manifest in the flesh by, Jesus Christ. God longs for us to come closer and be more intimate with Divine life, magnifying our joys all along the way.
This episode’s discussion is an example of how scriptural and pastoral theology can serve to enrich and clarify our own sense of who we are, drawing into the notion of the Covenant all persons regardless of their religion or no-religion, and shows that is it not contingent upon where a person might be along his/her/their faith path. The episode will likely be one that you will want to listen to more than once. What it unfolds is a thrilling vision, and affirms to us the inspiration that Elder Gong received (through his study and wrestles) as absolutely worth hearing and considering.
Gerrit W. Gong, “Covenant Belonging,” October 2019 General Conference talk
Gerrit W. Gong, “The Miracle of Covenant Belonging,” BYU Women’s Conference, “Strengthening One Another in the Lord,” delivered 4 May 2018.
Mormon Matters Episodes (Dan Wotherspoon host) related to Covenants:
“The Covenant Path: Reflections and Extensions,” February 2019
“The Living Nature of Mormon Covenants,” 1 November,2018 (encore of earlier released show)
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