The children of Israel, in the time of Moses, clung to the manna, water and meat rather than receiving the covenant of Christ. Even after Moses was taken, Israel was given ordinances to offer the original covenant. But Israel coveted the emblems more than the covenant, because the emblems represented power among men. Despite the massive gap of time between us and the ancient children of Israel, we, like them, cling to emblems, while forfeiting the grand covenant being offered- Christ. We are still under condemnation for not receiving that gift, and for looking beyond the mark. The gift and the mark is the covenant of Christ.
Moses tried sanctifying the children of Israel, to bring them into the presence of Christ, to offer them the promises made to the Fathers (an everlasting covenant- D&C 84:23-25). This covenant was (and still is) both the greatest of God’s gifts, and the mark that the children of Israel failed to see, and looked beyond. They refused to be sanctified, and they wanted Moses to represent them in the presence of Christ. The children of Israel were cursed to roam the wilderness for forty years because they wanted a representative, …and they rejected the covenant to enter in themselves.
While in the wilderness, Israel complained because they were hungry, thirsty, and wanted a variety of food (because of taste fatigue). God heard their whining. Rather than only providing them with temporal satisfaction (not in accord with the Laws of heaven), He instead offers them their temporal needs, within an invitation for Israel to receive the covenant Moses tried to give them initially.
The Lord gave them manna for bread, water for their thirst, and quail meat for their taste fatigue. Each of these gifts to the Israelites are symbolically an offering of the original covenant (that they rejected). “Christ” is what was being offered. Christ is:
- the bread of life,
- the living waters,
- and the meat of which if they eat they would never hunger.
The children of Israel were being constantly offered the covenant of Christ. Sadly, the Israelites were blind to the covenant, and could only see, or focus their sights, on the emblems as the only thing of value. They were blind to the continuous offering of the covenant of Christ. Therefore they, like all who reject the covenant, suffered condemnation.
Before Moses left Israel, he gave them temple ordinances (also called Mysteries), so that Israel could once again be offered the original covenant of returning to the presence of the Lord (by receiving the covenant in the temple). Ministering angels were promised to guide the Israelites through the process of returning through the ordinances Moses left them. However, Instead of seeking ministering angels and receiving the covenant of the temple, the israelites defiled the offering of the covenant from God by:
- polluting the temples,
- coveting the office of high priest,
- and reduced the temple, ordinances, emblems and the office of high priest to exercising control over the people.
Religious position/office turned into political power (just like King Noah, in Mosiah 11). Eventually, the apostasy of the Israelites were sealed, as the original covenant was completely rejected, …just as in all apostasies. In the apostasy, the emblems themselves represented power, and became hollow and idle, having no connection to the covenant. They drew near with their lips, but their hearts were foreigners to the covenant. They failed to be circumcised (symbolic of a the covenant) of heart.
Alma offers a warning that those who receive more and more of the words of Christ, will be given more and more light, until they know all the mysteries of God in full. The words of Christ will lead its receiver to the original covenant with Christ. But if they cannot receive the words of Christ, they receive less and less light, until they know nothing of the mysteries of God. At this point the emblems alone are seen as power, but they are empty (void of the covenant). And Alma calls this condition, “the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:10-11) Those who are chained to hell have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.
We are instructed to liken the scriptures to ourselves. Are we forfeiting a covenant, in exchange for empty emblems? When we protect temples, churches, tithes, storehouses, garments, ritualistic clothing, offices, and manuals, but reject the truths that bring us into the presence of Christ, are we doing as the ancient Israelites? The emblems of the temple have no value as emblems alone. They are trying to tell you something about the covenant. The emblems do not offer the covenant themselves.
The covenant can only be offered by the literal voice of the Lord (the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood D&C 84). It is not given to us by the figurehead voice of the Lord. Men holding offices can only give an ordination (only an invitation), they cannot seal it up unto you. That is the duty of the Holy Spirit of Promise, which is Christ Himself (D&C 76:53). Christ alone is the one at the vale, He hires no servant there (2 Nephi 9:40-41). The covenant cannot be given via our administrative offices. Christ requires a personal, one-on-one, interaction. That’s what prophets do, introduce you to the covenant so that you too can come into the presence of Christ. They are not guards that represent you in His presence, like the children of Israel expected Moses to do. Christ was never intended to just be experienced “in your hearts.” Joseph Smith says, “that idea is an old sectarian notion, and is false.”
If we try to consume the emblems, disregarding the covenant being offered, then we are like the foolish children of Israel. But, if we are seekers of the covenant, then we must understand covenant language, and pray to know the mind and will of God concerning the scriptures. Only as the scriptures are written upon your heart can the covenant be lifted out of the emblems to be laid hold upon by you.
Joseph Smith, like Moses, left temple ordinances so that we too can receive the covenant offered the original saints in Nauvoo (which they rejected- D&C 124). Since the ordinances were intended to offer that covenant, it was not supposed to ever change. However, we have changed them to fit in with the demands and comforts of this world. We have reduced them to fit into our modern culture. The more the ordinances change, less and less of the covenant remains, until we, like the children of Israel, are only left with emblems, knowing nothing of the mysteries of God. When the ordinances are only viewed as symbolic emblems that house salvation, we too have rejected the fullness of the gospel of Christ, thus fulfilling the end of the day of the gentiles, as prophesied.
Conclusion: Let us not forfeit the covenant for empty emblems. Christ can make emblems out of practically anything. Lets search the mind and will of God, written in the words of Christ, so that we can be familiar with covenant language, so that we can be sanctified and be redeemed from the fall, by entering into the presence of Christ (Ether 3:13-15). In this way the emblems we have, can and will snatch for us our promise of eternal life. That is what produces hope through all difficulties. That is what gives us the ability to endure all things. That is our ticket into Zion. Feast upon the words of Christ, talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ. Then you too will know to what source you may look for a remission of your sins.