Monte S. Nyman, “The Covenant of Abraham,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 155–70.
Monte S. Nyman was an associate dean of Religious Education and professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.
The building of the Kirtland Temple was the capstone of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter-days. The Lord appeared and accepted the temple as his house, and several other personages appeared, conferring their keys upon the heads of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the first and second elders (D&C 20:2–3) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 110). One of those personages was Elias,  who “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed” (D&C 110:12). In 1831, the Lord had revealed to Joseph Smith that he was of the seed of Abraham (D&C 132:30–31). Nearly five years after Elias appeared, 19 January 1841, the Lord reminded the members of the Church that “. . . as I said unto Abraham concerning the kindreds of the earth, even so I say unto my servant Joseph: In thee and in thy seed shall the kindred of the earth be blessed” (D&C 124:58). Thus the covenant made anciently with Abraham was reinstated on 3 April 1836, at the dedication of the Kirtland temple. Joseph Smith was to be the instrument in the hands of the Lord to bring about the promises made to the posterity of Abraham. A careful study of the covenant made to Abraham, as recorded in the Bible and in the Pearl of Great Price, and a careful study of the biblical record will show that the promises made unto Abraham were not completely fulfilled in the days of Abraham nor since that time. Although Paul and others offered the blessings of Abraham to the Jews and the Gentiles (Gal. 3:6–14), it was short-lived due to apostasy. The covenant was to be fulfilled completely in these last days, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
An analysis of God’s covenant with Abraham will bring everyone, and especially the Church members, to a greater awareness of the blessings to be enjoyed through becoming faithful to that covenant and thus receiving Abraham as their father.
Why did God make a covenant with Abraham? This question can best be answered by understanding the life and character of Abraham. Like others whom God chose to begin a new work among the children of men, Abraham was born into an apostate environment where heathen gods were being worshipped and the people’s “hearts were set to do evil” (Abr. 1:5–6). Inspite of growing up in this environment, Abraham followed after righteousness and sought the priesthood to which he was a rightful heir. Obtaining the priesthood, he further sought to magnify it by calling his associates to repentance; but rather than repent, he said that they, in the typical apostate fashion, “endeavored to take away my life” (Abr. 1:5–7 and 12–15; see also vv. 1–4). In accordance with the Lord’s principle of leading the righteous out from among the wicked into precious lands (1 Nephi 17:35–38), Abraham was commanded to leave his father’s house and all his kinsfolk and to journey to a strange land being led by the hand of the Lord (Abr. 1:16–18). Exercising faith, Abraham responded to the command (Heb. 11:8–10).
After a temporary stay in a land which they named Haran, Abraham’s group, minus his father who had come with him but had turned again to idolatry (Abr. 2:4–5), was commanded by the Lord to journey on to another strange land. It was in Haran that God covenanted with Abraham that he had passed his preliminary tests of mortality by his willingness to “do all things whatsoever the Lord [his] God shall command [him]” (Abr. 3:25). Therefore, in revealing to Abraham the blessings of the covenant in store for him, the Lord announced that “My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee” (Abr. 2:7–8). Abraham’s blessing was further based upon the Lord’s knowledge of his character and attributes which he had developed in the premortal life. The Lord later informed Abraham that he was one of the noble and great ones chosen before the earth was organized to become one of the Lord’s rulers upon the earth (Abr. 3:22–23). He verified still later, that he knew Abraham would command his children to keep the way of the Lord and that he knew his children would do as Abraham had commanded them (Gen. 18:17–19). Thus the Lord was able to covenant with Abraham both regarding his life and also his posterity.
The covenant with Abraham pertained to his children collectively as well as individually. Collectively his children will fulfill those parts of the covenant applicable to them. Individually, each person must pass his/
The first promise to Abraham was that God would make of him a great nation (Gen. 12:2; Abr. 2:9). This promise was not fulfilled in Abraham’s day. Although he was influential and powerful, Abraham never established a great nation or occupied the territory from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:18; see also Gen. 13:15–16). He was so far from that that he even had to bargain for a burial place in the land which the Lord had given him (Gen. 23:3–20). Although this was natural for a semi-nomad chieftain, it demonstrates that the promise was not fulfilled with Abraham. Neither has it been fully realized since the death of Abraham. While his posterity has occupied various parts of the land periodically, they have never united under one head to become a great nation.
The ancient prophets foresaw the time that the covenant would be fulfilled. The Prophet Isaiah prophesied repeatedly of its fulfillment. Those prophecies were always in the context of the promise of a remnant of Israel’s being restored in the latter days. Isaiah 10:20–22 speaks of a remnant of Israel no longer staying or depending upon those who smote them (the Gentiles), but instead depending upon the Lord, and assures the reader that, although the house of Israel is as numberless as the sands of the sea, yet, a remnant of them shall return. The remnant who return “shall overflow with righteousness” and are admonished to not be afraid of the Assyrian (a symbolic term for the Gentiles) for the Lord will take away from Israel the burden and the yoke of the Gentile. All of this will come to pass, says Isaiah, “because of the anointing” (Isaiah 10:23–27). The anointing, as I interpret it, is the covenant conferred upon the head of Abraham. The eleventh chapter of Isaiah, which the angel Moroni told Joseph Smith “was about to be fulfilled” (JS—H 1:40), is an explanation of how that covenant would be brought to pass. Joseph Smith would have power laid upon him to translate the Book of Mormon (Isaiah 11:1–5 and D&C 113:1–4), and to recover the house of Israel and restore them to the lands promised to Abraham (Isaiah 11:10–16; 19:23–25; 27:12–13; and D&C 113:5–6). Micah concluded his writings with a description of the latter day restoration from Assyria “. . . even to the river . . , “ and witnessed that God “wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old” (Micah 7:11–12, 19–20).
From the Book of Mormon we learn that the Covenant of Abraham will not be fulfilled until Old Jerusalem is built up a holy city to the Lord by those who “were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham” (Ether 13:11). Other parts of Abraham’s covenant are also confirmed in the Book of Mormon.
The Doctrine and Covenants also confirms that the covenant will be fulfilled in these last days. In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland temple, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith and the Church that the redemption of Jerusalem would be in fulfillment of the covenant of “the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father” (D&C 109:62–64). The Lord has said that the army of Israel (Abraham’s descendants) must become great before the New Jerusalem in Jackson County, Missouri is established (D&C 105:31–34). The army of Israel is not, in fact, a military army but is one that is armed with righteousness and the power of God (see D&C 105:31–32; 1 Nephi 14:14). The first verse of the song to be sung when Zion or the New Jerusalem is established, reads:
The Lord hath brought again Zion;
The Lord hath redeemed his people Israel,
According to the election of grace,
Which was brought to pass by the faith
And covenant of their fathers (D&C 84:99).
All of these conditions are based upon the original promise given to Abraham: “I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice” (Abr. 2:6).
The second promise to Abraham was that the Lord would bless him “above measure” (Abr. 2:9). This is certainly illustrated in the book of Genesis as the Lord personally dealt with Abraham through his trials and sojourns. However, the full realization of this promise includes much more than blessings in Abraham’s personal life. “Above measure” suggests Abraham was to be blessed more than usual: “I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered” (Gen. 13:16; cf. Abr. 3:14). Another reference to that blessing notes: “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). To Jacob, who received Abraham’s birthright and thus a continuation of his blessing, the Lord promised that his seed would be “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude” (Gen. 32:12). All three of these promises pertain to the vast numbers of Abraham’s seed. The temporal fulfill merit of this promise is readily shown in the number of descendants of Abraham.
The vast population of the Arab, Moslem and Jewish world, which claim to be descendants of Abraham, number more than one hundred million. When one adds to that figure, the deceased ancestors, and the estimated future posterities of those groups, plus other descendants of Abraham such as the past, present and future members of the Nephite-Lamanite cultures, the lost ten tribes, and the Latter-day Saints, he sees what the Lord meant by the blessing of an innumerable and unmeasurable posterity.
Being spiritually blessed “above measure” is even more impressive. Abraham was promised that Christ would be born through his lineage (Gal. 3:16). Such an honor is certainly unmeasurable. Through the Covenant of Abraham, he and his descendants are promised the blessings of the everlasting gospel through baptism in the Lord’s Church,  the blessings of the priesthood, both Melchizedek and Patriarchal, the blessings of celestial or eternal marriage, an extension of the Patriarchal Priesthood, and the blessing of personally dwelling in the presence of our Father in Heaven in eternal life.
Through the waters of baptism, we enter into the everlasting covenant of the gospel and become members of Christ’s church on earth and “heirs according to the covenant” (D&C 52:2). An heir is someone who inherits certain blessings when he or she meets the stipulated conditions. In the gospel context, it is a promise of one day becoming a member of the heavenly church, “the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 76:54). Thus, the blessings of the association with honest and good people in the Church will be extended to an eternal association.
Through the oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood, those who magnify their calling “become . . . the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God” (D&C 84:33–34). They are further promised that if they are faithful they will not be deceived by the “false Christs, and false prophets, and . . . great signs and wonders” of the last days (JS—M 1:22). They are further promised that “all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:38).
Through the Patriarchal Priesthood, the generations are sealed together with “a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories . . . from the days of Adam even to the present time” (D&C 128:18). This blessing and sealing power was restored to the earth by Elijah as promised by the prophet Malachi to precede the great and dreadful day of the Lord (D&C 110:13–16; Mai. 4:5–6). It will be a great blessing to those who keep their covenants, a dreadful day to those who do not.
Through the sealing power of the Patriarchal Priesthood, we enter into the law of eternal marriage, the continuation of the family unit in the highest degree of the celestial glory. This enables a husband and wife to have eternal increase (D&C 131:1–4). Joseph Smith was promised this because he was of the seed of Abraham. Through Joseph and others, the descendants of Abraham would become “as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them” (D&C 132:30–31). This blessing is extended to all through the covenant of Abraham.
All of these blessings will be a part of the blessing of eternal life with our Heavenly Father if we enter into and keep the covenants of Abraham. Who can measure the value of such blessings? They are eternal and “above measure” by any earthly standard.
The third promise to Abraham was that the Lord would “make thy name great among all nations” (Abr. 2:9). Abraham was promised that he would be a father of many nations or a multitude of nations. The Lord also changed his name from Abram to Abraham which literally means “Father of a great multitude” (see Gen. 17:3–5) and suggests eternal multitudes or nations.
The name Abraham is revered among Moslems, Jews, and Christians, and should be even more honored among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These church members are now the recipients of the blessings which God extended to this great patriarch because of his unshaken faith and devotion. While Moslems, Jews and Christians cite the great promises made during Abraham’s lifetime, they do not fully understand and therefore do not appreciate those promises God gave him concerning his posterity and the future.
While the Moslems and Jews look to his great name and to him as the father of their nations, and the Christians and some other world religions also regard him as a great prophet and patriarch, many other nations have not even heard his name or do not show any special regard for it. The everlasting gospel which will be taken to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people through the Book of Mormon, which will bring all of these people to an awareness of his name and to a greater knowledge and greater blessings. As they accept the gospel and understand Abraham’s covenant, they will come to appreciate his name. Hence this part of the promise also remains to be fulfilled.
The fourth promise to Abraham pertained only to the future, but because it is being fulfilled today it should be of the utmost interest to those who are fulfilling it by accepting the restored gospel. The promise was that Abraham would “be a blessing” to his posterity in the sense “that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations” (Abr. 2:9). To “bear this ministry and Priesthood” is to take up the responsibility of preaching the gospel, to administer the priesthood ordinances therein, and to bless the posterity of the saints. All this is accomplished through the Melchizedek Priesthood. Abraham received the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God from Melchizedek himself (D&C 84:14; see also TPJS 322–23). Melchizedek was such a great high priest that the church in ancient days called that priesthood after his name to avoid the too frequent repetition of the name of the Supreme Being (D&C 107:1–4). This priesthood “holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (TPJS 323). The posterity of Abraham was also to receive this priesthood, and some have received it. In an 1832 revelation, the Lord confirmed to the priesthood holders of this dispensation that “the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers—For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God” (D&C 86:8–9; emphasis added). Since these priesthood holders have been gathered out from the Gentiles, may I suggest that they had been hidden away among the Gentiles, their whereabouts known only unto God. They had been saved in heaven for this last dispensation, awaiting the restoration before they were assigned to come to earth. Something being hidden in heaven is a very common theme in Early Christian and Jewish literature. This priesthood was given to these men that they might become “savior[s] unto my people Israel” (D&C 86:10–11). Thus the promise that Abraham’s seed would bear the Melchizedek Priesthood has been, is being, and will continue to be fulfilled “until the restoration of all things” (D&C 86:10).
Abraham also sought for the priesthood of the “fathers concerning the seed” or the Patriarchal Priesthood (Abr. 1:2–4). This priesthood was also given unto him (Abr. 1:16–19) and “rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made” (D&C 107:40). This priesthood, which is a part of the Melchizedek, has two main functions. One function is the sealing together of families through patriarchal lineage and is obtained through the temple ordinances (TPJS 308, 322–23). The second function is shown through the Prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings:
An Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints, as it was with Jacob in giving his patriarchal blessing unto his sons, etc. (TPJS 151).
Today the Church has been established, temples have been built, and patriarchs have been ordained to carry out those priesthood blessings promised to Abraham’s seed in this dispensation.
While there are many literal descendants who would be blessed by Abraham, the Lord extended this fourth promise to others, “. . . for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed” (Abr. 2:10). This is the principle of adoption and was taught by the Savior and John the Baptist to the pious Jews. He warned the Jews, who claimed Abraham as their father, that they may be hewn down or have their posterity cut off and not be counted as Abraham’s seed unless they lived up to the promises. Birthright without liferight is empty because “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9–10). The Prophet Joseph Smith identified the stones referred to therein as Gentiles (TPJS 319). Thus, those who accept the gospel and join the Church who are not literal seed of Abraham are adopted as his seed. However, most of those who accept the gospel are of the literal seed of Abraham as was promised him (Abr. 2:11). The Lord has declared that the Gentiles in general will not receive the gospel (D&C 45:28–29; see also TPJS 15). The Savior taught, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His sheep are the children of Israel, who, according to Moses, were determined in the premortal life or were numbered when the most High “separated the sons of Adam” (Deut. 32:7–8). These people who have the blood of Israel in their veins will respond to the gospel when they hear it. The patriarchal blessings to members of the Church confirm this lineage as they are pronounced to be of the blood or lineage of Abraham through one of Israel’s sons.
Through Abraham’s seed, literal or adopted, all the families of the earth are to be blessed (Abr. 2:11). These blessings have come in various ways. The first was in a preparatory way. As the Savior foretold, the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Gentiles, making them a mighty people, unto the scattering of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 20:27–28). The Gentile nations became the mighty nations of the world and literally scattered the house of Israel both in Europe and in America. Following this preparation, the Lord restored the gospel among the Gentiles through that literal seed of Abraham who had been preserved among them. He affirmed this lineage in modern revelation: “For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham” (D&C 103:17). He also declared to Joseph Smith that his work was as Abraham’s, to bless the kindred of the earth (see D&C 124:58). Through receiving and living the gospel, all the families of the earth will eventually have “the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abr. 2:11). Those who “lay hold upon the word of God” and live the gospel as Abraham did are promised exaltation with him (see Hel. 3:29–30). Because Abraham did nothing other than that which the Lord commanded him, he has “entered into his exaltation” (D&C 132:29). The Lord refers to the abode of the righteous as Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22). Joseph Smith was given the promise of exaltation with Abraham (D&C 132:49).
The four general promises that the Lord made to Abraham, were to be his only if he endured the tests of mortality, no small thing.
Though Abraham had been promised a multitude of nations through his loins, at the age of 99 he had no seed and his 89-year-old wife Sarah was beyond child bearing. Yet, the Lord had promised him the blessing of a son through Sarah, who would become a mother of nations (Gen. 17:15–22). As Paul recounts:
Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. . . . And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3, 19–22; see also Heb. 11:11).
Their faith was rewarded and a son, Isaac, was born to them in their late years. This miraculous birth was a similitude of the Savior’s miraculous birth, just as subsequent incidents of Abraham’s life were in similitude of God’s Only Begotten Son.
Before Isaac married and could begin to fulfill the promises given, Abraham was put to another great test: he was commanded to sacrifice his son of the promise upon the altar (Gen. 22:1–2). What a trial he must have faced in that command; yet he went forth in the faith “that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” (Heb. 11:19). Of course, God was teaching Abraham and us a great lesson in this offering which was “a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (Jacob 4:5). But seeing Abraham’s determination to do as he had been commanded, the Lord made a way for his escape, and delivered Isaac back to his father. Through his faithfulness to the Lord, Abraham reserved for himself the promised blessings.
Abraham was further tested as he was shown a vision of the future in which he saw that his descendants would require repeated restorations of the gospel because of subsequent apostasies (Heb. 11:13). He was promised by the Lord in one of those periods of apostasy that his children would be the recipients of these restorations, and he established the Covenant of Circumcision with Abraham as a token that the children born in future generations would not be accountable before the Lord until they were eight years old (JST Gen. 17:1–11). During those periods of apostasy, it was still the promises of Abraham which the prophets held out to the people. For example, Isaiah held out the hope of Abraham and Sarah to those future Israelites who would “follow after righteousness” (Isaiah 51:1–2). The Savior challenged the claim of the apostate Jews that they were Abraham’s seed by saying, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). Abraham saw the coming of the Savior and rejoiced (Hel. 8:17; John 8:56); he looked to the overall plan of God and accepted by faith the final restoration and blessings commensurate with it.
With this latter-day final restoration, the Lord has reestablished the Covenant of Abraham. He has counted the members of the Church as the seed of Abraham (D&C 103:17) and promised that Abraham’s blessings are to continue through Joseph Smith and the restoration because Joseph was the fruit of Abraham’s loins (D&C 132:30–31). But just as Paul reminded the Romans that “. . . they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6), the Lord has reminded the members of the Church that “. . . the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out” (D&C 64:36). Mere membership in the Church will not bring the blessings of Abraham. Just as the Savior warned that many would sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob instead of the children of the kingdom (Matthew 8:11–12; Luke 13:24–30), so today many will replace the unfaithful Church members in receiving the blessings of Abraham. To prove that they are the true seed of Abraham, the Lord has said that the members of the Church “must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son” (D&C 101:4). The Prophet Joseph Smith enlarged on this concept:
The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned (TPJS 322).
Abraham is our example to follow in passing the tests in mortality. The Lord said that “Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne” (D&C 132: 29). Therefore, we must likewise receive all things by revelation. Joseph Smith, as the fruit of Abraham’s loins, was commanded to enter into the law of Abraham whereby his seed was to continue out of the world (D&C 132:30–33). This law was the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. Failure to abide this law would bring damnation or an end to progression (D&C 132:3–4). Thus members of the Church today must enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage or they will lose their exaltation in the bosom of Abraham. Joseph Smith was further commanded to enter into plural marriage as God had commanded Abraham to do regarding Hagar and others (D&C 132:34–35, 37, 65). The purpose of this law as revealed in the Book of Mormon was to raise up seed unto the Lord (Jacob 2:30). The Lord has commanded that that law not be lived at the present time, and members of the Church who do so will lose their identity as Abraham’s seed. This is the principle of continuous revelation, a principle lived by Abraham.
Abraham was commanded to offer up Isaac in spite of the written law of the Lord, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13). Because Abraham hearkened to this commandment “it was accounted unto him for righteousness” (D&C 132:36). Church members today must learn to live by revelation; and while they may never be commanded to act contrary to the written law of the Lord, they must learn that faith unto salvation is to know that the course which they pursue is the will of the Lord (Lectures on Faith 3:2–5). They must receive all things by revelation and commandment of the Lord as did Abraham. As Paul taught the Galatians, “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:9). Paul also taught the Galatians through an allegory of Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, that those who were born after the Spirit were the children of the promise of Abraham and those who were born after the flesh were not (Gal. 3:22–31). Thus members of the Church must be born of the Spirit to become Abraham’s children and receive his blessings. The concept of developing spiritual lineage rather than relying only on physical lineage was what the Savior was trying to teach the Jews (John 8:31–59).
As the Savior informed the apostate Jews that the children of Abraham would do the works of Abraham and as the Apostle James taught that Abraham was justified by works as well as faith (James 2:21–24), the members of the Church must keep the commandments and justify their heritage of Abraham by the works they do. Those who do the works of Abraham will be loved and blessed by God. In Nephi’s words:
And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt (1 Nephi 17:40).
Although Abraham had great promises extended to him, he had to earn those blessings by obedience to all that the Lord commanded him. We have those same great promises extended to us, and we must earn those blessings by our obedience to all that the Lord commands us. We must do what the Lord commands, when he commands! As Abraham has become the father of the faithful, may we become the faithful children of father Abraham according to that promise.
Book of Jasher. Salt Lake City: J. H. Parry, 1887.
Lundwall, N. B., comp. Lectures on Faith. Salt Lake City: Lundwall, 1940.
Smith, Joseph Fielding. “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer.” Improvement Era 63 (June 1960): 401–402; also in Conference Report (April 1960), 71–73.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Comp. Joseph Fielding Smith. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974.
 According to President Joseph Fielding Smith, this personage was Noah. “Elias came and restored the gospel of Abraham. Who was Elias? That question is frequently asked. Well, Elias was Noah, who came and restored his keys” (402). This identification of Elias as Noah is supported by a correlative of Luke 1:17–19, where the angel who appeared to Zacharias introduced himself as Gabriel; of D&C 27:6–7, where Elias is identified as the personage who visited Zacharias; and where the Prophet Joseph Smith states that Noah is Gabriel (TPJS 157). Furthermore, Elias held “the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things” (D&C 27:6). This was the mission of Noah following the flood (Gen. 9:1). Noah’s tie with Abraham would possibly be that Abraham’s life overlapped the life of Noah, and the covenant with Abraham was an extension of Noah’s mission to restore all things (Lectures on Faith 2:52). The Book of Jasher, for what it’s worth, teaches that Noah raised Abram for thirty-nine years (9:5–6).
 Some have supposed that circumcision was the entrance into the Abrahamic Covenant instead of baptism. While circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, it was performed at eight days of age as symbolic of the child’s becoming accountable at eight years of age (JST Genesis 17:11–12). In the words of Joseph Smith, “Circumcision is not baptism, neither was baptism instituted in the place of circumcision. Baptism is for remission of sins. Children have no sins” (TPJS 314).