According to the scriptures, a man must be “born again,” or baptized, to “see the kingdom of God” (Matt. 3:3; see AOF 1:4). In the Book of Mormon, this event is likened to a gate that represents the beginning of a path (see 2 Ne. 31:17 – 19). This path, which started with an ordinance, is one of continuing and increasing ordinances.
Jesus taught that certain states of mind and heart would distinguish those favored by God from the rest of the world when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…. [And] blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5: 3, 5). But, with so many “pure in heart” in the world today who “know not where to find [the truth]” declaring loudly from their pulpits “lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there” (D&C 123:12; Mark 13:21), the Lord has had to mercifully add in our day a particular stipulation to help us determine who is truly accepted of God and is not merely on of those many who are “blinded by the subtle craftiness of men” or the devil (D&C 123:12):
“And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances. He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances” (D&C 52:14 – 16, emphasis added).
The point is that without the ordinances to obey, the world cannot be truly blessed. Yet the blessing of the world was exactly the promise made to Abraham and his descendants:
“And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).
Did God have in mind to bless the earth by the mere charisma of Abraham’s blood lines? No, for he has according to the scriptures had no other course in mind but the administration of his ordinances, which Abraham’s seed was to administer to the residue of the earth. The Abrahamic covenant, so called, is actually only an extension of covenants made to Abraham’s forbearers to their lineage, providing for a continuance of priesthood heirship down through the generations:
“And God made a covenant with Noah and said, This shall be the token of the covenant I make between me and you, and for every living creature with you, for perpetual generations: I will set my bow in the cloud; and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth…. And I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch, that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch, which I have caught up unto myself…that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth and look upward, then shall Zion look downward…” (Gen. 9:18 – 19, 21 – 22, JST, emphasis added).
This shows that certain lineages are only established to be holders of the priesthood for the valid administration of the ordinances to the nations of the earth. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Jacob illustrated this point through an allegory of the prophet Zenos that compared different lineages or to different kinds of olive trees, which overtime are scattered around the vineyard, or in other words, around the world (see Jacob 5). Parley P. Pratt observed that the fulfillment of the covenants made to the fathers—Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.—are today fulfilled in people belonging to or adopted into the House of Israel, which is the family of Abraham:
“Knowing of the covenants and promises made to the fathers, as I now know them, and the rights of heirship to the Priesthood, as manifested in the election of God, I would never receive any man as an Apostle or a Priest, holding the keys of restoration, to bless the nations, while he claimed to be of any other lineage than Israel….
“Those who are not of this lineage, whether they are Gentiles, Edomites, or Ishmaelites, or of whatever nation, have a right to remission of sins and the Gift of the Holy Spirit, through their ministry, on conditions of faith, repentance, and baptism, in the name of Jesus Christ. Through this Gospel they are adopted into the same family, and are counted for the seed of Abraham; they can then receive a portion of this ministry under those (literal descendants) who hold the presiding keys of the same” (JOD 1:262).
In Abraham’s day, before his inheritance and re-establishment of the priesthood covenant to him and his seed, he observed how that unauthorized lineages were attempting to administer ordinances that only belonged to the priesthood. Specifically mentioning the Egyptians he said:
“Now this king of Egypt [Pharaoh] was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land….
“Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry” (Abr. 1:21 –22, 26 – 27).
What did Abraham do in the face of this problem? His heart turned to the covenants of his fathers (Enoch and Noah):
“And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers” (Ibid. v. 2).
Abraham knew that in his day the power of ordinances could only have effect in the presence of rightful priesthood ordination. Today it is the same. Indeed, without the proper authority and lineages preserved and in place—established by covenant from the days of the patriarchs down to the days of us, their children—not only would all families of the earth not be blessed but the whole world would be utterly wasted at Christ’s coming:
“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming” (D&C 2:1 – 3, emphasis added).