I recently taught a lesson from the Gospel Principles manual, Chapter 15: The Lord's Covenant People (available at LDS.org at Gospel Library >> Church Publications >> Curriculum >> Home and Family). It began with discussion of Deuteronomy 26:18. Here it is in context (Deut. 26:16-19):
16 This day the LORD thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.What is expressed here is a key ancient covenant concept. The Lord seeks to make people his "peculiar" (personal, proprietary) people by having them enter into a two-way covenant. They promise to keep His commandment, and the Lord in return offers great promises. It's a simple concept but with great depth. The concept of becoming the Lord's people in a covenant relationship also invokes the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 17, in which the blessings of the Lord's covenant are provided through the seed of Abraham.
17 Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice:
18 And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that [thou] shouldest keep all his commandments;
19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.
Having unwisely put little time into preparing for this lesson, I quickly thought of a couple related passages from the LDS scriptures about covenants. The first two that came to my mind were the ones I used: Mosiah 18, regarding the covenant of baptism, and Doctrine and Covenants 84, where the oath and covenant of the priesthood is discussed. As we read them in class, I was suddenly struck with how well they resonated with the ancient Jewish covenant paradigm in Deut. 26. Here's the passage from Mosiah 18:
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;They covenant to serve one another and keep the Lord's commandments and witness this through baptism in order to "be called his people" and have the blessings of His spirit poured out upon them.
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life --
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
Now consider Doctrine and Covenants 84:
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.Here we see covenant making and keeping that helps people become "the sons of Moses" and "the seed of Abraham." This refers to becoming the covenant people of the Lord, his "peculiar" people, through keeping His commandments and thereby qualifying for the incredible gifts He offers to us in that covenant relationship.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father's kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
The ancient themes of covenant making and becoming the Lord's people are present in force in modern LDS scriptures, while such themes have become diluted in the modern era. The restoration of covenant paradigms and covenant-based ordinances is a key part of the Restoration, for which I'm most grateful.
For related information, see my page, Latter-day Saints and the Covenant Framework of the Gospel: An Ancient Perspective Restored. It ompares the solid covenant-based theology of the restored Church of Jesus Christ with that of early Christianity and Judaism.