Question: I’m having difficulty sorting out which laws or terms of God’s covenants apply on different spiritual levels and how these covenants connect to one another. That includes the Ten Commandments, baptism, and temple covenants. Can you clarify?
Answer: Of three major covenants God made with his people and with individuals—the Sinai, Davidic, and Abrahamic Covenants—the Sinai Covenant is the most basic. Made with God’s people Israel as a nation, it is a collective covenant. Its terms are the basic principles of God’s law, which the Law of Moses foreshadowed. They include the Ten Commandments and what today constitutes the basic principles of the gospel. A conditional covenant, its blessings of land, offspring, and divine protection depend on whether God’s people keep the law of the covenant. And as no covenant God has made is temporary, the Sinai Covenant still operates to this day.
On a ladder of spiritual ascent, the Davidic Covenant follows next with an individual relationship God makes with kings or others who serve as proxy saviors of those to whom they minister. As the role of a king is to be “a protector” of others, on whom they “depend for safety” (2 Nephi 6:2), this is a spiritual function as well as a physical one. Under the law of the Davidic Covenant, when a person acts in the role of a king by answering for the transgressions of those to whom he ministers, God will protect them physically from a mortal threat. So long as he keeps God’s law and those to whom he ministers keep his law, God will protect them physically for his sake.
While keeping the basic principles of the gospel under the terms of the Sinai Covenant will get a person to a “saved” state—as when he receives a remission of sins—keeping the law or terms of the Davidic Covenant will get a person to an exalted state or degree of glory. Temple covenants, as originally worded, exemplify manifestations of the Davidic Covenant once they are perceived as such. As an individual covenant, the Davidic Covenant requires its candidate to pay the price of justice on behalf of others who are threatened physically. In that respect, he emulates Messiah, who paid the price of justice on behalf of humanity in order to obtain their spiritual salvation.
Next on the spiritual ladder, the law of the Abrahamic Covenant requires the sacrifice of one’s whole soul in the cause of Zion. Its terms, similarly intrinsic to temple covenants, are eloquently articulated by the prophet Joseph Smith in Lecture Six of the Lectures on Faith. While the Davidic Covenant constitutes a vehicle for attaining the status of God’s elect—also called “just men made perfect”—the Abrahamic Covenant is a pathway to godhood. Its blessing of posterity as numerous as the sands of the sea and stars of the heavens is an attribute of God himself. While many of its candidates are translated, others choose to wear out their lives in the mortal body.