“…Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.” -1 Nephi 4:14
God has always made covenants with His people. He promises his blessings of prosperity to those who enter into this covenant with Him, and who obey Him. We learn that this is the case all the way back to the beginning of life on this earth. When Adam and Eve were cast out, they covenanted with the Lord to do his will, and obey him. In return, the Lord would bless them.
Abraham, Moses, Noah, and on and on and on, all were part of this covenant people. In the Old Testament we learn about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob (later known as Israel) has 12 sons, known now as the 12 tribes of Israel. Joseph, who is one of his sons carried on this special covenant. We get a hint of what happens to his special lineage in Genesis..
“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall…..Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: (Genesis 49:22,25)
When Lehi sent Nephi back for the plates of brass in Jerusalem, it was partly because they contained a genealogy for their family. Upon obtaining them, they learned that they were descendants from this very same Joseph. Those words in Genesis have a more literal meaning now right? As Lehi and Nephi were lead to their “promised land” they were, in essence, “running over the wall”. They also took in themselves them the lineage of the Abrahamic covenant and the promised blessings.
We also learn that the Land itself, this “Promised Land”, is a part of this Covenant. The Prophets Lehi, and Nephi, as well as all subsequent prophets of the Americas hammered on this like a drum. They had been led to, and given a promised land, and instructed that: “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” (2 Nephi 1:20).
So, how did the people on the American continent do? They did fine when they were keeping God’s commandments, but as soon as they slacked off, they were toast. It happened over and over again, the Jaradites? Toast. The Nephites? Toast. All because they couldn’t keep their end of the bargain. The Lord will bless those who follow Him, but eventually destroy those who do not.
So, lets fast forward a little bit. Its now 1776, and there are a bunch of new guys living on this “promised land”. They were guided here by inspiration (1 Nephi 13:12), and started to grow as a people. they were a righteous God-fearing people. And by living the commandments, and turning to God, they invoked the blessings of the land of promise. This people, who were severely outgunned, outmanned, and outmatched, were victorious in their fight for independence and liberty principally because they were righteous, and God had blessed them according to the covenant that lay upon the land.
Lets now fast forward to about 1844, the year Joseph Smith was martyred. Evil was flourishing. The saints were being slaughtered, illegally imprisoned, God’s temples were being burned, and slavery was rampant in the south. The land of the covenant needed a cleansing. The people as a whole had turned from God and chosen not to obey his commandments. And, by so doing, would soon be “cut off from His presence.”
The official cleansing process of the promised land would begin not even 20 years later in 1861. The year of the start of the Civil War. The civil war would claim the lives of 620,000 men, or 2% of the total population at the time, in today’s society thats the equivalent of 6.1 million dead soldiers.
The interesting thing to me that I learned about this war, and particularly Abraham Lincoln, was the mindset of the people, soldiers, and the president. It changed from the early days of the war into an assured and pure understanding of the meaning and reason for the conflict. By the end of the fighting, many soldiers, their leaders, and especially the President understood that the will, and hand of God Almighty was cleansing the land, the north and the south, of its sinful ways.
Its not unlike all the stories in the Book of Mormon, whose people cycled over and over again from wickedness and pride, to forced humility, then repentance and finally renewed blessings for their return to righteousness.
Listen to some of the quotes from Lincoln regarding his role, and the reason for the horrific war that he found himself smack dab in the middle of, and think to yourself – Would the leaders of our country today, this same country and covenant land, say these words?
“Whatever shall appear to be God’s will, I shall do1.”
“I talk to God…When I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance in God, knowing that all would be well, and that He would decide for the right”
“It has pleased the Almighty God to put me in my present position, and looking up to Him for divine guidance, I must work out my destiny as best I can.”
In his private journal after contemplating the war, and its effect on the people, he wrote:
“I am almost ready to say this is probably true-that God wills this contest, and wills that is shall not end yet.”
As the war continued, Lincoln’s understanding of the civil war as God’s will crystallized, and he felt that the war was indeed meant to free all men. He then declared his Emancipation proclamation, thereby freeing all the slaves in the southern states.
“God had decided this question in favor of the slaves” and later continued saying that he would keep, “this promise to myself, and to my Maker”.
In his second Inaugural address he said:
“Fondly do we hope-fervently do we pray-that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away…Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn withe the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the lord are true and righteous altogether.”
These are the words of a man who completely understood the covenanted land in which he lived. He understood the reason for the conflict, and he understood the way out was to turn to God, as a people, and by so doing it would invoke His blessing, to once again bring peace.
Abraham Lincoln shares a name with one of the greatest prophets that has ever lived, and whose name is associated with the covenant that God has always kept with his people. That is no coincidence. He was a humble man, a man who was placed in his position to help lead the people in our covenant land back to God.
Do we today look to God as we should? Are we as a people and a society worthy of the blessings of Heaven? Are we fulfilling our end of the bargain, or are we ripening for another cleansing? Lets all try and be more like Abraham Lincoln and recognize that we live in a precious “promised land” but only if we live to deserve it.
The Land of the Covenant
Storm-black skies of thunderclouds,
Had blinded eyes with sinful shroud,
And settled down amidst the proud,
Who’d burned God’s temple to the ground2
The Covenant people fell.
They killed the mouthpiece of the Lord,3
Who’d warned with his inspired words
That soon, all men would meet the sword,
Of justice, heretofore ignored.
The truth rejected by the land.
As saintly blood unjustly spilled,
Cried out for justice unfulfilled,
From underneath Missouri’s fields,
And echoed thrice4 its claim appealed.
The Lord withdrew his hand
The covenant broken, unretained,
By forcing men to live in chains,
Their freedom cry would be sustained,
By his familiar sacred name.
The covenant name of Abraham.
And then the lightning struck with fire,
Dividing houses with God’s ire5,
Fulfilling Joseph’s words inspired6,
Repentance now would be required.
The time had come for Abraham.
To once again restore the land,
Dissevered by the sins of man,
God inspired the humble hands,
And bended knees of Abraham.
Humility across the land.
The war-torn land of death and pain,
Would kneel again, and sing refrains,
Of humble praise, from sin abstain,
And serve the Lord their God again.
Repentant land of Abraham.
And now with blessing from on high,
Gods people now had heard the cry,
For freedom, that was once denied
To men, Who now had wings to fly7
Freed by father Abraham.
Invoked anew this covenant land,
Humbled by the Lord’s own hand,
A nation forced to kneel-NOW STANDS!
God bless the name of Abraham!
1 All Lincoln quotes were taken from the book, “The Lincoln Hypothesis” by Timothy Ballard
2 On October 9th, 1848, the Nauvoo temple was burned and destroyed by an apparent arsonist.
3 On June 27th 1844, the prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot and killed by a mob while in the Carthage Jail in Illinois.
4 Joseph Smith, following this revelation from the Lord, asked for redress for the slaughter of his people in the state of Missouri. All three petitions fell upon deaf ears. D&C 101:86 Let them importune at the feet of the judge; 87 And if heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the governor; 88 And if the governor heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the president;
5 On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired upon Ft. Sumter in South Carolina officially the start of the Civil War. This would essentially divide the country in half.
6 On December 25th 1832, Joseph Smith received the revelation found in D&C 87 predicting the civil war almost 30 years prior to its actual occurrence.
7 On January 1, 1863, while still in the middle of the civil war, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that, in essence, changed the legal status of 3 million slaves in the southern states from “slave” to “free”.