First Impression: Covenant Israel—We Don't Talk about This Enough
This thought came to mind over and over again while studying this material, We don't talk about this enough. Then I had to correct myself. Maybe I don't talk about it enough, in my teaching, and in my gospel discussions with friends, but the scriptures speak of covenant Israel constantly, and so do the modern prophets.
I am convinced that one of the reasons we have difficulty understanding Isaiah is that we don't fully grasp the concept of the house of Israel—its members' identity, their obligation, their scattering, and their gathering. We are very good at talking about our identity as children of God, but perhaps not as good at accepting the idea of being part of a chosen lineage within God's family. Brother Robert L. Millet, an influential teacher in my life, has suggested some reasons for this hesitancy to embrace our identity as a covenant people:
I sense frequently among young and old a lack of covenant-consciousness, not necessarily in regard to the covenants and ordinances required for salvation, but rather a lack of appropriate kinship and identity with ancient Israel and with the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and the responsibilities we have inherited from them.
In our democratic and egalitarian society—in a time when equality and brotherhood are all-important—I fear that we are losing a feel for what it means to be a covenant people, what it means to be a chosen people. Too many, even among the Latter-day Saints, cry out that such sentiments are parochial and primitive, that they lead to exclusivism and racism. Others contend that to emphasize Israel's chosen status is to denigrate and degrade others not designated as Israel.
I am convinced that many years of careful and prayerful study of scripture—particularly the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon—will not only bring people to understand in their minds the origins and destiny of the descendants of Jacob, but will also cause them to know in their hearts what it means to come to earth through a chosen lineage and what God would have them do to be a light to the world, particularly to so many who are in spiritual darkness. I feel that the words of the Lord to ancient Israel should be received by modern Israel with sobriety and humility, but they must be received and believed if we are to realize our potential to become a holy people and a royal priesthood. ("The House of Israel: From Everlasting to Everlasting," 258)
Perhaps the greatest impact that my journey through Isaiah National Forest has had on me is a strengthened testimony of this concept. You and I are not only children of God, but "children of the covenant"—children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—who have been given the honor and obligation of blessing all the families of the earth (3 Nephi 20:26).