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Episode 931: Alma 13:1
1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.
Alma uses a different direction for time than we tend to use. We might see casting our minds forward as looking to the future. That is not the meaning here. In this case, it is what we would term casting our minds back to an earlier time. We don’t have an explanation for this idiomatic way of using the language, but it is clear from the context that Alma is telling them things about the past that inform them of their present.
Alma reminds his audience that God ordained priests to the priesthood. Our reference to the priests “after his holy order” would be to the Melchizedek priesthood, but the Nephites do not make that kind of distinction in their priesthood. For them, priesthood comes from God and provides the right to perform ordinances and to teach in God’s name. There is no division in the priesthood about what may be done by different priesthoods. Authority was authority, and authority from God was power from God.
Episode 932: Alma 13:2–3
2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.
Alma continues to speak of the priests of old. These are the teachers, not simply the officiators. The point is that they were to teach the people to know “in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.” The essential restored truth of the Nephite gospel is the understanding that the atoning mission of the Messiah is to come, and that it has been part of what prophets and righteous priests taught in the scriptures.
This is the first time in the Book of Mormon that we see an understanding of events of the premortal existence. The priests who preached the true understanding of the mission of the Son were “called and prepared from the foundation of the word according to the foreknowledge of God.” The statement makes it clear that this happened according to God’s foreknowledge, and, therefore, had to occur before the priests were born.
The next thing we learn is that these priests were chosen “on account of their exceeding faith and good works.” Although we might see this as a suggestion that it was their premortal works that qualified them, that probably isn’t the meaning here. Alma notes that they also had to choose between good and evil, and that places the good works in the mortal realm. Thus, the priests have been foreordained, but only upon God’s knowledge of how they will act during their mortal lives. Having them chosen for their works also clearly separates them from the lineage based Levitical priests, who were born into their calling.
This leaves the confusing statement that the righteous and faithful are called with a holy calling which was “prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.” The preparatory redemption is the one that prepares us to meet God and stand clean before Him. That is what the Atonement enables. Thus, the priests are called, understanding that they were to preach so that the people might know “in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.” The language may be complicated, but the meaning is simply to reiterate what Alma declared in verse 2.
Episode 933: Alma 13:4–6
4 And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—
Verse 4 repeats the calling discussed in verse 3. These priests were called according to their faith. At this point, the emphasis is not on the premortal preparation, but the mortal teaching. During mortality, they, and all humankind, are free to choose between good and evil. The priests were called according to their faith, but others would harden their hearts.
In verse 5, “in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren” refers to the state of humanity under agency. All are equally able to choose. The ability to receive both the understanding, and then the blessing of the Atonement, depends upon choosing good. Those who harden their hearts do not have access to the redemptive aspect of the Atonement.
Alma links these foreordained priests to the mission of the Messiah. The Messiah was prepared from the foundation of the earth. Those who were to preach of his coming were also prepared from the foundation of the earth. This is not a new message; it is one of the oldest.
Returning to the ordination of the priests, Alma declares that they were ordained specifically to “teach his commandments.” While many of the children of Israel, and presumably those of Ammonihah, believed that those were Jehovah’s commandments to Moses, Alma declares that it was really to prepare for the commandments of Christ.
Episode 934: Alma 13:7–9
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—
8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.
Alma summarizes his argument. Both the high priesthood and the mission of the Son himself were ordained from the foundation of the world. The need for redemption is part of the blessing of agency, and that is an eternal principle “being without beginning of days or end of years.” Although that phrase is unique to the Book of Mormon, it echoes language associated with Melchizedek, who had “neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3).
Where the book of Hebrews in the New Testament associated the phrase with Melchizedek, Alma associates it with the priesthood. This is because there is a nonlineal, king-based priesthood associated with Melchizedek, and that is the type of priesthood available in the New World.
Thus, the priests who participate in the priesthood of the Son will share that priesthood forever. The priesthood is eternal, just as the Son is eternal.
The final “Amen” closed a chapter in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. The next verse continues the discussion of the priesthood that is associated with Melchizedek, so it isn’t unusual for Orson Pratt to see the next verses as part of the same story. However, that wasn’t the way Mormon wrote. The testificatory Amen closes chapters, even if the story or sermon isn’t over. We therefore often see the end of the story written at the beginning of the next chapter, as we do here.
Episode 935: Alma 13:10–13
10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.
This part of the discourse began by discussing priests who had been foreordained to preach of the coming atoning mission of the Messiah. Not only were they to preach it, however, but they received the benefits of that redeeming mission even though it had not yet occurred. Just as they were ordained based on God’s foreknowledge of their actions, they could enjoy the benefits of the Atonement based on God’s foreknowledge of Christ’s actions.
Thus, they could obey the commandments, and have their garments made white, which is the metaphor for the cleansing from sin, which is a crucial aspect of the Atonement. They continued to live according to those commandments, and, therefore, they entered into the rest of the Lord. They are presented as the model for what we should also do in order to enter into the rest of the Lord.
Episode 936: Alma 13:14–16
14 Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.
15 And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.
16 Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
Alma moves from his general arguments to a specific one from the scriptures. The people of Ammonihah still profess to believe in the scriptures, meaning the plates of brass, but do not believe in the coming Messiah. Alma uses a story from those scriptures to show that the ordained and righteous priests understood the redemption. He turns to Melchizedek.
Genesis 14:18–20 give us all our Old Testament knowledge of Melchizedek, save that a Messianic hymn, Psalm 110, notes of the coming Messiah, or perhaps of simply a king in Israel: “thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). That is all we know that would have been available to Lehi and his descendants.
However, Alma appears to have a little more of the story, which we will see in the next verses. At this point, he is setting up the story. The declaration is that the people of Ammonihah should be as the people in the days of Melchizedek. Rather than move immediately to the example, Alma takes a small detour and notes that Melchizedek was important because even Abraham paid tithes to him, and that because Melchizedek was one of the foreordained high priests, he understood the need for the Messiah’s redemptive act.
Episode 937: Alma 13:17–20
17 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18 But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
19 Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention.
20 Now I need not rehearse the matter; what I have said may suffice. Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction.
Verse 20 makes it clear that the story told in verses 17 and 18 was on the Nephite copy of the brass plates. It is not in our Old Testament. The story begins with a people who “had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; they had all gone astray.” This is the parallel to the people of Ammonihah.
Through Melchizedek’s great faith, and his understanding of the coming redemptive act, he preached repentance to his people, and “they did repent.” Alma, presumably through that same ordination and priesthood and with that same understanding of the coming redemption, is preaching to the people of Ammonihah. Clearly, the message is that they, too, should repent.
Episode 938: Alma 13:21–24
21 And now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words unto them, he stretched forth his hand unto them and cried with a mighty voice, saying: Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh;
22 Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us.
23 And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard.
24 For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.
An example was given of the people repenting after Melchizedek preached to them. Now Alma puts himself in parallel to Melchizedek and cries repentance. If they believe the scriptures, Alma is telling them that they must believe that he has the same authority as Melchizedek to deliver the same message to a similarly wayward people.
Moreover, it isn’t just Melchizedek and Alma, it is angels. An angel appeared to Alma to prepare him to preach this message. An angel appeared to Amulek to prepare him to assist in delivering the message. The message of the coming Messiah is for all to hear, and provides the means for true repentance for those who truly hear that message.
Episode 939: Alma 13:25–26
25 And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.
26 And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of angels, at the time of his coming, that the words of our fathers may be fulfilled, according to that which they have spoken concerning him, which was according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them.
Having declared that angels have transmitted the message that the Messiah will come, now the faithful only wait to have angels declare that the time has come. Alma says that he wishes it could be in his day, but that he is content to have it happen in the future.
What is important is that it will happen. The words of all of the faithful priests that he has been speaking about will come true. Thus, the people of Ammonihah should understand the scriptures that they profess to believe, and accept the message of the coming Redeemer.
Episode 940: Alma 13:27–30
27 And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
28 But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
29 Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.
30 And may the Lord grant unto you repentance, that ye may not bring down his wrath upon you, that ye may not be bound down by the chains of hell, that ye may not suffer the second death.
Alma concludes his sermon with yet another plea for the people of Ammoniha to humble themselves and repent. In the case of Ammonihah, it was particularly important that they “not procrastinate the day of [their] repentance.” There was a prophesied destruction coming, and it is not far in the future.
The promise made to them is the same promise to us all. Through the Atonement, the Lord may grant us repentance, and through repentance we will not need to suffer the second death.
Episode 941: Alma 13:31
31 And Alma spake many more words unto the people, which are not written in this book.
Mormon writes this line. Because the chapter ends, it is not obvious that Mormon will continue his narration for many verses to come. At the end of Amulek’s discourse, Mormon had written: “And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book” (Alma 9:34). We see a very similar transition here. In Alma 9, those words did precede a chapter break, but they do not here.
In both cases, Mormon is noting that there are two kinds of “books” he is working with. The first is his source, and in both cases, he indicates that his source has more information. That source might be the large plates of Nephi, or it might be a separate record, such as the record of Alma that he is using for this part of his narrative. The second is the “book” he is writing, or the plates upon which the Book of Mormon was written. When he says that things are not written in “this book,” he means the plates of Mormon upon which he is writing.
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