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.
First of all, I think it is important to recognize what him means by “these commandments.” In the previous verses (remember that our chapter breaks weren’t the same as the original chapter breaks!), he has been explaining that after Adam and Eve transgressed the “first commandments” about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, two things happened. One, they had to leave the garden and were thereafter blocked from coming back to the tree of life by an angel. Two, as God had already planned for their redemption he sent other angels to converse with Adam and Eve and teach them about the plan. This plan included commandments, or “second commandments,” as Alma calls them in Alma 12. That appears to me to be what Alma here, in Alma 13:1, means by “these commandments.”
Secondly, some have worried about the phrase “cite your minds forward” since to us (and to Alma) these events are in the past. This doesn’t seem to be a problem to me; I assume that what Alma is saying is that we are citing our minds forward from Adam and Eve leaving the garden to this next point in the story, where they have been given new commandments and priests are now being ordained. We’re jumping ahead within the story that Alma is telling.
What I’d like to figure out is when exactly that time is – are we talking about soon after Adam and Eve? Alma is talking about a time when priests were ordained to teach the gospel. That doesn’t seem to refer to Adam, does it? I suppose it could, in which case Adam is ordained to teach his children. But if that were what Alma was talking about, why doesn’t he say that? He’s already been talking about Adam, so why not use his name again?
Based on the wording in Alma 13:1, it seems to me that he is not thinking of Adam himself. First off, he doesn’t mention Adam’s name at all, but second, he has specifically put some distance between Adam and Eve’s story and this situation of priests being called by asking us to “cite our minds forward to the time…”. If this were simply the next moment in Adam and Eve’s story, then there wouldn’t be a need for us to jump to a later moment in history, so it seems to me.
So when is this time? When were men ordained priests? His language suggests a time when many (or at least more than one!) were ordained priests. The earliest record of a group of priests that I know of is actually from the Book of Moses, where, when Adam had a son and a grandson who were righteous, there began to be a priest-hood of sorts (meaning, a group of priests). This is a possibility as to what Alma means, though, again, I am curious why he didn’t mention Adam’s name. There could be other times that he is talking about. I instantly think of Moses and Aaron, but I doubt that is what he has in mind. Mostly, I assume that isn’t the context because he will go on in later verses to talk about Abraham and Melchizedek, which came before Moses and Aaron. Are we talking about Abraham’s time, then? Not sure I can justify that either. But here’s that passage from the Book of Moses so we can look at that further:
3 And God revealed himself unto Seth, and he rebelled not, but offered an acceptable sacrifice, like unto his brother Abel. And to him also was born a son, and he called his name Enos
4 And then began these men to call upon the name of the Lord, and the Lord blessed them
So now we have Adam, who is righteous, Seth, who is righteous, and Enos, who, I presume, was also righteous. And “then” began these men to call upon God. Why “then”? Because there were three? Because at that point the angels revealed more information to them? A few verses later, Adam will prophecy that “Now this same Priesthood, which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also.” (There’s more that one way to read the connection between these verses, but on my reading, this is the prophecy that verse 8 is referring to.) If that is the case, then it seems perhaps that “this” priesthood is the same as when the 3 (Adam, Seth, and Enos) began to call upon God? A sort of “presidency” of sorts? That reminds me of all sorts of tangents I could go on. For example, if a Melchizedek priesthood holder is acting as Bishop, he needs a presidency (or a Bishopric, as we call it). But, if a literal descendant of Aaron is a Bishop, he can act alone, without counselors (D&C 107:76). Is there something about the Melchizedek priesthood that requires or functions ideally with a presidency of three?
But anyway, that’s a tangent. Kind of. It might really help us see what Alma is referring to. To get a little more context to Moses 6:4, here’s the last few verses of Moses 5:
58 And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
59 And thus all things were confirmed unto Adam, by an holy ordinance, and the Gospel preached, and a decree sent forth, that it should be in the world, until the end thereof; and thus it was. Amen.
I have lots to say about verse 59, but for now I’ll stick with 58. This sounds like what Alma is talking about, or at least what he was talking about in Alma 12: angels coming to reveal the plan of redemption. Verse 59 hits on some questions I have about the rest of Alma 13, so for now I’ll continue on to verse 2.
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.
And “those priests” (whatever time period that might be, Adam/Seth/Enos, or another time) were ordained after this “order,” which I assume refers to the Melchizedek priesthood. I don’t have any questions about that part of the verse so far. But I don’t quite know what to make of the second half, and of its curious phrase that will reappear elsewhere in chapter 13: “in a manner” that the people might now “in what manner” to look forward to Christ. What “manner” are we talking about? And how does this “manner” let the people know to look to Christ? And what do we mean by the people knowing “in what manner” to look to Christ?
Let’s see if the next verses shed any more light (or give us more substance to our questions, anyway):
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.
“And this is the manner” says verse 3. What manner is that, exactly? Are we heading into a tangent and then later we’ll address the “manner,” or rather what follows is the manner- that is, that someone was called and prepared from before they were here on earth? Is that the manner? Chosen by God’s foreknowledge? That doesn’t seem satisfactory. How does that teach the people to look to Christ? And how does that teach the people the very “manner” in which they should look forward to Christ? Simply that there is a parallel that Christ was also chosen from the foundation of the earth? Does that serve as a confirmation that God has a plan and that they can rely on Him to have been in control from the beginning? But how does someone know, from the outside, that a priest was foreordained? How does this “show” to the people anything that causes them to know how to look forward to Christ?
Perhaps rather this is a tangent (the Book of Mormon authors aren’t known for those, are they? 🙂 ) I want to keep looking at the next verses to see what I can learn about the “manner” in which they were ordained. I know I’m leaving out a lot of verse 3, but maybe it’ll get picked back up as I go on. We’ll just see. 🙂
Ah-ha! I just looked ahead and I think I see where this tangent ends and we pick back up with “manner.” So, I’ll quote here all the verses so you can see how the tangent continues and then the topic switches back:
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—
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.
Thank you verse 8! Back to my question. But what else do we learn here? Are we finally being told the “manner” or are we going on a clarifying, preparatory tangent again? Alma says the priests were “called with a holy calling” (mentioned often during the verse 3-7 tangent), which again, I assume is becoming a high priest in the Melchizedek priesthood. Next, Alma says they are ordained with a “holy ordinance.” (I have my guesses from Moses 5 that perhaps this means the endowment? But that’s a just a fun guess for now.) Finally, we are reminded that this calling, ordinance, and priesthood are without beginning or end and thus they are “high priests forever.” This ends with an “Amen” and there we are. I think that this is still a tangent, don’t you? Let’s keep going in chapter 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.
Again, Alma seems mostly to be focusing on who became/becomes a high priest, and of course why those people became/become high priests. I wonder why he is so obsessed with that topic? Is he trying to explain why he himself is a high priest? But why that, then. Would he be trying to separate himself as an authority afterall (remember that the people in the city have pointed out that since he is not chief judge he can’t tell them what to do), or, would he be trying to level things a bit, and show how they could also have his privileged priesthood position if they but wanted to have it (and of course then if they choose good, etc.)? Or, are we still trying to answer Antionah’s question more generally, the one he had about how to get past the angel to the tree of life? That is, we can all choose good or evil, now what we (thanks to Adam and Eve) know good and evil? But whatever the reasons, I think we are perhaps still on a tangent from the topic of what this “manner” is of which I’m so curious.
Verse 11 begins to talk about sanctification, and about garments being made white. This, I could see, could show the people an example of how to return to a garden-like state, but I still don’t see what this “manner” is or how it teaches the people anything. We aren’t talking about literal white garments, I assume, so how does this show anything?
Still not sure… (any ideas?)
The next verse reads:
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.
Alma then begins here to explain to the people that they too can be pure and enter into God’s rest. Perhaps he was going on those earlier tangents to set up the possibility of the people choosing good and being like him. That sounds like D&C 84, which talks about Moses hoping to help all his people to be sanctified and enter into God’s rest.
Hmm, and looking ahead, I don’t see him going back to the topic of “the manner” in which they were ordained. I do see one more use of that word, in verse 16. (And here it is the ordinances which are given in a certain manner, not the ordination. But perhaps those are the same thing here in Alma 13, which again makes me curious if we are talking about the endowment experience, wherein we learn a lot about the Melchizedek priesthood.)
Is the “manner” really then, that those who chose good were ordained to teach others? And that those who chose good and were ordained were sanctified? And that we can also choose good and be sanctified? Are those really the only descriptions or definitions we get of the “manner” here?
What do you see that I am missing?
As a further tangent of my own, verses 15 and 16 sometimes seem out of sync with the chapter. Some have suggested that verse 16 was misplaced, even. But I wonder if we might catch on to Alma’s little explanation “it being a type of his order, or it being his order.” Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, and this is a type of his order, to go to another priesthood bearer? But again I get all confused. Is this the manner in which we know that Christ is important, because we all go to someone else for ordinances? We all depend on others, just like we all depend on Christ? But that doesn’t seem to be at all what he dwells on in chapter 13. He does dwell on choosing good and being sanctified… but I still can’t tell if that is the “manner” he is talking about or not. What do you think?? Any help appreciated!