Tag Archives: Alma 13

Enoch/Noah and Melchizedek/Abraham


Today’s study in the perpetual quest to understand priesthood, Abrahamic Covenant, and so forth, focused on the phrase “Prince of Peace.”

It only comes up a few times in scripture, and to me, seems to indicate someone who has created or can create peace in a city. Enoch created peace and so created a Zion. Melchizedek created peace and also had a Zion-like city.

The JST of Gen 14:33, 36 talks about Melchizedek being called a Prince of Peace because of the work he did, and so does Alma 13:18.

Several places in scripture also talk about Enoch and those called after his order being given powers over the mountains, rivers, etc. — and Enoch used these powers to defend his Zion city. They didn’t fight; the earth just diverted the opposing army and they didn’t need to fight!

Today, also, I was comparing Enoch’s effect on Noah to Melchizedek’s effect on Abraham. I have noted that Noah’s time was so wicked in part because Enoch had spent over 300 years gathering the righteous into Zion, and by Noah’s time the city had been removed from the earth. So Noah was working with those who were left/descendants of those who were left.

But, Noah needed to stay on the earth, because someone needed to preserve the work of preaching the gospel through the generations. The families of the earth, the generations of the earth, needed someone around! And there was a promise to Enoch that his seed would be the chosen seed, which means that his seed would always been found on the earth until the end of the world.

So, Noah was needed on earth and not in Zion.

If we compare this situation to Abraham, I think we’ll find it similar in many ways. We read in the Bible and in revealed LDS scripture that Abraham and Melchizedek were alive at the same time. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. But we also read that Melchizedek created a Zion-like city. (Alma 13:18 and JST of Genesis 14 are good places to read.) If Abraham was yearning after a new place to live (see Abraham 1), and if he was a righteous man that God approved of, why didn’t Abraham join Melchizedek’s city?

But again, let’s compare this to Noah and Enoch. We don’t read that Melchizedek’s city was taken to heaven, but whether it was or not they were a city separated out from the other nations. Perhaps Abraham’s role was similar to Noah’s — we  need someone to wander about and teach the gospel; we need someone to preserve the gospel for future generations; we need someone to continue to be the chosen seed and bear children of that chosen seed.

So perhaps like Noah, Abraham was needed on earth and not in Zion.

This could be why God says to Abraham: “As it was with Noah, so shall it be with thee” (Ab. 1:18).

In some ways, that also sounds like Adam and Eve. They could have stayed in Eden, but they wouldn’t have born children and had a chance to learn of and preach the gospel. (There are complications there.) But anyway, their work outside Eden is similar to Noah and Abraham. Proclaim the gospel, preserve the gospel to their children, and watch over a chosen seed.

 


Consecrating priests, Holy Order, in the Book of Mormon


I did just a quick search in the Book of Mormon for “consecrate” and noted how it was used in a sentence when it was talking about consecrating people. I noticed that it could be a king who was consecrating another king; it could be a people who were consecrating a leader; it could be a high priest who was consecrating other priests and teachers; it could be a person who simply had authority to consecrate priests and teachers. The word is also used to talk about other things: God consecrated the land for the inheritance of Lehi’s people, for example; also, Jacob’s afflictions will be consecrated for his gain. The general sense of the word is “given purpose” or “set apart” or “designated” or “changed in nature in order to be used for a new purpose.”

As far as priests and teachers go, which was my original question, it seems to me that “consecrate” means to “give a person authority to be a priest or teacher.” It designated them as people who could perform baptisms and could teach. Sometimes those stories I found mentioned priesthood, sometimes they did not. They almost always mentioned that the person who consecrated them had authority to do so, but it didn’t say whether or not that authority was priesthood. In fact, in some cases it seems that a person’s kingship was enough authority to consecrate new priests. King Noah is a prime example. It may be that he had some sort of priesthood, but that isn’t what the text focuses on. I think it was rather that his position as king gave him authority to designate who would be his priests in his court.

“Holy order” works a bit differently. First of all, it’s only talked about in 2 Nephi 6:2 (Jacob), in Alma, and in Ether 12:10 (Moroni’s discussion of faith). It really is something Alma has made a central issue of his teaching and thinking. But the fact that Jacob brings it up is interesting, and that Moroni talks about many people who were after this order. Also, Alma talks about the holy order not just when he is talking about who is ordained to preach, he talks about whole congregations “walking after” the holy order, and that they have been “brought into this church” by the holy order.

There are several places where it seems clear that the holy order is all-but equated with the high priesthood. Several times in Alma we get the words “the high priesthood of the holy order of God” and later in Alma 13 Alma says “Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood…”.

It could be that what happens to Alma the elder is exactly a restoration of the holy order, and that when Jacob’s priestly lined died out so did the holy order. It seems like Mosiah reveres Alma as having some authority to do Church-related things that he himself doesn’t. So it’s as if kings have had authority over religious life, and still do, and can still consecrate priests and teachers, but there is something else going on with high priesthood as well.

Having the kingship replaced by judges may have opened up some room for confusion about the high priesthood. With kings, it seems there was the government, and there were priests the government set up to teach religious things. Then when Alma comes, we have government, priests the government set up, and then a Church with some who claim another priesthood not set up by the government. When the kingship is dissolved and judges replace them, what happens to government-sponsored priests? Are there any? Or could it appear to many that the Church priests are now the government-sponsored priests? If the have taken that role on, then are they seen government-consecrated priests or as they something different?

Those sort of complex cultural question seem to me to form part of the backdrop for Alma’s speeches in Ammonihah. He spends so much time explaining the holy order and high priesthood that I can only assume this wasn’t well understood in that city. Though, it seems it was in the cities he visits previously — those who are walking after the holy order, as it says.

Anyway, interesting clues to Nephi society, and potentially helpful clues to better understand Alma 13. 🙂


“Manner” in Alma 8-13


*(I’ve tried to think through this before, so a lot of this might be redundant. I’m trying again because Joe is at a Mormon Theology Seminar on Alma 13 right now.)

Despite being fairly clear elsewhere, Alma’s discussion of “manner” in Alma 13 seems so muddled! It’s apparent that he is trying to explain what this “manner” is that points people to Christ, but it’s hard to understand what exactly he means by it.

(1)It is possible that rather than a particular manner of priesthood ordination bringing people to Christ, that it is simply that there are priests who are ordained and preaching that brings people to Christ. That is, if people are going around preaching and saying, “I come after the order of the Son,” that alone would point people to ask more about who the Son is. Whatever they learned from priests, and whenever they felt the Spirit, they would know that this has something to do with the Son / with Christ.

If you try out that reading of “manner” in Alma 8-13, it works pretty well. He ends Alma 13 by saying that there are angels coming right then to declare things to the Nephites. He also says when Christ comes on earth, the knowledge of that will be given to a few worthy people. This is a pattern of how God interacts with his people, and it justifies Alma’s actions of coming to preach to this paricular city even though he is no longer the chief judge, and even though they are no longer members of “Alma’s” church.

(This reading of manner, by the way, fits great with Moroni 7:31-32)

(2)Or, another possible reading that would be consistent with other verses in Alma 8-13 is that those who are righteous are chosen to do his work and those who are not, are not. This concept applies much more broadly than priesthood. He compares the Nephites and the Lamanites, saying that the only reason that the Nephites have knowledge of God, or have won wars, or have been delivered out of bondage is because they have been humble and repented. If they don’t, then the Lamanites are going to destroy them. The people don’t believe this is possible, so this is obviously a point Alma is trying to get through to them: repenting = God works with you, not repenting = no help.

In Alma 12, Alma is asked how it is possible that we could live forever, since clearly there is an angel blocking access to the tree of life. As Alma answers this question, it centers on faith and humility. They received knowledge according to their faith.

Then in Alma 13, this theme continues. Those who had faith and humility were chosen to preach that knowledge to the people. That is, faith and humility opened a way for them to work with God, and for God to work with the people.

He emphasizes this point strongly. In the first place everyone was on the same standing with God. But some chose to work righteousness, so they were chosen. But what were they chosen for? Just blessings for them? No, they were chosen to preach to others so that the rest of the people would also work righteousness and be happy.

So I think it is possible to read “manner” as “if you are humble and have faith, God will talk to you and help you.” If priests come to you telling you that if you repent you will be close to God, and if these priests are claiming that God spoke to them, then they are evidence that what they are saying is true. Of course, the Spirit would have to confirm to you that they are telling the truth, but if it did, then you would have evidence that if you have faith and repent, that God will commune with you as well.

(3)If you read more closely around Alma 13’s initial verses, where he starts talking about this “manner” (rather than throughout Alma 8-13 like I’ve been doing), then it would appear that manner is a more technical term for a process of ordination. Something like 1, chosen/called by God, 2, receive an ordinance, 3, receive a commission to preach to others.

Now that I type that out, I don’t see that conflicting with the other readings of manner. Being ordained in a manner that thereby the people might know to look to God — chosen by faith (faith leads you to commune with God, like a priest), received an ordinance (priests come saying they are after the Order of the Son of God, which already teaches you who they are coming from and who they are leading you towards), and received a commission to preach (their job is not to sit and receive glory, but to work so others can have joy with God too).

I think I want to let the complexity and confusion of Alma 13 be something that only really bothers me when I get close into the verses. I think if I step back I can see a message that is consistent over several chapters. And I think when I get into the verses of Alma 13 closely, it holds up. I think. 🙂


MSH Paper: Stewardship and Hierarchy in a Secular Age (Final version)


“We have learned by sad experience,” says Joseph Smith in what is now D&C 121, “that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” These sobering and troubling words were written to the early saints while Joseph himself lay oppressed in a small jail cell. Why is it that this happens? Why are the saints—or in fact “all men,” as Joseph puts it—so quick to exercise unrighteous dominion?

This question is, I think, connected to the theme of our conference. Within the context of secularism, we’re naturally wary or suspicious about hierarchy—about hierarchies in general. We look back through history and find examples of kings oppressing their subjects, masters oppressing their slaves, parents oppressing their children, and those of higher social and economic status oppressing the poor and needy. And from where we stand, the most natural conclusion we draw as we review the injustices of history is that hierarchy, as such, is oppressive.

In this paper, however, I want to suggest that Mormonism points in a different direction—in the direction of the possibility that hierarchy need not lead to oppression. Obviously, at the very least, Mormonism’s commitment to structured priesthood must point in such a direction. But even as it points in such a direction, Mormonism arguably agrees in important ways with our secular perspective. D&C 121, for instance, by using the language of “almost all,” shares our suspicion that hierarchy rather naturally leads to oppression. And yet the same “almost all” suggests the possibility nonetheless of a hierarchy without oppression. That is, D&C 121 says that, somehow, it is possible for someone to receive stewardship over others and not treat them wrongly. So, how is it possible?

In response to such a question, we might be tempted just to think that non-oppressive hierarchy is possible simply or exclusively when the virtuous occupy positions of authority. More commonly put colloquially, we’re tempted to say that the key is just to “be a nice person.” But in this paper, I’ll argue that the problem addressed in D&C 121 most likely stems from failing to distinguish appropriately two different sorts of hierarchy—one that I’ll call the hierarchy of stewardship, and one that I’ll call the hierarchy of spiritual capacity. Drawing on the work of French philosopher Jacques Ranciere, I’ll argue that where these are distinguished, hierarchy can exist without oppression. So that I can focus on a couple of scriptural texts that illustrate the separation of these two hierarchies, I’ll take more or less for granted, in this paper, that where the two hierarchies of stewardship and spiritual capacity coincide or end up confused, oppression is the inevitable result.

To begin, I want to look at D&C 121 a little more closely. I think the key word in this verse is “suppose.” “As soon as [human beings] get a little authority, as they suppose , . . . they will begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” They suppose they have authority and then begin to oppress.

They suppose they have authority, Joseph says. The way the word is used here seems to suggest that they don’t have authority—and yet the context makes perfectly clear that those in question here unmistakably do have stewardship (at least, they have had conferred on them the “rights of priesthood”). The rhetorical force of the passage suggests that these priesthood holders both do and do not bear authority, that they both are and are not part of a hierarchy. Better put: at first read, the word “suppose” almost seems to suggest that the prophet sees a complete lack of hierarchy at work in priesthood, and that it’s only when a priesthood holder supposes that there’s any hierarchy that oppression arises. Certainly, this is a rather amiable reading of the passage in our secular age.

My aim here, though, is to suggest another possible reading. Let me state my reading from the outset, and then I’ll draw on some theoretical resources to flesh it out. What I want to suggest is that the supposing of D&C 121 is an overlaying of one sort of hierarchy onto another—that is, a confusion or a coincidence of radically distinct hierarchies, which when confused, inevitably leads to oppression. Unrighteous dominion, in other words, is a direct result of doubling one sort of hierarchy with another.

To get clear about these two hierarchies, and about what it would mean to distinguish them, I want to turn to Ranciere. In his book The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Ranciere claims that there are almost always two hierarchies present when a teacher instructs a student. The first he calls the hierarchy of will—that is, the fact that the teacher or the master exerts pressure or authority over the will of the student. The teacher makes demands, and the student is expected to obey. The second hierarchy, almost always present, he calls the hierarchy of intelligence. This second hierarchy is usually hidden. The teacher assumes she or he has a higher intellectual capacity than the student, while the student assumes she or he has an inferior intellectual capacity. This double assumption has a kind of intuitive appeal. Why else would the teacher need to step in and explain the material to students if they were able to understand the material on their own? It can’t necessarily be proven that teachers have greater intellectual capacity than others, but it is an assumption that keeps the basic pedagogical order functioning. For Ranciere, what characterizes most educational situations is that these two hierarchies are not only operative, but they’re assumed to coincide. Each, as it were, justifies or implies the other. The teacher or the master is intellectually superior, and so therefore the student must obey.

This, I suggest, maps more or less directly onto the situation described in D&C 121. Just as Ranciere’s teachers or master “suppose” that they have greater intellectual ability and that this secures their position in a hierarchy of will, those appointed to a position within a priesthood-based hierarchy might naturally “suppose” that they must have greater spiritual ability and that this secures their position in a hierarchy of stewardship. The word “suppose” perhaps does a bit more work here as well. Ranciere emphasizes the fact that no one attempts to prove—nor does anyone feel the need to prove—the existence of a hierarchy of intelligence in the pedagogical situation. In a similar vein, no one attempts to prove—nor does anyone feel the need to prove—the existence of a hierarchy of spiritual capacity in ecclesiastical hierarchies. It’s simply “supposed.”

My perspective here, then, is that those who exercise unrighteous dominion ultimately “suppose” an authority that is not given them, an authority not stated in scripture. Coupling the real hierarchy of stewardship with a parallel (but ultimately imaginary) hierarchy of spiritual capacity, they go beyond scripture and cannot help but exercise dominion in an unrighteous manner. But scripture, I believe, clearly insists that all human beings actually are equally capable of understanding spiritual things. Mormon scripture encourages all to pray and seek personal revelation. It directs that all members receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after they are baptized, and D&C 46 says that everyone receives spiritual gifts. King Benjamin says all are beggars before God, and Ether 12 says that God makes us all weak together. And all the same, Mormon scripture commits believers also to the hope that everyone on earth has the full potential to be exalted! Of course, that’s not to say that all equally act on their potential, or that all do so in the same ways or with the same experiences or at the same time as another. But one must never let that lead to a belief that anyone is spiritually superior to anyone else. There are simply distinct experiences in spiritual development, what Ranciere calls in the area of education “adventures in the land of knowledge.” At any rate, all have the capacity to understand spiritual things. And no one can prove that they have a greater capacity than someone else. This only gets assumed, or “supposed.”

Ranciere calls the realization of one’s intellectual capacity, usually via the practical separation of the two hierarchies, “intellectual emancipation.” From a Mormon theological perspective, I think we might call a realization of one’s spiritual capacity, or the disentangling of every position of authority from any imaginary hierarchy of spiritual superiority, “spiritual emancipation.” In education, emancipation is usually the result of a teacher who believes in students’ intellectual capacity, such that the students are redirected away from the teacher and towards the material itself. That is, emancipatory teachers eliminate or ignore the social fiction of intellectual hierarchy, insisting solely on a hierarchy of will. They exercise their will always and only to place students in a direct intellectual relationship with the material they’re to learn. They constantly persuade and push students to work harder and pay more attention to the material.

In a similar vein, leaders in a hierarchy of stewardship can treat those under their care in two different ways. When leaders justify their position as stewards by imagining they bear a position of superior spirituality, they are unlikely to trust those supposedly spiritually inferior to them to receive their own inspiration. In practical terms, they’re more likely to micromanage others’ callings, or to explain how to live commandments in every detail. They’re likely to carry an imagined burden of responsibility, as if everything rides on their own understanding of spiritual things. On the other hand, when leaders don’t feel the need to justify their position in a hierarchy of stewardship, they can’t help but trust others’ spiritual capacity. They point others away from themselves to God and to scripture, trusting they can also understand things of the Spirit. And this trust, frankly, is vital if others are to grow spiritually – to, for example, receive answers to prayer, to trust in God’s love, or simply to repent. In short, we could say that “spiritual emancipation” is possible when leaders refuse to add any hierarchy of spiritual capacity to the ordained hierarchy of stewardship. As D&C 121 puts it, one’s real power or influence over anyone can “only” come this way: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” These qualities come into their own, I want to say, in when spiritual equality is assumed.

Now, is it really possible for someone in a hierarchy to claim spiritual equality to those under their care and still retain a place in a hierarchy? That is, is it possible, as I have claimed, to disentangle the hierarchy of stewardship from the hierarchy of spiritual superiority? For a few minutes, I want to review two places in Mormon scripture where I believe something precisely like this is presented.

The first comes from the Book of Mormon, in the story of Alma’s preaching in Ammonihah. You might remember that, according to the story, when Alma first preaches in Ammonihah, the people there reject him specifically because they think he has no power or authority over them. They say, “And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us; and thou hast delivered up the judgment-seat unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us.” They understand Alma only as a person within hierarchies that don’t apply to them anymore. They see no reason that Alma can claim superior authority over them, so they easily reject his call to repent.

After a walk, a visit from an angel, and a good meal at Amulek’s house, Alma is ready to try again. This time, luckily, he ends up with an opportunity to explain how he understands his role as a high priest. On my reading, he spends most of his sermon explaining that he comes neither as a person of superior rank in administration nor as a person of superior spirituality. I see him making three specific claims regarding equality:

First, he points out that church administration is only one way to understand priesthood. Priests were ordained long before the creation of the Nephite church. In fact, in Alma’s time, the Nephite Church has only been around for two generations! Alma reminds his audience that, according to their scriptures, the first priests were ordained to teach the very things that angels taught Adam and Eve. While Alma also has a place in a church administrative hierarchy, he puts that aside and instead claims a different sort of role: he is coming to them as a high priest after the holy order, whose only assignment really is to preach. He occupies a position of stewardship, but one that’s uncoupled from the ecclesiastical setting.

Second, Alma points out that this role as a priest does not indicate that he is spiritually superior to his hearers. He claims that every person is on equal standing before God, though not every person acts in faith or seeks out spiritual understanding. This point is especially important, because it’s precisely in the context of defending his place in a hierarchy of priestly stewardship that Alma insists on spiritual equality before God.

Third, Alma explains that the gift high priests have received through their faith is to “enter into God’s rest,” but then he goes on to promise the people that if they “humble [themselves] before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, [they can] also enter into that rest.” This seems to suggest not only that Alma sees the people as equal to him in spiritual capacity, but also that he sees it necessary that they give up their belief in superiority if they would begin to repent and develop spiritually. To prove that this is possible, he tells the story of Melchizedek converting an entire city!

Thus Alma makes clear that he is not coming to teach because he believes himself superior in spiritual things. He is not trying to exercise power or authority over anyone. So what is he left with? Only persuasion and long-suffering. Alma believes he can still be a priest without a hierarchy of spiritual capacity to justify his calling and stewardship. He uncouples his position of responsibility from any hierarchy of spiritual capacity. And he points to Melchizedek as his role model: a man who had faith and then successfully preached and encouraged his people to also have faith.

Does it work for Alma? Well, though not everyone likes what they hear from him, we do read that “many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures.” That last detail, I think, is particularly striking. Those who feel the force of Alma’s words begin to trust less in the interpretations of the Ammonihah priests and more in their own capacity to understand the scriptures. And it’s worth noting that a few verses later, the Ammonihah priests choose to burn those very books of scriptures during their horrible massacre.

This whole story perfectly illustrates what I hear in the words of D&C 121, clarified with reference to Ranciere. I think the same can be said of the text of D&C 84. Obviously less narrative in tone, here I’ll choose to be briefer.

D&C 84 teaches that those who hold the priesthood, perhaps especially those holding it in a full or more complete way, receive some remarkable blessings. But D&C 84 also teaches that these same blessings are available to those without the priesthood. For example, verse 35 says that “All they who receive this priesthood receive me,” but the next verse adds “he that receiveth my servants receiveth me.” There’s thus a kind of arbitrariness about stewardship, one that undermines any coupling of a hierarchy of stewardship with any spiritual hierarchy. Similarly, further along, D&C 84 states that both priests and non-priests can receive a knowledge of heavenly covenants. Verse 40 says those who receive priesthood receive a specific oath and covenant. But verses 47-48 say that “every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father…And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon” those who hold the priesthood. Here again a certain spiritual equality is clearly assumed precisely in the context of some being appointed stewards and others not. Further, the covenant in question, which I take (in light of textual links to the letter to the Hebrews) to be the Abrahamic Covenant, is given, according to the revelation, “not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.” So while some receive heavenly blessings in connection with their place in a hierarchy—that is, as priests—others receive the same blessings in connection with a rather different place in the same hierarchy—that is, as those who receive such priests. The hierarchy of stewardship is, it seems, arbitrary, and certainly unrelated to any spiritual hierarchy. Like Alma, the priests of D&C 84 are sent to persuade, bearing testimony and calling people to repentance.

What I think these two texts display is the possibility and the productivity of interpreting D&C 121 in a Rancierean vein. They demonstrate one powerful way of understanding what it means to “suppose” that one has authority, in such a way that unrighteous dominion follows. And also, these two texts demonstrate that it’s possible not to “suppose” one has authority, even as one remains in a position of stewardship within a hierarchy. In our context—not only in the context of our secular age, but also in the context of practical matters in Mormon culture – both daily lived applications and also heated and complicated debates over universal access to priesthood hierarchy—I believe getting clear about the nature of hierarchy and stewardship is a place to begin.


Similarity in Matt 18, D&C 84, and Alma 13 — “those who receive”


I think the logic of Matthew 18 is similar to D&C 84 and Alma 13. In all three cases, there are two ways to receive God’s kingdom. You can become someone, or you can receive that someone:

Matthew 18:

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

D&C 84:

35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

 36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

 37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

 38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

Alma 13:

12 Now [those priests], 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 [priests], 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.

(and) 6 And thus [those priests] 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


Alma 12/13/14 themes


Scripture:

12:21 Antionah asks “what does the scripture mean, which saith…”

13:1 “I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests” (can’t literally remember the event; must refer to event as recorded in their scriptures)

13:20 “Behold the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction.”

14:1 “many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures”

14:8 “and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also”

Faith/repentance/holy works/state to act

12:30 “and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.”

12:31 “being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good–“

12:32 “God gave unto them commandments…that they should no do evil”

13:3 “on account of their exceeding faith and good works”

13:3 “in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceeding great faith”

13:10 “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”

13:18 “Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people…”

Commandments:

12:31 “he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments…”

12:32 “Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil”

12:37 “that we provoke not the Lord our God to pull down his wrath upon us in these his second commandments”

13:1 “to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children” / “ordained priests…to teach these things” (=commandments?)

13:6 “called…ordained…to teach his commandments”

Angels:

12:21 “God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden”

12:19 “he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory”

13:22 “and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations”

13:24 “angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land”

13:25 “we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angles, of his coming”

13:26 “And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of angels, at the time of his coming”

Foreknowledge

13:3 “being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God”

13:7 “this high priesthood…being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things”

(also maybe talk of prepared and plans, such as 12:30,33, 13:3, 13:5)

-Not really a theme per se, but it would be curious to look at this whole story as Alma subtly trying to say that their leaders are oppressing them in the way they are teaching the people. Note that the leaders seem to be using the scriptures to teach (12:21) but by 14:8 the leaders are burning the scriptures. A scripturally literate people seem to be a threat to their leadership. Or you could say that the power of interpretation of scripture is on display here!


Are storehouses more Melchizedek or Aaronic?


Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

We’re looking at D&C 68 on our Dews From Heaven blog so I’m thinking more about storehouses, bishops, and high priests. I don’t have many answers or insights yet. In fact, I’m just beginning to ask questions!

My initial question is: What is the connection between a bishop/agent and high priest like Melchizedek, who had the great powers of Enoch, and who taught the people, and who was appointed keeper of the storehouse? Melchizedek’s story (at least in JST Genesis 14) seems to connect his work of preaching and his work of receiving tithes, in that they are both necessary for a transformation of a city into a Zion. Why separate them in the latter-days?

I think the answer might come from the time of Moses.

The office of Bishop belongs to the Aaronic priesthood, and specifically to a literal descendant of Aaron. The Aaronic priesthood was given (or at least, was left) when the people refused the greater opportunities that Moses begged them to received. He worked diligently that his people might repent and behold God; in other words (perhaps): he wanted them to become Zion and be translated to God’s home. They refused that, but God left agents over the temple (the Levites). Is that a fair way to say it? The Aaronic priesthood takes care of the temple, but as I think about that, I remember how they received the sacrifices and tithing of the people in order to take care of the temple and themselves and keep a storehouse.

So perhaps the two roles I see Melchizedek having (teacher and storehouse) were divided into to priesthoods only at the time of Moses. And perhaps this was because the people needed to get the one down before they could get the other down (they needed to be able to tithe temporally before they could do and receive more?

I like the reference in Malachi today: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

It’s a sort of “lose your life to find it” logic. If you bring all the tithes to the storehouse, blessings will come. If I understand the D&C right, “all” tithes means anything that you have that is more than what you need. Bring everything you don’t need to the storehouse, and you will be blessed. Your lands will grow food well, there will be enough rain, etc. Give up what you don’t need first, then everything you need and more will be given to you.

Ok so back to Aaronic priesthood. Why is this an Aaronic duty (to receive and manage tithes)? At first I felt like Melchizedek was being replaced by a Bishop. But now I see how Melchizedek’s work could be divided into do kinds of work, and perhaps that’s just what happened with Moses and Aaron. How merciful that God didn’t just take the priesthood and covenant (or knowledge of the covenant, rather) away from the people altogether!

So what does it mean to say we have a Melchizedek priesthood? If I look at Melchizedek as someone who built a city, and we give the temporal work to the Bishop, then I guess what is left is teaching in such a way that people are ready to behold the face of God (see D&C 84). Is that fair? But Aaronic priesthood holders teach too. And women, of course. So it isn’t just that they teach. It could be that they have the responsibility to teach, such that if they do not, they are held accountable. It could be that they can perform the ordinances associated with beholding God. It could be… what? What else?