Tag Archives: Alma

Study group on headings in Alma

We are comparing the various headings that Mormon himself wrote into his text. We’re comparing them with each other, as well as with the printer’s manuscript. See the end of this post for the list of headings we’re working on. (I’ll update the conversation notes as we go along.)

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Alma 7 – word, words

Hi! I have read Alma 7 twice in the past two days and been struck by the many times Alma talks about word, words, what the spirit saith, etc. For example:

“I attempt to address you in my language” v.1

“first time that I have spoken unto you by the words of my mouth” v.1

“I do not say that he will come among us at the time of his dwelling in his mortal tabernacle; for behold, the Spirit hath not said unto me that this should be the case” v.8

“this much I do know, that the Lord God hath power to do all things which are according to his word” v.8

“the Spirit hath said this much unto me…” v.9

[Note that the Spirit told him to prepare for God to come on the earth, and Alma knows that will be fulfilled, but what he doesn’t know is whether that means that God will come to them while he is on the earth or not. That is, I think verses 7 and 8 are dependent what he’s heard from the Spirit, which he lays out starting in verse 9.]

“for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven” v.14

“the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me” v.16

“the way that I know that ye believe them is by the manifestation of the Spirit which is in me” v.17

“I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word…” v.20

“I have spoken these words unto you according to the Spirit which testifieth in me” v.26

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. 🙂

Questions from my discussion with Joe yesterday about priesthood in the Book of Mormon

  1. Why does Helaman (the book, or the person) focus so little on Priesthood or regulating the affairs of the church, etc.?
  2. What about the timing of Amalickiah’s revolt? Did he wait until Alma was dead (the first non-king ruler) to make his move? And what is the connection between wanting to be a king and gathering against Helaman and his brethren? They weren’t the government rulers at the time, so why are they gathering against Helaman and not the chief judge?
  3. What about the baptism and church of Mosiah/Alma is so different from that in 3rd Nephi/Moroni?
  4. What does 4th Ne show us about the new order established by Christ?
  5. Is there a connection between the chapters of Malachi quoted and the resulting 4th Nephi life?
  6. Are the disciples in and after 3rd Nephi ever called priests?
  7. Why are there not 12 apostles/disciples before Christ? Nephi knows about that structure, but doesn’t implement it
  8. What does Nephi think about priesthood itself?
  9. Was Nephi a high priest and Jacob and Joseph were priests under him, like Alma and Alma the younger had priests under them? Or was Nephi the king without any spiritual, consecrated office?
  10. Abinadi seems to be a prophet but not a priest. Was Nephi the same?
  11. Is there really a change at all these steps: Nephi, Alma, Christ, Joseph Smith?
  12. Is Alma in borrowing the language of the “holy order” from the small plates? Is he rethinking his own priesthood in Alma 5-15 and that’s why we get the sermon in chapter 13?
  13. How is it possible to create a Zion city with so much internal political problems?
  14. But, as Joe pointed out, all of those problems seem to stem from priesthood.

Alma & Korihor

We just read Alma 30 yesterday, so I’ve been thinking a bit about how we usually talk about Alma’s confrontation with Korihor. I really like what Alma does here. Rather than “proving” that God exists, he calls Korihor on his own arguments, and also adds his testimony as well. I think it’s a great move. Korihor says that no one can know of things to come, yet, in order to know that Christ won’t come he would have to see the future to confirm that. Korihor says no one can believe in something they can’t see, and therefore there is no God, but in order for Korihor to prove that there is no God, he’d have to see into Heaven himself and see that. So regardless of who’s “right,” Korihor’s argument can’t hold up on its own. I think Alma’s right on when he says, “And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.” It’s a good point. The only “evidence” that Korihor has is his word only, one person’s word. And Alma can counter that with his own testimony that he believes (even knows) that God is there and Christ will come. The part about the earth etc being signs is intriguing. It doesn’t hold up on its own as “proof” or “evidence” but, I think on Korihor’s own terms, they are signs. He wants a “sign” that God is there, but what does a “sign” actually prove? If you have a hint of belief already, then a sign might push you the other way. But if you were absolutely convinced that there was no God, what good would a sign do? It can’t force belief; you still have to choose to see the sign as something from God. So in that sense, I think Alma is right to say that he sees the earth, its motion, etc. as signs from God. They are no more or less a sign than anything else that Alma could “produce” as a sign, since anything he could do would also require some amount of faith. On a strict, definitional level, the earth is just as much a sign as whatever else we might think Korihor has in mind, be it lightning crashing down or whatever. The fact that he knows his dumbness must be from God shows that he already had some, even tiny, amount of faith. And, as soon as he writes, we learn that he “always knew that there was a God.”

Alma’s smart. Very smart. I don’t think we should, as is sometimes done, take Alma’s argument as somehow proof we can use to convince someone. It is a specific argument with a specific person. I think what he does is to un-do what Korihor has said, so that the possibility of faith still remains.

Just some thoughts for this mid-Wednesday morning. 🙂