Tag Archives: Dews From Heaven Blog

Trying to riddle out D&C 84:19 a bit…

From looking at “godliness” elsewhere in scripture, and also the 1828 Websters, I think the general definition is “being like God” or usually “acting like God.” Being patient, having charity, doing good, and so forth. It is part of that familiar list: “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” (D&C 4:6).

So what does it mean to say that there is a power to being godly, and why does that need to be manifest? Why isn’t it more obvious? And why can it only be manifest through the ordinances and the priesthood?

Is it that the true nature of God is a mystery that the priesthood reveals, so “being like God” is something we can only understand after we know more about God?

D&C 110 and keys

11 After this vision closed, the heavens were againopened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

Jenny, Candice, Kim, and I are currently studying “keys” in our D&C 84 project. I’m thinking about keys lately as specific assignments. If you do a search for “key” and look through the many references, you’ll see that there are at least a dozen – maybe two dozen – different, named keys. “Key of the bottomless pit” was one that surprised me. Also “key of the house of David.” And one I’ve seen before but I always really enjoy: Moroni has the “keys of the record of the stick of Ephriam.”

So tonight I decided to look at section 110, where several angels appear to give Joseph Smith keys. Here’s what stood out to me tonight:

11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

I don’t think I realized before how cool this really is. I think before I had seen it as Moses opening up the way for modern day saints to get to work. Something like, Moses comes and uses the key to open the door. But rather, the keys are given to Joseph (and Oliver?). It’s now his assignment. And also he is in charge of opening and closing that work. Or so it seems! That’s very different than how I had read it before.

12 After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.

Whoa! Notice that Elias doesn’t give Joseph any keys. He “committed” something. What does that mean? A commission? And how do you commit a dispensation? And further, why is this the gospel of Abraham? First of all, there is more than one gospel? Second, why isn’t this the covenant of Abraham? (The Abrahamic Covenant?). Should I be hearing the word gospel in the sense of “good news” — the good news of Abraham is that all families will be blessed?

And finally, in Joseph and Oliver, and their seed, all the generations after them will be blessed. Fascinating! They begin the next watershed of Abrahamic blessings.

13 After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:

14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi (—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

 15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—)

16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

I added the italics and parenthesis to try to figure out what Elijah actually said. But I think with the “your” and “ye” in verse 16, and the “he” in the end of verse 14, that my reading is not a bad one.

Elijah does come to give a key. But what key? The keys of this dispensation. What does that mean? First I think I just say “Everything else they needed for this latter day dispensation.” But since tonight I’m reading more carefully for talk about keys, I have a different idea.

What if Elias shows up and commits the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham to them, and then Elijah comes and gives them the keys of that very dispensation so that they can do what they were committed to doing? Elijah uses the word “dispensation” just like Elias did, and if you read this as a play-by-play then as soon as Elias leaves, Elijah shows up and talks about “this dispensation.” I think rather than hearing that word as a term for a time period, I think we ought to think about what is going on in this section. I assume that we only use that word as a term for a time period because it is a time in which the gospel is dispensed. But if that’s the case, the time term is a later usage derived from the more literal or originary use of dispense. So I think it might be a really, really good reading here to see Elijah as talking about the same thing that Elias was talking about.

If that’s the case, then what I see here is that Elias comes and says that they are going to be the next step in the Abrahamic Covenant, meaning that their families are going to bless all the families after them. How is that to be accomplished? Well Elijah shows up and says it’s time to focus the fathers on the children (just what Elias committed to them) but also the children to the fathers. What are the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham? I don’t know! 🙂 Surely, it seems, they must include the sealing ordinances of the temple, and also baptism for the dead. But I imagine a lot more, too.

Anyway, as far as keys go, I think I want to say that Moses gave him one key, and Elias and Elijah together gave him another set of keys. That’s pretty cool.

Working on Alma 13:14-20

I’m interested on why on earth Alma talks about tithing in verse 15. Is it just to talk about how Abraham (a marker of time for the Nephites) relates to Melchizedek? Does the talk of Abraham paying tithes Melchizedek function something like the discussion in Hebrews 7:4, again setting up a relationship (“Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils”)? Is there actually a reason to bring it up, and even to define it (“yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed”)? Some, trying to wrestle with verse 16, have wondered if tithing was an “ordinance” which was given after a “manner” so that people “looked forward on the Son of God,” and that somehow tithing was  a part of the Holy Order of God? At first I would have ruled out the last one, but right now all of the above seem viable options!

One option I want to explore this morning is that there really is a reason to bring up tithing specifically, right here, because it may actually really have a connection to the priesthood discussion in this chapter.

I want to draw some thoughts from the JST of Genesis 14. This is where Abraham (Abram) meets up with Melchizedek and pays these tithes, but we get lots more information about their meeting. I am not suggesting that Alma had what we had in our JST, since the connections between the JST and the brass plates have never been uncovered. Rather, I’m going to notice some patterns and themes in the JST that might open up some helpful possibilities while reading Alma 13. (Here is a link to the passage from the JST.)

In the following commentary, I’m going to be looking at both how the JST contains patterns and language similar to Alma 13, and how the details and themes of the JST might shed light on what is going on in Alma 13. The more similar the language and patterns are to Alma 13, the easier I think it will be to use the JST themes to elucidate Alma 13.

“And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.

Now Melchizedek was a man of faith …

And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch”

This follows our reading that the first step in the “manner” of ordination for Alma is to have faith and choose righteousness, which allows God to call you out for a special work. The language of “high priest after the order” is similar to Alma 13, but here we get connections to Enoch that aren’t in Alma 13. I find the connection to Enoch very significant. It was Enoch who taught a wicked people enough to get them to repent, build up a city, fend off all their enemies, and be translated into Heaven. Being a high priest specifically “after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch” sounds like language we shouldn’t pass over too lightly. What covenant was given to Enoch? And why is Melchizedek connected with that covenant? At the least, it sounds like this high priestly assignment is connected specifically with the work Enoch did: teach and build a city. (Which is what we’ll find out Melchizedek did.) I’d like to know more about this covenant as well, but for now, I want to focus on the basic connection between Enoch, a preacher and city-builder, and Melchizedek, a preacher and city-builder.

It [the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch] being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God

Alma 13 discusses “order” a dozen times, and Alma also clarifies that this order of the priesthood is really “after the order of His Son” (see verses 1, 2, 7, 9, and 16). Alma also clarifies that we should see the priesthood as ordained from the foundation of the world (perhaps) rather than a person being ordained from the foundation of the world (see verse 8: “which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—”).

And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; 

To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

None of this is in Alma 13 of course, but it does shed light on the “covenant which God made with Enoch” mentioned earlier. God swore to Enoch, and to his seed, that every one being ordained after this order (“and calling”), would have this incredible power. To me it sounds like a way of describing the sealing power we attribute to Nephi (in the book of Helaman) and a few others. [In addition, Jacob never calls the power he has a “sealing” power, but he does say that, “and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (Jacob 4:7-8).] It also reminds me of how D&C 128:9 describes the sealing power:

Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?

The sealing power isn’t just sealing generations: it’s when a person on earth can declare something, and it is honored in heaven without any chance of it being annulled by man, mistake, time, etc. (Only another such declaration could change it.) It is a power that seals what is said on earth; or, it seals actions on earth and heaven; or, it approves words/actions in such a way that they have a seal or approval; or, as D&C 128 put it, “a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven.” Applying that to families is intensely powerful: someone on earth can declare this or that child to be a part of the Abrahamic Covenent, even if they weren’t literally born as such, and that declaration is honored in heaven!

So when we hear in the JST that God promised that everyone coming up to this order would have this power, how do we think about that? Were Enoch and Melchizedek different sorts of people, with a different sort of calling? Is this order here, which specifically includes Enoch’s name (“high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch”), different from what Alma is talking about in Alma 13? Or was is this power available to him, and high priests in his day, and is available to high priests in our day? (Or, at the least, to our presiding high priest?)

Is this what allows priests to become a “price of peace,” because they can use that power to defend their cities and end all wars around them? (See also D&C 45:67 and also v.70: “And it shall be said among the wicked: Let us not go up to battle against Zion, for the inhabitants of Zion are terrible; wherefore we cannot stand.”)

Anyway, lots to think about. But there may be reasons to just keep in mind that the JST describes Melchizedek as having these powers.

And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

It’s certainly possible to read “entered into the rest of the Lord their God” of Alma 13:12 as equivalent to “translated and taken up into heaven.” But for now, I want to focus on how each passage describes the timing of the event, whether or not the events are the same thing. Both Alma 13 and this JST passage describe something happening as a result of their ordination, or, along with their ordination. I think Kim is right that the experience of being washed clean and entering into God’s rest in Alma 13:11-12 isn’t the same exact thing or at the same exact time as the priest’s ordination to this order of the priesthood. Similarly, I don’t get the sense that this JST passage is suggesting that all three elements of this sentence happened at the same time (faith, coming to this order, and translation). There seems to me to be a progression and sense of the passing of time. Men, over time, showed their faith. Then, they came to this order — that use of the word “coming” implies some amount of time, it seems. And then, after those things, at some point they were translated and taken to heaven. It seems like it would be impossible for these three things to happen simultaneously, since the point of being ordained a priest, especially with all those powers we’ve read about, is to do things on earth! To teach, to preach repentance, to build a city, to defend it miraculously, and to become a Prince of Peace.

Moving on now to the part more specifically about Abraham, we get these two verses which have a lot in common with Alma 13:18:

And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace

And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

And here is Alma 13:18:

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.

These two seem remarkably similar. Again I’m not taking guesses as to what Alma had on his brass plates, but I do want to note that they have at least 4 points in common: priest/priesthood of/according to this/the (holy) order, obtained/established peace, called the Prince of peace/called the price of peace, people wrought righteousness/they did repent. And if we add in the JST verse just previously analyzed, we have a fifth point: men having faith/having exercised mighty faith.

And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.

This seems to be part of the covenant, given to Enoch: that the heavens and the earth should come together — that is, I think, that his city would return to the earth when another Zion city was built here again?

And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.

And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God; 

Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor. 

Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.

And now finally we get back to tithing, and see why this might actually shed light on why tithing is in Alma 13. If Melchizedek is building a Zion city, it would make sense that he would find a way to have no poor, like Enoch did. Melchizedek was a high priest and keeper of the storehouse. That signals he was not just any high priest, but a high priest like Enoch was, one who was also building a city. When Abraham pays tithes he is helping build that city, yet, strangely, he is not going to be a part of that city.

This distracts me to all sorts of questions I have about Abraham. Was he appointed to stay on earth, like Noah was after Enoch’s city left? (see Moses 7:42). Abraham is even compared to Noah in Abraham 1:19, though I’m not sure exactly what the connection is (“As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee.”) Was Abraham seeking to be someone who built up a city, but instead, was given the promise that he would be a father, rather than just a king? He will have lands for an “everlasting possession,” but his promised city is set in the future: “a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice” (Abr 2:6). In addition, his seed is assigned to teach the whole world in such a way that anyone and everyone can be a part of Abraham’s family (Abr. 2:9-11). While Abraham sought to be a “price of peace” (Abr. 1:2), he got (perhaps instead) the promise of being a father with a land that wouldn’t be a Zion city for many, many years.

This mention of wanting to be a “prince of peace” makes me again think of Melchizedek who was called a prince of peace. Was Melchizedek an example for him? Did Abraham go to him in order to receive his priesthood? Abraham says, “I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same,” and finally that “I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers” (Abr. 1:2). Could that be referring to this particular visit with Melchizedek? The last verse of the JST says that:

And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.

It doesn’t specifically mention priesthood or appointments to any specific calling, but it does mention a covenant, and also a blessing given my Melchizedek. There’s definitely room for speculation anyhow.

But to finish this post off, at the least it seems to be that Abraham gets these things in return for his tithing. He tithes “Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had … more than that which he had need.” Melchizedek is “the keeper of the storehouse,” and the one “God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.” And in return, Melchizedek, “being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God,” “lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram” with riches, honor, lands. It sounds more like consecration of Joseph Smith’s time: consecrate what you have, and you will be given a stewardship back!

And what does this have to do with Alma 13 and priesthood? I am fascinated that tithing, which at first appeared to have very little to do with the priesthood discussion in Alma 13, might be right at home here. A high priest such as Melchizedek doesn’t just teach the commandments, they are a price of peace. They establish a city. The receive tithes and distribute blessings. Whether or not verse 16 actually belongs where it is, I think that what is going on with Melchizedek and Abraham could actually be called “ordinances.” If I think of this meeting as not just a payment of tithes like we think of filling out a tithing slip, but rather, a moment of consecration where a stewardship is given, and this according to a blessing associated with a covenant, then yes I think I could call that an ordinance or an ordination! Even if Alma didn’t have what we know as the JST of Genesis 14, it might still be important to think of tithing as a moment of consecration, and that Melchizedek is the receiver as something that points out his role as high priest over a Zion city.

[Also, great article by John Welch at the Maxwell site. I’m not even half way through it, but it is very helpful! I just read the part where he traces the theological readings of Melchizedek in many different traditions. He ends that part by saying insightfully: “From this brief sampling of the literature, it is clear that people have said of Melchizedek primarily what their theologies required.” I think that statement is a rather important idea to keep in mind when studying any theological argument.]

D&C 68, Ranciere, and a comment at Dews from Heaven

I’m doing a lot more work at http://dewsfromheaven.wordpress.com than I am here right now, but this is also a good place for me to work on those topics (either in preparation or in further reflection). Here is a comment I made there, but with some edits and bolds and such to help me think through this more, and some further reflections on the family and Ranciere at the end.


I think you must be right, of course, that every teacher and leader in the Church doesn’t actually take on others’ sins. But I do think Jacob saw it that way, which really, really intrigues me.

I just did a search for “sins be upon” to see if there are other places in scripture that have this idea. There are! Sometimes it is about parents and children, sometimes it is about those who are leaders over a group of people. Here’s what I found (I left out all the ones about Christ, except one that connected His role to the fact that He had created men, making Him sort of parallel to a parent or guardian):

Jacob 1:19 And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.

Jacob 3: 10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

Mosiah 2: 27-28 Therefore, as I said unto you that I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God, even so I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you. I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God.

Mosiah 26: 23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.

Mosiah 29: 30 And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.

Mosiah 29: 31 For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings.

D&C 68: 25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.

D&C 88: 81-82 Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor. Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads.

Moses 6: 54 Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.

Moses 7: 37-38 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? But behold, these which thine eyes are upon shall perish in the floods;

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

That last one I included because it seems that Isaiah is afraid not only of his own sins, but of the people’s sins. Does his purging include whatever responsibility he had as a priest for the people’s sins?

This reminds me of something in the temple, which I won’t type out at length of course. :) But when we become cleaned at a certain point, we are cleaned not just from our sins, but from the sins of the time in which we live, if I understand right. I can see other interpretations of the wording in the temple, but this is at least one possible interpretation and thus one possible connection to this theme.

What I’m seeing is that there are times when one person or small group (like parents!) is so connected with the teaching of “the people” (or “the kids”) that their influence could hinder a group who could otherwise be quite faithful. When we are put in that sort of position, then the weight of their sins can be actually though of as on us — unless we teach. When someone is taught, and then sins, their sins are on them. If they do not know that they are sinning, then their sins are on whoever was supposed to teach them. If no one was supposed to teach them, then they are simply “without law” and Christ has already suffered for them.

So I don’t think this applies to Sunday School teachers, but it does seem to apply to parents!


Joe and I have been thinking a lot about “family” recently. We are reading though everything we can find by Ranciere on the family. He isn’t a member of the Church and doesn’t have the same reasons for looking at the family. But in this case, that makes it all the more interesting. He is convinced that there are methods of teaching and methods of standing out against oppression in a society that can only happen, or happen best, in a family. The Ignorant Schoolmaster argues that a mom or dad is the ideal teacher because of how they can uniquely exercise their will but not their intelligence over their children. A family is also a place where the economics of capitalism can be thwarted: we don’t have to act in what is most beneficial monetarily to us as individuals, but we can jointly pursue truth without thought of power or reward. Anyway, this idea that the sins of the children could possibly be put on the heads of the parents points to me that the family is extremely ideal for teaching — not just ideal, but so perfect that God could say if we don’t take advantage of that, we’re in trouble! It seems to me that this sort of warning can only take place if the influence of the parents (or king, or high priest) is so great that they could cause the wrong sort of thing to happen if they don’t teach or set the right example. Apparently we have a huge opportunity to set things right for the next generation, and not just “I sorta help a little but they’ll pick up how to be right from Church” and/or “they’ve all got free agency so it’s not up to me anyway.” NO! 🙂


Quick thought on Melchizedek in Alma 13:18

It will be a little while before it’s my turn to post about Melchizedek on our Dews From Heaven blog, but I wanted to “jot down” this idea while it was still fresh:

In verse 18, it describes Melchizedek as having:

1) “exercised mighty faith”


2) “received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God”

and therefore

3) “did preach repentance unto his people.”

This follows the same things we’ve already discussed. A high priest is 1) called b/c of faith, and 2) ordained to teach, and 3) receives the high priesthood forever. There is no mention of  being ordained to teach here, but it does describe him as preaching, and that description follows the talk of priesthood, so I think there is still an implication that he had priesthood-authority to preach repentance.

I love the concept of priesthood that Alma lays out where the priesthood purpose is to preach and to teach commandments, like being an angel on earth all the time. Great stuff.