*(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. 🙂