On to 3 Nephi

To put Alma’s teachings into a larger perspective you need to understand the pre-earth life. The “picture” you have in your head about that is quite skewed. I’ve tried to unravel it and reconstruct the correct picture in a 42 page long paper. Because of it’s length, it is not appropriate to post it here. However, I am willing to let readers have a copy. It is copyrighted to prevent it from being changed and then attributed to me in an altered form. I am willing to be accountable for every word I speak, write or even think. I am not, however, willing to be accountable for what you think I said, think I wrote, or interpret on your own. Therefore it is copyrighted to prevent an alteration from becoming attributed to me.
 
If you want a copy, send a comment with a return email address to any post on the blog and you’ll get a return email with the attachment. If, after you have read the paper, you want to comment, then the comments should be put on this blog entry.
 
The pre-earth life did not just consist of spirits who were born to a single set of heavenly parents, living happily before coming here, followed by a rebellion led by an older brother. It was far more complex than that. There were those who had exalted themselves before they were born. The definition of exaltation is given in D&C 132.  Joseph Smith had the definition of exaltation, as well as the Book of Abraham, when he made the remark. He knew that to be exalted required they be sealed in a marriage.
 
There were those who were “exalted” and who are called “Gods” in Abraham 4. The wording of the scripture is set out in detail and explained in detail in the paper you can get if you ask. You read that to finish off the missing pre-earth gap in Alma’s teaching.
 
The word “Elohim” is plural. It is plural for reasons explained in the paper.

As I have said in a comment on the Alma 13 materials, I do not think that deep doctrine is what is covered in the caution to not “cast pearls before swine.” I think that comment is reserved only to ordinances. Those are to be kept from being profaned. Deep doctrine is meant to be preached, proclaimed and understood.  Without it, men’s souls are not saved.  And by “men’s souls” I mean mankind, men and women.  All must hear the fullness and be offered it in order to make this life meaningful and fulfill its purpose.  When the doctrine is ignored or suppressed, then those who had a responsibility to proclaim it will be damned for their refusal to sound the alarm.

 
Generally the gentiles are expected in the prophecies to reject the fullness of the Gospel and walk away from it. Therefore, as a gentile, you should be concerned that you do not.
 
Because we need to understand our precarious and limited opportunity as gentiles, I am going to move to Christ’s words in 3 Nephi Chapter 16, beginning at verse 7. That will be the next series of posts.

Alma 13: 31

Alma 13: 31

“And Alma spake many more words unto the people, which are not written in this book.” 

This is often the case. John’s Gospel ended with this observation:  

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”  (John 21: 25.) Records are incomplete. We do not have the full account of Christ’s acts and words. We don’t have Alma’s either.

Mormon was the editor of this portion of the Book of Mormon.  He was the one who determined to omit portions what Alma said to these people on this occasion. From what Mormon left for us to read, his intent is clear. He wanted us to understand the bigger picture of God’s dealings with man, man’s possession of priestly power, and the importance of repentance and defeating religious error. Mormon had seen us, and included specific warnings addressed to us, the Gentiles.  He cautioned us about the Book of Mormon as follows: 

“And then, O ye Gentiles, how can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways? Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power, and at his great command the earth shall be rolled together as a scroll?  Therefore, repent ye, and humble yourselves before him, lest he shall come out in justice against you—lest a remnant of the seed of Jacob shall go forth among you as a lion, and tear you in pieces, and there is none to deliver.”  (Mormon 5: 22-24.)

Mormon knew the book would initially be in the hands of the Gentiles. So you can know we are identified as “Gentiles” in the Book of Mormon. Also, Joseph Smith declared in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple that we are identified with the Gentiles.  (D&C 109: 59-60.)  Although Brigham Young and President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that Joseph was a “pure blooded Ephramite.” (Doc. Sal. Vol 3: 253-54.)

The selected materials that Mormon gave to us were targeted to the purpose of the Book of Mormon. The title page (written by Moroni) tells us the purpose: “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile.” 

Gentiles would receive, translate and disseminate the Book of Mormon. But the Gentiles are prophesied to fail in their faith. They are to become full of their own abominations. When they reject the fullness of the Gospel, then it will be taken from them and given back to the remnant.  (3 Ne. 16: 10-11.)

Mormon is using the message from Alma to provide to the Gentiles (who will reject the invitation), an opportunity to understand the fullness which was offered to them. It was intended to remove from them the excuse that they were not given an opportunity and did not understand. Therefore, the Book of Mormon’s primary purpose, to make the Gentiles aware and accountable for their failure, is accomplished by Mormon including this portion of Alma’s teachings. The fact that other portions were left out mean that they would not have contributed to the task before Mormon.

A few of the Gentiles happily may be numbered with the remnant.  (3 Ne. 16: 13.) That is conditioned upon their repentance. The degree and completion of that repentance is shown by this portion of the sermon by Alma which Mormon preserved for us.

We are on notice. We are accountable for how we react to that notice. For the most part, the expectation is that we tell one another in reassuring words that “all is well.” and that “Zion prospers,” and to generally allow our souls to be cheated while we are led carefully down to hell.  (2 Ne. 28: 21-25.)  Still, some few will follow Christ, despite the leaders’ teachings that will cause them to err.  (2 Ne. 28: 14.) 

The Book of Mormon is a record that will be used as evidence we have been warned. In plain language and with sufficient truth to hold us all accountable, this is the standard by which we are to find our way back to the Lord in this last dispensation before His return.  We remain, of course, under condemnation because we are unwilling to do that. (D&C 84: 57.)

What a great and terrible book. What an alarming message. It is no wonder we neglect it so.

Alma 13:30

Alma 13: 30: 

“And may the Lord grant unto you repentance, that ye may not bring down his wrath upon you, that ye may not be bound down by the chains of hell, that ye may not suffer the second death.” 

Alma’s closing remark here is a prayer. He is asking that the Lord “grant unto you repentance.” This is an interesting cause-and-effect way to state the proposition. We cause it by our desire and willingness to become humble and repent. The Lord causes it because without His atoning sacrifice it could not be done.

We receive the effect because we are cleansed by our acts, humility and willingness to accept what is offered. The Lord receives the effect because He has allowed us to join Him in being pure and holy. He acquires a brother (or, more correctly a son). But He has no jealousy, allowing His brothers/sons to sit upon His own throne.  (Rev. 3: 21.)  He wants to have “all things in common” with us.

Alma’s petition goes further to ask that the wrath of God not be poured out upon these people to whom he is preaching. There are, of course, two levels of wrath. One is temporal–here and now. The wicked are often punished here by letting them pursue their own evil course until it destroys them. Repentance in that sense relieves them of the physical, emotional, social, military, economic, and interpersonal disasters they bring upon themselves by their ruinous pursuit of destructive behavior.

The other is eternal–meaning coming after this life. That second “wrath” is a result of leaving this life with accountability for what happened here, and the lack of preparation for the moment when “judgment” is rendered. That “judgment” consists of you finally facing reality. When you are in His presence you can accurately measure the difference between what you are and what He wanted you to become–i.e., like Him. The gulf is so great that you would rather be in hell than in the presence of a just and holy being when you are stained with the blood and sins of your generation.  (Mormon 9: 4.)

I have been in the presence of President Ronald Reagan. I met with President Spencer W. Kimball at the law school at BYU when he would come to visit with his son, who was a criminal law professor there. I shook hands and spoke with Chief Justice Warren Burger for about a half hour in the law library at BYU. I have appeared at the US Supreme Court, the Utah Supreme Court, argued before Federal and State courts in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas, California, Virginia, Washington DC, New York, Oregon, Nevada, Montana and New Mexico. I have seen Congress in session. Although a boy at the time, I was there when President Kennedy came to Berlin and spoke at Checkpoint Charlie, giving his “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” speech.  I have seen many other men who have shaped history. But there simply is no comparison between these mere children, these insubstantial and powerless creatures, and the holiness, power, majesty and glory of the one True Man, clothed in light. You may  see what the world reckons as a “great man” and think he was impressive. But you come from the presence of glory with only one conclusion:  Surely man is nothing, which I had never before supposed.  (Moses 1: 10.)

It is awful, fearful and dreadful to be in the presence of God. You realize the horror of your own darkness. (Gen. 15: 7-18.) You cry out with the realization that you are unclean, living your life among the unclean, and you are not ready for His presence. (Isa. 6: 5.) You are not prepared, and all your careful pretensions dissolve until you stand naked, revealed, hollow and unworthy to stand in His presence.

How, then, does a man stand in His presence? Through the merits and mercy and grace of this, our Lord. (2 Ne. 2: 8.) If your mouth is unclean, He will use an ordinance to cleanse your lips. (Isa. 6: 6-7.)  If you are covered by the blood and sins of your generation, He will cleanse them. (John 13: 5-13.)  If you cannot stand, He will raise you up with His own hand. (Daniel 10: 5-10.)  He is the God of mercy. Your discomfort is relieved by what He does, and this not of yourself, least you should boast. There is nothing in you from which to boast other than the merit and mercy and love and sacrifice given to you by Him.

How can He love so? It defies explanation. Words fail. You can search your lifetime through every word you have ever seen or heard – nothing comes close to being able to describe it. It cannot be spoken….  Too sacred for language to capture. Beyond our power.  So, you are left saying only: “Come, see.”

How, then, can a man come to the judgment and not feel the wrath which they might have overcome by His grace and mercy? Through the merits of Him bestowing upon a man the power to stand in His presence.

Alma’s pain at the thought of these people perishing was real. He was powerless to bring them to Christ. That power consists only in the authorized and truthful declaration of an invitation to come to Him.  But the choice remained in those who, having heard, must decide for themselves whether they will repent. They were free to choose iniquity and abominations. Alma was only able to invite.

The invitation, if rejected, will cause those who die to die yet again.  The way is broad which leads to such eternal deaths.  (D&C 132: 25.)

Alma 13: 29

Alma 13: 29:

“Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.”

Here you have faith, hope and charity (or love). You only have a fraction of the understanding of what faith in the Lord means until you have done as Alma is explaining here. True “faith” which is a principle of power, is acquired by the method Alma is preaching.

Hope that one can receive eternal life is not the vague optimism that it might happen – it is a certitude. You have the promise. You know you will have eternal life. You haven’t died and entered into the resurrected state yet. Between the time of the promise and the time you leave this sphere, you have hope. (The way it is used here is defined in Eighteen Verses.)

When God has promised you eternal life then you have “the love of God always in your heart.” It is there through the indelible promise He has made. He has changed your status. He has declared through His own voice what great thing you have become. Therefore it is by knowledge alone that such love resides in the heart of man.

This life will end. But you will be raised up. You know when you are lifted up in the last day it will be the power of God that raises you.  Such power as God employs to lift a man up confers upon such a person eternal life. The promise alone is a power, conferring the right to lay hold on eternal life when the moment comes. No power in earth or hell can rescind God’s word.  (D&C 1: 38.)  It cannot be done. Therefore, you have knowledge that you will not only be raised from the dead, but “lifted up” as well.  Powers, principalities, dominions, exaltations are all promised as yours.

This is how you attain to “rest.” It is the “rest of the Lord” as soon as the promise is made by Him. It is His rest when you inherit it in the last day. The words of the promise are enough to guarantee the inheritance. Therefore once the promise is made it is true enough that you have entered into the rest of the Lord. However, until you depart this life, you remain subject to the difficulties of mortality.  Graduation is assured, but you must tarry for a little while here.
As one possessing this hope, being filled with faith, hope and charity, it becomes your responsibility to raise up others. Hence the ministry of Alma, and Alma’s exposition on the ministry of Melchizedek. God does send true messengers. They can lead you in the way of life and salvation.

Alma 13: 28


“But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;”

Alma’s formula is quite direct and clear:

“Humble yourselves:” Without humility you are not teachable.  Humility and the capacity to accept new truth are directly related.  This is the character flaw that prevents the Lord from teaching the Nephites when He appeared to them. They THOUGHT they already knew things.  Therefore nothing that contradicted their false notions would be accepted.  Christ advised the Nephites who saw Him descend from heaven to go prepare themselves for His teaching. “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.”  (3 Ne. 17: 3.)  This was the Lord telling these witnesses that they were not humble enought to be taught–even by Him!  So the first requirement is no small matter. Are you really humble?  Can you accept truth if it is taught to you?  Even if it contradicts your traditions?  Even if it alienates you from family, friends, comfortable social associations, your neighbors?  (Matt. 19: 29.)  See, humbling yourself is not just some droop-faced, hang-dog expression to wear on your countenance.  Rather it is opening your heart up to higher things.

“Call upon God:”  Not just prayer. Call upon Him. To call is to invite Him to come. How do you call Him?  By devoting yourself, in humility, to living every principle He has taught to you through His messengers and in His scriptures.  It’s not a laundry list of “to-do’s.”  It is meekness and prayerful watching; humbling yourself and accepting what His spirit will advise you to do.  When He testifies to you that you are hearing a true principle, accept it.  No matter the effect it may have upon your life. Change your life, but never abandon His truths. Call, listen, and obey what you are told.  Never close that line of communication.  Don’t trust a message which does not come from Him.

“Watch and pray:”  Answers may come in many ways. Be watchful so you don’t miss them when they are given to you. Pray that you might be seeking, preparing your mind to behold what He sends. Stay tuned, and stay attuned.  Without such diligence you will miss His messages, that come sometimes frequently, but from unexpected sources.

“That ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear:” Implicit in this is that you may be tempted beyond what you can bear. So how do you avoid falling? Does humility and calling upon God and watching and praying insure that you can avoid an excess of temptation?  How would they all go together?  In particular, how would being “humble” be a protection against this kind of temptation?

Alma connects all this together with the word: “thus.” Meaning as a consequence of the foregoing. As a result of what he’s just told you. As a product of this approach, you will then “be led by the Holy Spirit.” You can’t do what comes next without being so led.  It isn’t in you. Not without help from within through the Holy Spirit.

So, if you do all the above, and then acquire the Holy Spirit to be your guide, then it follows that you will “become humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering.” You won’t be imitating humility, but you will be humble with the Holy Spirit’s assistance. You won’t feign meekness, but you will acquire the power to be meek (in the sense it is explained in Beloved Enos). You won’t pretend to submission, patience, love and long suffering, but you will be these things as a result of the Spirit within you.  This will be your character.  Not as the world understands such things, but through the power of the Spirit to lay hold upon such things.

Formulas like this one are inspired statements, providing a road map to the Lord’s methods of changing lives. Alma is making such a declaration and invitation in this sermon. It is amazing, really.  How succinctly he cuts to the core of the matter.

Alma 13:27

 
“And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;”

 
This is the reality of those who hold this holy order. They feel absolute charity toward others. It causes them “great anxiety even unto pain” to consider how others might be lost. This was exactly the same charity that motivated the born-again sons of Mosiah to perform their missionary labors at great personal peril. (Mosiah 28: 3.)
 
When you hear such a man after this order speaking in plain, even blunt words, it is not because they are unkind.  It is not because they are uncharitable or brash. It is because they are filled with care, concern, and longing to share eternal life with those who would otherwise be lost.
 
Look at his words. What does it mean that Alma’s motivation now comes from “the inmost part of my heart?”  How is it possible that Alma can have such concern that it causes him “great anxiety even unto pain?” Why does he long so for others to “hearken unto his words?”
 
Is this motivation for Alma the same as he described Melchizedek having?
Is the plea to “cast off your sins” the same plea which Melchizedek made to his people?
 
If this is the plea of both Melchizedek and Alma, and it is a burden which causes pain for fear that the mission would fail, where do we find such souls today crying repentance?  Are they among us?  Do we have ministers using the words of angels, declaring a message from heaven, who suffer anxiety and pain at the thought we will not repent?
 
Are you one of them?
 
If you are not, then why procrastinate?  Why not also join in the process? All that is required is repentance to make yourself clean, followed by keeping the word of God until you entertain angels, receive your assignment, and having been commissioned to then proclaim repentance to others.
 
Alma is inviting people to join the order after the Son of God, becoming thereby sons of God themselves. This is the great message of the Book of Mormon. I’ve discussed in six books the mysteries of godliness, using primarily the Book of Mormon as the scriptural source to explain these doctrines. It is the most correct book we have to set out these doctrines and inform us of the process. It is interesting how little of that message we’ve uncovered as yet.
 
So let us proceed…..

Alma 13:26

 
“And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of angels, at the time of his coming, that the words of our fathers may be fulfilled, according to that which they have spoken concerning him, which was according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them.”

 
Here is a simple, but compound thought. Alma is saying this:
 
There were “fathers” who recorded words of prophecy.
 
The “fathers” had the “spirit of prophecy which was in them.”

These words of the prophetic fathers promised that “the mouths of angels” will declare Christ’s birth into the world.
 
The declaration of Christ’s birth will come to “just and holy men” by these angels.
 
So, Alma is assured that the promises will be fulfilled.He knows this because the fathers who revealed the promises were trustworthy and had the spirit of prophecy.
 
Now comes the real question: What does it mean that “just and holy men” will be the ones to whom the angels will come and make the declaration?

Is this a description of those who hold the same priesthood as Melchizedek discussed by Alma?  If so, then does access to that priestly order after the order of the Son of God put the possessors into contact with heavenly messengers? Can a person hold that authority and not receive messages from angels from time to time? Who is it among us who begins an address by referring to the angel who visited the them the preceding night?  (See, e.g., 2 Ne. 10: 3; also 3 Ne. 7: 15.)

 
I have to assume that this is the kind of information that would be generally known among faithful followers of Christ’s Gospel.  After all, Alma is speaking to apostates, non-believers and critics who hold a false and abominable religion. One would expect that such things are not really so sacred that they can’t be preached. Why would it be “off limits” to us and be something freely declared as part of a missionary effort in the Book of Mormon?  So assuming it ought to be known, if it is occurring, is this among us? Where? Who has received these angelic messengers? Where are these “just and holy” men who entertain angelic ministers?
 
Or is it that we don’t expect angels, so we don’t entertain them? Perhaps they come and we don’t notice them? Perhaps we are blind that we cannot see, deaf because we will not hear, and our minds are darkened because we will not abide the teachings of the Book of Mormon? What is going on with us, when we compare and measure ourselves against this message from Alma?

Should I be concerned?
 
Is all well?
 
Will we endure sound doctrine?  (Cf. 2 Tim. 4: 3.)

Email addresses

For anyone who has asked for the paper discussing Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse, I need email addresses.  The email addresses will not be published nor used for anything other than sending the paper.
Thanks.  

CM

Alma 13: 25

“And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.” 
This comment is made in expectation that the Nephites will be told by heaven as soon as Christ is born. “. . . we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels . . .”  
Angels declared it to the shepherds near Bethlehem.  (Luke 2: 8-15.)  Alma expected a similar announcement.
“We only wait to hear the joyful news.” He EXPECTED the news to be shared. He knew they would have the announcement. He EXPECTED the angels to declare the arrival. He knew heaven would not leave these people without a herald of the news.
Imagine that. A prophet confident that the Lord will do nothing without first making known to the people His secrets! (Amos 3: 7.)  It is one thing to teach this concept. It is another to live it.  Alma is living it. Therefore angels did come and did make things known to him.
What does it take to have faith like this?

If you do not possess this kind of faith, can you be saved? Moroni taught that the absence of such faith condemns the people who no longer have such things happening among them.  (Moroni 7: 36-37.)

Do we expect the Lord to tell US about things by the mouth of angels before they happen?  Or do we expect the Lord will tell someone inside the bowels of an organization, and we will get some announcement through the prescribed channels, thereby relieving us from obtaining the ministry of angels?  Then why is the visitation of angels an Aaronic (lowest) priesthood key?  (D&C 84: 26.)  This is the right of young people beginning at age 12, mind you.  Should we expect the angelic heralds to come to everyone, 12 year of age or older? Why or why not?
Alma knows it will happen. But he does not know when it will happen. He would like it to have been in his day. It was not. But whether it was to happen in his life or afterwards, he nonetheless had faith, knew angels, awaited the message, and rejoiced at the idea of His coming.
How meek! How faithful! No wonder such a man possessed and knew the details of this holy order from God. No wonder he could teach with authority about it. How great the lesson he has left for any who will take seriously the message he taught.
Faith of this sort should be the common heritage of the Lord’s people. It was never intended that an elite, distant hierarchy would be put between God and His people.  If you are His, then you should KNOW Him. If you do not know Him, then you are not His.  Heed His voice when you hear it. No matter how surprising a place or person from which it may come. If it is His voice, then you have heard Him.

Alma 13: 24

Alma 13: 24:

 
“For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.”
 
If “angels are declaring it unto many” at the time of Alma’s remarks, why are they not declaring it unto many now?  Are we any less important than they were?  If we are as important, then why are we not hearing of this now?
 
What is the definition of “angels” who are doing this “declaring” to “many?” Was Alma included?  If so, what is it that turns a man from a mortal to ministering angel? Can a mortal become a ministering angel?  How would that occur? What would it require? Can we thereby entertain angels unawares?  (Heb. 13: 2.)
 
If an angel comes to visit with a man, gives him a message, and the man then declares it, are they both made “angels” by this message?  Are “angels” always either deceased or unborn?  If they are, then why did Joseph teach that “there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it?” (D&C 130: 5.) If angels “do belong” to the earth are they still mortal?
 
How would you recognize such a person? Would it be the same way the Lord was known before He showed Himself to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus?  (Luke 24: 32.)
 
If it is the “hearts” which are to be prepared, then does this relate to the disciples “hearts burning within them” as the Lord spoke to them while in the way? Why do His sheep hear His voice? How do they hear his voice?
 
Why is preparing “the hearts” enough to prepare a people to “receive His word?” Is it more important to “receive His word” than to receive His person? Why would that be so?
 
Why are we unable to receive Him in His glory until after our hearts have first “received His word?”

It is more difficult to be taught than to have faith for miracles.  (3 Ne. 17: 2-8.)  Even should you behold the Lord “in His glory” just as the Nephites, it would still be more difficult for you to have the faith to be taught by Him and accept what He has to teach than for Him to perform a miracle.
 
How alike all the generations of men are.  How very relevant, therefore, these words remain for us!

Alma 13:23

 
“And they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard.”
 
This doctrine contained in the scriptures was understood by this audience. The same audience who was full of iniquity and abominations because of their false religious traditions. It was in “plain terms” in the scriptures, if one doesn’t “wrest” them to their destruction.

To “wrest” means to apply such twisted reasoning that the philosophies of men are mingled with scriptures so that the result is error.

The object of the scriptures is to make matters “plain” and prevent people from “erring” in their effort to follow God.

What is the difference between someone who with their scriptures before them, finds their message sufficiently “plain” and “understood” that they “cannot err,” and someone who has the same set of scriptures and engages in “iniquity” and “abominations” because of their false religious ideas?  How can someone who is religious be certain they are not among those who err, but is instead among those who find holiness and develop faith to repent?

 
How do we know which side of this line we are on?
 
Both sides are religious. Both sides have their traditions and teachings.  Both sides are sincere and following what they believe to be true.  However, one is engaged in “abominations” because of their false beliefs, and the other has entertained angels and received such cleansing that their garments are white before God.  One side does not understand their awful state.  But the other is certain of their promise of exaltation and purity before God.
 
So, how certain are you?  Do you know you are pure before God?  Holy?  Having entered into His holy order after the order of the Son of God?  Or do you entertain some doubt about whether the traditions which you value are actually based on the truth?  Is it possible that you “err” or “wrest” the scriptures as part of your religious tradition?
 
According to Alma, all of this care by the Lord is because they are “wanderers in a strange land.” Meaning that they are in this spot at this time because they have been taken from Jerusalem, the land of their forefathers, and placed in a new, promised land. They have been persecuted and evicted from land by their aggressive cousins.  All of this to stir them up to repentance.  It is God’s care for them, God’s careful tutelage of them, that leads them to receive this profound understanding. They are on God’s errand, and therefore entitled to God’s guidance. God is providing the “glad tidings” which will permit repentance to occur.

So, applying Alma’s teaching to us, we should ask ourselves if we have repented? If we have received a message from angels declaring glad tidings? If we have received what we would recognize as a message from the Lord by someone declaring repentance?  Or do we have a weak tradition which assures us that we are right, while letting us entertain abominable (false, religious-based) errors in our beliefs?
 
These are troubling questions. Worth careful, solemn and ponderous thought.  Perhaps even prayerful thought where we ask the Lord if these things are not true.  And if we ask with real intent, He may make the truth known to us.  At least that is what He has said through past messengers. I see no reason why it would not work for us.  It’s at least worth a try, isn’t it?

Powerful teachings from Alma. But then again, one should expect nothing less from a true messenger bearing a holy order of power and authority after the order of the Son of God.  A weak and vacillating voice telling us all is well and we’re going to be fine just seems wrong by comparison.  At least I would think so. 

Alma 13: 21-22

Now we see this startling continuation in Alma 13: 21-22:
“And now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words unto them, he stretched forth his hand unto them and cried with a mighty voice, saying: Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh; Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us.” 
Now we get to some things which the record does not fully disclose, but does allow those with eyes to see behold it.  Be careful how you respond to this, because some correct answers are not going up if they cross a line.  But think of the answers to these questions: 
Why does he “stretch forth his hand?” What does that signify? 
In what way would that become significant, even a sign that he is a true messenger? 
Why does he now “cry with a mighty voice” to make the call? 
What is a “mighty voice?” Is it distinguished by volume or is there something more and quite different about it?  Importantly, it is not “loud” but instead “mighty.” Is that significant? How? Why?
What does it mean that “the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it?” Who is really speaking? Who is He speaking through?  What person is delivering the message?  How is Alma identifying himself in this “mighty cry” he makes?
Who are these angels sent to all nations? 
What is the difference in this statement by Alma and the others who can speak with the tongue of angels?  (2 Ne. 31: 13-14 and 2 Ne. 32: 2.) 
If one should possess such a right or commission, then whose words are they actually speaking? 
Why do His sheep hear HIS voice?  Even when spoken by another man or empowered priestly minister?
What does Alma actually say about his own authority as he delivers this warning? What can Alma lead you to inherit if you will heed his counsel and warning?  How can we know he is a true messenger sent by the Lord? 
If the Lord sends these messages and messengers to all His people, have they been sent to us? If so, where would we be able to find them and hear their message? How are we to know they are true ministers? Should I just trust that some institutional office and office holder is a guaranteed place in which to locate such a true minister?  If it is always that convenient, why hasn’t the Lord implemented that system before, instead of letting people have their free agency and permitting them to make mistakes? Why did the Lord allow Eli, Caiphus and Annas become High Priests? Why didn’t He come up with this neat system before?  [Clearly our system makes it so much easier. It throws God’s fairness into question, since He made is so much harder for earlier Israelites to figure out where the truth was being proclaimed. I think the Lord must owe them an apology.] 
Well, more can be said, but I leave it to you to reach your own conclusions about this startling comment coming from a true messenger. It makes one wonder why we’ve been missing it, as it has been before us for so many years.

Alma 13:19-20

Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention. Now I need not rehearse the matter; what I have said may suffice. Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction. 
The “many before him, and also … many afterwards” in this sermon is not just a reference to believers, but to those who held this “holy order after the Son of God.”  It it a reference to those who were made clean and pure by their repentance. It is those who, having been called by the Lord, chosen to this holy order, having their calling and election secure, hold power as a result of this relationship with God.
But none of these, before or since, (at the time of the writing by Alma) who held authority were greater than Melchizedek.  As a result, he merited particular mention to identify those who held the holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God. It was merited because his example and his ministry illustrated perfectly what the “holy order” was intended to accomplish. It is designed to save others.
It was not to exalt the man.
It was not to bring attention to the man.  It was not to amass praise or a following.
It was not to make the man a ruler over others. It was not to gain control or domination.
It was not to subjugate or force compulsive obedience upon the souls of men.
It was to serve and exalt those to whom he ministered.  His greatness was derived by the fruit of saved, exalted souls whom he saved.  There is no record of a single sermon preached by Melchizedek.  We have evidence of the following things he did with his authority and power: 
-He received tithes from Abraham. (Alma 13: 15.)
-He ordained Abraham.  (D&C 84: 14.)
-He saved an entire population from iniquity and
abominations, and converted them to the truth.  (Alma 13: 18.)
-He made those he converted qualified to behold the Lord’s presence.  (Alma 13: 11.)
-He performed a form of ceremony with Abraham involving breaking bread and wine.  (Gen. 14: 18-19.)
He served. He blessed. He produced exalted souls.  He was not great by what he received, but by what he did with what he received to bless and exalt others.
We would see this if we understood the scriptures. We would not be following a false tradition wherein men are famous, celebrity-like, fawned over, held up to acclaim and given the authority to exercise control over men. This is a false model that the Gentiles follow, and not the way in which true priesthood holders operate. (Matt. 20: 25-28.)  No-one possessing power from heaven will do this.  (D&C 121: 36-37.)
Now, if you make this mistake and follow in this false tradition, it will be to your own destruction.  Alma has warned you.  
What a marvelously relevant book this Book of Mormon is for our own day!  It is almost as if they saw our time, knew what we would struggle with, and had teachings designed to let us see the error and repent. I truly believe that we can get closer to God by abiding the precepts of the Book of Mormon than we can from any other book!  Joseph Smith was right.

Alma 13: 17-18

Alma 13: 17-18:

“Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;  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.”

He was a king over people who had “waxed strong” in both “iniquity” and also “abomination.” Keep in mind that “waxing strong” means to be increasingly determined or committed.  “Iniquity” is generally evil practice, but “abomination” involves the religious justification of wrongdoing. That is, something becomes “abominable” when it is motivated out of a false form of religious observance or is justified because of religious error.

The people to whom Melchizedek would minister were not simply in error, they were motivated by a false set of religious beliefs and errors. The result was that “they had all gone astray.” They were “full of all manner of wickedness.” This was a challenging audience for this man to minister to and try to convert to the truth.

Melchizedek began by “exercising mighty faith” in order to understand the truth and discern the difference between truth and error.  Remember how difficult it is to be taught truth. It is more difficult to learn truth than it is to perform miracles. (3 Ne. 17: 2-7.)  Despite this, Melchizedek was able to set aside all he beheld and through faith acquire an understanding of the truth for himself.  Conferred upon him as part of this education was the priestly authority with which to minister to others.

He “did preach repentance unto his people.” This required him to expose the errors, show them they were involved in iniquity and to expose how their religious errors had made them abominable. This preaching is always most difficult because it confronts the audience with a challenge to their mistaken beliefs, and false religion. There is a risk of violence when this happens. People who entertain abominable religious practices are more often moved to violence than to repentance. The Lord was greeted with violence. So was Lehi, Isaiah, Nephi, Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi, Peter, Paul, Stephen, James, Zacharias and too many others to mention. To their credit, and to Melchizedek’s, the preaching resulted in repentance.

The serious errors, iniquity, and abominations of these people did not prevent Melchizedek from establishing a Zion. These people were able to acquire “peace in the land” because of their repentance. As used here, however, peace means more than the absence of violence, it means the presence of the Lord.

The statement that he established peace as the King of Salem (Shalom means peace) and “he did reign under his father” is a play on words. Which “father” is being identified in the statement. Was it Noah, or Gabriel? (A man who would also be translated and have a ministry as the Lord’s herald before the birth of John the Baptist and Christ.) Or was the “father” Him would would declare that Melchizedek was “begotten” as a “son of God?” It likely meant both. But it is also likely written this way to let those who do not understand what is being said to read it in a way that conceals the dual meanings. The scriptures are filled with such dual meanings.

What is hopeful for us today, is that no matter how much “iniquity” and religious error we engage in that results in our “abominations” in our pride and foolishness, we still may be candidates to receive something similar to what befell the City of Salem. The first step is to acquire the presence of this priesthood through individual repentance.

We envy these ancients. But we do nothing to try and follow the pattern revealed to us in their course. The Book of Mormon is a course in ancient failure and ancient success. We just do not respect what we have in that volume.

Well, let us press on…