These words of the prophetic fathers promised that “the mouths of angels” will declare Christ’s birth into the world.
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.)
Should I be concerned?
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.)
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.
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?
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?
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.
“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…
Alma 13: 16:
“Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.“
Notice the shifting back to “ordinances” from the discussion of priesthood. What ordinances? What manner?
Why would what happened with Melchizedek and Abraham be something pointing to the Son of God?
Why would such an ordination and ordinance always be something that would prepare people to understand and accept the Son of God?
How was it a “type” of the Son of God’s order?
What is this referring to in plain language? Is it that the ordinances will reveal a pattern that will unmistakably point back to the ministry of Christ? How?
What is there in conferring priesthood and endowing with understanding that points to Christ? Was Christ endowed with knowledge? Power? Authority? From on-high? When? What account do we have of it? Was it at His baptism when the voice of God declared, “thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (which wording was deliberately changed during the Fourth Century Christological debates to read instead: “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”)? How does this identify both the holder of this holy order of priesthood and confirm Christ’s ministry as the Son of God?
More importantly, why are these things not being taught to us today? This is such basic and important doctrine that Alma is teaching it as introductory material to a potential group of converts. But as faithful members of the Church we aren’t even familiar with them. What have we been doing with the Gospel we received?
Why was the “manner” something which would let those who learned about it know and identify the Lord?
Do we expect to follow Christ? If so, why aren’t we anxious to learn about this holy order? Can we follow Him unless we do what is necessary to take upon us that same holy order? If so, then how are we to find it today? Who teaches about it?
It is interesting to read this chapter of Alma. It reinforces that the Book of Mormon is still being neglected. We cycle through it every four years. Perhaps we are still neglecting it’s true message? I think this chapter gets lumped in with three others and covered in a 50 minute class every four years. Maybe that is what is meant by “neglect.” Oooops….
“And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.”
I’ve already commented that I believe Melchizedek (whose name means “king and priest”) was in fact Shem. I believe those who disagree (McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith) base their conclusion on the words of D&C 84: “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah;” (D&C 84: 14). I believe the lineage referred to there is from the fathers who preceded Noah. But Noah was Shem/Melchizedek’s father.
Abraham received the priesthood which had been promised to him by God, from Melchizedek. He (Abraham) already had the records of the fathers. (Abr. 1: 31.) He already had the promise of priestly authority. (Abr. 2: 6-9.) So the question should be asked as to why Abraham would need to be ordained by Melchizedek when the Lord was speaking directly to him and could have taken care of that directly. It is an important question. It is necessary to understand why the question should be asked and also what the answer is.
First, why would Abraham, who was directly in contact with God, be sent to another to receive the priesthood? What sense does it make the Lord would make him wait and send him to another? Particularly when Abraham had understanding that stretched into heavens and also possessed the records of the fathers, back to Adam. Why do that?
You should struggle with this question yourself. I feel like I’m robbing you by answering. Nevertheless, Abraham needed to be endowed and Melchizedek was set up to provide to Abraham the endowment. Therefore to receive the ordinance (Abraham was raised by apostates who had not provided that for him), he was sent to Melchizedek from whom he received necessary ordinances. As long as the ordinances needed to be performed and there was an officiator there to accomplish it, the Lord sent Abraham to Melchizedek.
Abraham also received the accouterments of kingship that descended from Adam. Melchizedek was the reigning high priest on the earth, Abraham was to replace him at his passing, and Melchizedek had awaited the promised successor’s arrival for years. When at last Abraham arrived, Melchizedek was able to provide ordinances, answer questions, minister as was needed, then turn over the accouterments of kingship and withdraw from this earth. No sooner had Abraham been prepared than Melchizedek and his city also withdraw to join Enoch’s people.
Second, why were tithes paid to a great high priest who would shortly be translated? What need was there for tithing?
The form the tithing took was not a check or bank draft. It was animals, food and usable material. What was provided would be used in sacrifices, feasts, celebrations and decoration of the temple maintained by Melchizedek. In short, Abraham provided material through his tithing that could be incorporated into the celebrations to which he was invited and from which he derived his own blessing and endowment. He gave, in turn he received.
Now, if you do not understand the concept of meekness and its importance for one who should hold this holy priesthood, then you do not understand either Melchizedek or Abraham. Each was a minister who served others. Each was a faithful guide because neither sought to be greater than another. They were great servants, who could be trusted with great authority because they did not seek their own will. They were interested in following the Lord’s will. Even at the price of great inconvenience and sacrifice to them. They were willing to sacrifice all things, and were therefore called to the work.
What is important is that the great events of Melchizedek’s time began when people humbled themselves and accepted the teachings of this “high priesthood” holder and were, thereby, saved. Not only saved but also led into a fellowship which eventually turned into a City of Peace, or City of Salem, or Jerusalem, which was taken into heaven.
This prototype was so influential in the thinking of all who followed, that the high priesthood was named after Melchizedek. Even though he held Patriarchal Priesthood with its associated sealing power, he was the one after whom Melchizedek Priesthood was named in the form it was later transmitted which lacked sealing authority. (Again, another topic.)
What is important in this verse is the connection between the existence of the one holding this authority (Melchizedek), and a humble people who would accept and follow those teachings. The result of the combination of the two was that God came and dwelt among them.
This is a pattern that followed the previous pattern with Enoch. This was the pattern Joseph wanted to return through his teaching and ministry. Joseph wasn’t able to accomplish it. We now hope to see it someday occur in the unfolding history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The most recent book on this subject, now on sale at Deseret Book (unfortunately a red-flag for me) urges the idea that the only Zion we should expect to see will come when the church president allows or directs it to happen.
This verse suggests what is needed is: 1) humble people willing to accept teaching from a high priest after the ancient order and 2) a person having that authority who will teach.
What does this do to our current accepted model?
If Zion is to return, how will it return? Will it mirror what the Book of Mormon is teaching here?
Is the church president the one who will bring this gathering to pass?
Is the church president teaching doctrine about the fullness which will bring others into the rest of the Lord?
Has the church president brought a company into the Lord’s presence? Attempted to do so? Taught or written about how that will happen? (If so, can someone point that out to me so I can read the talk, get the book or watch the video.)
How can I know I would actually have followed Melchizedek and become a part of his city by what I do today? (I’d like to be among them, you see.)
There are certainly worthwhile side issues. I just don’t think this is the appropriate blog for them.
“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.”
Think about what you’re reading here. Alma is essentially declaring himself as one of those possessing this priesthood because he is inviting others to enter into the rest which these people enjoy. That is, “come, join in the rest of the Lord.”
Alma has just revealed something profound about himself. It is subtle, but nonetheless true. In meekness he has proffered an invitation. He has not set himself up to be admired. He does not consider himself better. He has delivered the invitation to those to whom he is ministering, just as you would expect someone possessing this great, holy calling to do.