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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.

Denver’s books – in case you haven’t read them yet

Someone mentioned in a comment (I don’t remember who or which) that they had not read Denver’s books nor did they know how to get them.  

For anyone that applies to – here you go . . . Happy reading.

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…

Alma 13: 16

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….

Alma 13:15

Alma 13: 15:


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.”

Abraham, father of the righteous, paid tithe to this Melchizedek. Not the reverse.  


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.

Alma 13:14


 
“Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.”
 
We have named a portion of the priesthood after Melchizedek. (It is not, however, the form which Melchizedek held. That is another topic I am not going to address here now. This area is complete mush in the minds of Latter-day Saint writers and commentaries. I can’t straighten that out on this blog.  I might take it up in a book and go through it methodically there.)

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.)