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Alma 13:7

The record continues in Alma 13: 7:

 
“This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—”
 
Now we encounter comments that everyone seems to use about this priesthood.  It is “without beginning of days or end of years.”  It is “from the foundation of the world.” 

It is “prepared from eternity to eternity.”

 
When did eternity end and mortality begin?
When does mortality end and eternity begin again?
 
What does the phrase “from eternity to eternity” really refer to?
 
Do we pass “from eternity” then back “to eternity” as part of this mortal experience?

What went on before, back in the first “eternity?” We read elsewhere of this peaceful existence during “millennial” conditions, which end with rebellion, disputes and a war.  Was Satan loosed in an earlier eternity after some season of peace to stir the hearts of men to anger one with another?  (See Rev. 20: 7-9.)  Was he cast out to hell, or the Telestial Kingdom, where we presently reside?  What went on?  How often would the Lord have gathered us as a hen gathers her chicks, but we would not be gathered?  (I suppose His asking and the lack of an answer implies a great number.)

 
What is it about what went on before, in the earlier “eternity,” that allows God to possess His perfect “foreknowledge of all things” now?
 
What is this strange doctrine and the implications which flow from them?  Was Joseph Smith trying to tell us this in the later Nauvoo talks?  (Maybe we should read them again…)
 
How is one to take it all in? How is the priesthood tied to this prior eternity? Why do we get side-tracked into the subject of “from eternity to eternity” when we learn about this endless priesthood which is without beginning of days or end of years?
 
What is really going on?  How can we learn of the truth?  Is there no prophet who can declare it to us?
 
The suspense is killing me. I’m hoping to get answers. I’m hoping you want them too. I’m confident if you ask the Lord, He will answer you.  He intends to pour out knowledge upon the heads of the Saints.  If we will stop making others accountable for what we learn, and go to Him to receive what He offers, by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things.  I read that somewhere… But the words are mine, now.

Alma 13: 5-6

“Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared— And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—”


So there wasn’t some great advantage for these people who hold actual priestly authority. We learn that “in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren.”  Where was that “first place?”  Is it also “from the foundation of the world” referred to earlier?
What does it mean that they were “on the same standing with their brethren” while in that first place?
What was it about these who receive authority that qualified them to receive the “holy calling” from the foundation of the world?  What does it mean that they “would not harden their hearts” in the first place? If they didn’t do it then, will they do it now? 
Is foreknowledge about these individual’s qualifications based on prior performance? Can you determine that since they did not harden their hearts in the first place, they will not begin to harden their hearts now?

What about the “atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared” made them qualified? Did they accept Him there? Did they soften their hearts there toward Him? Are they capable of having redeeming faith in Him here because they first acquired it there? 

Is all this necessary to have preceded ordination here? If it was not acquired there, can an ordination here have any effect?
What, then, do those who qualify do? What does it mean “to teach his commandments unto the children of men?”
Is there something different between teaching commandments on the one hand, and “that they [who are taught] also might enter into his rest” on the other hand?  Are the two linked together?  Is it necessary to both “teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest” to show such priestly authority?  That is, can anyone, regardless of their true ordination to authority teach commandments? But does it take something more, some higher ordination in order to bring those taught “to enter into His rest?” If so, what is the difference? How can you recognize such teachings if they are ever put on display?

Did Joseph Smith exhibit such powerful teachings?

Did Enoch?
Did Melchizedek?  Abraham?  Elijah?  Elisha?  Nephi?  The Brother of Jared?  Enos?  Others?
Do we see that today? If so, where? Does anyone have the audacity to presume they can bring another soul back to the Lord’s rest?  Maybe Joseph Smith’s comment on this point is appropriate:  ““The things of God are of deep import and time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind O man if thou wilt lead a soul into salvation must search into and contemplate the darkest abyss and the broad expanse of eternity, thou must commune with God.” (DHC Vol. 3, p. 295.)  I’d like to meet such a man. They seem to be rather infrequent residents of this fallen world….
I’m only asking those questions which arise in my own mind as I read these words.  You’ll have to figure out your own answers.

Alma 13:4


“And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.” 

The result of what went on before is the reason for the ordination or calling.  That is, “thus they have been called.”  Meaning that all of what went into the earlier experiences i.e., being left to choose between good and evil, and having chosen good, having “faith” and good works, is the reason for their ordination. These souls are not novices. They are not getting authority here for the first time. They come with power from beyond this earth, bringing it with them to this earth. They qualified before and elsewhere.  

All of this is “on account of their faith.” All things are obtained through faith. That is explained in the Sixth Lecture, quoted here.  Faith is a principle of power. It is capable of making things happen. There must be a connection between faith and power; between faith and priesthood. 

Others reject the Spirit of God and, therefore, do not have this power.  These others may claim to have authority, but they do not really receive power from the Spirit of God.  They are animated by a different source.  

What, then, causes someone who has a little authority “as they suppose” (they don’t really have it, you see), to attempt to use that pretense to control and dominate others?  The answer is contained in revelations already in print. It is their pride, their insecurities, the need to control, to be praised and celebrated, the need to gratify their vain ambition. These are character flaws. They cover up these flaws by claiming to have priestly authority from God.  (D&C 121: 34-44.)

They are the world’s Pharaohs, not the world’s Abraham’s. Their hearts are hard, their minds blind.  

They do not hear the Spirit of God, and therefore none of the powers of heaven are with them.

This was/is their choice. They could have had the same privilege.  But, alas, they prefer instead their own aggrandizement. They prefer monuments built with their names engraven on them. There is no message of truth and hope coming from them. Their words (the only things which really endure), will fall to the ground unfulfilled.  They will not be remembered.  They will return without a saved soul.

What stunning doctrines we have stumbled upon here!  I’m getting worried about things as I look about. This Book of Mormon is alarming…

Alma 13:3



“And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.”
It is too much!  Too great of words for men to possess! Consider what they refer us to.
Called and prepared FIRST! From the foundation of the world!
So here priesthood has its beginning before this world even was organized.  There is a necessary link between those hallowed days and power here. No person has authority here unless it was first obtained there.
How was it obtained first – before the foundation of the world?
It was because of the foreknowledge of God. And what was God’s foreknowledge based upon? Their “exceeding faith and good works!”
How can a person have “faith” when they stand in the presence of God? Do they now have knowledge? This was before the mortal estate, right?  If so, then how can there be faith? What good works were involved?
Then, too, the “faith” and the “good works” were done as a result of the person having been “left to choose between good and evil.”  Now this is surprising! You mean that before Adam partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (i.e., before the foundation of the world) that some people had already obtained a knowledge of good and evil, been tempted, exhibited good works and acquired faith?  How so?  When and where did they do that?  What does that tell us about them?  Is this why Joseph said there were “sons of God who exalted themselves to be gods before the world was made?”  (TPJS p. 375.)  When and where and how did they do this?  And was this required for any person to be able to claim they now have priestly authority here?  Or is it only those who have the “holy order after the Son of God?”  Is there something about these men’s “holy calling” that distinguishes them from others here?  If so, what is it?  Who are these men?  Are they always going to be from unlikely sources and places, so that people can know how to recognize the Lord?
Then, too, we have them in a class of people who had been through a “preparatory redemption” already. What does that mean? What does it imply?  How did they qualifiy?  How long have these souls been working on the process of redemption and thereby qualify through their faith and good works to hold authority in this estate?  Who are they?
Oh, now my head is spinning.  Can this doctrine really be true?  Why do we know so little about it?  Why did Joseph talk about it, but we have simply nothing to add?  Indeed, we deny it exists….. why is that?
This is certainly an interesting chapter.  Fearsome and interesting.  What a threatening, terrible, majestic, holy and challenging book this Book of Mormon turns out to be after all.

Alma 13:2

Continuing with Alma 13: 2:
 
“And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.”
 
Now this is important stuff here. We are really being told something quite amazing. Look at these words!
 
To be “ordained after the order of his Son” it must be done “in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.” Did you get that?
 
Think about these words carefully.
 
The “manner” must be in a way which will let people know or understand how to “look forward to His Son for redemption.”
 
So, let’s clear away the institutional garbage that surrounds our thinking.
 
Christ WAS NOT ordained by being sustained by a congregation.
 
Christ WAS NOT ordained by having hands laid upon Him by another man.
 
Christ DID NOT carry a credential with Him or a certificate of priestly authority.
 
Christ WAS NOT part of the established priestly hierarchy.
 
We have no record of His ordination at all. We only have established, priestly class officials asking Christ about where He got His authority from. And we have Christ simply refusing to answer their question.

Christ showed that He in fact held priestly authority by His demonstration of power.  More importantly, He taught profound truths with such passing simplicity and convincing prose that His message necessarily came from a higher source. 
In word and deed He put on display His power and authority.
 
But what is the verse in Alma speaking about?  How does one become “ordained” in such a manner that people learning of it will then know how to look forward (or back) to the Savior and understand His redeeming power?
 
Do they put on display, by the words and precepts they speak, the profound simplicity and convincing prose of the angels themselves?  Are they able to show their ordination by speaking words of eternal life, as He did?
 
How does this “ordination” acquire or show redeeming power?
 
How can obtaining authority by ordination to this priesthood be something which will let people know their Lord better?
 
What is really going on for those who hold actual priestly authority, being ordained in the required manner?  Do they acquire more than administrative authority from an institution? Do they receive power from on high?  Can you get it anywhere other than from on high? Is this why the power of the priesthood is inseparably connected with the powers of heaven? What have we Saints been doing?  Practicing? Holding ourselves forth to possess?
 
Where can we get this ordination after the order of the Son of God?
 
Forget what you’ve been taught. Read the Book of Mormon and remove the condemnation under which this people labor. Really study its words. They are alien to your prejudices and presumptions.  But they ARE in fact the words of life. You really can get closer to God by abiding its precepts than through any other book!  Amazingly, this is one of the very precepts which necessarily forces you to draw closer to God!
 
What a marvelous work and a wonder! Will the wonder never cease?  (Only if you reject it.)  It is a font of living water which constantly renews and floods forth more and new information endlessly, until at last we are also caught up in the visions of eternity and know our Lord. Then we needn’t ask another to know the Lord, for all shall know Him.
 
I labor to help you know Him; to bring you to Him. The primary means to accomplish that remains the Book of Mormon.  But only if you actually let it speak to you and reveal its many hidden secrets.
 
I’m only asking questions here.  You’ll have to figure out the answers.

Cite your minds forward

A few days ago I directed you to Alma 13.  I suggested that it be read without preconceptions and you let the words just acquire whatever meaning they appear to have in the chapter itself.  Some of you have begun that process and have raised questions.  I thought I might revisit the chapter to open up a few ideas for those who haven’t begun the exercise.

 
Here’s the first verse:
 
And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.”
 
Why “cite your minds forward?” Especially since it was talking in the past tense?  Why is this idiom in the verse?  How would Joseph Smith know about this kind of word usage?  (Perhaps this is an indication the text is translated from another language rather than being composed in English.)
 
Why “the Lord God ordained priests?” Were they ordained by God indeed? Was there another man involved in conferring that authority? Did it necessarily come from God alone? What priesthood is it that is referred to?
 
What is “after his holy order?” Is this Aaronic? Is this Melchizedek? Or is this something different?  There are three orders of priesthood, the third being “Patriarchal” as explained in Beloved Enos.  Which one is this verse referring to of the three?
 
What form of priesthood is “after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son?”  Are all three? Or is there one that is distinguished by being uniquely after the order of His Son?
 
What “things” are these people to “teach.. unto the people?”  Is there something associated with what is contained in the chapter that alone is the province of those possessing the “holy order” to teach?  If so, why is that? 
 
What is going on here?  Is this deeper doctrine than we normally encounter?  If so, why has it eluded our attention?  If our preconceptions have blinded us to this material, then why would we want to ever read scripture through the blinding lens of the notions we have inherited?  Is this part of the wicked “traditions of our fathers” that the Book of Mormon warn us against?
 
Oh ye Gentiles….. 
 
Now I’m missing the weekly Book of Mormon class I taught for so many years. There I could go ahead and discuss all the answers.  My home was too small for the crowds and I wasn’t going to export it to a less sacred place where the Spirit would not permit me to teach.  Well, the questions are better than merely giving answers, as I have said before.  If you can learn to ask good questions, then you can go to the Lord and get the answers.  Who knows where that dialogue will lead you.

If you love me, receive instruction from me

John Hall and I were recently discussing the Gospel of John. He pointed out that Christ’s words: “If you love me, keep my commandments” appear several times in the Gospel.  He thought the words could be better translated to mean:  “If you love me, act as a sentinel (or guard) ready to receive further instructions from me.”
 
The current King James translation was based on the recognition that the cannon of scripture had closed and revelation had ended. Therefore they took those things into account as they rendered their translation.
 
For us, at least in theory, the cannon of scripture is not closed. Also, in theory, revelation is still possible.

There is an effort underway to redefine revelation and circumscribe its acceptable bounds. The coming view will be that revelation should only be expected which confirms that the church’s authorities are speaking for God, and anything direct from God has ended. God has finished His work, and now given His authority to man.  (2 Ne. 28: 5.)  If Nephi was a prophet (and he was) then that will become the church’s position at some point.

 
It is our responsibility to receive revelation.  It is also our responsibility to keep the narrowing boundaries as wide open as possible. Whatever the line is, you should live at that line to prevent it from drawing even tighter.

If you love Christ, stand as a sentinel ready to receive further instructions from Him.

D-Day

On this morning 66 years ago my father landed on Omaha Beach in the first wave of the invasion.  He was a combat engineer, with the responsibility to blow up obstacles on the beach to let the tanks and equipment move about unimpeded.  The battle, however, changed plans.  He and everyone else there that morning needed to focus on the incoming fire and staying alive.

It didn’t matter that the obstacles were left.  No tanks arrived on Omaha Beach that day.  The explosives were better used to clear away a path to the German emplacements on the top.

As my father was dying, nearly 50 years later, he wondered why his life was spared when so many of his friends died that day.  A few years later when Saving Private Ryan was released it very much reminded me of my father.

I think of him every June 6th.  It seems more clearly a day tied to him than either his birthday on February 20th or the day of his death November 20th.  What a great man he was.  Possessed with profound insight, tempered by the things he suffered, living in obscurity, quick to laugh, never angry and capable of giving wise advice.  In all my life, I only saw him angry one time.  But I think I heard him laugh every single day; oftentimes at himself.

Preaching the Gospel to all who are here

When I was over missionary work for my stake we would meet with the Mission President quarterly.  The “Spanish Language Initiative” was where the primary missionary success was taking place in an area from Idaho to Wyoming and throughout Utah. The justification for the Spanish Language Initiative was rather an excuse. The stated reason was: “Can you imagine what will happen to the home base of the church with so many moving in if there isn’t an effort made to convert them?”

Criticism has been leveled at the church for the eagerness with which the missionaries are being sent to teach illegal aliens. There are full time Spanish language missionaries being called to teach all over the United States. My wife has a friend living in Texas whose son was recently called to a Spanish language mission in Pocatello, Idaho.

Criticism has been based upon the Article of Faith which states we believe in “honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.” The criticism is that there is some hypocrisy in seeking out and baptizing those who are illegal. The process seems to be lawless rather than sustaining the law.

At one point the church announced that law enforcement officers, judges and State prosecutors would no longer be called to be Bishops or Stake Presidents because it presented a conflict of interest for them to be a presiding church official over those who they were required to enforce the law. I do not know if that policy still exists, but it was the policy for some time while I was on the High Council.

I’ve thought the church’s position was poorly articulated and deserving of criticism. The church ought to make a well-publicized statement justifying what is happening by adopting a straight-forward explanation that everyone can understand and agree is true. I wish they would announce the following, or something close to the following, as the their reason for the Spanish Language Initiative:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an obligation to proclaim the Gospel.  We believe in inviting all to come to the Gospel and be baptized.  We would preach the Gospel to anyone, regardless of their race or nationality, wherever situated.  Today there are millions of people welcomed into the United States by a national government that has refused to enforce any significant deterrent to cross-border crossing.  Although such entry is nominally “illegal,” even the current President of the United States, the country’s chief law enforcement official, has proclaimed it is in the best tradition of the American people to welcome immigrants to the country.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a law enforcement agency.  It is powerless to make or enforce any immigration law or policy.  If the national government does not prevent migration into the United States, we believe it is altogether appropriate to offer all who will receive the Gospel an opportunity to be taught and baptized here, just as we would do for the same people if they were located in another country.

This puts the responsibility upon the Federal government, where it belongs.  It shows the church is powerless to affect the outcome of the migration.  It also avoids the “can you imagine what it would be like if we didn’t work to convert them” excuse, and puts it into a positive and reasonable light.

I do not think the church’s actions deserve criticism.  I do, however, think they ought to be more forthright about justifying and defending the effort to convert those whose presence here is nominally illegal.  There’s nothing wrong about preaching to such people.