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Staying On Topic

Straying from the topic is a universal defect in the blog/comment world. My goal, and it is a goal I take seriously, is to stay on topic. I don’t wish to offend anyone. I am trying to be very careful and methodical in my discussion of doctrine and the Book of Mormon. I want to keep the topic limited to the scriptures/topics under scrutiny.

There are certainly worthwhile side issues. I just don’t think this is the appropriate blog for them.

Alma 13:13

Alma 13: 13: 

“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.

All the more remarkable is that he extends this invitation to an unredeemed, critical, reproachful audience of unconverted.  He does not shield them from these great mysteries.
He does not flinch or hold back because it would be to “cast pearls before swine.”  He knows where the line is drawn, for in the preceding chapter they have explained to an audience that there are mysteries withheld from the public.  (Alma 12: 9-11.)  There are things kept from public knowledge and obtained only by heed and diligence. The line involves sacred ordinances, NOT higher knowledge. You give that and you make converts. You withhold it and you blend into the morass of churches who teach merely a form of godliness without any power to save. (JS-H 1: 19.)
It was the same during Christ’s ministry. The line is drawn as sacred events turn to ordinances. They are withheld. NOT the teaching of deep doctrine.
So when we refuse to discuss “mysteries” and limit our correlated curriculum to an approved list of 52 subjects, recycling them endlessly, we are not in conformity with the pattern shown in the Book of Mormon. The “most correct book” condemns us.  But, then again, so does the word of the Lord precisely because we are not following the Book of Mormon.  (D&C 84: 55-57.)
The highest form of acceptance and redemption is to have your calling and election made sure; to be washed and cleansed from sin every whit. Alma is preaching this to unconverted, investigating, potential converts. Today we won’t even permit the subject to be raised in adult Sunday School, Priesthood, or Relief Society meetings because it is considered to be “too sensitive” for the members to consider. Have we, the Gentiles, rejected “the fullness of the Gospel?”  (3 Ne. 16: 10.) Not as long as any of us (like salt or leaven) keep these doctrines alive.
If you want to know about this fullness and how to obtain it, then read the books I have written. That is what they are about. Alma was right!  His message was true!
Let all come and partake. Everyone is invited. No institutional control should be used to prevent your search into this matter.  It is right in the Book of Mormon. Though the institution may be condemned for neglecting it, you don’t need to be.
So, let’s turn to the next verse and see what wonders continue to unfold before our eyes….

Alma 13:12

 
“Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.”
 
If the earlier verse were not clear enough, the point is reiterated again here.  These people are “sanctified by the Holy Ghost” as a result of “having their garments made white.” They are “pure and spotless before God!”
 
This is the reason they can enter His presence.  He has accepted them because just like Him, they are without sin. They were not perfected by their own acts. The earlier reference to their repentance makes that clear. They become pure and spotless before God because they have done what was asked of them to become clean. They have repented.
 
Now, measure the effects of their repentance.  It has been so complete, so heartfelt, and deeply prized that they “could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.” It is this notion that underlies the mistaken idea that once someone’s calling and election has been made sure they are required to suffer for their own sins, because they have knowledge they are redeemed.  This is a twisted view, designed by the adversary to discourage those who might otherwise seek and find.

It is not that the atonement ceases to operate for the redeemed. The atonement continues to cover the on-going sins of these redeemed souls which arise from their foolishness, mistakes, errors of comprehension, and the things they don’t understand yet. Christ does not require them to do what they don’t know is a requirement yet. As the gentle and kind Lord, He will forgive all they do that is wrong, while He reveals through greater light and knowledge a higher path.  As He unfolds to their understanding more light, they can measure their conduct according to that greater light.

 
As they gain greater truth and light they see things how they really are.  Right and wrong are seen differently. What once was “right” is now wrong as greater light and truth is received.  What was once “wrong” is now seen clearly, without all the errors of understanding held before. 
 
The spotlessness is because their heart is right. They WANT to please their Lord. They WANT to be like Him. Sin is not tempting because it is contrary to Him whom they love.
 
The abhorrence they feel at sin is not within them.  It is not the temptations they struggle against. That is not the meaning at all.  It is what they see all about them. The lost souls are the object of their compassion and care. They WANT to have others redeemed and saved from this lost and fallen world. The fruit they tasted is something they desire to share. They WANT many, an exceeding many, to share with them in the hope that can be won by repentance.
They would shout “flee from Babylon” if they thought it would do any good. But shouting does no good among a darkened and benighted people. They may speak the words of an angel to others, but it is up to others to decide whether they will listen. It will be a still, small, quiet pleading they make to others. Within their entreaties will be found the Master’s words.
 
Many may claim to speak in His name, but only these few have the ability to speak with His approval. These are holy men, possessing words of eternal life. In them will be found truths that come from eternity and that will save to all eternity.
 
Only a few will listen. That won’t detract from the power of the message delivered by those who are after the holy order of the Son of God, for their words can save any who will listen.
 
What an interesting chapter we have found here. And we are only a dozen verses into it!  We should press on.

Alma 13:11

“Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.”
If you understand these phrases, this verse clarifies the matter.
Being called into this holy order requires a person to be more than a church member, or a follower, or a believer. They need to be “sanctified.”
“Their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.”  No small feat!

To have white garments is to have the blood and sins of your generation removed from you. To be purified. To be sanctified by the Lamb – removing from you, and taking upon Himself the responsibility to answer for whatever failings you have.

This is not ritual purity. This is purity in fact.

The person described by this phrase is qualified to stand in the presence of God without sin. Clean of all blood and sin – righteous forever. He is Christ’s, and Christ is the Father’s, and all that each of them will be is the same; for we shall see Him as He is, because we will be like Him. To be like Him is to be sanctified.

I can use the words, but I am powerless beyond that. This is more than you think it is. Words are inadequate to explain it. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what great things the Lord has in mind by inheriting these promises. Indeed, to receive an understanding is to cease to be a man and become something else altogether. A stranger and sojourner here, but a resident with God in another condition altogether. It is written by the Lord concerning them: “These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all. These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn. These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all. These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.” (D&C 76: 66-69.) 

Such persons are still in this world, but they are also associated with innumerable others who are not present here. Although mortals associate with each other, these individuals obtain a higher order. They connect with a higher plane, because a more sure word has been spoken to them. As a result they belong to an order of holy priesthood. That priesthood is an order without beginning of days or end of years, from eternity to eternity. This new, higher order, when it occurs can be the spark through which heaven itself can return to the earth.

To others looking in from outside, these are words without meaning, or definition. To those who hold this priestly position, these words are a perfect fit. The gulf between the two positions is so great that even a common vocabulary won’t make meanings connect.
We proclaim we “have the truth” but we do not preach it. We claim to have authority, but we have no power to redeem and exalt. We pretend it is unlawful to preach mysteries, yet Alma is preaching the deepest doctrines to the non-converted. If we preach the truth, it will attract those whose lives are empty. Why would they join us if what we offer is as trite and superficial as the false religions they already believe?
Is there no need to cry repentance to this generation with power and authority? With the tongue of an angel? To cry out as the Book of Mormon declares the message to the non-believing and skeptical? 
It does raise some troubling concerns as we claim to be the “true church” but do not act the part as shown in these scriptures. How are we justified in masking the fullness, hiding the mysteries, putting away deep doctrine that will save, and still proclaim that we are the “only true and living church upon the earth?” Does “living” require us to create sons and daughters of God who are “come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn?”  If so, why do we hear so little about it in our day?
I suppose our audacity springs from our history? If we have lost something vital that conflicts with our current understanding of the history that GUARANTEES us that we are perfect, and that we cannot be misled, then we wouldn’t want to acknowledge that. Thank goodness for these guarantees. It does let us relax a bit, doesn’t it? Broad and wide are the guarantees we have inherited. We don’t need to worry about that narrow and strait fringe who rummage about in the mysteries.

Alma 13:10

Alma 13: 10:

Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;”

Immediately following the formula, the explanation continues that “many” were able to become ordained as such “high priests of God.” But the way they did this was through several specific actions.
They had “exceeding faith.” What do you suppose “exceeding faith” means? Why not “faith?”  What is the difference between “faith” and “exceeding faith?”

They went through “repentance.”  So we know they made the same kinds of mortal mistakes as we do. They experience the bitter and then are able to prefer the sweet. They knew what it was like to feel the bitterness of hell, because they felt the sting of sin. So they repented. These great souls are NOT perfect, after all! They “repented” because they didn’t do it right the first time. What a refreshing idea. They weren’t fake. They didn’t feign virtue.  They had failing. They were filled with life, made errors, and needed to repent. They were not immune to the circumstances of this fallen world.

More importantly, do the terms “exceeding faith” and “repentance” go together? That is, do you necessarily have to possess “exceeding faith” in order to become one who fully “repents?” If so, why? How is it done? This may be an important clue to the process of “keeping the second estate” and “proving” that you are ready to move on.  Perhaps it is in this manner that some will then have “glory added upon their heads forever,” (Abr. 3: 26) and in another cycle of existence and eternal progression then also join in the ranks of those belonging to the “holy order after the Son of God.”

These called persons are, despite everything, “righteous before God.” God measures differently than do we. Being “righteous before God” may not mean the same thing we think “righteous” means. We want outward signs, symbols, dress, grooming and conformity. God looks at the intent of the heart.

Interestingly, they “choose to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish.” What do you suppose that means? First, they “repent,” then they “work righteousness.” Because of this, they do not “perish.”  So do these things all go together? Can a person “repent” but then not “work righteousness?”  Does a person have to  “repent” and “work righteousness” in order to not “perish?”   

Alma 13:9

 
“Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.”
Several things about this formulation are interesting.  Most interesting is the closing declaration, “And thus it is.  Amen.”  It is iconic.  It is as if the statement were an authorized, serious message, intended to be accompanied by the requisite formalities to let the reader know that this is serious stuff.  This is “most holy.” This is not just a passing description. It holds terrible, eternal significance.  So the material that preceded it holds important keys to understanding. Important warnings and knowledge. Perhaps, as a result of the concluding punctuation, we should be very, very careful about the words that preceded it.  [This is why I’m conducting this exercise.]
 
Now look at the beginning-
 
“Thus they become…”  These individuals have become something.  The “high priests” about whom this material has been written have been in the process of becoming something holy from before the foundation of the world. This is pre-earth or pre-mortal existence stuff. The history, or background leading up to finding a holy high priest in mortality is eons in the making. It goes back to before this world had been reorganized.
 
“..high priests forever…”  This priestly authority and holy order is not mortal. It is without beginning in this mortal phase of existence.
 
Now comes the formula of the authority: “after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth.” Look at it in pieces.
 
-After the order of the Son
 
-After the order of the Only Begotten of the Father
 
-After the order of Him who is without beginning of days or end of years
 
-After the order of Him who is full of grace
 
-After the order of Him who is full of equity
 
-After the order of Him who is full of truth.
 
What does it mean to be “begotten” of the Father?  (Psalms 2: 7.)
 
What does it mean to be a “son” of the Father?  (1 John 3: 1-3.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “grace?”  (D&C 93: 11-20.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “equity?”  (Proverbs 2: 9.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “truth?”  (D&C 93: 24.)
 
This is interesting. What are we to make of such “holy” men who are “high priests after the order of the Son of God?”
 
Do you think we make a man such a thing by sustaining him in Ward, Stake and General Conferences?  Can we make one of them at all?

If we never realize who they are, does that mean they don’t exist? Does it mean they weren’t ordained before the foundation of the world?

 
If they come, minister in obscurity, never hold high office and never have a single building at BYU, BYU Hawaii or BYU Idaho named after them, are they any less?
 
Does our recognition of them make them any more?
 
Are they here to be recognized? Are they here just to teach so that others may be brought back to God by learning His commandments and enter into His rest?
This is quite different than what I’ve been told in Gospel Doctrine class. It is beginning to look and feel a lot like what Joseph Smith was saying right at the end in the Nauvoo period.  I wonder why we neglect this today?

Alma 13:9

 
“Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.”
Several things about this formulation are interesting.  Most interesting is the closing declaration, “And thus it is.  Amen.”  It is iconic.  It is as if the statement were an authorized, serious message, intended to be accompanied by the requisite formalities to let the reader know that this is serious stuff.  This is “most holy.” This is not just a passing description. It holds terrible, eternal significance.  So the material that preceded it holds important keys to understanding. Important warnings and knowledge. Perhaps, as a result of the concluding punctuation, we should be very, very careful about the words that preceded it.  [This is why I’m conducting this exercise.]
 
Now look at the beginning-
 
“Thus they become…”  These individuals have become something.  The “high priests” about whom this material has been written have been in the process of becoming something holy from before the foundation of the world. This is pre-earth or pre-mortal existence stuff. The history, or background leading up to finding a holy high priest in mortality is eons in the making. It goes back to before this world had been reorganized.
 
“..high priests forever…”  This priestly authority and holy order is not mortal. It is without beginning in this mortal phase of existence.
 
Now comes the formula of the authority: “after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth.” Look at it in pieces.
 
-After the order of the Son
 
-After the order of the Only Begotten of the Father
 
-After the order of Him who is without beginning of days or end of years
 
-After the order of Him who is full of grace
 
-After the order of Him who is full of equity
 
-After the order of Him who is full of truth.
 
What does it mean to be “begotten” of the Father?  (Psalms 2: 7.)
 
What does it mean to be a “son” of the Father?  (1 John 3: 1-3.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “grace?”  (D&C 93: 11-20.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “equity?”  (Proverbs 2: 9.)
 
What does it mean to be full of “truth?”  (D&C 93: 24.)
 
This is interesting. What are we to make of such “holy” men who are “high priests after the order of the Son of God?”
 
Do you think we make a man such a thing by sustaining him in Ward, Stake and General Conferences?  Can we make one of them at all?

If we never realize who they are, does that mean they don’t exist? Does it mean they weren’t ordained before the foundation of the world?

 
If they come, minister in obscurity, never hold high office and never have a single building at BYU, BYU Hawaii or BYU Idaho named after them, are they any less?
 
Does our recognition of them make them any more?
 
Are they here to be recognized? Are they here just to teach so that others may be brought back to God by learning His commandments and enter into His rest?
This is quite different than what I’ve been told in Gospel Doctrine class. It is beginning to look and feel a lot like what Joseph Smith was saying right at the end in the Nauvoo period.  I wonder why we neglect this today?

Alma 13:8

Alma 13:8

 
“Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—”
 
The manner of such person’s ordination is described but-
 
What does it mean to be “called with a holy calling?” Is there something about the nature of this “calling” that is different from an interview and being “found worthy of advancement in the priesthood” as we commonly see?  What is a “holy calling” anyway?  Why does this kind of priestly calling get described exclusively as “holy” by its nature?  Is there some contact with God required (who is the source of all holiness) as part of this “holy calling?”
 
Then we have the description of their ordination. What does it mean to be “ordained with a holy ordinance?”  Does our practice of laying on hands, conferring the Aaronic Priesthood and ordaining to the office of Priest answer to this description?  What is the “holy ordinance” that is done to confer this priesthood? 
 
Can we automatically rule out the entirety of Aaronic and most of the Melchizedek priesthood offices when we see the words: “taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order?”  Is there some office we are aware of which is appropriately described as “taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order?” Think about that for a moment.
 
If this is a “holy calling” and it results in the person receiving it “taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order” isn’t this something perhaps quite different from what we do to disseminate the priesthood?  And if all the Aaronic Priesthood and most of the Melchizedek Priesthood offices are not what we would appropriately call “the high priesthood of the holy order” then are we talking about either of these two commonly held priesthoods anyway?
 
Then we have the interesting addition that the “calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end” for those involved. That is, without reference to mortality. It was held before coming here, it will endure after leaving here. It is “endless” in the sense it comes “from eternity to eternity” as set out in the preceding verse.
 
This is potentially quite different from the manner in which we practice priestly ordinations in the church today. I suppose that some will want to confine all this description to our practices.  They are free to see it in that way if they choose.  I’m just asking if it is more likely that the words have a different meaning than we have associated with them before.  If that is possible, then perhaps we ought to be asking the Lord to inform us more about the matter, rather than presuming we already possess what is being described here.
It may just be that our hopes for some great, eternal reward hinge upon getting to the bottom of this matter. It may just be that God’s control over and involvement with the “holy calling” and “holy ordinance” of having the “high priesthood after the Son of God” is immediate and direct.  It may be that this “holy ordinance” will only come from that God who employs no servant at the gate, but is Himself the gatekeeper.  (2 Ne. 9: 41.)  Wouldn’t that be wonderful.  Think about it – no flawed process.  No fooled bishop or stake president letting someone obtain an office for which they are completely unsuited.  It sort of makes sense.

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.