Alma 13

Alma 13:1 the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son

Bruce R. McConkie

"Book of Mormon prophets gave the title priest to officers known in this dispensation as high priests. That is, they were priests of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or as Alma expressed it, 'the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son.' (Alma 13:1-20.) Since there was no Aaronic Priesthood among the Nephites in Alma's day (there being none of the lineage empowered in pre-meridian times to hold that priesthood), there was no need to distinguish between priests of the lesser and greater priesthoods." (Mormon Doctrine, p. 599)

Alma 13:2 the order of his Son

The order of his Son is the same as the Melchizedek Priesthood, also known as the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God (DC 107:3). Later in DC 107, the priesthood line of the ancient patriarchs is given. These are the same men referred to by Alma when he said, those priests were ordained after the order of his Son.

Alma 13:3 called and prepared from the foundation of the world

Many have wondered about the doctrine of foreordination. In particular, they wonder what they may have been foreordained to do in the pre-mortal sphere. Alma helps us to understand what type of things are worthy of a foreordination. He makes it clear that those who are ordained as Melchizedek priesthood holders were called and prepared from the foundation of the world.

The scriptures also speak of foreordination for the prophets (Jer 1:5, 2 Ne 3:10-11, DC 138:55, Abr 3:23), for the house of Israel (Rom 11:1-2), for the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:4-5), and for the convert Gentiles (1 Pet 1:2). Thus, we see that the Lord would foreordain us to a relatively few, but very important things-either to hold the priesthood, be a prophet, or to be an heir of exaltation.

"Brigham Young and Willard Richards explained that the general principle of election means that God elected or chose certain individuals in our premortal state to receive certain blessings, or to perform certain works, while in mortality (HC 4:258) According to the Book of Mormon, one great foreordained appointment or blessing was to receive the Melchizedek priesthood (Alma 13:3-9).  Since we know that the greatest of all the gifts or blessings which God can bestow is eternal life (D&C 14:7), it follows that the greatest foreordained calling or appointment that could be received in the premortal existence was to eternal life. (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, Hel 3 - 3 Ne 8, p. 115)

Bruce R. McConkie

"Since men are foreordained to gain exaltation, and since no man can be exalted without the priesthood, it is almost self-evident that worthy brethren were foreordained to receive the priesthood. And so we find Alma teaching that those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood in this life were 'called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God.' (Alma 13:1-12.) And Joseph Smith said, 'Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world,' and this includes all who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, 'was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.' (Teachings, p. 365.)." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. 3, p. 329)

Neal A. Maxwell

"Yet, though foreordination is a difficult doctrine, it has been given to us by the living God, through living prophets, for a purpose. It can increase our understanding of how crucial this mortal second estate is and encourage us in good works. This precious doctrine can help us go the second mile because we are doubly called.

 "When we mortals try to comprehend rather than to accept foreordination, finite minds are trying to comprehend omniscience. A full understanding is impossible; we simply have to trust in what the Lord has told us, knowing that we are not dealing with guarantees from God, but extra opportunities and heavy responsibilities." (Things As They Really Are, p. 24)

Spencer W. Kimball

"Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 316 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 267)

Alma 13:3 a preparatory redemption

"All doctrines, ordinances, and powers associated with the gospel of Jesus Christ assume force and meaning only in and through Christ's atoning sacrifice.  Such was the plan prepared before the foundation of the earth.  Men are called to receive the priesthood to assist in the redemption of souls.  They are called to preach and make available what Paul described as the 'ministry of reconciliation' (2 Corinthians 5:18).  They are called to bless lives-to lighten burdens, to strengthen the feeble knees and lift up the hands that hang down-just as their Master, the great high priest, is called upon to do.  The priesthood bearers before and after Christ are thus involved in the work of his ministry.  Their work is preparatory.  They, like the preeminent forerunner, John the Baptist, prepare the way of the Lord.  Those prophets and priests who labored before the meridian of time sought to prepare mankind for the coming of the Redeemer.  In the words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie:  'They could preach redemption; they could foretell its coming; but their work was preparatory only.  Redemption itself would come through the ministry of Him of whom they were but types and shadows.' (Promised Messiah, p. 451.)  Those who have lived since that time seek to instruct and warn and exhort mankind-all in preparation for his second advent, that final redemption of the earth and its inhabitants." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 95)

Alma 13:3-4 they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith

Although foreordained, Alma makes it clear that those called to the Melchizedek priesthood had to exercise great faith to demonstrate their worthiness to hold the priesthood. Although raised in a home of idolatry, this sort of exceedingly great faith was operative in the life of Abraham:

   'I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to posses a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers' (Abr 1:2).

Alma 13:6 being teach his commandments

Inherent in the calling of an elder is the responsibility to teach the commandments. They require no further calling, invitation, or setting apart, although these may take place. By virtue of their priesthood alone, they are both commissioned and authorized to teach the commandments and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord referred to this in his words to Sidney Gilbert, take upon you mine ordination, even that of an elder, to preach faith and repentance and remission of sins, according to my word (DC 53:3). See also DC 42:12.

Alma 13:7 without beginning of days or end of years

This concept (the eternal nature of the priesthood) is also found in Hebrews. The way it was used by Paul has caused a great deal of confusion. Paul spoke of the priesthood as being without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Heb 7:3). Yet this phrase, for centuries has been interpreted incorrectly to refer to the great High Priest, Melchizedek. Nobody was able to figure out how Melchizedek could have been born without father or mother, etc. The confusion is solved by latter-day revelation which makes it clear that the phrase has reference to the priesthood not Melchizedek.

Joseph Smith

"The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam's authority." (Teachings, p. 157)

Alma 13:9 they become high priests forever

Alma does not mean to say that a high priest will retain his priesthood without regard to righteousness. Rather, his explanation points out that the priesthood was designed to be eternal, all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually (JST Heb 7:3, see also Heb 7:17). It was not meant to be tried and then rejected. Once a man is called to this high and holy calling, there is no going back-at least not without severe punishment. The Lord warns, whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come (DC 84:41). This punishment is so severe because to reject the priesthood of the Lord is to make a mockery of God's great power and benevolence to the children of men. It also makes a mockery of the eternal nature of the priesthood.

Alma 13:11-12 they...were sanctified, and their garments were washed white

For the sisters, their garments are washed white and they are sanctified by virtue of the sacrifice of the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. For men, the priesthood is as necessary for exaltation as is baptism. Alma explains that for the men, sanctification comes as a blessing for honoring the priesthood. This doctrine is taught in the oath and covenant of the priesthood, For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies (DC 84:33). This does not mean that they were sanctified by the priesthood, for Alma makes it clear that they were sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Alma 13:12 could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence

Spencer W. Kimball

"This passage indicates an attitude which is basic to the sanctification we should all be seeking, and thus to the repentance which merits forgiveness. It is that the former transgressor must have reached a 'point of no return' to sin wherein there is not merely a renunciation but also a deep abhorrence of the sin where the sin becomes most distasteful to him and where the desire or urge to sin is cleared out of his life.

"Surely this is what is meant, in part at least, by being pure in heart! And when we read in the Sermon on the Mount that the 'pure in heart' shall see God, it gives meaning to the Lord's statement, made through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1832, that presently impure people can perfect themselves and become pure:

   'Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.' (D&C 88:68.)"

(The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 354-5)

Alma 13:15 Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek

Abraham is one of the most famous religious figures in history. On the other hand, Melchizedek is known to few outside the Mormon Church. Yet the fact that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek indicates that in their day, Melchizedek held a higher position than Abraham did. Joseph Smith explained that Melchizedek was the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God; Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor (JST Gen 14:37-38) Paul expressed this as follows, Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils... [Melchizedek] blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less (Abraham) is blessed of the better (Melchizedek). (Heb 7:4-7). The D&C tells us that Abraham was ordained to the priesthood under the hand of Melchizedek (DC 84:14).]

Alma 13:18 Melchizedek

Alma gives us more information about Melchizedek than is contained in Genesis. We learn in Hebrews that Melchizedek, as the great high priest, became a type for the Savior, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec...who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself (Heb 6:20; 7:27).

The rest of what we know about Melchizedek comes from Genesis, Hebrews and Joseph Smith, mostly through his translation of Genesis. Melchizedek was remarkable from his youth, when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire (JST Gen 14:26). He was approved of the Lord and was ordained to the priesthood through the lineage of his fathers (DC 84:14). His city, Salem (later known as Jerusalem) became so righteous under his leadership that it approximated the righteousness of the city of Enoch, his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken (JST Gen 14:34). He became the keeper of the storehouse of God (JST Gen 14:37), and it was in this capacity that Abraham saw fit to pay him tithes.

The encounter between Melchizedek and Abraham is interesting. Abraham was returning from one of his very few military excursions when he met Melchizedek (Gen 14:14-17). Abraham recognized Melchizedek's authority and sought for the same appointment. Melchizedek had brought him wine and bread (possibly symbolizing the sacrament, see Gen 14:18). Melchizedek became the mentor for the younger Abraham. Joseph Smith described part of their interaction, "Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have the priesthood" (Teachings, p. 322-3). Paul may have been referring to his ordination when he explains that Abraham was blessed of Melchizedek (Heb 7:6). Alma explains that among high priests, there were none greater (v. 19) and this is the reason why the higher priesthood was named after him (DC 107:2).

Robert Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie elaborate on how Melchizedek is a type for Christ:

"In these verses (v. 17-19) Alma establishes Melchizedek as a type for Christ, noting the following parallels:  First, like Christ, he was a king.  The very name of this great high priest - Melchizedek, 'king of righteousness', perhaps more correctly, 'my king is righteousness'-affirms and testifies of the goodness and power of the coming Messiah.  Righteousness is also a name-title of Christ (see Moses 7:45).  As Melchizedek ruled his kingdom in righteousness, so Christ will eventually rule and reign upon this earth, doing so with the unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth, possessing an everlasting dominion without compulsory means (see D&C 121:46).

"Second Melchizedek ruled over the city of Salem (a name which means 'peace').  In like manner, Christ will reinstitute the glory of David's day when nought is known but peace among the Lord's people.  Third, both Melchizedek and Christ were known as the 'great high priest.' In Old Testament times the primary duty of the priest was to offer sacrifice at the altar and to act as mediator between God and men.  It was by virtue of the priestly functions that the nations of Israel were reconciled to their God.  'Through the ministrations of the priesthood the people of Israel were instructed in the doctrine of sin and its expiation, in forgiveness and worship.  In short, the priest was the indispensable source of religious knowledge for the people, and the channel through which spiritual life was communicated.' (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 4: 2439.)

"Fourth, both were men of 'mighty faith' who taught 'repentance' to their people.  Of Melchizedek we read, 'his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven' (JST, Genesis 14:34).  And of course the same will be true of all who sustain Christ and his teachings in righteousness.  Fifth, both bore the title Prince of Peace, being teachers of that gospel by which peace and joy come.  Sixth, of Melchizedek we read, 'and he did reign under his father,' as does Christ, who professes no authority save that of his Father (see John 5:30).  Seventh, though there were many prophets before Melchizedek and many after him, Alma described the king of Salem by saying 'none were greater.'  Thus this great prophet, priest, and king stood as a classic type of the Promised Messiah, of whom it is true not only that none were greater, but also that none have been as great." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, pp. 102-3)

Alma 13:20 if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction

Not everything in the scriptures is easy to understand. The ancient prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc. can be difficult and misinterpreting them can be dangerous. Peter warned of the writings of Paul, in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (2 Pe 3:16). Wresting the scriptures unto destruction has become an art form whose master is Satan. He seems to have perfected the technique which is to use "the philosophies of men mingled with scripture."

"Webster states that to wrest is to 'turn or twist; to ascribe a wrong meaning or intent to; to deliberately misinterpret or distort.' The Lord warned against wresting the scriptures (D&C 10:63).

"President Joseph Fielding Smith gave the following counsel regarding wresting or misinterpreting the scriptures: 'It is wrong to take one passage of scripture and isolate it from all other teachings dealing with the same subject. We should bring together all that has been said by authority on the question. If we were to make a photograph, it would be necessary for all of your rays of light to be focused properly on the subject. If this were not done then a blurred picture would be the result. This is the case when we try to obtain a mental picture, when we have only a portion of the facts dealing with the subject we are considering.' (DS 2:95.)

"The Prophet Joseph gave the key whereby scriptures are to be interpreted: 'What is the rule of interpretation?' he asked. 'Just no interpretation at all. Understand it precisely as it reads. I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?' (TPJS, p. 276-7)." (Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia, p. 651)

LeGrand Richards

"Paul's statement has been very much misunderstood, by both preachers and laity. Preachers have freely taught that salvation might be obtained as by the snap of the fingers, as one prominent minister expressed himself to the writer; that salvation comes through a lip confession of a belief in Christ, even though not accompanied by obedience to his commandments and works of righteousness. Such doctrine is obviously out of harmony with truth.

"It was such interpretations of the scripture that Peter warned against when he said: '. . . which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.' (2 Peter 3:16.)

 "Many have thus been led astray and have contented themselves with a lip confession of faith, to their own destruction.

 "The enemy of all righteousness could not hope to succeed more effectively in thwarting the purposes of the Master and his gospel than to persuade men that all the blessings the Lord has prepared, through his grace, for his children can be obtained through their lip acknowledgment that he is the Christ." (A Marvelous Work And A Wonder, p. 267)

Alma 13:25 Would to God that it might be in my day

The Lord determines the time of our birth. He hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26). But if you had a choice of any time to be born into mortality, when would it be? Would you choose to walk where Jesus walked or to suffer bonds and persecution with Joseph Smith? Would you rather live in the last days, or have been a resident of the city of Enoch? Of all these, the most coveted in the scriptures is to see the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord reminded the apostles of this fact when he said, For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them (Matt 13:17). Alma was one of those many prophets and righteous men.

Alma 13:28 watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear

When Satan circles around us looking for an opportunity to go for the kill, the best defense is to watch and pray continually.

   'Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.

   Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;

   And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.

   Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.' (3 Ne 18:18-21)

"Too often people have taken license with the following words of Paul the Apostle:  'There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it' (1 Corinthians 10:13).  They have falsely supposed that they could hurl themselves into the path of sin, enter into forbidden territory, or wander briefly from that road which is strait and narrow-and then be divinely delivered from spiritual destruction.  Such people are deceived.  They have bought into another of Satan's lies.  Unless they repent, they will lose their souls.  We cannot repeatedly tempt God and expect him to keep us from the effects of our shortsightedness.  Rather, as Alma here teaches, we must be vigilant, ever watchful, careful and cautious so as not to slip into sin.  The promise of the Almighty is that there is no situation out of which God cannot deliver us and no temptation that he cannot empower us against-if we are seeking with all our heart to avoid the taints of the world, if we are striving to navigate the gospel path with fidelity and devotion." (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, p. 107)

Joseph Smith

"All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God the devil takes power." (Teachings, pp. 181, 187,189 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 269)

Richard G. Scott

"Some transgressions are so powerful that it is unlikely that you will begin to overcome them without another's help. Seek that help. In time, with the strength that comes from continued use of agency to live truth, you will be healed through the Savior." (Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 62 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 268)