Alma 13:1-2

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.

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.

I have a lot more questions than ideas this post.

1) First, I think I’ve found a reading of “cite your minds forward” that I like, but let me know what you think. I think Alma is saying, “Okay, you brought up Adam and Eve and the angel blocking the way. We’ve talked about that part of the story. Now, jump ahead in the story to the part where God gave commandments and set up people to teach them.” That is, he uses “cite” to mean we should all focus our attention together on one point in the story, and “forward” to mean a time after Adam and Eve were blocked by the angel, which was the point that Antionah was focused on originally. Thoughts?

2) “these commandments” – I think what these are is pretty murky. I see in Alma 12:31-32 that God gave commandments, but I don’t see what they are. (The fact that Alma has already talked about giving commandments is the only wrench I see in my reading of point #1, but my reading might still hold up.)

3) And here’s the introduction to priesthood: “I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests.” There are two points I want to bring up on this. First, “remember”? When have the people been taught about this? I haven’t found it in Alma’s discourse, or Amulek, or anywhere previous in the Book of Mormon (though I didn’t do an extensive search). It isn’t in the Book of Genesis as we have it, but it is in our Book of Moses. Perhaps their brass plates were more like our Book of Moses? Second, remember that when Alma first got to Ammonihah, the people told him, “Behold, we know that thou art Alma; and we know that thou art high priest over the church which thou hast established in many parts of the land, according to your tradition; and we are not of thy church, and we do not believe in such foolish traditions. And now we know that because we are not of thy church we know that thou hast no power over us; and thou hast delivered up the judgment-seat unto Nephihah; therefore thou art not the chief judge over us” (Alma 8:11-12). So, I think we should also read this as Alma trying to show them that a high priest is called to teach everyone, not just those in the Church. Whether they like it or not, he does have authority and a responsibility for them. That could probably be drawn out better. Thoughts?

4) “after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son.” I’d like to understand better why we use the word “order” for groups. I should probably look elsewhere as well (monastic orders, etc.) but for now I’ll start with Alma. I found a few other references to “order” in the preceding chapters, and they don’t always use the same preposition, and I thought this might shed a little light on how the word “order” is used. Or maybe it won’t, but I thought it was interesting still. 🙂 Here are a few of them:

Alma 4:20 – “the high priesthood of the holy order of God”

Alma 5:44 – “called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus”

Alma 5:49 – “this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren”

Alma 5:54 – “who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God, wherewith they have been brought into this church,”

Alma 6:1 – “he ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God,”

Alma 6:4 – “establish the order of the church” (also, is this the same “order” or a different one?)

Alma 6:8 – “Alma went and began to declare the word of God … according to … the holy order by which he was called.

Alma 7:22 – “that ye may walk after the holy order of God, after which ye have been received.” (also, why “received”??)

The references in Alma 13 use “after” or “according to” except Alma 13:6 – “thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments”

5) “to teach these things unto the people.” As we are reading this chapter to learn about Priesthood, I think we ought to note that the first purpose that Alma lays out is to teach commandments. The Priesthood here is a group of messengers.

6) “in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.” Kim, others, good luck. Tell me what this means, please! 🙂 I’ve been stumped for years on this one. The only idea I have right now is that by calling it “the order of the Son,” the people know that the Priests aren’t the ones saving them, they’re only messengers of the Son. The “manner,” then, is simply that there is an order, and the order is called “of the Son.” That’s my best reading, and I’d love some help.

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11 Comments

Filed under Alma 13

11 responses to “Alma 13:1-2

  1. 1) Yeah, that’s how I’ve been reading it.

    2) I wanted to know how else Alma uses “commandments” in this sermon, and any mention of commandments only shows up in 9:8–14 and 12:31–32, 37. I was struck by 9:13 in particular:

    “Do ye not remember the words which he spake unto Lehi, saying that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land? And again it is said that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.”

    In his book, Joe argues that Nephi comes to understand the “commandments” in the Lehitic covenant as referring specifically to the Law of Moses (see 1 Ne 4:14–15). Here, Alma is referring to “commandments” in the same context.

    So what if “these commandments” in Alma 13 refers to the Law of Moses? That opens up the possibility that the “priests” mentioned in 13:1 are the Levitical priesthood of the Hebrew Bible, which would explain how Alma can ask his audience to “remember” their ordination. In addition, the one close glimpse we get into the function of the Nephite priesthood demonstrates that they are responsible for teaching (they’re intended to be messengers, as you note) the Law of Moses (see Mosiah 12:27–28 and Abinadi’s response). It also helps explain how this priesthood might typologically help people “look forward to his Son” (Alma 13:2), since we have lots of Nephite tradition about using the Law to help people anticipate the Messiah. It seems like a reasonable fit.

    There are a few complications to this interpretation, too, which I’ve been mulling over this afternoon, but I won’t make this comment longer than it has to be. That’s the gist of my idea. What do you think?

    3) Love the connection with Alma 8:11–12! It makes me think we ought to pay closer attention to the characters that initiate this sermon in Ammonihah. We have a priest (Alma), a man who accepts a messenger (Amulek), and an angel (commanding Alma to return). Considering how important priests and angels are to Alma 12–13, I think that might be significant.

    4) I went and dug into some Latin for you, because I love you. It looks like the earlier uses (13th c.) of the word “order” all referred to organizations of people, and our more common usages today are actually only derivative. The word comes from the Latin ordinem, meaning “row, rank, series, or arrangement.” So an “order” is, by definition, an “arrangement” of people. All the other meanings of the word grow out of that one. So when we talk about an order as a command, it comes from the idea of ‘keeping things in their proper arrangement.’ When we talk about doing something “in order to” accomplish something else, it derives from the notion of keeping things in sequence.

    I definitely appreciated the cross-references, though, because they highlight how much Alma is committed to the idea of the priesthood being a group of teachers/messengers, and demonstrate that this theology of priesthood in Alma 13 can’t be separated from how Alma views his own teaching circuit in chs. 5–16.

    5) I’m glad you pointed this out. It’s a pretty straightforward point on the surface, but it ends up resonating with Joseph Smith’s discourses and the temple, so I think it’s important to remember that Alma is on board with this understanding, too.

    6) If I understand you right, you’re suggesting that the “manner” in question amounts to the title of this priesthood order—it’s called “the order of his Son” so the people know to look to Christ. I’d been taking it to mean that something about the physical ordination of these priests was meant to be symbolic of the Son/redemption.

    I didn’t think either explanation was deeply satisfying, so I went over to the Feast wiki and found a couple good suggestions:

    a.) “In like manner priests are called and prepared from the foundation of the world to their calling, so Christ was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem his people.”
    b.) “The “manners” that are being compared here may be the actions one goes through in order to qualify for what is given. Perhaps Alma is saying that the process of qualifying for priesthood ordination is the same as the process of qualifying for redemption–as outlined in verse 3.”

    I thought those were both really helpful, especially since they both follow Alma’s own clue by looking to verse 3 for the “manner.”

    One final note on “the manner”—I was struck this time around by how this is all to teach the people how “to look forward to his Son for redemption.” It sounds like the priesthood is an order of messengers who come and teach you how to direct your gaze—how to look for Christ and redemption (and maybe, in the process, for further messengers?). Messengers come and change the way you view the world. Messengers help you rewrite law and history and symbolism and orient it all toward Christ.

  2. Thanks Kim!

    2) I can see the reason to look to the Law of Moses, but I can tell I don’t want that to be the answer. 🙂 Maybe it’s mostly because I really like the Book of Moses, and I know that there Adam, Seth, and Enos are ordained to the Priesthood and Adam prophesies about the Priesthood being in the earth in the beginning and at the end. I’ve got a lot invested in that reading because of my work on the Abrahamic Covenant. But it doesn’t mean that Alma is thinking of all this when he is trying to teach and convince this city to repent.

    It would definitely help explain the “cite your minds forward” bit, because the ordination of priests at the time of Moses is much later than Adam and Eve! 🙂 And I agree that his quotation of the promise given to Lehi ought to at least make us seriously consider that he means the Law of Moses when he uses the word “commandments.”

    There are complications, as you’ve already pointed out. Besides my own favoring of Moses 4-6, it seems like Alma is mostly focused on “high priests” and I wonder about low little the Law of Moses talks about “high priests.” (I don’t see any place in the Law of Moses where the ordinations of high priests are described, for example.) Does the “Order of the Son” also refer to the Aaronic priesthood? I’ve never really worked that one out in my mind. I know the Aaronic priesthood is contained in the Melchizedek priesthood in some way, so perhaps in that sense it is a part of that Order.

    The other concern I have is that Alma talks about Melchizedek himself, who was alive before the Law of Moses was around:

    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.

    That leads me to think that Alma is trying to argue that high priests have been around forever, and that Alma is just one in a series of high priests that have been around since the beginning. That’s my preferred reading, though I think the quotation from Lehi and Joe’s convincing reading of Nephi’s understanding of “commandments” as the “Law of Moses” is worth reckoning with.

    6) I’m still uneasy with every reading of the word “manner” – I have some obsession with this for some reason. I also thought for a while that it referred to some physical act, and there’s probably reason to still play around with that idea. For example, does the mere fact that someone else has to ordain by the laying on of hands suggest that we have to look elsewhere for grace? If this authority that one person has came from someone else, then it makes us ask where that person got authority, and that makes us look all the way back to Christ? A possibility, anyway.

    The wiki answers I’ve come across too, but my worry was that it’s hard to see those so it seemed odd to me to call it an example or a manner that teaches. I get the connection, though, and I think the comparison is instructive. Alma seems to start to explain in verse 3, and if so, I think the answer would seem that the wiki “b” reading. (Although, I can’t tell if he interrupts himself or if he is actually explaining what the “manner” is.)

    So perhaps the answer is that “qualifying for the priesthood is the same as qualifying for redemption,” but I don’t know what I think about that, though. You can’t go the other way around (if you qualify for redemption, you qualify for the priesthood) so maybe that’s where I get tripped up. And again I worry about how can this really be an example if no one can see your previous choices in the pre-mortal world. But maybe I’m being too picky here. Sorry if I’m being blind — I just feel like I get all tangled up when work on these verses. I’ll be very interested to see how this develops in the next verses too.

  3. Awesome! So… you totally just listed all the problems I was mulling over yesterday, and so far the way I’ve been working thinking about them is to say: it’s possible that Alma is simply mixing a Hebrew Bible tradition with his own Nephite understanding of priesthood, and then projecting that back through history.

    In that regard, I think his focus on Melchizedek actually strengthens my reading, because Melchizedek is the only pre-Moses figure explicitly called a “priest” by the bible (see Gen 14:18). The very fact that Alma singled him out is indicative of his desire to find evidence of a Levitical (ish?) priesthood that existed during the patriarchal period.

    So that’s my working model right now: Alma has a Nephite idea of priesthood that draws heavily on the Law of Moses, and he’s trying to schematize history through that lens. In other words, I totally agree with your reading (“Alma is trying to argue that high priests have been around forever, and that Alma is just one in a series of high priests that have been around since the beginning”), it’s just that he’s struggling to find biblical evidence for it. He understands priesthood to be a Levitical/OT model, and is wrestling with the fact that the Law of Moses was given so late. So he fixes on Melchizedek and says “Aha! See? A priest! God has been ordaining priests forever!” but he can’t conceptualize what a priesthood looks like outside of the Law of Moses because that’s the only model he’s ever known. Or something like that?

    It’s probably my (minimal!) training in biblical studies, but I have no problem with Alma 13 being on a different wavelength than Moses 4-6, or maybe even contradicting it. Isn’t it also possible that Adam/Seth/Enos receive a priesthood that’s different from the Levitical priesthood? So I think your work on the Abrahamic Covenant isn’t harmed one bit. (I certainly hope not, anyway, because I lovelovelove your work on the Abrahamic Covenant!)

    As for the Feast suggestions on “manner,” I don’t think the manner has to be strictly visible, does it? I see two parts to the formulation: 1) the manner of ordination which 2) teaches the people how to look to the Son. Visibility only becomes an issue in the second half, not necessarily the first. And even then, how literally can we take “look forward to his Son?” Isn’t that largely metaphorical?

    That said, I’m still unsatisfied with those answers, too, but they work well enough that I can move forward onto v. 3-5. Hopefully those will shed some light…

  4. I haven’t read carefully through your comments on manner, but I think you are probably spot-on with your reading of priests! Thanks!!

  5. Okay, I’ve had a little more time now to read through your comment.

    I’m still rooting for a Melchizedek here afterall I think. That is, I want to say that Alma does have a clear Melchizedek vs. Aaronic/Levitical understanding. I think Alma is careful to use the word “high” when he talks about “high priesthood” or “high priest.” I don’t know that the Book of Mormon ever talks about more than one high priest at a time, but it talks about lots of “priests.” (Jacob and Joseph, Noah’s priests, etc. See this search result for “priest.”) That seems to suggest to me that the Book of Mormon is careful about who it calls a priest and who it calls a high priest. (Although, help me out a bit with OT usage. Was the “high priest” someone with Melchizedek Priesthood, or was the high priest the highest of the Aaronic priests?)

    One reason I want to sort all of this out very well is that I think Alma’s conversation about high priests fits very well into my previous work on Priesthood. As I read D&C 84, D&C 132, and other sections, the work of the Priesthood is to bring people through the veil and back to God. That is specifically a Melchizedek Priesthood work. The Aaronic Priesthood is simply to prepare people to get to that point. Sort of the like the nurse who takes your temperature and blood pressure before the real doctor comes to do the real visit. 🙂 Something like that. The Aaronic Priesthood helps do the preparatory stuff, but the real purpose of the Priesthood is to get us back through the veil and to God, and only the Melchizedek Priesthood can do that. With all that Alma is going to go on to say about entering into God’s “rest,” I think I have to see Alma as calling himself a high priest in the Melchizedek sense.

    If all we had to work with was Alma 9-13, I think you might be right on with your reading of Alma and the Levitical Priesthood. But with D&C 84 running through my mind, I have to think that maybe he is pointing to Melchizedek for other reasons. Maybe you’re right that since Melchizedek is the only priest mentioned in the Bible he has to milk it for all he can! But how handy is it that this man was also someone who converted a whole city and brought them into God’s presence? It might also serve his purpose to show that a high priest doesn’t just work with individuals who want to come to Church, but with whole cities?

    Anyway, a few thoughts. Much less time to work these last 30 hours or so, but hopefully tomorrow morning I can put some more work in.

    Thanks, as always!

  6. I think all that is a distinct possibility. I’ll want to watch and see how Alma uses “high priest,” especially, as well as his treatment of Melchizedek. Good thoughts, Karen.

  7. Right now, I’m thinking that the discussion of “manner” here means that a man is called, lives up to that calling, receives ordinances of sanctification (second endowment?), becomes pure, converses with God, performs miracles (think JST of Genesis 14:30 — For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course), and so on, and that person becomes a testimony or witness to the fact that God is real and does converse with men on earth and is powerful and does share His power with men on earth, etc. That person becomes a testimony of God’s existence and also His desire to work with mankind, now.

    This reminds me of Moses (sorry if I’m jumping to other scriptures too often rather than focusing more strictly on Alma 13). D&C 84 says that he sought to bring his people into God’s presence, and we know from the story in Exodus that the people knew they could see God but were afraid and asked Moses to do that for them. They knew that God communicated with Moses, they knew that Moses could do miracles by God’s power. Without doubt, they knew that God was aware of and working with a person. And, they knew that God wanted them to behold His face too, just like Moses. But they unfortunately didn’t want it.

    But that’s the model I’m thinking of for Alma 13. Alma says that priests were ordained in a manner that taught others what manner to look forward on Christ. Later Alma will talk a great deal about priests (and many others!) being purified. I think the idea is that this ordination is connected with being made pure and thereby having great power from God, and people recognize that a change has taken place with that person and also they recognize (ideally) that they have power that comes from God, and that allows the residue of the people to realize that this is even possible. The presence of a priest of the Holy Order opens up the idea to everyone else that 1) God is real and 2) God wants to work with people, now.

    The “look forward” language is common in the Book of Mormon and means looking forward in such a way that they have faith now, and change now, because of what they know will happen in the future. By watching a person change and have power now, perhaps that allows everyone else to realize they can have faith and change now, too. Even if that means simply repenting and receiving the Holy Ghost, that is still a change and a reception of God’s power. Others, says Alma, many others, went all the way to also being purified (I still think this has to mean what we call second endowment or calling and election made sure).

    Why all the talk of choosing good, etc. in the next verses? I think he is trying to show that they can also change now just like a priest does, and in fact, they can receive all the priest received.

    Those are my thoughts as of this morning. 🙂

  8. Kim! Check out Moroni 7 too. If I’m at all on to something, Moroni 7 verses 22-39 will corroborate it nicely. Specifically, see these two verses:

    31 And the office of their ministry [of the angels, that is] is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.

    32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men.

    What do you think? The manner here seems to be angels teach chosen vessels, who teach and bear testimony, and this opens up a way that others can know how to have faith (or “look forward”), and thereby receive power from God.

    I’m certainly not being shy about the fact that I like it, but please feel quite free to burst my bubble if you see it otherwise. I’m happy to have someone who’s willing to burst my bubbles when they really ought to be burst. 🙂

  9. Several thoughts in response.

    Everything you’ve outlined is certainly a possibility. I don’t want to deny that. It just doesn’t strike me as particularly grounded in the text. If we were talking in the abstract about how priesthood might function, or trying to make sense of “Mormon theology” more broadly, I’d be much more open to it, but I just can’t see how it makes sense of Alma’s theology. For example: I agree that Alma says a “man is called,” but where are you seeing indication that he “lives up to that calling” or “receives ordinances” and then “converses with God, performs miracles,” etc.?

    I’m also concerned about linking up the “manner” with the later talk of priests being purified, because v. 9 is so final—we end with “And thus it is. Amen.” Alma starts explaining the manner in v. 3, summarizes it in v. 8, and concludes that point in v. 9. He wants to make clear, it seems, that by v. 10 he’s on to something entirely new. So I don’t think the purification/garments-being-made-white stuff can be subsumed under “manner.”

    Could v. 11’s talk of being purified refer to something like the second endowment? Yeah, it’s possible. I definitely think that if we’re looking for a special ritual v. 11-12 is going to be the place, but I want to leave open that possibility until we get there.

    I recognize that I’m being a real stick-in-the-mud, and I’m so sorry! I imagine a lot of it comes from all the extra years of thought you’ve put into this. Unfortunately, I just can’t follow you in thinking that this is what’s behind Alma 13. (Am I making you crazy yet?)

    All of my general nervousness aside, though, I really liked your thoughts on D&C 84 and Moroni 7, but probably not for the reasons you intended.

    Your reading of D&C 84 helped me think through the story in Exodus in terms of the people’s knowledge, how the situation appeared to them that I found to be a really refreshing perspective. There is, of course, the obvious difficulty that Moses isn’t actually a priest, though I want to think more about the possibility of seeing him in a priest-ly position and what that implies.

    The connection with Moroni 7 was also really illuminating, because it raised for me the possibility that angels and priests are being paired in Alma 13 because they are the connection points between heaven and earth. Moroni 7:31 says that the angels deliver this message to the “chosen vessels” (and although there’s a chance that these are just prophets, or something, the language of being “chosen” is really suggestive). I’m picturing angels and priests as something like the representatives, respectively, of heaven and earth. It’s also interesting to note the appearance of the word “manner,” as you point out, except that in Moroni 7 it’s not the manner of ordination but rather the manner of God’s communication with men. Still connected, obviously, but not as nicely as I think you were hoping.

    And then one more brief point on the phrase “look forward.” I’m seeing here yet another connection with the Law of Moses. There’s a strong Nephite tradition of the people looking forward to Christ through the Law of Moses (I’m thinking of 2 Nephi 25:24 in particular)–the law is the thing that causes the Nephites to anticipate Christ. What’s striking, then, is that priests are typically arbiters of that Law! So that’s another indication to me that this actually has a more biblical model of priesthood behind it.

    So, now that I’ve thoroughly disagreed with you and turned your point into support for my own agenda…

    You’re probably regretting this project right about now. 🙂

  10. Hey Kim, I’m just glad you aren’t throwing off the project b/c I’m so obsessed with getting this “manner” thing right! I much prefer further thought and disagreement over “Okay Karen, whatever you say. Let’s just get past this!” 🙂 So really, I appreciate it.

    Thoughts:

    Everything you’ve outlined is certainly a possibility. I don’t want to deny that. It just doesn’t strike me as particularly grounded in the text.
    Too true… this is a weakness of mine. You’d think with my Rancierian loyalties I’d be better at pointing to the text in front of me! I do jump too quickly to some massive systematic explanation. So, I’ll put my broader ideas on the shelf for now and try to keep my thoughts more specific to Alma 13.

    So I don’t think the purification/garments-being-made-white stuff can be subsumed under “manner.”
    Okay, I’ll shelf that too for now. Good point. I think “shelving” is a good way to put it — like you said, it may all be a possibility with regard to Mormon theology, so I won’t throw it out, but I’ll let it sit while we focus little by little, verse by verse.

    There is, of course, the obvious difficulty that Moses isn’t actually a priest, though I want to think more about the possibility of seeing him in a priest-ly position and what that implies.
    Yah, this is where my lack of OT training shows. 🙂

    I’m picturing angels and priests as something like the representatives, respectively, of heaven and earth.
    Hmm, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Interesting.

    It’s also interesting to note the appearance of the word “manner,” as you point out, except that in Moroni 7 it’s not the manner of ordination but rather the manner of God’s communication with men. Still connected, obviously, but not as nicely as I think you were hoping.
    Yah, I was trying to be careful not to use it as “proof,” since it was a completely different discourse, person, time-period, etc. Still, it opened up the possibility for me.

    I’ve been wrestling with this verse for several years so I was quite eager this morning to let this be my answer… But, jumping to a quick answer isn’t going to really help in the long run. It may have some truth, but we’ve got to get to that point as it comes naturally in our project. So thanks for overlooking my over-excitement, and for taking this bit by bit.

    And then one more brief point on the phrase “look forward.” I’m seeing here yet another connection with the Law of Moses. There’s a strong Nephite tradition of the people looking forward to Christ through the Law of Moses (I’m thinking of 2 Nephi 25:24 in particular)–the law is the thing that causes the Nephites to anticipate Christ. What’s striking, then, is that priests are typically arbiters of that Law! So that’s another indication to me that this actually has a more biblical model of priesthood behind it.
    You do make a good case for this being a discussion of the Law of Moses and associated priesthood. I do have to admit that, despite my partiality to the Melchizedek Priesthood reading. 🙂

  11. Oh, Karen. I don’t think you could have been any more gracious in your reply. Thank you.

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