Alma 13:16

This post will focus specifically on verse 16 and provide an alternative reading to the one offered by Grant Hardy in his article in the Journal of Book of Mormon studies.

I’m going to respond directly to Grant’s article to show where I agree and disagree with his argument. First though, let me say that I love it as a piece of literary evidence; I love it as a window into the world behind the text; I love it as a thoughtful engagement with scripture. But, in the end, I’m afraid I think verse 16 actually fits better right where it already is.

Here are the first few points from his piece:

  • it appears that verse 16 is out of place, but there is no indication of a problem in the English manuscripts. If there is an error, it would need to be a transmission error on the plates themselves.
  • verse 16 appears to interrupt the smooth flow of ideas in the discussion of Melchizedek (verses 14–20).
  • the connections we would expect between verse 15 and verse 16 do not make sense: these ordinances and manner do not seem seem to refer to verse 15’s discussion of tithing.
  • verse 16 makes more sense if it is read in the context of the discussion on priesthood ordination that appears earlier in the chapter.

Up to here, nothing seems to contradict what we have already discussed in previous posts. We certainly have found that “ordinances” and “manner” are very important terms earlier in the chapter, and I think we would agree that they seem to have very little if anything to do with tithing!

But as we leave these introductory points of Grant’s article, I find that his argument relies on interpretations of words that we still find complicated or ambiguous. Specifically, I think we would disagree with his readings of “manner” and “ordinances.” Grant argues that “manner” of ordination means that “ordination to the priesthood is symbolic of Christ’s redemption.” We’ve had many ideas as to what “manner” means, so I think we ought to take this part of his argument with a grain of salt. Grant also assumes that “at the time of ordination, a number of these new priesthood holders underwent a redemptive experience.” I’ve got no argument against that, but Grant then goes on to link this to the word “ordinances” of verse 16. (This is what motivates him to move choose verses 12 and 13 as the new neighbors for verse 16.) We had a hard time nailing down what “ordinance” meant in verse 8, so I think we should be careful not to make this leap too quickly ourselves.

While we’re far from settled on our interpretations, I do think we’ve discovered some important things about “manner” and “ordinance” that would call Grant’s readings of those words into question. First, we’ve found that Alma has a specific three-fold definition of “manner” after which priests were ordained. Alma lays it out most clearly in verse 8, but it’s there throughout the chapter: calling, ordinance, and high priesthood. As we’ve already discussed, verses 3-5 explain the “calling” as a request or invitation because of one’s faithfulness; verse 6 explains “ordination” by telling us what they were ordained to do, that is, “ordained … teach his commandments unto the children of men;” and verses 8-9 reiterate that the “high priesthood” is without beginning or end and is after the order of the Son.

The meaning of “ordinance” in verse 8 isn’t crystal clear, but within Alma’s discussion up to that point, the word has appeared to us to mean “an appointment” to teach the commandments. This seems to follow verse 1 fairly well. By looking at Webster’s 1828 dictionary, we felt that reading “ordinance” as “appointment” and “ordained to…” as “appointed to…” was a justified reading of the text. (It is also reminiscent of Abraham’s language in Abraham 1, where he seeks for his “appointment” to the priesthood rather than his “ordination” to the priesthood.) To summarize, we felt that Alma was more focused on what they were ordained to do, rather than on a describing a specific, physical ordination ritual. That’s not to say there wasn’t an event of ordination — we just saw that Alma wasn’t focused on describing what that event looked like.

When Alma gets to verses 12 and 13, he has already passed by the proper place to describe what an ordination would look like. Remember verses 3-5 describe why priests were called, verse 6 talks briefly about what priests were ordained to do, and then verses 8-9 reiterate the nature of the high priesthood. Verse 10 reviews the three-step “manner” of ordination, but backwards. To me this seems to reinforce the idea that he has finished discussing the details of the “manner of ordination” and is ready to move on. I think the discussion of washing in verses 11-12 is, as Kim has already argued, a result of being ordained, or something that goes along with being ordained. No where does Alma seem to say this is the ordination he’s been talking about throughout the chapter. Rather, Alma has consistently used “ordain” only with phrases such as “ordained unto the high priesthood” and “ordained and became high priests.”

So I think it is not consistent with our work on Alma 13 for us to accept “ordinances” in verse 16 to refer to the washings in verses 11-12 without some further convincing. It may very well refer to that, but we already have other usages of that word in the chapter that I think ought to be considered first.

Rather, it seems to me that verse 14 provides the proper antecedent for “ordinances.” Verse 14 reads:

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.

Remember Alma used “ordain” with “ordained priests” (verse 1), “ordained after the order of his Son” (verse 2), “ordained unto the high priesthood” (verse 6), and “many who were ordained and became high priests” (verse 10). Here as Alma first introduces Melchizedek, he emphasizes that he was “also” a high priest and “also” took upon him the high priesthood. If verse 16 were to refer to these two things as “ordinances,” this would not be inconsistent with Alma’s use throughout this chapter and would strengthen his argument that Melchizedek was doing the same thing as other high priests in history. 

In this interpretation, I see verse 15 as being the verse out of sync with the story, and not verse 16. Alma’s sudden switch to talking about Abraham, who is not referred to as a high priest in this chapter, and also about tithing, never otherwise discussed in this chapter, is what seems out of place. I think that verse 15 is a tangent, where Alma is trying to orient his listeners to Melchizedek’s story by using the figure of Abraham. There are lots of reasons why he might do this, and I want to address those in another post. But for now, I want to just make clear that I think verse 15 could, for our purposes, be put in parenthesis.

Verses 14-16 then resume their natural flow, and verse 16 becomes a link between everything discussed so far in the chapter and the story of Melchizedek. Alma is, in effect, saying, “Melchizedek too received these ordinances so that his people might look forward and enter into the rest of the Lord.” Then Alma proceeds to show how such a man, with those ordinances, could actually call a people to repentance and build a city of peace.

Here are those verses, with a few minor edits to clarify what I am trying to argue:

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.

(And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.)

Now these ordinances were given [to Melchizedek] after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.

A few brief thoughts on the word “manner” at this point. It might be possible to say that the ordinance of the washing ritual in verses 11-12 helps point others to Christ, and so that would be another reason to move verse 16. But, there is another place where this same language of looking forward on Christ is used, and it’s back in verses 1-2:

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.

That Alma is already talking about the priests’ ordination as pointing the people to Christ before he has discussed any sort of washing ritual makes me think that we can find other ways of understanding why the word “manner” is here.

I think it could be read that Alma is trying to explain that Melchizedek became a great high priest the way every other priest became a priest: by being called an account of faithfulness, by being ordained to teach, and by taking on the high priesthood forever. (All three of these elements are found in verse 18, too.)

(Now, the question of how this “manner” points the people forward is as confusing as ever. We’re still working on that one, with Kim offering some nice readings during our discussion on our last post. But I don’t think that placing verse 16 here or anywhere else in the chapter adds to or reduces that confusion myself, so I don’t think it ultimately matters to the argument.)

With that, I’ll return to fixing lunch for my kids, resting from my cold, and getting ready for my brother and his wife to come tonight!

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11 Comments

Filed under Alma 13

11 responses to “Alma 13:16

  1. Great post, Karen! You argue to good effect. On my first read-through of your post, you pretty much had me convinced. But as I’ve gone through your arguments again, and spent some more time in the text, I’m afraid I’m still siding with Hardy. (Good grief. You and I are good friends, with similar views on scripture. How is it possible we disagree so much?! Sheesh.)

    My thoughts are organized along certain points in your argument, so I’ll respond point by point.

    I find that [Hardy’s] argument relies on interpretations of words that we still find complicated or ambiguous.

    Yeah, this is an element of his article that made me nervous, but I don’t think our quibbles are deal-breakers.

    You point out his interpretation of “manner” and “ordinances” in particular. Regarding “manner” he says “ordination to the priesthood is symbolic of Christ’s redemption.” I have no problem with that, actually. I think he more or less restates Alma’s point. You and I have focused our discussion, however, on how it’s symbolic. And I don’t see how v. 8’s specifics call Hardy’s definition into question. I don’t think we disagree with his interpretation of “manner,” I think we’re just exploring it in greater depth.

    I do agree that his assumed definition of “ordinance” is trickier. He’s reading a lot more into that word than I’m comfortable doing. But, again, I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker.

    When Alma gets to verses 12 and 13, he has already passed by the proper place to describe what an ordination would look like.

    Except, remember, that Alma isn’t using “ordination” to describe a ritual, but the appointment itself. The only way there could be a “proper place to describe what an ordination would look like” is if we think it refers to a specific ordinance ritual. If we continue to read “ordination” as “appointment,” however, there’s nothing wrong with placing v. 16 after v. 12–13 as a kind of summary. I think “these ordinances” of v. 16 can easily be read as referring broadly to the theme of v. 1–13, in the sense of “these appointments to the priesthood.”

    And it’s also important to remember, I think, that the thrust of v. 16 is its typological factor, how it points forward to the Son. Alma is returning to the point of v. 1–2, and I think that strengthens the case for v. 16 being a summary verse, forming an inclusio, before he moves on to his particular example: Melchizedek.

    To me this seems to reinforce the idea that he has finished discussing the details of the “manner of ordination” and is ready to move on.

    Right. I have no disagreement with this statement. I’m just trying to draw a distinction between “the details of the ‘manner of ordination’” (which Alma is finished discussing after v. 10) and “ordination” more broadly (which he’s been discussing all along).

    The discussion of washing in verses 11-12 is … a result of being ordained … [not that] this is the ordination he’s been talking about.

    Again, I agree with you here, and I disagree with Hardy. But I don’t think it’s grounds for dismissing his proposed placement of v. 16.

    If verse 16 were to refer to these two things as “ordinances,” this would not be inconsistent with Alma’s use throughout this chapter.

    I think using “ordinances” to refer to “was a high priest” and “took upon him the high priesthood” would be inconsistent with Alma’s usage. Here’s why.

    Throughout the chapter, “ordain” is always a verb, of which the priests are either the passive subjects or the objects. They are never active subjects, the way Melchizedek is when the verse says that he “took upon him” the priesthood. Ordination is always used in the sense of becoming, being appointed to, etc., so it also doesn’t fit with the static assertion that he “was … a high priest.” Alma seems to be picking up with Melchizedek after he’s been appointed to the high priesthood. We begin from a point wherein he already “was … a high priest,” and when we do get mention of that process, it’s in active language (“took upon him”) rather than passive.

    In addition, the phrase “took upon him the high priesthood” to me connects up best with the third element of the “manner” described in v. 8 (“taking upon them the high priesthood”) rather than the second (“ordained with a holy ordinance”).

    I have some other quibbles with reading v. 16 in its current location, as well.

    1) I think the focus of the Melchizedek section, as introduced in v. 14, is not on Melchizedek himself, but his people and how they entered God’s rest. If v. 16 were left where it was, it would be drawing attention back to Melchizedek’s appointment to the priesthood, after v. 14 has already indicated that Alma wants to talk about a people entering God’s rest.

    2) “Ordinances” in v. 16 is plural. If, as you suggest, this were to refer to Melchizedek becoming a high priest, wouldn’t we expect it to be singular, since it refers to the appointment of one particular man?

    3) “The people” in v. 16 doesn’t fit with the pattern of how Alma talks about Melchizedek’s people. He’s always very clear about who these people are: “the people in the days of Melchizedek” (v. 14), “his people” (v. 17), “his people” (v. 18). For v. 16 to say “the people” fits better with v. 1–2 and the earlier half of the chapter.

    So I continue to side with Hardy on this one. I think v. 16 is meant to function as a conclusion to the first half of the chapter. Alma is saying, roughly, “These appointments to the priesthood were given after the manner I’ve just described, so that the people would look to the Son and enter the rest of the Lord. Now let me give you an example of a group of people doing just that.”

  2. I’m back, finally! 🙂 First off Kim, what makes us all good friends here is that we agree that scripture should be studied, that it’s interesting, that that’s fun and engaging, etc. We certainly will never always agree on what exactly every scripture is saying. 🙂

    Okay, on to the argument at hand. I’m happy to know I did at least some decent arguing, as I feel like I’m still new at writing up ideas. 🙂 You of course brought up some places where I had been a bit sloppy. I don’t actually care into which place verse 16 fits, I like it fine wherever it ends up. Good or bad, I do enjoy being creative and so I stand up for thinking outside the box quite often. So I’m going to defend or give in as I see fit here as I respond, but none of this matters to the gospel (or even our friendship, no worries 🙂 ).

    I don’t think we disagree with his interpretation of “manner,” I think we’re just exploring it in greater depth.

    Yes and no. Here’s one place I got sloppy. I agree that his definition of manner as a symbolic representation of Christ isn’t a deal breaker in and of itself, but once he starts to apply his definition, I think he gets ahead of himself. Here is the paragraph I am thinking of:

    The verses that follow explain how ordination to the priesthood is symbolic of Christ’s redemption in at least two ways. First, both were “prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God” (as was the priesthood itself); and second, verses 11–12 suggest that, at the time of ordination, a number of these new priesthood holders underwent a redemptive experience (perhaps the “preparatory redemption” of verse 3)

    For Hardy, there are two ways that the priesthood is symbolic, or, there are two “manners” in which the priesthood is symbolic. The first point I don’t think we would argue with at all. The second, however, is where I think he gets ahead of himself. Yes there is a “suggestion” of a redemptive experience at the time of ordination, but then I think Hardy quickly moves from a “suggestion” of an experience at the time of ordination, to this experience being both the “manner” and the “ordinances” referred to in verse 16. (Or at least, they become that if verse 16 is placed after verse 12 as he suggests.)

    As I read his next paragraphs more closely, I’m realizing he never actually says what the ordinances and manner mean from verse 16, but just that they make more sense if verse 16 is placed after verse 12. I guess I just picked up the implications that resulted from putting verse 16 after verse 12, and assumed he was arguing that this redemptive experience, as he titles it, helped explain what “manner” and “ordinances” must mean in verse 16. And that point was what I was trying to contend, and now I see that he didn’t actually state that directly like I thought he did.

    But, going on for now:

    Except, remember, that Alma isn’t using “ordination” to describe a ritual, but the appointment itself. The only way there could be a “proper place to describe what an ordination would look like” is if we think it refers to a specific ordinance ritual.

    Exactly. Exactly, exactly. What I was trying to say was that 1) I don’t think there is a specific visible ritual to refer to, but 2) even if there was, it should have been described earlier. I was trying to show that there likely isn’t a visible ritual going on, because if there was, Alma would have described it earlier.

    If we continue to read “ordination” as “appointment,” however, there’s nothing wrong with placing v. 16 after v. 12–13 as a kind of summary. I think “these ordinances” of v. 16 can easily be read as referring broadly to the theme of v. 1–13, in the sense of “these appointments to the priesthood.”

    This idea that “ordinances” is broadly summarizing 1-13 is exactly what I am going for. (See, we agree more often than you thought! 🙂 ) Seeing that word as a “broad summary” is exactly why I thought verse 16 could stay where it was; it would be saying that everything from verses 1-13 could now be applied to Melchizedek. The reason I dislike Hardy’s idea of moving verse 16 to follow verse 12 is that “ordinances” suddenly looks like it only means this “redemptive experience” (whatever exactly that may be) instead of everything from verse 1 on. My main reason to want verse 16 where it is is exactly because I want to preserve the idea that ordinances is a broad summary.

    So from here, I think we both agree that verse 16 is “typological” and that it is a “summary verse.” I can see your point that a summary verse might be better put before the example of Melchizedek story begins, but I solved that problem in my own head by having Alma “cite those minds back” once again to something already discussed, so they could apply it to another situation.

    In order to actually finish up and post something this morning, I’m going to skip to these last two points (but feel free to call me out on the stuff I skipped if you like):

    2) “Ordinances” in v. 16 is plural. If, as you suggest, this were to refer to Melchizedek becoming a high priest, wouldn’t we expect it to be singular, since it refers to the appointment of one particular man?

    3) “The people” in v. 16 doesn’t fit with the pattern of how Alma talks about Melchizedek’s people. He’s always very clear about who these people are: “the people in the days of Melchizedek” (v. 14), “his people” (v. 17), “his people” (v. 18). For v. 16 to say “the people” fits better with v. 1–2 and the earlier half of the chapter.

    I think these are both good points. I knew I was fudging the details when I wrote, but often enough scripture surprises me in the way it uses plurals and definite articles, so I was letting it go. I think that point 3 could be overlooked, since if he is, as I’m suggesting, trying to review and then reapply these ideas, it might be okay to use the words “the people” as he reviews these ideas. As far as your point 2 goes, yes, that’s probably a problem. Since Alma’s use of “ordinance” and “ordain” has been a bit tricky (we’ve done a bit of gymnastics already with using “appointments” for example), I was just willing to stretch a little further and let it be. But that’s worth bringing up, that the plural may be a problem with this reading.

    • Great response, Karen. It helped clarify a lot of things.

      I don’t have a whole lot to reply, except to say that I still side strongly with Hardy (apart from a few interpretations of particular words, as you point out), but I’m very glad you’re willing to play “creative advocate” and offer up these kinds of readings. It’s been really productive for me.

  3. jennywebb

    This whole discussion is fascinating in so many ways I hardly know where to begin!

    Karen, in the OP you say

    In this interpretation, I see verse 15 as being the verse out of sync with the story, and not verse 16. Alma’s sudden switch to talking about Abraham, who is not referred to as a high priest in this chapter, and also about tithing, never otherwise discussed in this chapter, is what seems out of place. I think that verse 15 is a tangent, where Alma is trying to orient his listeners to Melchizedek’s story by using the figure of Abraham.

    This struck a chord with me simply because I find Alma as a speaker / author to be someone who authentically wanders a bit here and there. It would not surprise me at all to find that the problematic aspects of verse 16 are due to our own modern readers’ expectations of coherency and construction. I’m thinking in particular of Alma’s sermon in Alma 32, where, by verse 21, he arrives at the “if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Then, instead of continuing to unpack that thought, he meanders a bit in verses 22-25 (mercy, angels, desire, cast out, backtracking about being compelled to be humble, etc.) before returning and reestablishing his main thought again in verse 26: “Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words.” That “as I said” acts as an acknowledgement of his wandering, as well as providing an anchor or grounding from which he wants to focus from now on. All this is to say, I could very well see things being in the order they currently are, even if a repositioning makes rhetorical sense, simply because it aligns with Alma’s own rhetorical “loose-ness” or “wandering” that occurs from time to time.

    I also think that the repetition of the phrase “look forward” here is important, as you brought up. I think this looking forward is inextricably connected with the development of faith (both personal and communal), and with the grace of the gift of faith.

    Here’s a biological reading: our eyes face forward. The simplest form of looking, of opening one’s eyes, results in looking forward. To look forward to Christ is to simply open your eyes and allow them to function. It is a grace—the freely given form and design of our eyes—that we receive when we open our eyes to receive it.

    Alma’s use of the phrase “looking forward” is clearly tied with his concept of faith, and specifically faith in Christ and his power to save us:

    • Alma 4:14 (Looking forward to that day, thus retaining a remission of their sins; being filled with great joy because of the resurrection of the dead, according to the will and power and deliverance of Jesus Christ from the bands of death.)

    • Alma 7:6 (…but that ye do worship the true and the living God, and that ye look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come.)

    • Alma 32:40 (And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.)

    • Alma 32:41 (But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.)

    I think this association between “looking forward” and faith (in Christ) is significant because it helps to flesh out our understanding of the word “manner” and the ways that Alma uses it here. If the priests are ordained in a manner that helps the people to look forward to the Son, then it seems that part of that manner is either through faith itself, or in a way that makes visible (ritualizes) faith.

    And in this reading, Alma’s use of Melchizedek here makes sense: if Alma sees some sort of fundamental connection between the manner of ordination and a specific form of faith (one that is, according to Alma 32, grounded in the tried and true word, and that is productive [brings forth fruit, trees, eternal lives, etc.]), then Melchizedek is a really interesting figure. He’s one that exercises “mighty faith” (v.18), there’s “none greater” (v.19), and, as we are first alerted to in verse 15, he has a connection with Abraham, himself a figure commonly associated with questions of faith.

    • I’m still digesting your comments on “looking forward.” I particularly liked this idea: The simplest form of looking, of opening one’s eyes, results in looking forward. To look forward to Christ is to simply open your eyes and allow them to function. I think I hear you saying that rather than reading “looking forward” as a way of keeping one’s mind abstractly looking to the future, to something distant and actually out-of-sight, Alma is asking them to “looking forward” in a way that is actually solidly in the present: it’s seeing what can be seen from where you already are. This is, of course, with the eye of faith, but still, I like the idea that you’re working on here that what we are seeing when we “look forward” is something natural and graceful. I had perhaps in the past, without even realizing it, assumed that the Nephites were having to manufacture a picture of what Christ would do and what it meant to them, a sort of work of mental construction. But I think I see here in your comment that it is something that flows naturally as they simply open their eyes and look forward. Perhaps “look forward” simply means “don’t get distracted” from what is actually right in front of you.

      • jennywebb

        Karen, yes, exactly—looking forward read as “don’t get distracted” is right on, in my opinion. So when Alma says that the ordinances were given in a manner that allowed people to “look forward on the Son of God,” he’s saying that the way of giving / sharing / bestowing ordinances is something that opens up a space in the present that allows people to see Christ as He really is. I think the “on” here is important too—usually we’d say something like “look forward to the Son of God,” but the “on” creates a whole different picture: Christ as someone who has perhaps been obscured, or veiled; and the manner of giving these priesthood ordinances then allows for some type of revelation, but not a revelation of something in the future. Rather, a revelation of where/how things are now, in present. The only way I see this as being applicable across time and generations then is if it’s a revelation regarding a relationship. That is, the manner of the ordination reveals something essential about an individual’s always-present relationship with/to Christ.

        • I see how you’re reading “on” here. That’s interesting. It reminds me of how the Book of Mormon describes the story of Moses raising a brazen serpent up for people to simply look at. I did a search and found that at least once the Book of Mormon uses “upon” to describe both how the people looked to the serpent and how we should look to Christ: “Helaman 8:15 And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.” I think this would support your reading nicely Jenny, that in both cases the trick is to simply look at what God has already given to be right in front of you.

          The “manner” of ordination is still a slippery word for me. I go back and forth on whether or not I think there’s something in the way itself of the priests giving / sharing / bestowing ordinances that causes or allows the people to look forward. Other times, I wonder if it’s the teaching that allows others to look to Christ, and the “manner” is just how those particular people become teachers.

          (I’m going to ramble on for a minute as I sort this out, so I apologize in advance!) The idea I’ve got is that the “manner” is what allows those people to become authorized to teach what they teach. I’m thinking of how D&C 42:11 talks about preachers: “Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” I haven’t quite gotten rid of the possibility that the reason this “manner” allows others to look on Christ is because this “manner” is what sets those people up as official teachers and representatives of Christ. (And then they teach how to look forward on Christ.) And the “manner” or I might say “manner of authorization” is set up in such a way that only those who are pure in heart will be teachers (since they will be called on account of faith and good works). Since they will be like Christ in their humility and charity, it will be easier for them to teach the people what Christ is like and how to be humble before Him. That is, they also become models or examples of how to relate to Christ, and how to have faith in Christ in such a way that they become united with Him. I don’t know if this all quite works in Alma’s way of explaining things, but I have to admit I like the reading that “manner” is something like “manner in which they are authorized, so that their teaching has the force it needs to have to enable real change.” Something like that anyway.

          In this reading, verse 18 (and perhaps 16) are explaining why it was that Melchizedek could do what he did. (“But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people.”) He was first authorized, by his faith and by receiving the high priesthood, and then he preached repentance and helped convert an entire city. It wasn’t just the preaching that effected that change in the city, it had something to do with the authorization Melchizedek had received first. I don’t know if this enables a greater portion of the Spirit, or authorized him to perform saving ordinances along with his teaching, or what, but at the least, I think Alma wants to make clear that Melchizedek was a high priest and that’s why he could do what he did.

          I really like this reading of “manner,” though I like other readings as well. I think it makes sense of a broader picture of the priesthood work, but I can’t tell if it’s honest to what Alma is saying in Alma 13. Thoughts?

          • One initial thought, but only very briefly: I think it’s smart to look for the “manner” in the example of Melchizedek. I’ll want to think more about that. Carry on. 🙂

          • jennywebb

            Karen, you’re right: “manner” is central, and slippery. I really like the reading you provide, and think that it fits well with a more general conception of priesthood. But, like you, I’m not certain that’s what Alma has in mind.

            While we’re mulling over manner, I thought this etymology from OED was interesting:

            Etymology: < Anglo-Norman manere, maner, maneire, maniere manner, kind, conduct (compare Old French maniere (1119), French manière ) < manier , maneir , maner , manner held in the hand, tractable (compare Old French manier held in the hand (c1140), skilful (c1155)) < classical Latin manuārius operated by hand < manus hand (see manus n.1) + -ārius (compare -er suffix2). With the Anglo-Norman and Old French noun compare Old Occitan maneira (c1180), maniera (13th cent.), Spanish manera (1209; 1152 as maneira ), Portuguese maneira (1192), Italian maniera (a1257), and the post-classical Latin loan maneries kind, class, sort, form, mode (12th–14th centuries in British sources). With the Anglo-Norman and Old French adjective compare Old Occitan manier held in the hand (1218), Italian maniero easy to handle (first half of the 13th cent.), and the post-classical Latin loan manerus accustomed to being handled (13th cent. in British sources). Compare Anglo-Norman and Old French manier to handle (12th cent.), and manage v. The Old French noun has a number of Germanic derivatives (chiefly in senses corresponding to those at branch II.), e.g. Old Frisian manēre, Middle Dutch maniere, meniere (Dutch manier), Middle High German maniere (German Manier), Swedish manér, Danish manér.
            Senses in each of the three main branches below are attested also for Old French, Middle French, French manière from the 12th cent. onwards. The sense ‘kind or sort’ (see branch I.) is well attested in Old French and Middle French (from c1150), although in modern French sorte or genre are more common in this sense. Plural use in the sense ‘habits, conduct’ (see branch II.) is attested from the late 12th cent.: in modern French manières is used in the sense ‘social behaviour (as deemed good or bad)’, but mœurs is more usual in the sense ‘social habits, customs’, and air , attitude , or other terms in uses corresponding to sense 5. Use in senses corresponding to branch III. are attested early in Old French and persist in modern French (alongside similar use of façon ).

            The sense development has probably also been influenced considerably by classical Latin modus (especially in senses at branches I. and III., and in senses 15 and 16: compare mode n.) and mōs (especially in senses at branch II.: compare mores n.); the English word became a conventional translation of both Latin words at an early date.

            Sense 8, which corresponds to Aristotle's use of ἤθη , is influenced by the use of French mœurs and Latin mōrēs in French and post-classical Latin versions of the Poetics (compare also classical Latin mōrēs in Horace Ars Poetica 156, influenced by Aristotle's Poetics).

            With sense 12 compare Old French, Middle French, French manière style of architecture (1260), style of painting (1538), style of literary composition (1690); Italian maniera style of an artist, of a school (15th cent.).

            The three main definitions of "manner" in the OED are

            1. Of a type, kind
            2. Senses relating to the way in which a person, animal, etc., acts or behaves
            3. Senses relating to the way in which an action is performed

            Again, just something to keep in mind as we're thinking things through!

          • I hadn’t thought of “manner” being related to hands until you posted that. “Held in hand” etc, and later how you “handle” things. So we could translate Alma as saying something like, “And this is how their ordinations were handled.” I don’t know that this changes my thinking just yet, but that does help to hear it put another way.

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