The discussion of Priesthood in Alma 13 comes in response to a question asked in Alma 12:20-21. Antionah asks,
What does the scripture mean, which saith that God placed cherubim and a flaming sword on the east of the garden of Eden, lest our first parents should enter and partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and live forever? And thus we see that there was no possible chance that they should live forever.
Thus the entire discussion of Priesthood in Alma 13 needs to be seen in light of Alma’s discussion of Adam and Eve, angels, and the gospel in Alma 12:22-37.
Antionah’s main problem with Alma’s teaching is that “there was no possible chance” that Adam and Eve could renter the garden, partake of the tree of life, and live forever. Now let’s see how Alma’s story overcomes that problem.
Alma first agrees that Adam and Eve didn’t go back into the garden immediately and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. He explains that death was a necessary, decreed part of the plan. God decreed death, but also, decreed a time before death so that Adam and Eve could repent and prepare for a moment of judgement when they died. After this moment, then could they partake of the tree and live forever. (See Alma 12: 23-27.)
This plan, however, wasn’t automatically known to Adam and Eve. There was a need to teach Adam and Eve about the plan. Verse 28 says,
And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them
Nice that God let us in on the plan, eh? 🙂 How did God teach Adam and Eve? What did He teach them? Alma explains that God “sent angels to converse with them” (v.29) and also that “God conversed with them” (v.30). He taught them “the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world” (v.30) and also gave them “commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption (v. 31). I’ll quote verses 32-24 in their entirety:
But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.
The plan is that whoever repents “shall enter into my rest.” Here we have an answer (or the beginnings of one) to Antionah’s question of how Adam and Eve — or anyone for that matter — could possibly return to the garden, eat, and live forever.
In chapter 13, Alma will describe how this knowledge got from Adam and Eve to the rest of God’s children. Alma will also explain what it means to “enter into God’s rest” and how to do it. (He uses the word “rest” five times in that chapter.)
As a sidenote, this is similar to the story laid out in Moses 5. We’ll get to that passage later, so for now I’ll quote verse 58:
And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Both Alma 12 and Moses 5 are followed by chapters describing Priesthood, so this connection is particularly interesting and may be helpful later on.