Alma 5: 24-30 — LeGrand Baker — clothing that is unclean
Alma 5: 24-30
24 Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?
To sit in the presence of royalty presupposes an equality of rank. This would be especially so among these men who were among the pre-mortal gods and who fulfilled their covenants while on the earth. Alma is not asking, “Do you suppose you can be where they are,” he is asking “Do you suppose you can be like them – that they will accept you as one of themselves.” He answers his question in the next verse.
25. I say unto you, Nay; except ye make our Creator a liar from the beginning, or suppose that he is a liar from the beginning, ye cannot suppose that such can have place in the kingdom of heaven; but they shall be cast out for they are the children of the kingdom of the devil.
26. And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
27a Have ye walked keeping yourselves blameless before God?
In Isaiah and the psalms, walk is a code word like path and way, which indicates how one climbs the mountain (temple). So what he is asking is: Are you keeping the covenants
27b. Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
A while ago I pointed out that redeem is often used in the Book of Mormon to mean to bring one into the presence of God. This is an example where its context suggests it does not necessarily mean that, but rather that it means just what it means in both Hebrew and Greek. That is, to ransom or to purchase.
28. Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
29. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
30 And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
Pride, envy, contempt for others are often facades behind which one seeks to hide one’s Self— sometimes a mask behind which one seeks to hide one’s Self from one’s Self.
Earlier in this same speech Alma referred to their sacred clothing, now he is talking about clothing that is not so sacred.
One can not wear two sets of clothing, just as one cannot server two masters. This is beautifully illustrated in the Hymn of the Pearl that I quoted last week.
Near the beginning of the boy’s odyssey he meets a friend, about whom he says:
28 We warned each other against the Egyptians
And against consorting with the unclean. [“Unclean” is not about hygiene. It means ceremonially inappropriate. For example, for a Jew, pork is unclean.]
29 But I clothed myself in garments like theirs,
That they might not suspect that I was come from without
30 To take the pearl,
And so might waken the serpent against me.
After the boy has received the communication from his parents, he reports,
61 And I snatched away the pearl
And turned about, to go to my father’s house.
62 And their dirty and unclean garment
[That is, the clothing that was consistent with his former way of life, but not appropriate to his rank and priesthood]
I took off and left in their land,
63 And directed my way that I might come
To the light of our homeland, the East.
It is not until after he has removed the unclean clothing that his parents send him his royal robes.
Not long ago we observed that in the Book of Mormon and elsewhere in the scriptures “naked” may have nothing whatever to do with nudity. Rather, nakedness indicates one’s losing the uniform or insignia that shows one’s rank, position, authority, or priesthood.
There is an important sequence that runs like a single silk thread through the tapestry of the scriptures: One must voluntarily become naked before God before he can cloth one with robes of righteousness. Here are some examples of these ideas:
Job does not distinguish between his actions and his clothing:
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. (Job 29:14)
Nephi prays to receive that clothing.
33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. (2 Nephi 4:33)
The hymn of the dead who are sealed in eternal marriage in Isaiah 61 celebrate their clothing.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)
Mormon equates an involuntary nakedness before God with the final judgement.
5 For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:5)
Jacob does the same thing.
14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness. (2 Nephi 9:14)
In this world we dress ourselves in facades and masks that hide us from others and often from our Selves. When we do that, we tend to keep those masks on when we pray, and they become a wall between one’s Self and one’s God. The facades sometimes serve some appropriate cultural purpose, but never an honest personal one. The pretenses have to go. So Alma’s asks these questions: are ye stripped of pride? stripped of envy? is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?