Alma 13: 1-29, LeGrand Baker, the ultimate purpose of the priesthood ordinances.
As we approach the conclusion of Alma’s testimony to Zeezrom, when he is about to explain the power of his earthly priesthood, it seems to me that it would be good to review the sequence of ideas that have brought him this far. The chapter begins,
1a And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward [“as to the beginning of time” – OED] to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children [members of the Council];…(Alma 13:1)
“These commandments” are the ones he has just reviewed in chapter twelve. There he reminded Zeezrom of the covenants and ordinances of the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama which he concluded with this promise,
33 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;
34 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. (Alma 12:33-34)
Chapter 13 continues with a discussion of the “manner” of their ordination to the priesthood, to show that its primary purpose is to instruct and prepare people to enter into the rest of the Lord. That theme continues throughout his testimony, beginning again in verse one:
1b …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.
2 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.
3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works… (Alma 13:1-3)
Alma explains the purpose of that ordination with the same words he concluded his review of ancient Israelite temple drama:
6 And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest— (Alma 13:6)
Then Alma does a flashback to “the first place” and describes how these intelligences were chosen and ordained to be members of the Council in Heaven. After that, he returns again to the Council and sums up all he has just said:
8 Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—
9 Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity, and truth. And thus it is. Amen.(Alma 13:8-9)
With the “Amen,” it would appear that he creates a transition here, from the pre-mortal priesthood to the one established by God among his children on the earth. Again he emphasizes the purpose of the priesthood ordinances. First he extends this invitation:
12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost [an earthly ordinance?], having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest. (Alma 13:12- 13)
With the invitation, he explains the only way it can be done.
16 Now these ordinances were given 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. (Alma 13:16)
Then he reiterates the invitation:
27 And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
28 But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
29 Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest. (Alma 13:1-29)
There are three things that strike me as important about this sequence of scriptures. The first is that the Alma was using them as an argument, but was not teaching a new doctrine that Zeezrom had never heard before. That implies that the Nephites probably had a much greater understanding of these things than we typically give them credit for—perhaps they even had a more complete understanding than we do. The second is that the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama is much older than the Law of Moses. The fact that he was using Melchizedek as an example of the implementation of its teachings, suggests that Alma believed the principles of the drama were the key to Melchizedek’s success. The third is that the principles of the drama—perhaps even a version of the drama itself—predates our birth into this world by a very, very long time. That notion returns our minds again to a the Lord’s statement:
43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world. (D&C 84:43-48 Italics added)
That is strikingly similar to the promise in the 25th Psalm, which was used as part of the ceremony of the ancient temple drama. It is a description of the “meek” whose children shall inherit the earth.
12 What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. 13 His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. [Enter into his rest. D&C 88:17-20]
14 The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. (Psalms 25:12-14 Italics added.)
“Secret” is the Hebrew sode, which is a review of the covenants one made in the Council in Heaven. The promise of the psalm is that if one is meek before the Lord, and walks in the way the Lord will show him, the Lord will show him the covenants he made at the Council, and help him to fulfill those covenants. That, it seems to me, is the promise and the challenge Alma was presenting to Zeezrom.