Alma 13:5-7, LeGrand Baker, Eternal Sweep of Covenant Responsibilities
5 Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
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—
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things— (Alma 13:5-7)
Alma has just explained to Zeezrom about the priesthood responsibilities given to God’s “children” at the Council in Heaven. Then he turned his attention to those whom he called “the people.” These were those who, “in the first place,” had not chosen to enter God’s presence to be born as “children” among the noble and great ones, but whom the Lord also had great concern, and wishes to give them every opportunity in eternal progression.
5 Or in fine, in the first place [as intelligences] they [those who were not the noble and great ones] were on the same standing with their brethren [those who had already been born spirit children of our Father in Heaven]; thus this holy calling [the Melchizedek Priesthood] being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts [hardening one’s heart had just defined by Alma in chapter 12 as choosing not to know the mysteries of God], being [the priesthood] in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—
6 And thus [the noble and great ones] 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—
Here Alma appears to have taken a huge jump in time. and is now talking about a different assignment. In verse 1, he had said they were they had been ordained “to teach these things unto the people.” Now he says their assignment is to teach “the children of men.” Apparently he has moved Zeezrom’s mind from his premortal ordination to his present this-world responsibility.
7 This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—(Alma 13:5-7)
In light of what the Lord told the Prophet Joseph, the assignment made at the Council to teach the intelligences did not end there. But the responsibility extended into this world. The Lord said,
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 was made at the Council] which [covenant] he [the Father] has renewed and confirmed upon you [so now the same covenant and its attendant responsibilities are “renewed and confirmed” in this world], which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world. [Then he gives the same reason as was explained in Alma 13.]
49 And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
50 And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me. [The whole object of the gospel, the priesthood, the ordinances, and the people who are assigned to teach them is to teach people how to come to where the Saviour is– “to come unto me.” (D&C 84:43-50.)
Isaiah understood this principle very well. In his sode experience, after he was told his responsibility and that people wouldn’t listen to him anyway, he asked, “Lord, how long?” To which the Lord responded, “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.” In other words: we will keep trying until the opportunity has entirely passed. (2 Nephi 16 is a better version than Isaiah 6)
But Isaiah also said the same thing about us. 1 Nephi 20 is about the pre-mortal spirit world (Someone changed the Bible’s Isaiah 48 so it is no longer about that). So in the next chapter, when the next segment of Isaiah’s vision begins, we are in this world with the same responsibilities we had before. Isaiah sets the background of the problem.
1 And again: Hearken, O ye house of Israel [that is a missionary call], all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people [needless to say, that bit isn’t in the Bible]; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel. Listen, O isles, unto me [“me” is the missionary– it is you and I and all of us] and hearken ye people from far; the Lord hath called me [still you and I] from the womb [foreordination]; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name [there is always a new name associated with a new covenant].
2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword [This is the power of the Priesthood. It is, as Paul wrote, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”]; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me [an ordination, God’s hands on our heads], and made me a polished shaft [an arrow was made smooth then polished with olive oil so it would not warp — thus an anointing]; in his quiver hath he hid me [the Saints are ordinary people, not easily distinguishable by the world];
3 And said unto me: Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
4 Then I said, I have labored in vain [we remember the struggle we had in the premortal world, and think that has already made us tired.], I have spent my strength for naught and in vain; surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.
5 And now, saith the Lord—that formed me from the womb that I should be his servant [another reference to foreordination], to bring Jacob again to him—though Israel be not gathered [“Jacob” is the name of the people before they receive the covenant name of “Israel”], yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength. [the Lord has given the assignment and he will enable us to fulfill it]
6 And he said: It is a light [neither heavy nor burdensome] thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel [same idea of covenant name]. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. (1 Nephi 21:1-6)
My friend, Bob Patch, who taught religion for many years at BYU, once told me that this is considered by many scholars to be the most difficult part of the entire Old Testament to understand. But, Bob pointed out, for one who understands the restoration of the gospel, it is simply a way of identifying the time when the Prophet Joseph will restore all things. It is a time when Israel is not yet gathered, but when Israel will gather Israel, and also be a light to the gentiles, to ultimately bring salvation to all the ends of the earth.
So the first few verses in the chapter simply talk about our responsibility to assist Joseph in his work.The chapter goes on to describe the Prophet Joseph’s mission of restoring the gospel, the temple, and the tribes of Israel. It has to be in that order, because there would be no point in gathering Israel if there were no temples for them to gather to. Those verses begin,
7 Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, to him [the Prophet Joseph] whom man despiseth, to him whom the nations abhorreth, to servant of rulers: Kings [sacral kings]shall see and arise [one stands to make a covenant], princes [those anointed to become kings] also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful. [The Lord has kept his covenants]