Alma 13:9, 14-19 – , “The high priesthood forever” & Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek — LeGrand Baker

Alma 13:9, 14-19 – LeGrand Baker, “The high priesthood forever”

The reason we seem to be stuck in Alma 12 and 13 is because they are so many faceted that I, for one, can’t take them all in, in a single gulp.

In verse 14, Alma brings his instructions full circle. Earlier he had said,

9  Thus [operative word, thereby or by this means] they become high priests forever [forever is a long way into the future if one begins at the Council], after the order of the Son [covenant king name], the Only Begotten [designation of heirship] 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. “Thus they become high priests forever (v.9).”

He now gives the perfect example of that—not of one person—but rather of a whole society of people who succeeded in taking upon themselves “the high priesthood forever.” He said,

14   Yea, humble yourselves

The same humility as above. That is, acknowledging one’s own reality – that acknowledgment must of necessity require one’s having the tenacity to fulfill one’s assignment here. Being true to the law of one’s own being. But at the same time it requires a reverence for the sacredness of another’s person and personality

even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken,

[That is, he was a High Priest after the Order of the Son of God. Alma’s reference is apparently to the beginning of this portion of his sermon where that priesthood was given to the members of the Council in Heaven by the Father himself.]

who also took upon him the high priesthood forever

The first “forever” had happened at (or, again at) the Council. However, here it is apparently a reference to Melchizedek’s exercising the authorities of that priesthood again in this world. That is perfectly consistent with modern revelation where he learn:

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 84:45-48)

The words, “renewed and confirmed” imply that the priesthood given in this world is an affirmation of a premortal ordinance. Thus, Alma words apparently say that Melchizedek, in this world, was fulfilling the assignment he had received before he came here.]

15  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.
16  Now these ordinances [He has just walked us through a whole series of ordinances as administered in a whole series of times] 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 [all people] might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
17  Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18  But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith … [acting according to the covenants and in the tokens of the covenants]

I presume that “faith” here, is the same as”faith” in the New Testament. That is, as Paul wrote,

Now faith [pistis is the Grek word he uses]is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Paul’s definition of pistis is precisely correct. Pistis (translated as “faith”) is a two part covenant The covenant is, of course, between two people, but that is not what is meant. In this case the covenant itself has two parts. The first is “the substance of things hoped for.” That is, the object of the covenant. If I am selling, and you are buying, my horse, then the horse is the object (the substance) on your part and the money is the object (the substance) on my part. We shake hands to seal the deal. The handshake is “the evidence of things not seen.” That is, the evidence of the validity of the covenant. In the past, I have summed up that idea by saying that “faith is the tokens of the covenant—with “tokens” meaning both the object and the handshake. If Melchizedek exercised “mighty pistis” it probably means that the covenant was very far-reaching and that his actions (“evidence”)—in integrity—were energetic and contagious.]

18  But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith [I think that means that he not only lived to his covenants, but he also claimed the blessings of doing so], and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God [At the beginning of the chapter, Alma said those who received that order of priesthood, first received it at the Council in Heaven. So this is a reference to its being renewed and confirmed upon him], did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace [He was a “peacemaker”] in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.

19  Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention.

Alma 13:14-19, LeGrand Baker, Priesthood after the Order of Melchizedek
(Alma 13:14-19)

14 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.
15 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.
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.
17 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18 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. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
19 Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention. (Alma 13:14-19)

Today, rather than discuss what this says, I would like to discuss the significance of what it says. In all of our ancient scriptures there are only five references to the Melchizedek Priesthood. They are (1) in the explanation of Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham, (2) only in one Psalm in the Old Testament, (3) only in Hebrews in the New Testament, and (3) only in Alma 13 in the Book of Mormon. (5) In the Inspired Version, Joseph expands on the Genesis mention of Melchizedek, and on some of the statements by Paul in Hebrews.

The oldest is from the Prophet Joseph’s explanation of Facsimile No. 2 from the Book of Abraham. It reads,

Fig. 3. Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.

The sequence of names given here is significant, in that it skips Shem, but includes Melchizedek. The significance is that there is other circumstantial evidence that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person, “Shem” being his given name, and “Melchizedek” being his new, royal king name. I shall discuss that evidence later.

Our Old Testament account of Abram’s dealing with Melchizedek does not mention priesthood. It says, simply,

18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. (Genesis 14:18-20)

The Joseph Smith translation of those verses contains much more detail about their relationship, including more detail about who Melchizedek was. It reads: (I have left out the verses that do not deal with Melchizedek or his priesthood.)

17 And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he break bread and blest it; and he blest the wine, he being the priest of the most high God,
18 And he gave to Abram, and he blessed him, and said, Blessed Abram, thou art a man of the most high God, possessor of heaven and of earth;
19 And blessed is the name of the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thine hand.
20 And Abram gave him tithes of all he had taken. ….

25 And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.
26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
28 It being after the order of the son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.
34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;
35 And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.
36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.
37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God
38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.
39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.
40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him. (JST Genesis 14:17-40)

The only place in the King James Old Testament where the Melchizedek Priesthood is mentioned is in Psalms 110. The psalm was used as part of the ancient Israelite Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, and is spoken to the king. The first four verses read:

1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The Lord shall send the rod [scepter] of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Psalm 110:1-4)

(The Saviour quotes this in Matthew 22:41-46, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke20:41-44. Paul quotes it in Hebrews 1:13, and 10:12-14. The only change in the JST version of the 110th Psalm is in verse 6 where “places” is replaced by “streets.”)

The only place in the New Testament where the Melchizedek Priesthood is mentioned is in Hebrews. There Paul discusses its importance in some length. In chapter 5, Paul quotes the royal new name given to the king in Psalm 2 as a prophecy of the Saviour (Throughout the Feast of Tabernacles temple drama, the role fo the king often also foreshadowed the role of the Saviour):

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. (Hebrews 5:5)

Then he quotes Psalm 110 the same way:

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:6)

A few verses later, Paul again refers to the Saviour, when he adds:

9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
10 Called of God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:9-10)

Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Hebrews are about the power of the Saviour’s atonement, but throughout, Paul reenforces what he writes by references to the Melchizedek Priesthood, as here in chapters 6 and 7:

18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;
2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. ((Hebrews 6:18-20; 7:1-3)

The Prophet Joseph corrected verse three, so that it reads:

3 For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually. (JST Hebrews 7:3)

The rest of Paul’s discussion about the Saviour and the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek centers on the argument that if the sacrifices performed by those of “the order of Aaron” were sufficient for salvation, then there would have been no need for the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Unlike Paul, who uses the Melchizedek Priesthood to explain the Saviour’s atonement, Alma uses his discussion to teach Zeezrom how the atonement, through the auspices of the priesthood, can enrich individual and community lives. He said to Zeezrom,

14 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.
15 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.
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.
17 Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
18 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. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
19 Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention. (Alma 13:14-19)

It is significant to me that our ancient scriptures contain so few references to the Melchizedek Priesthood, even thought those same scriptures are replete with stories of men who spoke in ways, and performed ordinances and miracles for which the Melchizedek Priesthood was a necessary prerequisite. Their not mentioning the priesthood has caused some to believe that holders of the Melchizedek priesthood were almost as rare, anciently, as the written references to it. However, that apparent dichotomy becomes easier to understand when one notices how rarely, in histories of the LDS Church, and in the public sessions of General Conference, we find any mention of the Melchizedek priesthood by name. We are not bothered with that lack, because the priesthood is simply there. It powers, ordinances, and principles of conduct are the foundation upon which we build and conduct our lives. So we often talk about their importance, rather than about the priesthood itself. One wonders if that were not true also in the ancient world where the powers of Godliness were so richly manifested among the people.

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