Alma 38:9, LeGrand Baker, The Word of Truth and Righteousness
9 And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.
Last week we discussed the Savior’s name-titles, “the life and the light of the world.” Those phrases describe his power to bring all things—-including ourselves—-into existence and to sustain all things until the resurrection and beyond. The next two phrased Alma uses, “the word of truth and [the word of] righteousness” describe the Savior’s power to rase the quality of our existence to a state of happiness here and to eternal joy hereafter.
I would now like to discuss the meaning of those two name-titles.
“Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). That is, truth is knowledge of eternal reality. Truth never changes, therefore its reality never changes. It was the same in the Council in Heaven as it is in the present, and as it will be in the eternities beyond. The key to knowing reality is (in its beginnings and in its conclusion) having a correct understanding of the truth about God. (See Who shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 193-5)
“Righteousness” is translated from the Hebrew zedek and Zadok. It means to perform priesthood and temple ordinances and covenants with absolute correctness—- that is with the right authority, in the right place, holding arms and hands the right way, dressed the right way, and in the name of Christ. (See Who shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 198- 200)
When Alma says Christ is “the word of truth and righteousness,” he is describing the Savior’s power, not only to give us life, but also to teach us how to come to him (redeem), and to teach us the knowledge we must have/live in order to remain in his presence (salvation).
In many scriptures, “the word” is code for priesthood power, especially the Savior’s own priesthood power. That is easy to understand because whenever we exercise the priesthood we do it by speaking words. Describing his own foreordination, Jeremiah wrote,
9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.
10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant (Jeremiah 1:9-10)
Similarly, Isaiah wrote said to the faithful men of Israel:
16 And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people (Isaiah 51:16).
The “word” also describes God’s priesthood power. Thus we read:
32 And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.
33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten (Moses 1:32-33).. (see also Jacob 4:8-9, D&C 29:29-32,
In the following, the “word of truth” is code for the gospel as it was preached in the premortal world. Thus Paul explains.
11 In whom [the Father] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him [the Father] who worketh all things after the counsel of his [the Father’s] own will:
12 That we should be to the praise of his [the Father’s] glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom [Christ] also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which [sealing] is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his [the Father’s] glory (Ephesians 1:11-14).
In John, the name-title “Word” also represents the Savior’s power to teach in the very beginning of our beginnings:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1-14).
The JST version reads with more clarity:
1 In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God (JST John 1:1-14).
The Lord confirmed that in D&C 93:
6 And John saw and bore record of the fulness of my glory, and the fulness of John’s record is hereafter to be revealed.
7 And he bore record, saying: I saw his glory, that he was in the beginning, before the world was;
8 Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation—
9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men (D&C 93:6-9).
Priesthood is more than the power to do. It is also the power to be. “The word of truth” is also code for the fulness of the sealing powers of the gospel. The priesthood ordinances are necessary for righteousness (zedek), but it is mutual love that is the actual power that seals us to our family and friends. The Savior emphasizes that in John 17, in his great intercessory prayer, where truth, word, and love become synonymous.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.(John 17:17-21)
When we read that in connection with D&C 88 and 93, it becomes apparent that light, truth, and love are all the same thing. We talk about each of their characteristics differently and therefore give them different names. But they all fill the immensity of space at the same time and all manifest the same sense of peace wrapped in the power of hased. If the Lord’s definition of truth is to know something—or someone—as an eternal reality, and if charity is loving others as they really are, then truth and charity are essentially the same thing. To love and comprehend another’s eternal worth—to know as one is known and see as one is seen—is to embrace that friend in sacred time and sacred space.
Truth is inseparably connected with righteousness, for without truth there can be no righteousness. The psalmist testifies:
10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps (Psalms 85:2-13).
The Prophet Joseph expanded that sense of oneness by describing “righteousness and truth” in terms of sacral kingship. He wrote from Liberty jail:
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever (D&C 121:46).
The apostle John put all of these ideas together in a magnificent description of the Savior and of our eternal relationship (“fellowship”) with him and his Father. John wrote:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:1-7).
From these scriptures we might conclude that “the word of truth” is priesthood power exercised through the power that is derived from knowing reality in sacred time. And that “the word of …righteousness” is the enabling priesthood power that is derived from the correctness (zedek) of the eternal ordinances and covenants of godliness. And that the name-titles which Alma gives to Christ —-“ Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.”—-are powerful testimonies of who and what the Savior is.