The Lord Redeems His Covenant Children
Alma 1 -- Alma 44
Alma 13:1 I Would Cite Your Minds Forward:
According to Robert Millet, in beginning his discussion of foreordination to the priesthood, Alma said: "And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children" (Alma 13:1). His use of the word forward is unusual, especially in light of the fact that he will speak of people in the past; we would normally say backwards. But actually forward can also mean toward the beginning, toward the front, "[n]ear or at the forepart" (Webster's). [Robert L. Millet, "The Holy Order of God," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, p. 64]
Alma 13:9 And Thus It Is, Amen:
According to James Duke, in the middle of Alma's inspiring sermon concerning the priesthood to the apostate people of Ammonihah, Alma uttered a phrase that normally would be used to bring a sermon to a conclusion: "And thus it is, Amen" (Alma 13:9). However, Alma did not terminate his sermon but continued speaking. What, then, was the purpose of using such an expression in the middle of a sermon? In this case the phrase signals the completion of a chiasm, a literary form in which important ideas are presented and then repeated in reverse order. . . . In explaining the priesthood to the people of Ammonihah, Alma taught the doctrine of priesthood authority by expressing it in the form of a chiasm. He then called the attention of the people of Ammonihah to the chiastic structure of his sermon by uttering the phrase "And thus it is, Amen." (Alma 13:9). . . . The main chiasm is as follows:
A. order of his Son (13:2)
B. ordained (13:3)
C. called (13:3)
D. foreknowledge of God (13:3)
E. prepared (13:3)
F. foundation of the world (13:5)
G. Only Begotten Son (13:5)
H. high priesthood (13:6)
I. his rest (13:6)
H' high priesthood (13:7)
G' his Son (13:7)
F' foundation of the world (13:7)
E' prepared (13:7)
D' foreknowledge of all things (13:7)
C' called (13:8)
B' ordained (13:8)
A' order of the Son (13:9)
And thus it is, Amen.
In fact, Alma 13:1-9 not only contains a main chiasm, but four shorter chiasms and four alternates. [James T. Duke, "The Literary Structure and Doctrinal Significance of Alma 13:1-9 ," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1996, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 103-105]
Alma 13:12 Sanctified . . . White . . . Pure . . . Spotless:
According to Raymond Treat, some comments should be made about the importance of identifying synonyms as a key to successful topical study. Once the synonyms (words having the same or nearly the same meaning) have been identified, the information about one word can be applied to its synonyms. Therefore, the information that can be obtained about a particular topic can be greatly expanded if synonyms for that topic can be identified. The following verses are good examples:
Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin, save it were with abhorrence. (Alma 13:12)
And again, if ye, by the grace of God, are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father, unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy without spot. (Moroni 10:33)
Each of these verses has four words which can be considered synonymous. In Alma 13:12 they are: "sanctified," "white," "pure," and "spotless." In Moroni 10:33 they are: "perfect," "sanctified," "holy" and "without spot." Because two of these words are used in both verses we end up with six synonymous words: sanctified, perfect, white, pure, spotless and holy. This list can be expanded by using other verses which have two or more synonyms. See if you can find evidence that the words "clean," "blameless" and "redeemed" belong to this list of synonyms. How many others can you find? [Raymond C. Treat, "Approaches to Studying the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, p. 156]
Alma 13:12 There Were Many . . . Who Were Made Pure and Entered into the Rest of the Lord Their God:
According to Larry Dahl, the principle of entering into the rest of the Lord is referred to at least ten times by Alma in his preaching to the Ammonihahites: Alma 12:34, 34, 36, 37; 13:6, 12, 13, 16, 29; 16:17. With his explanation in 13:11-12, 29, it seems clear that Alma uses the expression to mean that one has qualified for exaltation while yet here in mortality. One can know that he or she has so qualified, and then may have the privilege of the Second Comforter. (See D&C 84:19-25; 131:5-6; 2 Peter 1:1-10, 17-19; Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1938, pp. 149-50.) [Larry E. Dahl, "The Plan of Redemption," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, p. 319]
Alma 13:14 Melchizedek:
According to Robert Millet, Melchizedek is one of the most enigmatic figures in Judaeo-Christian history. Legends about Melchizedek abound in Jewish traditions, in Christian literature and art, and among the writings of the Qumran sectaries. . . In some Jewish and Christian writings he is identified as Shem, the son of Noah, while later traditions hold that he was a descendant of Shem. Others suggest that he was named Melchizedek by God when the priesthood was bestowed upon him (see Ginzberg 1:233; 5:225-26).
Josephus explained that the city of Salem, over which Melchizedek reigned, later became known as Jerusalem. ("The Antiquities" 1.10.3) In writing of Jerusalem, Josephus observed: "He who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites and is in our tongue called [Melchizedek] the Righteous King, for such he really was; on which account he was [there] the first priest of God, and first built a temple [there], and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem." ("The Wars" 6.10.1; emphasis added). And, most important for our study the legends attest that Melchizedek was both king and priest in Salem (Hebrews 7:1; Ginzberg 1:233).
The scriptures also make clear that Melchizedek is a marvelous type of Christ. His name comes from two Hebrew roots, melekh (king), and tzedek (righteousness), Melchi-tzedek meaning literally "king of righteousness" or "my king is righteousness." [Robert L. Millet, "The Holy Order of God," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, p. 80]
Alma 13:14 Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order (Illustration): Chart: A Latter-Day Saint View of Melchizedek. [Dennis A. Wright, " 'None Were Greater,' A Restoration View of Melchizedek," in The Ensign, February 1998, p. 33]
Alma 13:14-18 Melchizedek:
Melchizedek is only mentioned one time in the Book of Mormon. Why is it here [in Alma 13:14-18]? It is interesting that Alma was just preaching in the city of Melek, and has come to the people of Ammonihah, which were probably of similar Mulekite descent. According to Joseph McConkie, "of the Old Testament kings none was greater than Melchizedek." An earlier chapter considered him as a type for Christ; here we refer briefly to the significance of his name. The root for the forepart of his name, Melch (Melek), means "king" or "royal". [Joseph McConkie, Gospel Symbolism, p. 188]
Note* Could these Mulekite people in the land of Ammonihah have been of royal descent or more pure descendants of the tribe of Judah, and thus felt superior to everyone else? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 13:14-18 Melchizedek:
Why did Alma2 bring up the example of "Melchizedek" (Alma 13:14-17) in preaching to the people of Ammonihah? One possible reason might be that many of these people were Mulekites, had Mulekite blood in them, or were under the power of Mulekite leaders (see the commentary on Alma 8:20; 10:1-4), and thus belonged to the tribe of Judah. The Jews believed that salvation came by lineage from Abraham. More importantly, and unlike the repentant people of the land of Melek (see Alma 8:4-5), the Jews (Mulekites) of Ammonihah were hardened in their unrighteousness. If the traditions of the unrighteous Jews at Jerusalem had been passed down through Mulek, then Alma's arguments to these people of Ammonihah about the holy priesthood of God seems to come to life. It is Alma's contention that:
1. Sanctification through the holy priesthood comes because of faith, repentance, obedience, the blood of the Lamb, and the Holy Ghost. It doesn't come just by birthright (Alma 13:1-5,10-12). This view was not espoused by the unrighteous Jews at Jerusalem.
2. The purpose of the priesthood is to teach the commandments "unto the children of men, that they also might enter into [the Lord's] rest" (Alma 13:6). Thus, the gospel was intended for all God's children and not just for the Jews.
3. The holy priesthood was "without beginning of days or end of years" (Alma 13:7). Therefore, the covenant was established before Abraham, the man to whom the Jews looked for their rights to the priesthood (1 Nephi 6:4).
4. The order of this priesthood was after "the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father" (Alma 13:9). This meant that Christ was the prototype for all those who followed.
Robert Millet points out that Melchizedek is a marvelous type of Christ. His name comes from two Hebrew roots, melekh (king), and tzedek (righteousness), Mechi-tzedek meaning literally "king of righteousness" or "my king is righteousness."
In writing his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul spake of Christ who "glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:5-6). "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered" (Hebrews 5:7-8, emphasis added).
Most of us have heard these verses quoted scores of times, particularly verse eight, in reference to the place of obedience and suffering in the process of the Son of God becoming perfect. There is, however, a fascinating note at this point on the manuscript page in the Joseph Smith Translation; it states that verses seven and eight "are a parenthesis alluding to Melchizedek and not to Christ" (see footnote "a" to Hebrews 5:7 in the LDS Bible). That is to say, Melchizedek, though a son, learned obedience by the things which he suffered. But is such not true of Christ? Certainly. Elder McConkie has suggested, it is true of both. (see McConkie, Doctrinal 3:157; see also Promised 450-451). [Robert L. Millet, "The Holy Order of God," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, pp. 80-81]
Note* Thus, the last contention of Alma seems to be that by obedience to priesthood covenants, Melchizedek (or any man) could become like the Son of God. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 13:14 Melchizedek . . . Who Also Took upon Him the High Priesthood Forever:
Alma 13:14 notes that Melchizedek was "a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever." According to McConkie and Millet, the phrase "who also took upon him the high priesthood forever" refers to the words of the Psalmist who recounted the promise of the Father to the Son: "the Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Psalm 110:4). Wrote Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "God swore an oath that Christ should be a priest forever; that is, though our Lord had possessed the priesthood in pre-existence, he would receive it anew in mortality and would have it forever in time and in eternity. And this sets the pattern for all who become sons of God and joint--heirs with Christ" (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:173) [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. III, p. 102]
Alma 13:15 It Was This Same Melchizedek to Whom Abraham Paid Tithes:
Why was Alma not only using the example of Melchizedek in preaching to the people of Ammonihah, but pointing out that "Abraham paid tithes" to him (Alma 13:15)? Apparently, many of the people of Ammonihah were Mulekites, of Jewish extraction (see the commentary on Alma 8:20). The ultimate priesthood authority for the Jews was Abraham.
Robert Millet addresses the question, "And what of the relationship of Melchizedek to Abraham?" Alma mentions simply that Abraham paid tithing to him. An old tradition among the Jews states that "Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of God Most High, and king of Jerusalem, came forth to meet [Abraham]," as Abraham was returning from the war "with bread and wine. And this high priest instructed Abraham in the laws of the priesthood and in the Torah" (Ginzberg 1:233; emphasis added). . . .
On 27 August 1843, Joseph Smith offered prophetic commentary on the seventh chapter of Hebrews, Paul's discussion of the place and power of the Melchizedek Priesthood. According to James Burgess, the Prophet said:
Paul is here treating three different priesthoods, namely, the priesthood of Aaron, Abraham, and Melchizedek. Abraham's priesthood was of greater power than Levi's, and Melchizedek's was of greater power than that of Abraham. . . . I ask: was there any sealing power attending this [Levitical] Priesthood that would admit a man into the presence of God? Oh no, but Abraham's was a more exalted power or priesthood. He could talk and walk with God. And yet consider how great this man [Melchizedek] was when even this patriarch Abraham gave a tenth part of all his spoils and then received a blessing under the hands of Melchizedek--even the last law or a fulness of the law or priesthood, which constituted him a king and priest after the order of Melchizedek or an endless life. (Words of Joseph Smith 245-46, spelling and punctuation corrected; emphasis added.) [Robert L. Millet, "The Holy Order of God," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, pp. 81-82]
Note* Apparently Alma emphasized the point that Abraham not only received the fulness of the priesthood under the hands of another man--Melchizedek, but that the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek was a "type" of the order of the Son of God (Alma 13:16). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 13:15 It was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes (Illustration): Untitled. Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [Dennis A. Wright, " 'None Were Greater,' A Restoration View of Melchizedek," in The Ensign, February 1998, p. 32]
Alma 13:15 It was this same Melchizedek [a high priest and king of Salem] to whom Abraham paid tithes (Illustration): Melchizedek Ordaining Abraham. Melchizedek, the king of Salem, was a mighty and faithful high priest. Melchizedek was Abraham's priesthood leader and is shown here blessing Abraham. Artist: Gary Kapp. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 303]
Alma 13:15-16 Tithes of One-tenth Part of All He Possessed . . . It Being a Type of His [the Son of God's] Order:
According to McConkie and Millet, from the Joseph Smith Translation we learn that Melchizedek was the keeper of God's storehouse and that God had appointed him to receive tithes for the poor. "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" (JST, Genesis 14:37-39).
In Alma 13:16 it says that "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." [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. III, pl. 102]
According to Bruce R. McConkie, tithing is a lesser law, consecration the greater. "The Lord revealed to his people in the incipiency of his work a law which was more perfect than the law of tithing. It comprehended larger things, greater power, and a more speedy accomplishment of the purposes of the Lord. But the people were unprepared to live by it, and the Lord, out of mercy to the people, suspended the more perfect law, and gave the law of tithing, in order that there might be means in the storehouse of the Lord for the carrying out of the purposes he had in view: for the gathering of the poor, for the spreading of the gospel to the nations of the earth, for the maintenance of those who were required to give their constant attention, day in and day out, to the work of the Lord, and for whom it was necessary to make some provision. (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., p. 225) [Bruce R. McConkie, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 796-797]
Question* So how is tithing a type? In D&C 104:16 we find the following: "But it needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 13:15-16 These Ordinances . . . Being a Type of His Order:
According to McConkie and Millet, all gospel ordinances are teaching devices, all testify of Christ and of our need to be one with him. Alma's illustration of this verity is the priesthood. The manner in which a man was called, ordained, and served in God's name typified the call, ordination, and service of God's own Son.
In Alma 13:17-19 Alma establishes Melchizedek as a type for Christ, noting the following parallels:
1. Like Christ, Melchizedek was a king. The very name of this great high priest--Melchi-zedek, "king of righteousness" or, perhaps more correctly, "my king is righteousness"--affirms and testifies of the goodness and the power of the coming Messiah. Righteousness is also a name-title of Christ (see Moses 7:45). As Melchizedek ruled his kingdom in righteousness, so Christ will eventually rule and reign upon this earth, doing so with the unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth, possessing an everlasting dominion without compulsory means (see D&C 121:46).
2. Melchizedek ruled over the city of Salem (a name which means "peace"). In like manner, Christ will reinstitute the glory of David's day when nought is known but peace among the Lord's people.
3. Both Melchizedek and Christ were known as the "great high priest." In Old Testament times the primary duty of the priest was to offer sacrifice at the altar and to act as mediator between God and men. It was by virtue of the priestly functions that the nations of Israel were reconciled to their God. "Through the ministrations of the priesthood the people of Israel were instructed in the doctrine of sin and its expiation, in forgiveness and worship. In short, the priest was the indispensable source of religious knowledge for the people, and the channel through which spiritual life was communicated." (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 4:2439).
4. Both were men of "mighty faith" who taught "repentance" to their people. Of Melchizedek we read, "his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven" (JST, Genesis 14:34). And of course the same will be true of all who sustain Christ and his teachings in righteousness.
5. Both bore the title Prince of Peace, being teachers of that gospel by which peace and joy come.
6. Of Melchizedek we read, "and he did reign under his father," as does Christ, who professes no authority save that of his Father (see John 5;30).
7. Though there were many prophets before Melchizedek and many after him, Alma described the king of Salem by saying "none were greater." Thus this great prophet, priest, and king stood as a classic type of the Promised Messiah, of whom it is true not only that none were greater, but also that none have been as great. [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. III, pp. 102-103]
Alma 13:16 That They Might Enter into the Rest of the Lord:
According to Robert Millet, in reading Alma 13 in context--as part of a larger sermon--we begin to see that the idea of entering the rest of the Lord is a central theme. The word rest is mentioned in each of the final four verses of the preceding chapter. It is mentioned five times in chapter 13. It would appear that Alma is trying to point out that it is through the atoning blood of Christ and by the power of the holy priesthood that individuals and congregations are prepared and made ready to enter the rest of God.
In one sense, a person enters the rest of God when he or she gains a testimony of the gospel, and is brought out of worldly confusion into the peace and security that comes only from God. In this sense, the rest of God is "the spiritual rest and peace which are born from a settled conviction of the truth in the minds of [individuals]." (Smith, Gospel 126; see also 58). It is to know the peace of the Spirit, to enjoy the blessing of the Comforter. It is what Jesus promised to disciples when he said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Second, spirits enter the rest of God when they enter paradise, the home of the righteous in the postmortal spirit world at the time of death (Alma 40:11-12; 60:13).
A third dimension of the rest of the Lord is that which follows the resurrection and judgment, as we enter the celestial kingdom and receive exaltation (see Moroni 7:3). . . .
There is yet another sense in which the word rest is used in scripture. . . . In D&C 84:19-25 the rest of the Lord is equated with being in the personal presence of the Lord while the recipients are still mortal. . . .
It appears that the concept of the "rest of the Lord" is used occasionally in terms of what other scriptures call the Church of the Firstborn (see Hebrews 12:23; D&C 76:54). The Church of the Firstborn is the church of the exalted, an organization of saved souls, a body of believers who have passed the tests of mortality and received the approval of God. They qualify for life in the celestial kingdom, and because they have been true to all their trusts, are worthy to be joint heirs with Christ, co-inheritors with him to all of the blessings of the firstborn (see Smith, Doctrines 2:42; Man 272; The Way 208; McConkie, Mormon 139-40; The Promised 47). The phrase "Church of the Firstborn" is not found in the Book of Mormon, but it may be that to enter the rest of the Lord is to enter the Church of the Firstborn. In speaking of the ancient worthies, Alma said: "They were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, 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" (Alma 13:11-12).
The ultimate privileges of God's holy authority are spoken of as follows. The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church--to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of god the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant." (D&C 107:18-19) [Robert L. Millet, "The Holy Order of God," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, pp. 72-75]
Note* In view of these ideas by Robert Millet, Alma2 was apparently preaching that man (any man) who repented, entered into, and faithfully obeyed the covenants of the Lord could become like Him; that is, that they could become a God. The reader should keep in mind that Alma2 was preaching these ideas to a possible dissident Mulekite (Jewish) audience in Ammonihah who believed that they descended from the chosen people of the Lord (see Alma 31:18,28 for a comparison with the Zoramites). Amaleki says that when Mosiah1 first found the people of Zarahemla (Mulekites--Mosiah 25:2) that "they denied the being of their creator" (Omni 1:17). Are we to surmise by his statement that many of the Mulekites (people of Zarahemla) denied the "existence" of their creator, or did Amaleki mean that many of the people of Zarahemla did not comprehend the "character" of their creator? In other words, did many of the Mulekites refuse to accept the idea that "the Creator" was Christ, the Savior, the Son of God, the sacrificial Lamb of God, anointed to atone for the sins of the world? If the Mulekites denied the "being" or character of their Creator, then they apparently carried on the same beliefs and attitudes that led the Jews to reject Moses' challenge to be "sanctified" (through priesthood covenants) while in the wilderness (D&C 84:19-25), the same beliefs and attitudes that led the Jews at 600 B.C to desire the death of Lehi (1 Nephi 1:19-20), and the same beliefs and attitudes of the Jews in Christ's day who would crucify one Jesus of Nazareth, because they apparently expected their savior to be only a servant of God ("the Messiah") who would establish them (in their sins) before the world as the chosen people of God by birth, for they were "the children of Abraham" (see Matthew 3:9).
The Jews could not accept that the "being of their Creator" (Jehovah) could become mortal as Jesus Christ. Neither could they accept a mortal man becoming or being a God. In their view, Alma was preaching to them an unacceptable priesthood covenant way. Their blessings were all derived from Abraham. Alma, however, showed them from the scriptures not only how the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek was above their understanding of the priesthood held by Abraham, but in a similar manner how the order of the Son of God (Christ--the Creator) was the prototype of the priesthood order of Melchizedek. In the Old Testament we find that the "rest of the Lord" implies a process complete (or perfect)--"on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested . . ." (Genesis 2:2). Alma apparently understood that to enter into "the rest of the Lord" is to "choose" righteousness (Alma 13:10), be made "pure and spotless before God" (Alma 13:12), and to keep the priesthood covenants perfectly (see Alma 27:27), as did the Son of God--Christ--the Creator. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Thomas Cherrington's commentary on 1 Nephi 1:19-20]
Alma 13:18 [Melchizedek] Received the Office of the High Priesthood according to the Holy Order of God:
In Alma 13:18 it says that:
"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."
According to John Welch, Melchizedek was a man of God and peace because he had obtained the spiritual powers and knowledge necessary to lead his people into the rest of the Lord through the order of the Son. . . .
Although Alma's discourse contains a noteworthy use of the material about Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-24, Alma's text is of particular interest because it is unique--sui generis. No other known sermon has imputed such a practical religious and ceremonial meaning to Melchizedek, although in certain respects the sacerdotal approach of 2 Enoch and the account in the Joseph Smith Translation come close. . . .
Alma's sermon in chapters 12 and 13 teaches the principle that God will provide man access to certain mysteries of God (Alma 12:9-11). . . . Alma says that many know these mysteries as priests (Alma 13:1), but they are laid under a strict condition of secrecy (Alma 12:9) that can be lifted only by the diligence and repentance of the children of men (Alma 12:9-11; 13:18; cf. Alma 26:22). [John W. Welch, The Melchizedek Material in Alma 13:13-19," in By Study and Also by Faith, Vol. 2, pp. 238-240]
According to Robert Millet, Josephus explained that the city of Salem, over which Melchizedek reigned, later became known as Jerusalem ("The Antiquities" 1.10.3.). In writing of Jerusalem, Josephus observed: "He who first built it was a potent man among the Canaanites and is in our tongue called [Melchizedek] the Righteous King, for such he really was; on which account he was [there] the first priest of God, and first built a temple [there], and called the city Jerusalem, which was formerly called Salem." ("The Wars" 6.10.1; emphasis added). And most important for our study, the legends attest that Melchizedek was both king and priest in Salem (Hebrews 7:1; Ginzberg 1:233). [Robert L. Millet, "The Holy Order of God," in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of The Word, pp. 79-80]
Note* Thus, this "office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God" which Melchizedek received (Alma 13:18) apparently had something to do with the mysteries of God, secrecy, temples, preaching the gospel of repentance, establishing peace, and becoming a king and a priest. To Latter-day Saints, the significance of these items can be found in priesthood and temple covenants. This is another clear reminder that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to "show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers . . . that they may know the covenants of the Lord . . ." (Preface) [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 13:18 Peace . . . Peace . . . Salem:
According to Donald Parry, Anabasis (Greek, "to go up") is a poetical devise where there is an apparent stepping up from one sense to another, until, at the pinnacle is a culmination of thought. Because anabasis consists of an ascension of thought, it is also known as gradational or staircase parallelism.. . .
Alma's explicatory remarks concerning Melchizedek, a segment of his larger discourse to the people of the land of Ammonihah, contains a staircase parallelism in Alma 13:18:
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,
The three parallels of this statement are noteworthy:
-Line 1 "Melchizedek" . . . "peace"
-Line 2 "prince" . . . "peace"
-Line 3 "king" . . . "Salem" (Heb. "peace")
The first line represents Melchizedek, (which is a Hebrew name meaning "my king is righteous"), simply as a man who establishes peace in the land. Line two refers to Melchizedek as royalty, the son of a king, or the "prince." The culmination of the passage is found in line three, where Melchizedek is now referred to as the "king of Salem," or "king of peace," the ruler of the land known as Salem. Thus the gradation up, from man to prince to King is evident in this staircase parallelism. [Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns, F.A.R.M.S., pp. xxi-xxii]
Alma 13:18 Melchizedek . . . did preach repentance unto his people (Illustration): Untitled. Artist: Del Parson. [Dennis A. Wright, " 'None Were Greater,' A Restoration View of Melchizedek," in The Ensign, February 1998, p. 31]
Alma 13:18 [Melchizedek] Was Called the Prince of Peace, for He Was the King of Salem; and He Did Reign under His Father:
According to Cleon Skousen, Melchizedek was a contemporary of the great patriarch, Abraham. Abraham was ten generations down from Noah and lived approximately 2022 B.C. to 1847 B.C., so this gives us some estimate of Melchizedek's time in history.
Melchizedek was somewhat older than Abraham and had such an illustrious political and prophetic career that when Abraham was still a youth he sought the Holy Priesthood from Melchizedek and longed to be called a "prince of peace" just like Melchizedek (Abraham 1:2 plus D&C. 84:14).
Melchizedek came from a royal family which had carved out a mountain kingdom in the very heart of the land of Canaan. This land was named after the eldest son of Ham and therefore its original inhabitants must have been largely Hamitic. Nevertheless, the fathers of Melchizedek had brought the descendants of Shem into this region and established a capital at Salem. Today we call the same area Jerusalem. Salem means "peace." The Jeru is considered by many authorities to have started out as Uru, having come through an Assyrian word meaning city. (See Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 335.) Jerusalem would therefore mean, "City of Salem," or City of Peace." . . . While there are other opinions, the Bible calls Jerusalem simply "Salem" in Psalms 76:2, and around 1,400 B.C., one of the rulers of this city called it merely "Salem" in writing to the Pharaoh of Egypt. (This is contained in the Tel el-Amarna collection quoted by Hastings, Vol. 2, p. 284). Ancient Jewish writings have always identified Melchizedek's "Salem" mentioned in Genesis 14:18 as being identical with the modern site of Jeru-salem (Ibid.).
Therefore, Melchizedek apparently grew up on the same sacred Mount Zion or Mount Moriah where Jesus Christ would conclude his earthly ministry some 2,000 years later. . . .
When Melchizedek became the ruler of the people of Salem he is said to have reigned "under his father" (Alma 13:18). This would mean either that his father ruled over a larger domain of which Salem was a part, or it could mean that he received his kingdom as a successor to his father.
In any event, there is one thing the scripture makes very clear: Melchizedek came to power at a time when the people of his city-kingdom were abominably wicked, but through his preaching and their repentance, peace was established (Alma 13:17-18). [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, pp. 2302-2303]
Note* Thus we see that Melchizedek was a type of Christ, who ruled over a people who had "all gone astray, they were full of all manner of wickedness" (Alma 13:17). By preaching repentance, he established Jerusalem as a place of peace where he "reigned under his father." The Messiah of the Jews was not foreseen as coming to power in this manner. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Alma 13:18 He Did Reign under His Father:
According to John Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic . . . Alma, in speaking of Melchizedek, notes that "he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father" (Alma 13:18). This may reflect the normal biblical Hebrew use of the preposition under for the meaning instead of. The same preposition is rendered instead of in some passages of the King James Bible. For example, after King Amaziah had been murdered, "all the people of Judah took Azariah . . . and made him king instead of his father Amaziah" (2 Kings 14:21). [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 90-91]
Alma 13:18 He Did Reign under His Father:
In Alma 13:18, it says that Melchizedek "did reign under his father." We are told that Melchizedek received the priesthood through the lineage of his fathers (plural) even till Noah (D&C 84:14). It would appear to be that from Melchizedek to Noah was a lineage of fathers (plural), or several generations. But who was Melchizedek's father?
According to Richard Anthony, as Adam ordained Seth, so it would seem that Noah, acting like Adam, would ordain his sons. Thus, although we are not told in the scriptures who ordained Shem, we would conclude that it must have been Noah. In the same manner, the scriptures are likewise silent about the ordinations of Shem's son and grandson, Arphaxed and Salah; but interestingly the Bible, in Genesis, names Arphaxed as the third born, and Salah as his (Arphaxed's) firstborn. It is also very interesting that Luke recorded the chosen line through Arphaxed (the third born) and Salah to Heber, or Eber.
Concerning this deletion of the firstborn, the prophet Joseph gives us information. According to Genesis 10:12 (JST), "Shem was the father of Eber, and even to him were children born." Verse 13 names Eber as the firstborn son of Shem. So how can this be? How can Eber be a son of Salah in the Bible and a son of Shem in the JST? It is Anthony's opinion that the prophet Joseph made this seemingly insignificant change in a recitation of genealogy for a reason, and that reason has to do with the father-firstborn relationship. Shem outlived both Arphaxed (his son) and Salah (his grandson). For some reason, Heber (Eber) was made a "son" to his great-grandfather Shem, and was listed by Joseph Smith as his firstborn. Again it is Anthony's opinion that Shem bestowed upon Eber this right, or birthright, or firstborn priesthood. In other words, generations were skipped, or links of the chain were bypassed to link up with a righteous heir. Thus this birthright went to Heber. It may be that Shem adopted Heber in much the same fashion that Jacob adopted his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh to be his firstborn. For whatever reason, Anthony believes that Eber or Heber became the firstborn son of Shem, and reigned in that position under his father Shem.
This Heber was known as the First Hebrew (Harper's Bible Dictionary, p. 378). If Heber was Melchizedek, the great high priest, and Abraham went to him and became his firstborn son through adoption, then this would explain why Abraham is known as the first Hebrew, or the firstborn son of Heber (Bible Dictionary). It would also explain why the descendants of Abraham, who hold the Melchizedek priesthood to bless all mankind, are known as the Hebrew children, or in other words, the Melchizedek children, or the firstborn children, or the children of the firstborn. [Richard D. Anthony, Isaiah & Joseph, pp. 28-29, unpublished]
Alma 13:19 There Were Many before [Melchizedek], and Also There Were Many Afterwards, but None Were Greater:
According to Cleon Skousen, it is obvious that Melchizedek's ministry was so dynamic and the power of God was so richly manifest through him that his name and reputation became widely known in ancient times. Alma emphasized this very point when he said: "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 13:19).
It not only became apparent that Melchizedek had been "approved of God" (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 17:27); but any person who enjoyed the same divine authority as Melchizedek also became accepted by the people as "approved." Therefore it was not long before the whole Church was referring to the Priesthood of God as the "Melchizedek Priesthood." It permitted reference to the Priesthood without constantly using the sacred name of Deity. This development is explained in a modern revelation: "Why the first [or higher Priesthood] is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest. Before his day it was called The Holy Priesthood, after the order of the Son of God, but out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the Church, in ancient days, called the priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood" (D&C 107:2-4).
It may have been for a similar reason that the Saints, prior to the flood, referred to the Holy Priesthood as the "order of Enoch." The Inspired Version says that Melchizedek himself, was ordained a "high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch" (Genesis 14:27) and, as we mentioned earlier, the Doctrine and Covenants, section 76:27, states that the order of Enoch is the same as the "order of the Only Begotten Son" which is also the "order of Melchizedek." So these are different names for the same Priesthood. And the power of this Priesthood is the very power of God (see JST, Genesis 14:28-31).
The fulness of the power of the Priesthood is only given to those who have demonstrated the most advanced capacity to discipline themselves (see Helaman 10:5-9). [W. Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, pp. 2307-2308]
Question: If "there were many before [Melchizedek], and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater," then what does this say about Melchizedek when we find concerning the brother of Jared that "there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared" (Ether 4:4)? Did Melchizedek enjoy an equal manifestation as that seen by the brother of Jared? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Ether 4:12]
Alma 13:22 Glad Tidings of Great Joy:
[See the commentary on Mosiah 3:3]
Alma 13:25 For the Time Cometh, We Know Not How Soon:
In Alma 13:21-26, Alma2 states the following:
Now is the time to repent, for the day of salvation draweth nigh; Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth; wherefore they have come unto us. and they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored, for we have these glad tidings declared unto us in all parts of our vineyard. For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive this word at the time of his coming in his glory. And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice.
Book of Mormon critics find it unreasonable that the prophet Alma, who lived hundreds of years after Lehi's 600-year prophecy of Christ's birth as recorded by Nephi in 1 Nephi 10:4, seems to know nothing about the 600-year prophecy. However, according to Matthew Roper, one may reach several different conclusions depending on how one interprets the references to Christ's "coming" in Alma 13:24-26
1. Christ's Birth: John Tvedtnes has argued that Alma and perhaps other Book of Mormon prophets mentioned in the books of Mosiah through Moroni may have been unfamiliar with the prophecies on the small plates of Nephi.57 Alma had a voluminous library of scriptural records, far beyond anything we have today--not merely a few books. . . . This would be a fairly imposing corpus to read, much less to master and remember. Previous to Alma's conversion he had been a very wicked and idolatrous man (see Mosiah 27:8-10). It is doubtful that he spent much time at that earlier period searching the scriptures. He received the library of records and other sacred things from King Mosiah2 only shortly before becoming the first Nephite chief judge (Mosiah 28:20). . . . Is it really unreasonable that Alma did not spend much time on this little record of Nephi until several years after receiving them? One may, therefore, reasonably interpret Alma's statement as a reference to Alma's ignorance of the 600-year prophecy at the time of his mission in Ammonihah during the tenth year of the reign of the judges. It seems clear that Alma was familiar with at least some of the prophecies on the small plates by at least the fourteenth year of the reign of the judges (see Alma 16:15,19-20).
Note* Alma 16:15 says "the curse of God had fallen upon them because of the traditions of their fathers." This curse is referred to in 1 Nephi 2:23; 2 Nephi 5:20-25. Alma also quotes Lehi's exact words from 1 Nephi 1:8 on the small plates in Alma 36:22. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2. Christ's Coming to Atone for the Sins of Mankind and Redeem Them from Death: Several statements by Alma regarding the coming of Christ clearly refer to his coming to redeem man from sin and death (see Alma 36:17; Alma 5:48). Thus, there is scriptural precedent for the interpretation that the coming of Christ discussed in Alma 13:25 may refer to Christ's coming to atone for sin and break the bands of death. Some might object to this interpretation on the basis of Alma 13:25-26 in which Alma states that his coming would be declared by "the mouth of angels" . . . however, when Jesus was resurrected many of the departed Saints also arose and appeared unto many of the Nephites and did minister to them. Resurrected beings are certainly angels. Given the time of their appearance, it is reasonable to assume that they announced the fact that Christ's atonement was fulfilled.
3. Christ's Appearance to the Nephites: Tom Nibley suggested that Alma in Alma 13 had reference to Christ's appearance to the Nephites, since he speaks of "the time of his coming in his glory." Even if the term "glory" were not unique to a resurrected appearance, it would still be an appropriate one to describe the Savior's glorious New World appearance.
4. Christ's General Coming: By referring to the coming of Christ, Alma may simply have reference to Christ's coming in a general sense. Under this interpretation, Alma means Christ's coming, beginning of course with his birth, but also including his perfect life and teachings, his atoning sacrifice and death, and his resurrection, culminating for the Nephites in his resurrected appearance to them when he delivered his teachings.
[Matthew Roper, "A Black Hole That's Not So Black," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6/2 1994, pp. 180-185]
Alma 13:25 We Know Not How Soon . . . Would to God That IT Might Be in My Day; But Let It Be Sooner or Later, in It I Will Rejoice:
Critics argue that Alma appears to be ignorant of Lehi's 600-year prophecy of Christ's coming (1 Nephi 10:4) since Alma says in Alma 13:25, "we know not how soon . . . Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice."
According to Matt Roper, Alma is not speaking here of Jesus' birth--of which he already knows--but of Jesus' coming among the Nephites in their own land. In fact, Alma says nothing about Christ's birth in this passage, but speaks of the Lord's "coming in his glory." An interesting phrase. On the small plates, Nephi had foretold that, at some unspecified time "after Christ shall have risen from the dead," he would show himself unto the Nephites, "and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do" (2 Nephi 26:1). Contrary to what critics might think, Alma 13 is consistent with Nephi's earlier prophecy on the small plates. Alma states that angels had already begun the work of preparing the Nephites to receive Christ's teachings at the anticipated time of his visit among them.
For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory [that is, among the Nephites]. And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming [that is, among the Nephites in their own land]; for the time cometh, we know not how soon. Would to God that it might be in my day; but let it be sooner or later, in it I will rejoice. (Alma 13:24-25)
The prophecies on the small plates would have told of the date of Christ's birth, but would not have told the date of his death or exactly how long after the resurrection Christ would appear to the Nephites. It is clearly that great day which Alma longs to see. Obviously Alma was familiar with the prophecies which spoke of his coming among the Nephites. He declared, "that the words of our fathers may be fulfilled, according to that which they have spoken concerning him, which was according to the spirit of prophecy which was in them" (Alma 13:24; cf. Alma 5:50-52).
He also taught his son Corianton, somewhere around 73 B.C., that they were "called to declare these glad tidings unto this people, to prepare their minds . . . that they might prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming" among them (Alma 39:16). Alma wanted to prepare the people in his land, so that they would prepare their children for Christ's coming among them. So Alma appears to have known that Christ would not come in his lifetime, but in the lifetime of at least some of the rising generation, information which, it is reasonable to assume, he learned from the records in his possession. Mormon had stated a few years earlier, "And many of the people did inquire concerning the place where the Son of God should come; and they were taught [by Alma who was the record keeper of the small plates?] that he would appear unto them after his resurrection; and this the people did hear with joy and gladness" (Alma 16:20).
It is interesting to note that Alma was probably fairly young between 100 and 92 B.C. If he could have lived until, say, 32 B.C., it would be well within the range of reasonable interpretation for a general six-century estimate for Christ's birth (as opposed to an exact 600-year prophecy). But old age was not something one could take for granted. And besides, Christ would have to live a number of years before he started his ministry and ultimately came to the Nephites. This might explain Alma's somewhat wistful hope that Christ might come--though probably not in his own time.
But one might ask, Why would Benjamin and Alma not speak more specifically of the date of Christ's birth and Lehi's 600-year prophecy in their public discourses in the land of Zarahemla? Perhaps this information was considered a sacred mystery reserved for the faithful. Nephite prophets often concealed certain scriptural information from the public at various times in their history, for diverse reasons (see Alma 37:27-29; 45:9; 3 Nephi 28:25; Ether 4:1). It might be suggested that Samuel's prophecy was considered significant and unique because it was the first public disclosure of the date of Christ's birth among the people of Zarahemla and not because the information was new. The largely negative reaction of the people (Helaman 16:6-23; 3 Nephi 1:4-10) is reason enough for the prophets to have concealed the information so long. [Matt Roper, "A More Perfect Priority?," in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 364-366]
Alma 13:25 Would to God That It Might Be in My Day:
According to John Tvedtnes, some might choose to interpret that when Alma said of Christ's coming, "would to God that it might be in my day" (Alma 13:25), he held a belief that the event might occur in Alma's day. Actually, the opposite is true. There are two Hebrew expressions that the King James translators rendered "would [to] God that" or "would that." In all but one case that Tvedtnes found in the Bible (Genesis 30:34), the situation being described is clearly one that is impossible of fulfillment. (See Exodus 16:3; Numbers 14:2; Numbers 20:3; 2 Samuel 18:33; Numbers 11:29; Joshua 7:7) Judges 9:29) Numbers 22:29).
It is interesting that the Book of Mormon uses the expression "would to God" in two other passages, both of which reflect an impossibility of fulfillment:
"Would to God that we could persuade all men not to rebel against God" (Jacob 1:8); [they couldn't]
"I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime" (Alma 39:7); [the crime had already been committed]
[John Tvedtnes, Book Review in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6/2 1994, pp. 220-221]
(1) the six-hundred year prophecy of Lehi referred to the birth of Christ (whether or not the "600 years" was an approximate term of time--see Vol 1, Appendix A), and
(2) the length of Christ's life was not known, and
(3) the specific time of Christ's visit to the Nephites was not recorded in the Nephite prophetic records (meaning that no one knew just how long it would be after Christ's death and resurrection that he would visit the Americas), and
(4) the term "would to God" implies that Alma at least knew that Christ would not appear in his lifetime,
then Alma's statement, "for the time cometh, we know not how soon," would seem to be quite appropriate. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]