rest
Week 25 is scheduled for study June 15-21, 2020. To find the Lord’s rest means one thing to one person and something else to another person. But in any and all cases, the rest of the Lord is something that must be sought for intentionally, and it may require sacrifice.

Day 1

Alma 13:1–19 – Priesthood ordinances help me receive redemption through Jesus Christ.

The inspiration you receive as you ponder the scriptures is precious. You can show that you treasure it by recording and acting on it.

Here is my confession. The manual wants you to find at least one thing about the priesthood in each of the first 9 verses of this chapter. There is much about this week’s reading about which I am frankly ignorant. So in the next set of verses what I have written exposes my own ignorance and possibly biases. I suggest you read the first 9 verses of chapter 13 first, answer the questions posed by the lesson then come back and see if there is anything I wrote that might be of help. I certainly don’t claim any special knowledge here.

Verse 1 – This verse makes me wonder if the word “priest” is referring to the priests Alma set apart to teach the people or if it is referring to the men God set apart to be prophets among the people. Most of the verses that refer to the priests and teachers called by Alma to serve the people of the church don’t make any references to them having any priesthood authority. I think I have found only one verse that indicates that they might have been able to baptize, though in other places it specifically states that Alma did all the baptizing of new converts, not the people he had called as priests and teachers.

I tend to believe that the priests referred to in this verse are prophets called after the order of God’s priesthood to teach the people and offer them God’s covenants.

Verse 2 – I have long wondered what is meant by verse 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.

What is it in the way in which we ordain people to the priesthood that teaches us how to look to the Savior for redemption? Is it that we use the laying on of hands, and that the calling and ordaining of one to the priesthood is done on an individual basis, just as our relationship with Christ and the forgiveness of our sins is done on an individual basis? What do you think? Or have I missed something even more basic and fundamental?

Verse 3 – The first part of the verse seems to indicate that those who are given the priesthood proved themselves in the premortal world, and hence were called and foreordained to positions of leadership and responsibility in mortality to teach God’s other children.

After the first semicolon in the verse that information can apply equally as well to premortal life as it does to earth life. If you recall Abraham’s comment about how he received the priesthood (Abraham 1:2), he says it was because he deliberately sought after the blessings of his fathers. In other words, he chose to do good, and he sought to become righteous like his forefathers were. To do that he sought out those who held the priesthood who could give those blessings, just like our missionaries offer those blessings to those they teach. They are free for the taking. We just need to be willing to make and keep the covenants associated with those blessings.

Verse 4 – Again, I don’t know if this verse is still talking about premortal life or earthly life. But the principle is the same either way. There is no privilege any prophet has ever had that cannot belong to anyone who is also willing to be just as obedient to their covenants and are willing to repent just as thoroughly of their sins. The blessings of the prophets are available to all who are willing to do what they did to receive them. Being a priesthood holder is and never has been a requirement for such blessings.

If being a priesthood holder were a requirement for such blessings then how could Eve, or Mary, the mother of Jesus, ever achieve the same level of holiness many of the prophet achieved. It would make no sense. Righteousness must, of necessity, be independent of priesthood office or calling. If not then God would be a respecter of persons, which He specifically states He is not.

Verse 5 – This is interesting. Alma tells us that everyone is placed on equal footing before God. And referring to the priesthood specifically, he says that those who received the blessings of the priesthood were those who chose to be obedient to God’s laws, while those who hardened their hearts and would not believe or obey were denied the blessings of the priesthood.

I find the idea Alma suggests in the previous paragraph intriguing because, as far as I am aware, this is the only dispensation in the history of the world when priesthood authority has been available to every male member of Christ’s church. If that is correct then what do you suppose he is referring to in verse 5?

Verse 6 – What I get from this verse is that those who have shown themselves worthy of the priesthood are called specifically to preach the gospel of repentance to others that all might enter into God’s rest. There are a number of things that “rest” could be referring to. In this verse I take it to refer to being in God’s presence.

Verse 7 – The priesthood has been around forever. I find it fascinating that Alma teaches here that the priesthood was “prepared” for us according to His foreknowledge. If the only priesthood we know about was prepared for us to enable us to be saved and return to God’s presence, what other priesthoods might there be?

Verse 8 – The priesthood we hold and use is very ancient indeed, having existed long before the earth was created millions of years ago. God, our Father, established it, prepared it for us, in order to fulfill His design to bring about our immortality and eternal life. It is important to me to remember that being a holder of God’s priesthood doesn’t imbue me with power that is mine to possess and control. All the good that is done through the priesthood is done by faith, and God performs the miracle, not me. I am but a servant and follower of He who actually wields and controls the power.

Verse 9 – This verse puts Christ squarely in the focus of the whole plan of salvation. Everything about the priesthood is centered on Christ. Alma says the priesthood is after the order of God’s only Begotten Son. He has been placed in control of the priesthood power God has made available to His children. Christ governs the priesthood and how it can be used. This is his authority to command or revoke at his pleasure. When we are called and ordained to an office in his priesthood, we cannot access or use the power in that priesthood office without being obedient to Christ. It is our obedience that accesses the power of his priesthood.

Looking to Christ for redemption

There are two things here I would like to mention. One is about the rest of the Lord. And the other is about “these ordinances” referred to by Alma.

How many ways are there for the Lord to bring or give us rest? Surely there is the final rest when we die. We are brought home to live with him again, and we rest from all our earthly cares. But what about the kind of rest we receive when we repent of our sins? Sins, by their very nature create stress and distress. Repentance also creates rest from the burdens of sin. This is partly why the Lord invites us to take upon us his yoke, for he promises his burdens are light. If you have ever truly labored under the burden of your sins, you have a sense of just how true the Savior’s promise is.

What ordinances do you think Alma is referring to when he generically refers to “these ordinances”? His comments make more sense to me if Alma is referring to the law of Moses. All of the ordinances in the law point toward Christ. What do you think? Do you think he is referring to something else? Feel free to answer in the Comments below so we can all benefit from your thinking. 🙂

Please be sure you watch or read Elder Renlund’s Conference talk entitled, “The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power”. It is powerful. The talk is from the November, 2017 Conference.

Day 2

Alma 13:3 – Are priesthood holders the only people “called and prepared from the foundation of the world”?

The inspiration you receive as you ponder the scriptures is precious. You can show that you treasure it by recording and acting on it.

If asked the question, “Does God only love His sons?” We would all reply without hesitation that this is a ridiculous question. He loves all of His children. To answer yes to that question would be like saying that He loves his daughters more than His sons, because they are able to share with Him in the creation of life, and the men can’t. I emphatically state that God loves all of His children. Their gender may give them special roles in life, but that doesn’t change or influence God’s love for each and every one of them.

I recommend reading an article I wrote some time ago about women and the priesthood. I believe that the scriptures talk about the priesthood a lot only because it is through the priesthood that God’s plan for our salvation is administered. That doesn’t make the men any more important in God’s eyes than his precious daughters.

Day 3

Alma 14 – Sometimes God allows the righteous to suffer.

The inspiration you receive as you ponder the scriptures is precious. You can show that you treasure it by recording and acting on it.

In Alma 10:23 here is what Amulek told the people of Ammonihah.

23 But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared; now therefore, if ye will cast out the righteous from among you then will not the Lord stay his hand; but in his fierce anger he will come out against you; then ye shall be smitten by famine, and by pestilence, and by the sword; and the time is soon at hand except ye repent.

When the wicked in Ammonihah finally drove out the righteous and sent people after them to stone them, they turned on those who were still in town and decided to make an example of them to Alma and Amulek. They built a big fire and started tossing women and children into the flames. They were beyond feeling for the welfare of others. Amulek turned to Alma and talked to him about this situation they were being made to watch. Here are Alma’s comments in Alma 14:11.

11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

It appears Alma had already had the same thoughts as Amulek, and before Amulek could voice his concerns the Spirit and Alma had already come to an understanding of what was going on and Alma now knew what course to take. He was not to save these people because God needed their deaths to justify the destruction He already had planned for the city of Ammonihah.

One might ask, “Does that mean the death of these innocent people means nothing to God?” Certainly not. All who die being faithful to God are received into a state of glory. A state of eternal rest. It is certainly true that there are somethings even more important to our lives than our mortal lives. Being on good terms with our God is one of those things that are at the top of the list of important things. It doesn’t really matter what you achieve or possess in life if, at the moment of departure, you are at odds with God.

There were only a handful of people destroyed by fire that day, but there were enough who died to seal their testimony against the whole city of Ammonihah, and to justify God’s complete and utter destruction of every soul within the city and in the surrounding area. Those who died with their faith in tact went into eternity looking forward to being welcomed home by a loving Father in Heaven. Those of Ammonihah died brutally by the sword with only the thought of eternal annihilation, for they did not believe what the gospel of Christ taught them.

Day 4

Alma 15:16, 18 – Discipleship requires sacrifice.

The inspiration you receive as you ponder the scriptures is precious. You can show that you treasure it by recording and acting on it.

The manual brings up an interesting question. If a preacher of another faith, who made his living through his job of being a preacher, converts to the Lord’s Church, what becomes of him? Is it fair that he has lost his only source of income in order to become a member of Christ’s Church? What do you think?

If you weigh an income on one side of an eternal scale, and put the gospel of Christ on the other side, which side will go down? If a preacher loses his income in exchange for that which gives him eternal life, what has he really lost?

Now look at Amulek and Zeezrom. Amulek and Zeezrom were both wealthy men. Both were influential in their society. Both were intimately and widely connected men. Both had power to influence the lives of others. Yet when presented with the truth they both walked away from all that had made their lives comfortable in order to possess the truth. Hard? Yes. But can you really fault them for choosing the best of that which is better?

Both men sacrificed all of their personal relationships, their friendships, their social standing, and their livelihoods in order to embrace the truth. Jesus told his disciples that he who was not willing to forsake all to receive his gospel was not worthy of that gospel. In Luke 9:62 Jesus taught that once we put our hand to the plow, if we look back, we are not fit for the kingdom. Being a disciple takes complete commitment. And sometimes that commitment means we must sacrifice what others hold dear to them in order to get what we claim is most dear to us.

Scripture Study and Family Home Evening

Improving Our Teaching – Be ready always.

I was bothered when I read the paragraph in the manual for Improving Our Teaching. I fully agree with what they say about needing to be prepared, but I am troubled by the idea that most people don’t do what is required to be ready when teaching moments arise.

Teaching moments do come at the most surprising moments of our lives, and often the opportunity to teach about that moment may be there one second and gone the next. But there is a good reason for why we miss many of these opportunities.

In order to see and recognize a teaching opportunity we must see and recognize the principle that needs to be taught almost instantly. If we don’t see it quickly we miss our opportunity to say something about it. But why do we not see the teaching opportunities in the first place?

I would venture to say that many of us miss important teaching opportunities because we aren’t looking for the lessons life offers us each and every day. In order to see life’s lessons and the opportunities to teach those lessons to others, we must first be on the lookout for those lessons. This means we have to be thinking about our personal salvation, our relationship with the Lord, how we are fulfilling our responsibilities, etc. Only if we are actively thinking about what we are doing in life, and how our actions are affecting our growth towards godhood, will we see learning opportunities when they present themselves.

I admit that none of us see all of the lessons life has to offer us. We all get distracted. If we want to get better at catching more of life’s lesson we must first intentionally seek out those lessons and try to learn from them. If you do that for a while, eventually it becomes a habit to look for them, and natural to see them, even without conscientiously thinking about it.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

BoM Week 25

(Alma 13-16)