Alma explains here how people can look forward to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice through the way in which men are ordained to the priesthood.

The origin of the question

While Alma and Amulek were in prison Antionah, one of their chief rulers in the city of Ammonihah, came to them and asked them questions. Chapter 13 is an extension of the discussion started in chapter 12 in response to Antionah’s question to Alma. Antionah didn’t understand the concept of the Fall of man and the resurrection that would redeem all who turn to the Savior for their redemption from eternal death. This question prompted Alma to explain the plan of salvation to him. As part of his explanation Alma included how our agency affected God’s callings and foreordinations to His children. It all has to do with whether or not we are hardening our hearts against the commandments of God or seeking salvation through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.

Introduction to the question

I tried several approaches and methods to decipher Alma’s explanation to Antionah, but in the end I was able to take a straightforward approach and look at Alma’s logic as he introduces his concepts from verse to verse. This question originates in this passage from Alma 13:1-11. The premise of Alma’s statements on ordinations of their high priests is found in verses 1-2. The actual question that caused this line of inquiry will be stated in another couple of paragraphs. Just keep reading and you’ll see why I didn’t start with the question.

And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.

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.

As an aside, in verse one Alma says that he “would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments.” We would say he “would cite your minds – to the day/time – when the Lord God … .” To us the word “forward” only refers to something that happens in the future. Alma is using the word to refer to something that happened in a past time, just not today. I consider this word choice as one of those oddities of expression that every language has. We acknowledge that it is there and move on.

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Verse 1 points out that God chose men to hold the holy priesthood to teach truths to the people. They were ordained to the same priesthood held by the Son of God. Their ordination was after his order of the priesthood. And in verse 2 we are told that the priests were ordained “in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.” This is the verse that I always found to be the most puzzling. How does the ordination of a high priest show us how we can look forward to our own redemption from the Savior? Everything I say from here on depends on whether or not I am asking the correct question, for that question steers what I am looking for and how I am interpreting the scriptures in my search for an answer. You might do well to reread my question in italics to determine for yourself if I am asking the right question.

Background information

In verses 3-4 we learn more about Alma’s thinking on how priests are called of God to preach to the people. Read these verses. We’ll talk about them after you read them.

And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.

As spirit children we were all on equal footing to begin with. Each of us had our agency to choose how we would behave and what we would do with our choices, whatever they were. We were all “left to choose good or evil.” Some chose one and some the other. Those who chose good exercised “exceedingly great faith.” This next part fascinates me. Using His foreknowledge, meaning His knowledge of the future, God called these men who chose good (or would choose good) and exercised exceedingly great faith to a holy calling that was designed to redeem or save those who received that calling. Alma refers to the nature of this calling as one that “was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such,” meaning for such as they who received that calling or appointment.

I point out here that God does not live linearly, like we do. We all know of our past, what is happening in our present, and look forward to our future. God lives in all three, the past, present, and future. When He makes a choice about something it is eternal, for He never need worry about not knowing what might happen because of His choice. He sees the fruits of His choice before He has even made it, for He knows the future. When we were chosen, according to God’s foreknowledge, He was making His choice to choose us based on all of our prior, present, and future choices. We couldn’t see all of that, but He could. This is a great point for Alma to make. God’s infinite wisdom is the source of His choices. He isn’t fettered with limited sight or understanding as we are.

God used His omniscience, His knowledge of the past, present, and the future to choose who could be redeemed by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, because they wouldn’t harden their hearts against him. It sounds to me like God had to use His knowledge of the future to call these men to their offices in Christ’s priesthood, because He was basing much of His decision on those men’s behavior in mortality, which none of them had yet experienced. We have all heard of foreordination – being called to do things in mortality before we came here. I believe this is what Alma is describing. Alma ends this description by stating that the other men “might have had as great privilege as their brethren” if they had also chosen righteousness over their own desires, whether that is referring to premortal choices or mortal choices, it is the same. God knew what each of us would do with our opportunities, and with that knowledge He chose those He would offer Christ’s priesthood authority to to administer in Christ’s church on earth.

I recommend you reread verses 3-4 again and see if my explanation holds up.

The nature of our priesthood callings

Verses 5-9 explain more background about the claims Alma made in verses 1-4. When you read verses 5-9 keep in mind that the priesthood to which these men are being called is an eternal position of authority, just like the eternal position of the head of their priesthood, Jesus Christ. The authority of Christ’s priesthood never ends. It is eternal, as is the priesthood of all those who are ordained to an office in his priesthood and who choose to serve Christ.

Those called to hold this priesthood were on the same standing as their brethren who are not called to the priesthood. The reason they were chosen is because of the choices they make in mortality or did make in the pre earth life. Again, this is based on God’s foreknowledge of all things, so we really can’t say how He makes the choice as to whom He offers access to His priesthood. All I am confident about saying is that it has to do with God’s foreknowledge of how those men chose/choose to treat Christ’s atonement. This calling was prepared for those “such as would not harden their hearts.”

Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—

And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest

This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—

Now they were ordained after this manner—being called with a holy calling, and ordained with a holy ordinance, and taking upon them the high priesthood of the holy order, which calling, and ordinance, and high priesthood, is without beginning or end—

Thus they become high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten 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.

Christ was ordained to be the Christ. This placed him at the head of this priesthood, being the Savior and Redeemer of all God’s children. His calling is eternal in nature, as is his priesthood, for it will never end. Those called to offices in his priesthood are also called to hold that priesthood eternally. We can only be denied that priesthood in the eternities by the choices we make that would prevent us from enjoying its blessings. This is why those who hold the higher priesthood are referred to as “high priests forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father.” When we are called to hold the priesthood in this life, it is a forever thing, not just for the few years we are alive in this phase of mortality.

Verses 10-11 tell us more about those ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God.

10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;

11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.

Note that nowhere in this description does Alma ever say that those called to this priesthood come into the priesthood in a state of perfection. Nor does he intimate that being a holder of this priesthood causes them to become perfect in this life. His only description of those called to this priesthood states that they choose “to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish.” We are all a work in progress.

My original question

Here is my original question: How does the ordination of a priest or high priest show us how we can look forward to our own redemption from the Savior?

This is my imperfect answer: The men God called to hold this priesthood, according to His foreknowledge, are called “to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest.” In other words, those God called to hold His priesthood authority, whether premortally or in mortality, are those who are most willing to follow the Savior and use his atonement to become better men. They teach Christ’s atonement to others that salvation might come to all. They are not called to hold these positions because they are perfect, but because they aren’t hardening their hearts against Christ’s leadership, but looking to the Savior as the source of their salvation.

This principle that we can and should look to the Savior for our salvation is a universal principle. Salvation comes only in and through Jesus Christ and the sacrifices he made for us. Salvation isn’t reserved for just those called to hold priesthood offices, but for all who would not harden their hearts against the mission of Christ and what he is trying to accomplish in returning as many as possible to the presence of our Father in Heaven.

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An Explanation of Alma 13:1-11