The title of this lesson and the purpose of this lesson are only slightly connected. I think the connection is that as we learn to honor and appreciate those who have been called to preside over us, we are strengthened by the Lord in our service.
Reading Assignment: Alma 13-16.
Melchizedek Priesthood as a type
When Alma and Amulek were teaching the people of Ammonihah, and Zeezrom the lawyer in particular, they taught them in Alma 12 why the Lord gave commandments, and what would happen if people obeyed them, as well as what would happen if they disobeyed them. In Alma 13 they are explaining to the people why the Lord called leaders and ordained them to his priesthood.
He says that the Lord gave us His priesthood to act as a type, which is a representation, of the future redemption to be made by His Son. Alma tells us that the order of the Melchizedek priesthood is designed to show us how we can recognize the atonement and redemption of Christ.
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.
3 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.
There are many things being referred to all at once in these two verses, so let’s look at them one at a time. First let’s look at how men are called to the priesthood. Alma refers to this process as the manner in which it is done. This manner or way is the same way in which we can recognize Christ’s redemption.
When we are called to the priesthood it is with a holy calling, meaning we are invited to come to Christ and participate with Him in His redemption of our souls. This invitation comes to us by one who has already been called by God to invite us in His name. Those called to the Melchizedek priesthood are ordained by the laying on of hands, a physical act that confirms the covenant between God and that man who has agreed to, and accepted the terms of the covenant. Only those who have demonstrated exceeding faith and obedience are offered the covenant of becoming a high priest of God.
This is the same manner in which baptism (and hence the atonement) is administered. One must demonstrate faith, repentance, and obedience first. The ordinance of baptism is offered to those who have repented and demonstrated their faith by their obedience to the commandments by one who has been called of God to represent Him. They are physically immersed in the water by one holding the holy priesthood, demonstrating to God that they have accepted the terms of the covenant of baptism. They are then confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost.
It is by continued faith and obedience that we accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice on our behalf. It is because of our faith and obedience that he forgives our sins and changes our hearts that we lose the desire to do evil. Accepting the covenants associated with the Melchizedek priesthood, and continuing in faith and obedience is what “washes our garments” in the blood of the Lamb. In other words, accepting and living the covenants offered us by the holders of God’s priesthood power enables us to be forgiven of our sins.
High priests are no ordinary men, especially those who have been called by the Lord to preside over us and guide us during our time in mortality. These priesthood leaders have been made high priests through foreordination in the premortal world, and have become high priests in this life because of their continued faithfulness and ability to choose the right and follow the Lord.
Does that make them perfect? Of course not. But it does make them special in the eyes of the Lord. They had to prove their faithfulness in the premortal world, and again in this life in order to become a high priest while in mortality.
The point the lesson seeks to make is that because of the sacredness of the callings of those who are high priests, the Lord expects a lot from them, and from those of us who are guided by them. They have a great calling to be worthy of filling, and we have a great responsibility to sustain them in their callings.
The rest of the Lord
How many times has the Lord promised his people rest? High Priests teach the commandments of God to his people so they can enter into His rest. And what is the rest of the Lord? Here is a quote from the lesson manual.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “The rest of the Lord, where mortals are concerned, is to gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the great latter-day work. [President Joseph F. Smith said,] ‘It means entering into the knowledge and love of God, having faith in his purpose and in his plan, to such an extent that we know we are right, and that we are not hunting for something else; we are not disturbed by every wind of doctrine, or by the cunning and craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive.’ It is ‘rest from the religious turmoil of the world; from the cry that is going forth, here and there—lo, here is Christ; lo, there is Christ.’ (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., pp. 58, 125–126.) The rest of the Lord, in eternity, is to inherit eternal life, to gain the fulness of the Lord’s glory (D. & C. 84:24.)” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 633).
When we listen to and obey the teachings of the prophets we gain the rest of the Lord in mortality, and that opens the door for us to enjoy His rest in eternity. It is a double blessing. Alma was not successful in teaching the people of Ammonihah to believe this. They were too stubborn and too committed to their rebellious ways.
The people of Ammonihah cast out and stoned many of those who believed in Christ. The remainder of those still in the city who would not give up their testimonies of God were rounded up and thrown into the fires to be burned alive. Alma and Amulek saved some who lived to bless their names in mortality, and others who believed and died for their beliefs. But the point is that all those who believed and lived up to those beliefs were saved in the kingdom of God.
We all have the opportunity to have the gospel preached to us and offered to us by those who hold the Melchizedek priesthood. As we accept the invitation to repent and be obedient to the commandments of God we can be baptized and then live according to what we have been taught. Living lives according to the commandments of God, and the teachings of His prophets brings salvation to our souls.
Whether we live a full life of obedience in mortality, or whether we die because we would not relinquish our obedience makes no difference. The result is the same in either case. In Alma 15 Zeezrom, the lawyer who gave Alma and Amulek so much grief, repented and joined the church. His conversion was yet another example that repenting for a life of fighting against the Lord’s kingdom is not an easy task, but ultimately worth going through the process of repentance.
The conversion of Zeezrom was a hard sell, but once converted he spent the rest of his life teaching the gospel to others. He discovered for himself that the rest of the Lord is worth any price to obtain. And that price came from listening to and accepting the invitations and instructions given to him from God’s high priests, His priesthood leaders.