CLICK HERE to read Alma 13.
Alma continues his teaching of the people, confirming what Amulek had taught them. His talk now focuses on the commandments, and their importance – even necessity – in our spiritual life. He has presented them the plan of salvation, and so now shares with them the Church and how it is organized both temporally and spiritually.
Alma tells the people of the Priesthood, which is the authority to act in God’s name on Earth. Those called to the Priesthood were ordained before we ever came to Earth, and it is according to the Order the Son has established for His people (verses 1 and 2).
“And this is the manner after which they were ordained – being called and prepared from the foundation of the world (premortally) 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 (premortally and mortally); therefore they having chosen good (premortally and mortally), and exercising exceedingly great faith (premortally and mortally), are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared (premortally)…” (verse 3).
Alma is continuing to teach the people that everything in our mortal lives connects back to before we were born on Earth, to our premortal lives with our heavenly parents. At that time we were prepared, taught, trained to receive premortal ordinances that prepared us for this mortal life. All of us who are born did well enough to receive this same opportunity on Earth. However, in our mortal lives, some choose to continue that progress while others reject the opportunity and stop their progress.
“And thus (because of premortal preparation) they have been called to this holy calling (in mortality) on account of their faith (demonstrated premortally and mortally), while others (also prepared premortally) would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds (in mortality), while, if it had not been for this (rejecting God in mortality), they might have had as great privilege as their brethren (who continued their progress during mortality)” (verse 4).
He explains it again, and further:
“… in the first place (premortally) they were on the same standing with their brethren (who continued their progress in mortality); thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world (premortally) for such as would not harden their hearts (in mortality)…. (though because we would all sin and fail to live up to our covenants) the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared (premortally)…” (verse 5).
The whole plan was in place premortally!
We have already qualified!
We just need to demonstrate that we truly can behave and interact like His people (of Holiness).
“And thus being called (mortally) by this holy calling (premortally), and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God (both premortally and mortally), to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter his rest (presence)” (verse 6).
This is our premortal covenant that we must keep in mortality: He promised to atone for all of us, which He has done. We promised to testify of that atonement, which we must do.
As the people responded to these teachings, there were those who were ready to receive the priesthood “on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choose to repent and work righteousness…” (verse 10).
Then Alma says they were “sanctified” (verses 11 and 12).
This is more than just the Savior’s great atoning sacrifice meeting the demands of justice, and so our repentant souls being “justified”. Justified only leaves the bank account at zero, instead of being in debt. Sanctified makes a deposit, adding value to who we are (who we are becoming) by transforming us – literally and physically (temporally) and spiritually. This is more than just our sins being covered; it means there is something we have to offer. Or, rather, that we are in process of offering something – and what we offer is our obedience to those premortal covenants we promised to fulfill in mortality. This obedience is our “evidence”, or “fruits”, that “prove” our repentance, and this is what enables us to receive His offered mercy at our judgment (verse 13).
Yet we do not earn His mercy. It is His mercy to give, but we must show ourselves prepared to receive it.
This is why Alma tells the new priesthood leaders to stay humble (verse 14), and gives the example of Abraham, saying that even he paid his tithes (verse 15).
All these things, Alma says, everything that has been taught thus far (Old Testament and early prophets in the Book of Mormon), all these teachings and the ordinances of the priesthood “were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, that they might look forward to him for a remission of sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord” (verse 16). Everything, absolutely everything, points to Christ, and everything always has. All things testify of Him, both temporally and spiritually.
Alma gives the example of Melchizedek, and says that he had “mighty faith” and kept his premortal covenants of testifying to his people. Alma tells that Melchizedek established peace instead of causing war, and that none have been so great as him in honoring his priesthood (verses 17-19). Because of this, the priesthood is named after him – the Melchizedek priesthod – even though there were priesthood leaders both before and after him. This is like Abraham, who is known for his great faith and covenant keeping, so much that even though there were covenant-keepers and people of faith both before and after him, we call the covenant after him as the Abrahamic Covenant.
So Alma urges the people to study the scriptures for themselves (verse 20), and reminds them that “now is the time to repent” (verse 21). He says that angels (and prophets) have declared His words to all nations (verse 22), “and they are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand…” (verse 23).
He wants us to understand, because He wants us to succeed.
So His words – through angels, through the scriptures, and through prophets – are given to us “for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming” (verse 24).
Then Alma prophesies – 80 years before it happens – that angels will announce the news that the Savior has been born! (verse 25). He describes how the people know this from prophecies in scriptures already (verse 26), and he urges them not to procrastinate their repentance (verse 27).
“But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love, and all long-suffering; having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest…” (verses 28-29).
This, Alma says, is our most urgent need: that the Lord may grant us repentance (verse 30).