Not long ago, I was struck by some verses in Alma 13 as if I had never read them before:
1 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.
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.
6 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—
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.
12 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.
13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.
As I pondered the words, I felt myself being torn between my old way of thinking and the new way that the Lord is trying build within me. In the old way, I would have thought about all the men I knew who weren’t living up to these standards and smugly decided that I was better than they were. It’s sad to admit, but at least I’ve grown to a point I’m ready to leave childish things behind.
In my new way of thinking, I was looking for ways that I could not only apply these teachings to my own life — I was looking for what they taught me about being a light and building people around me.
Here are my thoughts about some of the phrases that touched me from this passage:
- “…Being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God…”: This is yet another piece of evidence that we all lived with Heavenly Father before we were born and that he knows us intimately. As the Lord planned out mortality, we were each called to our time and place on the earth, and we were set apart into families. We were strategically placed around people who would help us grow and whom we can help grow — if we live the gospel as we are supposed to live it.
- “…On account of their exceeding faith and good works…”: Men who are ordained to the priesthood are, in general, better men than those whose lives are not enlightened with the gospel or those who have chosen not to embrace the gospel. I know that there have been many times in my life when I forget this and forget to give priesthood holders they credit they deserve. Also, I think this phrase sets a standard for us all — I’ve been convinced for a long time that the Lord expects us to be busy trying to do good.
- “…they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling [and o]rdained to teach…”: Being worthy to hold the priesthood and accepting the associated duties are a choice. It’s not a right of passage, nor is it just something that’s handed out like trophies to a group of 5-year-old soccer players. I also think this is a good reminder that when we pick up a stick, we pick up both ends: becoming part of the kingdom of God means that we accept the duties that come with it.
- “…it was on account of their exceeding … repentance…”: Men who hold the priesthood have been through the process of humbling themselves, turning from sin, and turning to Christ. It is a universal process, and it is an ongoing process. For all of us, the more we turn to Christ, the more we are filled with his light, cleansed from our sins, and endowed with heavenly power.
- “… they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish…”: That really is the choice facing all of us. God is love, and God is merciful, but we have clearly defined standards that we have to meet.
- “…being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence…”: I am very much aware that not every man who has been ordained to the priesthood has reached this golden standard, but some have and many are trying. I like to think of it as the golden standard for all of us.
- “…there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God…”: Because we have the help of the Savior and the guidance of the Holy Ghost made available to all of us through the Atonement of Christ, reaching the levels of excellence that the Lord requires of us is within our reach. The way is not easy, but it is possible.
- “And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.”: I find this sentiment in the heart and soul of every person who has truly become converted to the Lord. It is my wish for everyone that I have ever influenced.
Take-aways on Alma 13 and Sustaining the Priesthood:
- Give the men a break: Being ordained to the priesthood is not the Lord’s stamp of perfection. It is the Lord’s prescribed method of teaching and training men to be and become who they need to be to take their places in the Lord’s kingdom.
- We can all try to live the standards: While there is a definite division of duties in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is no monopoly on righteousness. Anyone can come to the Lord, repent of their sins, keep the commandments, and work with the help available through Christ’s atonement to become righteous.
Do you have a favorite scripture lesson? What about a scripture that helps you understand the priesthood better? Share in the comments.