Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why did Alma discuss priesthood with the Ammonihah people?

It always seemed odd to me that while Alma was preaching to the very hardhearted people of Ammonihah, in between his calls to repentance he discoursed on the premortal foreordination of the priesthood and the purposes of the priesthood.  It almost seems like he is throwing pearls before swine.

Eventually I realized he talked about those things specifically to address their previous objections to him teaching them.  If you remember, they withstood Alma at the beginning on the grounds that 1) he was no longer the chief judge so he didn’t have civil authority over them and 2) they didn’t share his religious tradition, so he didn’t have religious authority over them.

Alma addresses these objections in chapter 13 by pointing out that
·      Priesthood authority was given for teaching the principles of redemption to the people (Alma 13:1)
·      Priesthood authority was given to the faithful because of their faith, good works (Alma 13:3-5) to enable them to enter the rest of the Lord (Alma 13:12).
·      Priesthood was given so that others would know how to look forward to the Messiah for redemption (Alma 13:2) (by learning from the symbolism associated with the priesthood and its ordinances) and be able to enter into the Lord’s rest (Alma 12:6).
·      Melchizedek was a king over a wicked people (who ostensibly didn’t share his religion), yet he preached repentance to them and they repented.  (Alma 13:18) (Melchizedek did not force them to repent with his civil authority; instead he preached and persuaded.)

This way, Alma establishes that priesthood authority encompasses not just those in the church, but those out of the church as well.