I’m finally back in the Book of Mormon now. I want to start off by talking about Alma 13:19. It’s the Melchizedek verse. I know I keep saying this is the last thing I’ll write, this time it’s true! I feel like Moroni. I just keep coming back and writing more.
I’ll copy in verse 19 so we can look at it more closely together.
“Now there were many before him, [Melchizedek] and also many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention.”
Many People Wrote About Melchizedek
What this is saying is that Melchizedek should be one of the most written about people! Yet, how many verses do we have that make mention of him in our present day canon? I think the number was 36. That is by no means a lot. Definitely not a majority. The latter-day revelation gives us that. Without the JST, Book of Mormon, and D&C, we have only 7 verses! Let me back up for a moment. At the time that Alma is writing this, the Book of Mormon as we have it is not around. The JST is not around and neither is the D&C. What did they have access to was what Lehi and his family brought to the New World, the brass plates. They contained a record of the Jews from the creation of Adam all the way down to the reign of Zedekiah. This was more extensive than our modern day Old Testament. How do I know? Well, look through the Old Testament and how much is written. Seven verses isn’t a lot. Alma is saying people wrote a LOT about Melchizedek! There isn’t any doubt things have been removed. Perhaps another example will illustrate.
The Book of Revelation talks a lot about what is going to happen in the time period after the apostles. But nowhere does it talk about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. You would think that if Joseph Smith is second in what he has done for mankind only to Jesus himself, you would think he would be mentioned in the apocalypse of John. He who saw the world’s history from beginning to end and who continues his sojourn on Earth to this day. Also, if you go to the Bible Dictionary under, “lost books” there is a wonderful explanation of just how incomplete our record of the Bible is. Hopefully one day, we can get some of that back. A little bit is actually restored through Book of Mormon quotations (2 Nephi 3:4-22 and Alma 46:24-26)
A Review of Where we Left Off in the Book of Mormon
Since I’ve ben on a nearly 100-page detour of Melchizedek and since we haven’t actually discussed the Book of Mormon since my last notebook, I’ll review what is going on in chapter 13 of Alma before continuing on with my narrative.
The past few chapters have been talking about Alma and Amulek’s teaching in Ammonihah. They have already contended with Zeezrom and he has been silenced. He has had a change of heart and was asking about the Plan of Salvation. That was in chapter 12. With chapter 13 thus far, Alma is explaining how God makes truth known to people (such as the Plan of Salvation discussed in chapter 12) and that is through the priesthood holders. He names Melchizedek as a good example of a priesthood holder. Now he’ll talk about how the word of God has been made known unto the people and at the end, he’ll exhort them to repentance.
The Lord Makes the Scriptures Known Unto us
Alma goes on to say that he doesn’t need to say any more concerning the priesthood because they have the scriptures to look at themselves. But if they wrest (fight against) them, it will be to their own destructions. He tells the people to repent for the Lord has made these things known unto them because he loves them and wants them to have joy. H has revealed them (the scriptures) in plain terms so that they cannot err. All because hey are highly favored of the Lord, being wanderers in a strange land.
I want to write about that for a moment (shocker). This last bit, verse 23, seems a bit too flowery for Alma. Perhaps he is quoting Jacob, who it links to in a cross reference. See Jacob 7:26. Nevertheless, it is true. Lehi’s family, being highly favored of the Lord, was led out of Jerusalem to a strange land. Well, first, they wandered through a strange land, crossed strange waters, then settled in a strange land. Strange isn’t it? Like Alma says, though, they were and continue to be highly favored of the Lord insomuch that the word of the Lord–the gospel, commandment, etc–have been brought to the people even though they are far away from the motherland. Not only have they received the word, but it is being taught all over the land. What Alma is saying is a testimony that God is no respecter of persons. He will reveal his will and gospel to all his children, no matter where they are or what language they speak. In a way, they can understand without erring.
God sure loves us doesn’t he?
Angels are Declaring the Gospel at This Time
Verse 24 I want to copy it in. It brings up an interesting topic:
“For behold angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory.”
Angels are declaring it unto many. I think that can be taken literally and figuratively. I know people who have dreams of angels visiting them and telling them about the gospel. One of the people I taught in Sibu said an angel visited her and told her to continue learning from us. Or perhaps the angels are disguised as normal looking people.
In a more figurative sense, those angels are people we know–a friend, colleague, associate etc…who introduces us to the gospel or mentions it to someone which in turn piques their interest or prepares their heart for a later time and date which they will be ready for the gospel. I wonder to what extent missionaries are the angels? The ones that randomly show up on someone’s doorstep offering something better. The “angels” that appear to show people that God still cares about them and that he still loves them. I think a lot of times missionaries are those angels.
I also believe in people being prepared. If I think about all the people I’ve baptized, not one of them I had to “sell” the gospel to. They were always willing to let us in and listen. Most of the time we don’t know the backstory or just how much of an answer we are to their prayer. But I believe those are the prepared people. The ones that have been ready for who knows how long to receive the word of God.
Cross reference verse 26 of the same chapter. It talks about how angels appear to just and holy men who then send the word of God to the people. See also Exodus 22:31, Amos 3:7, and Words of Mormon 1:17. These all talk about prophets–people who have gained the word of God and send it to others. That goes along with the Exodus 22:31 scripture. God wants us all to say, act, and be what he wants us to be. In turn, we can be those ‘angels’ or ‘holy and just men’ that prepare the hearts and minds of the people to listen and accept the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Holy Men Whom We Do Not Know
One of the Cross references says something interesting. It’s in D&C 49:8. This scripture talks about how all are under condemnation for sin except those that the Lord has reserved unto himself, holy men they know not of. I have a few thoughts on what this could be referring to. This section in the D&C was given through Joseph Smith to Sidney Rigdon and others. It was then read in a Shaker congregation because that is where brother Rigdon and his companions were going. At first, I thought the part of the holy men being unknown was strange because they knew Joseph Smith. He was the prophet and the one that gave them this. My conclusion was that these “holy men” that are not under condemnation referred to the only holy men that I could think of that were presently not known about much–the three Nephite, and John. The other thought I had not too long ago was that this revelation was being read to a Shaker congregation and therefore was intended for them. In that case, “holy men” that they know not could easily be Joseph Smith and other leaders of the church. They’ve never met them before. Plus, the other cross references talk about prophets and Joseph Smith was a prophet at the time. I was thinking that we can’t limit the meaning to one interpretation. But I think, at least with this section, it was given for the Shakers and is talking to them. It should be read with a Shaker audience in mind. Reading it that way, it makes sense because it refutes Shaker doctrine and seems to be speaking to the audience. But then again…you read the preface and it seems like the people inquired of Joseph about it and reading it before Shaker community was coming second. If that is the case, then this is addressed to the brethren. Look at verses 1-4, 9, 11, 23, and 26-28. These all seem to be addressed to Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt, and others. In which case, we could not know who is specifically meant to be the “holy men” that we don’t know of. I think it’s possibly a combination of both. Talking to the elders but since God is God and he knew they’d read it to the Shakers, threw in some stuff for them? What that balance is I’m not sure.
Not Being Tempted Above That Which We Can Bear
Alma exhorts the people in verse 28 to watch and pray continually so that they are not tempted above that which they can bear. This is an interesting thought. The Bible verse that says this exact same thing is the only thing I remember from my time in Deacon’s quorum. It was my teacher’s favorite verse. It’s from 1 Corinthians 10:13. I’ll copy it in.
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
I believe this verse is true. My seminary teacher suggested an interesting thought when this verse came up one day. He said that God will never allow you to be tempted above what you can bear. But YOU can put yourself in places where you will be tempted above that which ye can bear. I’m trying to think of an example of something to back that up but I can’t come up with anything at the moment. Interesting thought though right? Think about that one for awhile.
Alma is Bold but Charitable
Verses 28-30 Alma asks them to become meek, submissive, patient, full of love, longsuffering, having faith and hope, the love of God and being granted repentance. In short, he is expressing his hope and vision to them. He has said harsh things to them. But he ends it here with him expressing love and his testimony that God loves them and will give them repentance if they only turn to him. One of my mission friends told me something that one of his companions taught him. He said that if you are bold without charity, it comes across as overbearing. I think Alma exemplifies being bold and being charitable. The people know what he is saying is true but they hopefully can still feel his love for them.
Whose Records Were Included in the Book of Mormon?
Alma spoke many words unto the people which are not written in this book. Mormon and Moroni are the ones that compiled this book. I wonder how much more there was that Alma said that they didn’t put in. If you remember back in chapter 9 it (the headnote) was saying that chapter 9-14 were from Alma’s personal record. I wonder if it is all continuous or is it skips around. Maybe in between chapters 10 and 11 Alma said something else but God told the abridgers not to include it so they just continued at a different point so as to make the story make sense. I don’t know for sure. Abridging was undoubtedly a difficult task. He (Mormon) had to read all the records and at least know what he had access to in order to put it all together. How many days of studying the records do you think he had? Or maybe he had been reading them ever since he was a child so when the time came to compile the Book of Mormon, he was merely led to getting this part from this record or this part from this record. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I would have liked to be, though. I want to see if I can do something to map out the writers of the Book of Mormon. Stick with me.
- 1 Nephi 1-7: Nephi talking
- 1 Nephi 8: Nephi quotes his father, Lehi, and adds in commentary
- 1 Nephi 9-19: Nephi talking
- 1 Nephi 20: Nephi quotes Isaiah 48
- 1 Nephi 21: Nephi quotes Isaiah 49
- 1 Nephi 22: Nephi talking
- 2nd Nephi 1-3: Lehi’s last words to his children
- 2nd Nephi 4-5: Nephi talking
- 2nd Nephi 6-10: Jacob talking
- 2nd Nephi 11: Nephi talking
- 2nd Nephi 12-24: Nephi quotes Isaiah
- 2nd Nephi25-33: Nephi talking
- Jacob 1-4: Jacob talking
- Jacob 5: Jacob quoting Zenos
- Jacob 6-7: Jacob talking
- Enos: Enos talking
- Jarom: Jarom talking
- Omni 1:1-3 = Omni talking
- Omni 1:4-8 = Amaron talking
- Omni 1:9 = Chemish talking
- Omni 1:10-11 = Abinadom talking
- Omni 1:12-30 = Amaleki talking
- Words of Mormon: Mormon talking
- Mosiah 1-2:8 = Mormon abridging the plates of King Benjamin’s history
- Mosiah 2:9-4: King Benjamin’s speech quoted
- Mosiah 5-8: Mormon abridging record of Mosiah
- Mosiah 9-22: Record of Zeniff inserted in (Isaiah 53 is quoted in here as well.)
- Mosiah 23-24: Mormon tells what happened to Alma and his followers.
- Mosiah 25-29: Mormon abridging record of Mosiah II
- Alma 1-4: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 5: Alma’s record inserted.
- Alma 6: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 7: Alma’s record inserted
- Alma 8: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 9-14: Alma’s record inserted
- Alma 15-16: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 17-26: Alma’s record inserted (he is writing about what happened to the sons of Mosiah.)
- Alma 27-28: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 29: Alma II talking
- Alma 30-35: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 36-37: Alma talking to his son, Helaman
- Alma 38: Alma talking to his son Shiblon
- Alma 39-42: Alma talking to his son Corianton
- Alma 43-44: Mormon abridging record of Alma II
- Alma 45-62: Record of Helaman inserted
- Alma 63: Mormon abridging Shiblon and Helaman’s record
- Helaman 1-3: Mormon abridging Helaman’s record
- Helaman 4-6: Mormon abridging Nephi’s (son of Helaman) record
- Helaman 7-12: Prophecy of Nephi
- Helaman 13-15: Prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite
- Helaman 16: Mormon abridging the record of Nephi
- 3rd Nephi 1-10: Mormon abridging the record of Nephi III
- 3rd Nephi 11-26: Record of Christ’s visit to America (as recorded by Nephi III and compiled by Mormon)
- 3rd Nephi 27-30: Mormon abridging Nephi’s record
- 4th Nephi 1: Mormon abridging Nephi’s, son of Nephi the apostle, record
- Mormon 1-7: Mormon talking
- Mormon 8-9: Moroni talking
- Ether: Moroni’s abridgment of the 24 Jaredite plates with commentary
- Moroni 1-10: Moroni talking (including epistles Mormon wrote to his son)
That was a fun exercise! Now you have a general outline of who is saying what for the entire Book of Mormon. Cross reference Words of Mormon 1:5. It says that Mormon cannot include a hundredth part in here. Imagine if the Book of Mormon was 100x longer. In English, it is 531 pages. Can you imagine a 50,000-page book? The unabridged account of the Nephite civilization from 600 BC to 400 AD now only in 100 volumes! Can you imagine what that would be like? Historian’s dream! Imagine how much Mormon and Moroni had. Do you think they ever got overwhelmed with the number of records they had? Thinking how in the world they were going to put together something of worth that would last through the ages? I would be nervous. But they did it. And it is the most correct book on the face of the planet and man will draw closer to God by reading and abiding by its precepts than any other book on Earth. I know that’s true.
Also look at 3rd Nephi 5:8-12. Mormon says 1/100 part cannot be written about what transpired among the Nephites in the space of 25 years. Woo! So many records! But Mormon says Nephi gave a shorter but true account of what happened during those 25 years, of which, Mormon is abridging. So many records! Kudos to Mormon. He probably got really good at editing things by the time he was done. Probably works at a Celestial publishing company now.