As always, use the Gospel Doctrine manual in your preparation. Here are some supplemental ideas that may be helpful:
Note: The Book of Mormon does not contain much information about the pre-mortal existence, except for here in Alma 13 (most of what we know about premortality comes from the Pearl of Great Price, and D&C 138). The premortal existence is referred to in this chapter as “the foundation of the world” and “the first place.”
Alma 13 – Alma continues preaching in Ammonihah, and discourses on priesthood and foreordination.
1 – “I would cite your minds forward” “Forward” means backward in this case, since Alma is asking his listeners to think of the pre-mortal life. Alma 13:3 uses two phrases meaning pre-mortal life: “The foundation of the world” and “first place.” Robert L. Millet has written:
His use of the word forward is unusual, especially in light of the fact that he will speak of people in the past; we would normally say backwards. But actually forward can also mean toward the beginning, toward the front (The Power of the Word: Saving Doctrines from the Book of Mormon, 131.)
1 – “after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son” When the phrase “holy order” appears in the Book of Mormon, it is referring to priesthood. Richard Dilworth Rust has written:
The word order appears fourteen times in Alma’s teachings about the priesthood in Alma 13; forms of ordain appear seven times; and ordinance or ordinances appears three times. The English words order, ordain, and ordinances all stem from the same root: Latin ordo, which means literally a straight row or regular series. To ordain originally meant “to put in order” and still has the force of that meaning. (Feasting on the Word: The Literary Testimony of the Book of Mormon, 129 – 130.)
Here’s some clarification regarding the different names used to refer to the high priesthood:
The phrase after the order of his Son is a reference to the Melchizedek Priesthood. In modern revelation, the Lord stated that before the days of Melchizedek, the priesthood was called “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name” of God, the name was changed to the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 107:3–4). (Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121-122, 191).
3 – “from the foundation of the world” and “in the first place” In other words, Priests (meaning high priests in this instance) were foreordained to receive their ordination in mortality.
4 – “while others would reject the Spirit of God” Agency existed in the pre-mortal existence, and we were allowed to choose our path. This verse shows how we differ from the false doctrine of predestination.
6 – “Teach his commandments unto the children of men” This is what priesthood holders are called to do. Testify of Christ and of his commandments.
7 – “without beginning of days or end of years” Restoration scripture gives us additional information about Melchizedek. Some in the Christian world are not sure who he is, or what type of being he is, since it infers in Hebrews 7:3 that Melchizedek is “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” The JST and the Book of Mormon make it clear that it is the priesthood (not Melchizedek) that is “without beginning of days or end of years.”
18 – “Melchizedek did establish peace” Alma appears to be saying, “We are Nephites, but we are not united. Why don’t we do what Melchizedek and his people did? Why don’t we repent and listen to the bearers of the priesthood?” Melchizedek established peace in his days, and Alma, the high priest over the church in the new world, was trying to establish peace and righteousness in his day.
19 – “none were greater” among the ancient kings, none were greater than Melchizedek. It’s interesting to note the Melchizedek is mentioned only twice in the Old Testament, in Genesis 14:18, and Psalms 110:4. In the New Testament, “Melchisedec” (with slightly different spelling) is mentioned only in Hebrews 5-7. Elder Jeffery R. Holland observed:
Alma pleaded with the men of Ammonihah, “Humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.” Then he proceeded to tell more about Melchizedek than is known anywhere else in scripture. Note the explicit foreshadowing of Christ:
- He was king over the land of Salem (Jeru-salem).
- His people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination, had all gone astray, were full of all manner of wickedness.
- He exercised faith in spite of such opposition.
- He received the “office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God.”
- He preached repentance unto his people.
- He established peace and was therefore called the prince of peace.
- He reigned under his father.
Alma noted that there were many prominent figures before and after Melchizedek, “but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention.”
Surely no greater tribute or more generous adulation could be mentioned than to be so much like the Son of God that one’s name could be substituted for his in the title of the most powerful force in the universe—the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, 175.)
22-25 – “glad tidings of great joy” Along with a warning and a call to repentance, Alma came to Ammonihah to declare that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news! The phrase “glad tidings” is used three times in these verses. “Glad tidings” and “great joy” are happy phrases that angels frequently use to refer to the birth of Christ. Alma continued, “we now only wait to hear… the “joyful news of his coming” (verse 25). King Benjamin was visited by an angel who also declared “glad tidings of great joy” in reference to the coming of the Lord in Mosiah 3:3 (a similar phrase, “good tidings of great joy” is used in the Christmas story in Luke 2:10).
27 – “with great anxiety even unto pain” Alma takes his mission to declare the gospel to those in Ammonihah very personally. Alma was “tormented with the pains of hell,” but after repenting, was “filled with joy as exceeding as was [his] pain” (Alma 36:13, 20). Since then, Alma has labored without ceasing “that [he] might bring others to taste of the exceeding joy of which [he] did taste” (Alma 36:24).
28 – “that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear” Notice footnote 28b to 1 Corinthians 10:13, where Paul promises that we will not be “tempted above that [we] are able.” Alma 13:28 gives additional insight into how to be protected from temptation, by adding that we must “call on his holy name” and “watch and pray continually.”
29 – “Having faith … hope … love” Moroni and Paul also speak of faith, hope and charity (Moroni 7:45, 1 Corinthians 13:13).
Alma 14 – Alma and Amulek are imprisoned, believers are cast out, their wives and children are martyred.
8-10 – “whoseover believed … should be cast into the fire” This is one of the most horrifying events in the Book of Mormon. It appears that the husbands and fathers of the believers were cast out and subsequently their wives and children were gathered and cast into a fire. Alma and Amulek were carried forth to witness the event, as a mockery of what they had taught earlier regarding “a lake of fire and brimstone” (Alma 12:17). This painful event demonstrates the extreme wickedness and depravity of those after the order of Nehor in Ammonihah.
11 – “the Lord receiveth them up unto himself in glory” President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “there is no tragedy in death, only in sin” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 39). Of course these deaths were a tragedy, but a greater tragedy is when people die unrepentant. This was the lament of the Nephites in the war chapters who were “sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God” (Alma 48:23). There is some comfort in D&C 42:46 which states: “And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them.”
13 – “Our work is not finished” If you’ll forgive a personal note, the most difficult speaking invitation I ever received was to address the students of Columbine High School seminary about a month after the school shooting in April of 1999. I spent more than one sleepless night trying to figure what I could possibly say that might help. The first scriptural story that came to my mind was Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah. I thought that the youth in Columbine might benefit from the examples of Alma and Amulek who witnessed something horrific, and had to rely on the atonement to survive. I finally put together a talk I called “Five Scriptures that will Help You Get Through Almost Anything.” Alma 14:10-13 was scripture number three.
I remember physically pounding the podium and pleading with the youth, “don’t let this tragedy define your life! You still have a mission and a destiny and a patriarchal blessing that is just yours. If you are still here, it is because your work is not finished! I’m sure that Alma and Amulek had nightmares too. Rely on Jesus Christ who suffered not only for your sins, but for things that you have suffered through no fault of your own” (see Alma 7:11-12, which was scripture four).
Richard Bach, author of the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” said, “Here’s how to know if your work on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”
26 – “How long shall we suffer these great afflictions?” Others have asked “how long” as well:
Part of trusting in God is trusting in His timing. Patience is hard. Waiting for the Lord to intervene can be excruciating. Job cried out “how long?” and so did David (see Job 7:19; Psalm 6:3). John the Revelator saw the martyrs throughout the ages who “cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). In our day, the Prophet Joseph Smith cried out from Liberty Jail, “How long shall thy hand be stayed,” and, “How long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions . . . ?” (D&C 121:2–3). The Lord responds to all of these petitions, and to each of us who has ever asked the same question, out of His infinite perspective: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment” (D&C 121:7). Incredible as it may seem in the middle of our adversity, the Lord’s promise is that one day, all of our current “how longs” will be remembered as “small moments.” (John Bytheway, Sermons in a Sentence, 37).
Alma 15 – Alma and Amulek establish a church in Sidom, and heal Zeezrom
1-2 – “they related unto them all that had happened unto their wives and children” How awful! Most of us will never have to report to another the death of their loved ones, especially when that death was a result of your teaching. Their only solace was their belief that these wives and children were “received up unto [the Lord] in glory” (Alma 14:11).
3-5 – “a burning fever” Zeezrom’s spirit was tormented because of his iniquities, to the point that he felt a physical reaction, in this case, a fever.
6 – “Believest thou in the power of Christ” Alma and Amulek assess the faith of Zeezrom before administering, much like Jesus asked, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” before he healed performed a healing miracle (John 9:35).
15 – “of the profession of Nehor” It is interesting that Nehor came and went in Alma 1, but his influence remained until Ammonihah was destroyed in Alma 16:10.
16 – “Amulek having forsaken all…” Apparently, Amulek gave up quite a bit to be a missionary. His possessions, his position in the community, and the acceptance of his friends, and even his own father! We may well ask ourselves, what might we be expected to give up? (We recall that Amulek’s father and relatives accepted Alma before the going got tough: see Alma 10:11.)
Brother Larry E. Dahl observed: “A rather complete curriculum! God, creation, the fall, the atonement, agency, revelation, the plan of redemption, foreordination, sanctification, judgment, resurrection. And the people of Ammonihah rejected it all.” (Studies in Scripture, Vol. 7: 1 Nephi to Alma 29, p. 312).
Alma 16 – Lamanites destroy Ammonihah
2,9,10-11 – “in one day, it was left desolate” Ammonihah was destroyed by the Lamanites, and was known forever after as the “Desolation of Nehors.”
20 – “he would appear unto them after his resurrection” It was known among the Nephites that Jesus would eventually visit the new world (see also 2 Nephi 26:1), although, judging from their reaction, some seem to have forgotten when Samuel the Lamanite prophesied – “why will he not show himself unto us, as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?” (Helaman 16:18).
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