“One of the most enlightening discourses ever delivered in regard to the atonement. It should be carefullyread by every person seeking salvation.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:57. Emphasis added.)
Well, that is a powerful statement, by a powerful prophet, about a powerful chapter, in a powerful book! I wrote that quote in my scriptures years ago so I would always remember and consider that before studying 2 Nephi 9.
Starting in verse 10 of 2 Nephi 9, Jacob seems to use a literary technique known as a foil (a person or thing that makes another seem better/worse by contrast). Jewelers do this visually when they put a diamond on black velvet. The black absorbs the light and the diamond refracts it, thus causing the diamond to stand out more than it normally would.
Returning our attention to 2 Nephi 9:10 we are able to see the genesis of this foil that Jacob will use: “O how GREAT the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this AWFUL monster” (emphasis added). As you continue reading from verse 10 you may want to pay attention to the words GREAT and AWFUL, and what they refer to. Jacob does not want us to miss out on God’s “greatness”, nor does he want you to be ignorant of how “awful” Satan really is. The use of our agency will determine the extent to which we rely on and access the Atonement of Jesus Christ to receive the blessings of the “merciful plan of the great Creator.”
“Remember the GREATNESS of the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:40, emphasis added). Life truly is GREAT with God, and AWFUL without Him!
“The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial? The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite.
“For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church. What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses. Again and again the Book of Mormon acts as a confirming, clarifying, unifying witness of the doctrines taught in the Bible.” (“The Book of Mormon—a Book from God,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2011, 75).
Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life identifies the “mist” that would affect the people of the latter days from seeing the “Lamb of God/Tree of Life“. The “mist” in the vision “blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 12:17). Nephi was taught by the Spirit of the Lord that Satan tries to “blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men” by having “plain and precious” teachings “taken away” from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:24-29,32). The Spirit also taught Nephi that the Bible (the record of the Jews) contained the covenants of the Lord and many prophesies of the holy prophets, was of great worth, and contained the fullness of the gospel. Then many “plain and precious things from” the Bible began to be “taken away” (1 Nephi 13:40). Nephi was taught about another book (the Book of Mormon) that would be written by his seed and would restore the “plain and precious” things that had been “taken away”–a book that would be “hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles by the gift and power of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 13:35).
The Book of Mormon teaches plainly of the doctrine of Christ and restores the fulness of the gospel to the earth once again (see 1 Nephi 13:38–41). For example, the Book of Mormon helps us know that baptism must be performed by immersion (see 3 Nephi 11:26) and that little children do not need to be baptized (see Moroni 8:4–26 and Why We Need the Book of Mormon, New Era, April 2013. At the bottom of that article you will find other helpful video clips and links).
The Bible and the Book of Mormon work together as companion witnesses of Jesus Christ–The Lamb of God–and testify that “all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved… for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth” (1 Nephi 13:40-41). To add to this witness, chapter 14 teaches about the Apostle John, by name, and speaks of his future writings, explaining that “the things which he shall write are just and true” (1 Nephi 14:23, 27). The scriptures are our “de-MIST-ifiers”. They are the Iron Rod to which we must hold tight (1 Nephi 8:30). We must never allow Satan to “blind” us by keeping us from the “plain and precious” scriptures that are “just and true”!
Remember the great truths taught by President Russell M. Nelson regarding the Book of Mormon:
My dear brothers and sisters, I testify that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God. It contains the answers to life’s most compelling questions. It teaches the doctrine of Christ. It expands and clarifies many of the “plain and precious” truths that were lost through centuries of time and numerous translations of the Bible.
The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere. It teaches what it really means to be born again. From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel. We know why we are here on earth. These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period.
The Book of Mormon both illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics of the adversary. The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine to dispel false religious traditions—such as the erroneous practice of performing infant baptisms. The Book of Mormon gives purpose to life by urging us to ponder the potential of eternal life and “never-ending happiness.” The Book of Mormon shatters the false beliefs that happiness can be found in wickedness and that individual goodness is all that is required to return to the presence of God. It abolishes forever the false concepts that revelation ended with the Bible and that the heavens are sealed today.
When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls.
My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions.
Whenever I hear anyone, including myself, say, “I know the Book of Mormon is true,” I want to exclaim, “That’s nice, but it is not enough!” We need to feel, deep in “the inmost part” of our hearts, that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it. I might paraphrase President Brigham Young in saying, “I wish I had the voice of seven thunders to wake up the people” to the truth and power of the Book of Mormon. (“The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?” Ensign, Nov. 2017.)
A couple articles that may interest you and go well with these chapters are:
I know that most people would probably expect to see the picture of Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life, but I chose a picture that represents the whole reason for the vision. The image below is definitely “worth a thousand words”. (Hopefully it’s not too graphic for you.)
Powerful image of the Lamb of God. Take a closer look to see why. (Behold the Lamb of God, Jonathan Mayer)
Why this image? Well I couldn’t help but notice how often the “Lamb of God” was referred to during Nephi’s vision. A quick list of references will illustrate:
WOW! And it doesn’t stop there… keep looking in 1 Nephi 14 and you will find it another 17 times! Jesus Christ is the “Lamb” that was slain for us (see Isaiah 53), and Nephi wants us to KNOW IT!
Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God
Dr. David Bokovoy, a colleague who studied at Brandeis University, taught me about something called “leitwort” (leading/theme word)–the intentional use of a word, over and over again to highlight a theme within a text (many examples are found in the Bible and other Hebrew texts). Without a doubt (to me), Nephi’s use of the “Lamb of God” is to bring us back, over and over, to the central figure of the vision of the Tree of Life—Jesus Christ—so that we don’t get lost in the vision–like so many others literally did.
The Lamb of God suffers in Gethsemane.
By the time Nephi’s vision ends in chapter 14, one will have read the word “Lamb” over 43 times. That is some serious “Leitwort”! This is indeed an indicator of the leitwort that makes up The Book of Mormon—Jesus Christ.
Red highlights reference Jesus Christ. Click the photo to find out more.
My wife, Hilary, once read the entire Book of Mormon and marked each reference to Jesus Christ by His many titles. She would tally the total at the end of each page. It is incredible to flip through the pages, with so much marked, and realize that she was only marking references made to the Savior. Perhaps you have done the same.
I was so inspired by just flipping through the pages of my wife’s marked-up copy of the Book of Mormon that I decided to do the same. This was THE BEST experience that I have had to date of studying the Book of Mormon. I was not only amazed that what I learned about my Savior Jesus Christ, but I was astonished by how much I was able to see and learn that I had never grasped before in the Book of Mormon as I focused on the Savior. I invite you to do the same if you have never tried this exercise in studying the Book of Mormon. For more on this and a helpful chart visit my post “SEEK THIS JESUS“.
“Finding Christ in the Book of Mormon”. Click on the pic for more info.
Don’t forget about leitwort as you continue studying the Book of Mormon. Leitwort can help you identify the intent of the author and the message that they wished to convey. The videos below will be very helpful for those seeking to understand the connection between lambs and the Lamb of God. Happy reading!
Aprons of Fig Leaves and Coats of Skins
After partaking of the forbiden fruit, Adam and Eve attempted to cover their sins by making aprons of fig leaves. However, the Lord in His infinite mercy, instead covered them with beautiful coats of skins that protected them, gave them warmth, and would remind them of the atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ.
Sacrifice and Sacrament
A man goes back in time to teach his younger self about the purposes of sacrifice and sacrament. By understanding the symbolism of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, we come to realize its similarity to the sacrament—to remember the Savior and to commit ourselves to him.
Yom Kippur Reenactment
A reenactment of Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) the most holy day in the Jewish year. On this day the High Priest entered the Holy place and sprinkled blood from the sacrifice on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. Only the High Priest could enter this room, and only blood can cover sin “…it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” Leviticus 17:11. And the High Priest could only enter this room one day a year, Yom Kippur.
Sacrifices & Offerings of the Law of Moses
Video adapted from a filmstrip produced by the Church Education System (CES) in 1980 about the Law of Sacrifice. It is one of the better discussions I have seen on the Law of Moses and Jesus Christ.
A couple articles that may interest you and go well with these chapters are:
Lehi Exhorts His Posterity to Righteousness by Philip Leaning
Today’s reading from 1 Nephi 7-10 reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham. In this case however, it is the patriarch-prophet Lehi who is desirous that his family partake of the fruit of the tree of life. He experiences the sweetness and joy of the fruit of the tree of life and he wants his loved ones to “partake of the fruit” and experience the same happiness that it brought him.
This is the same reason that I put so much effort into creating the Book of Mormon Translation Challenge. I love the Book of Mormon! Every time that I read it I feel the same way that Lehi felt when he describes the fruit from the Tree of Life: “desirable to make one happy”, “sweet”, “filled my soul with exceedingly great joy”, “desirable“.
Lehi eats of the fruit of the Tree of Life
As Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon brings us to THE Tree of Life–Jesus Christ. HE is what makes the book a source of happiness, sweetness, joy, etc. My desire, like Lehi’s, is that my family and friends will “come… and partake of the fruit which is desirable above all other fruit”. By making the Book of Mormon a regular part of daily scripture study they can more fully come unto Christ–the source of all goodness.
So now I play the same roll as Dr. Seuss’, “Sam I Am”, but instead of Green Eggs and Ham, I invite people to try reading the Book of Mormon. “You do not like [it]. SO you say. Try [it]! Try [it]! And you may. Try [it] and you may, I say.” WILL YOU TRY IT???
Click here to visit a blog with a complete version of Green Eggs and Ham adapted to become, “Brother Lurch and the Mormon Church”
Here is just one thing that you will learn to love about the Book of Mormon if you try it: These pages testify over and over of the Messiah!
Before reading on, please take a moment to study the painting below, “Tree of Life” by Chelsea Speirs. I know we don’t usually use the word “study” when we talk about artwork but we should. Artists are trying to tell us something in their work the same way that an author is trying to tell us something with their words. What is Chelsea trying to tell us? What do you notice about The Tree? What do you notice about the fruit? What do you notice about the stance of the girl? What else to do notice? Why did Chelsea depict these things this way; what is she trying to help us learn about the gospel?
The Messiah is at first seen in Lehi’s vision as a Tree, the Tree of Life (see 1 Nephi 8:10). Lehi is well aware of the Messiah’s ministry and mission even before this time (see 1 Nephi 1:9,19). Lehi has a vision in which the Tree of Life–the Messiah–is the focal point. Everything is taught in relation to the Tree. It is the point of reference for all other things in the vision (see 1 Nephi 8:13,19,20,21,22,24,30). His description of the fruit that the Tree bears is quite descriptive of what the Messiah offers all who will come unto Him (see 1 Nephi 8:10-12). Lehi’s only desire after partaking of the Messiah’s fruit is to share it with his family (see 1 Nephi 8:12,15).
After he relates the vision of the Tree of Life (the Messiah) to his family, he testifies with great clarity and power to them of the coming of the Messiah and the events surrounding His ministry and mission (Note the use of the word Messiah in 1 Ne 10:4,5,6,7,9,10,11,14,17).
Terms such as “Messiah”, referring to Jesus Christ, are used every 1.7 verses in the Book of Mormon (every 1.3 in 1 Nephi!). It is indeed “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”!
Is that a true statement? To me the key word that makes that statement true is the inclusion of the word “understood”. I think that as we understand a doctrine then we will begin to feel the need to change. The discussion that Alma has with his son Corianton seems to be a great illustration of this.
As Alma warned his son Corianton about the consequences of sin (Alma 39), he also taught about the doctrine of life after death (Alma 40). He explained that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (doctrine), all mankind will be resurrected (doctrine). He taught about the spirit world (doctrine), where the dead, depending on their choices in mortality, wait in either paradise or prison until the resurrection. Alma also taught that the plan of restoration (doctrine) includes not only physical resurrection but also a spiritual restoration (doctrine) in which our eternal state reflects our mortal actions and desires (Alma 41). Alma emphasized the principle that wickedness can never lead to happiness (see Alma 41:10).
Alma concluded his counsel to his son Corianton by explaining that Heavenly Father had provided a way for those who sin to obtain mercy (doctrine). He taught that the justice of God demands that sinners be cut off from the presence of God (doctrine). He then testified that Jesus Christ would “appease the demands of justice” (Alma 42:15) by suffering for all who have sinned and by providing mercy to the penitent (doctrine). Once Corianton “understood” all of this “true doctrine”, he returned to the ministry that he had previously forsaken (Alma 42:31). Twenty years later, he was still faithfully ministering the gospel. (see Alma 49:30; Alma 63:10)
A portrayal of the analogy Elder Boyd K. Packer used in his April 1977 general conference address. A young man who fails to pay a debt is saved from the grasp of justice through the mediation of a friend. (10:44)
My message is about a father and a son. Alma, the father, was a prophet; his son, Corianton, a missionary.
Two of Alma’s sons—Shiblon and Corianton (the youngest)—were on a mission to the Zoramites. Alma was greatly disappointed at the failure of his son Corianton to live the standards of a missionary. Corianton forsook his ministry and went to the land of Siron after the harlot Isabel (see Alma 39:3).
“This was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted” (Alma 39:4).
Alma told his son that the devil had led him away (see Alma 39:11). Unchastity is “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost” (Alma 39:5).
“I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime.” He then said: “I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.
“But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God” (Alma 39:7–8).
He sternly commanded his son to accept the counsel of his older brothers (see Alma 39:10).
Alma told him that his iniquity was great because it turned away investigators: “When they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words. And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities” (Alma 39:11–12).
After this severe rebuke, Alma the loving father became Alma the teacher. He knew that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” (Alma 31:5). So Alma taught Corianton.
He spoke first of Christ: “My son, I would say somewhat unto you concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world; yea, he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people” (Alma 39:15).
Corianton asked how they should know about the coming of Christ so far in advance.
Alma replied, “Is not a soul at this time as precious unto God as a soul will be at the time of his coming?” (Alma 39:17).
Alma had inquired of God concerning the Resurrection and told Corianton of the First Resurrection and of other resurrections. “There is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead” (Alma 40:4).
He had inquired as to “what becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection” (Alma 40:7).
He then told Corianton, “All men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). The “righteous are received into a state of happiness” (Alma 40:12), and the evil are “led captive by the will of the devil” (Alma 40:13). The righteous remain “in paradise, until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:14).
“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34).
Alma told his son “that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works” (Alma 40:21).
“The soul”—that is, the spirit—“shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul” (Alma 40:23). “This,” he said, “is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets” (Alma 40:24). Alma said that “some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing” (Alma 41:1).
Alma then said: “And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.
“Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee” (Alma 42:1–2).
He told Corianton about the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Adam and Eve: “And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will” (Alma 42:7).
Alma then explained why death is absolutely necessary: “If it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:11).
Alma taught Corianton about justice and mercy: “According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men” (Alma 42:13).
Alma explained that “the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).
Alma taught Corianton about the unwavering standard of eternal law (see Alma 42:17–25).
He very bluntly explained why punishment was necessary: “Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul” (Alma 42:16).
Alma knew personally the pain of punishment and the joy of repentance. He himself had once greatly disappointed his own father, Corianton’s grandfather. He rebelled and went about “seeking to destroy the church” (Alma 36:6). He was struck down by an angel, not because he deserved it but because of the prayers of his father and others (see Mosiah 27:14).
Alma felt the agony and guilt and said: “As I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. …Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Alma 36:17–21, 24).
Alma asked Corianton, “Do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?” (Alma 42:25). He explained that because of the Atonement of Christ, both could be satisfied by eternal law.
“Moved upon by the Holy Ghost” (D&C 121:43; see also Alma 39:12), Alma had rebuked Corianton with sharpness. Then, after plainly and patiently teaching these fundamental principles of the gospel, there came the abundance of love.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was taught through revelation that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death” (D&C 121:41–44).
Alma said: “O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30).
Corianton’s grandfather, also named Alma, was among the priests who had served the wicked King Noah. He heard Abinadi the prophet testify of Christ, and he was converted. Condemned to death, he fled the evil court to teach of Christ. (See Mosiah 17:1–4.)
Now Alma, in turn, was the father pleading with his son Corianton to repent.
After sternly rebuking his son and patiently teaching the doctrine of the gospel, Alma the loving father said, “And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).
In agony and shame, Corianton was brought “down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30).
Alma, who was Corianton’s father and also his priesthood leader, was now satisfied with Corianton’s repentance. He lifted the terrible burden of guilt his son carried and sent him back to the mission field: “And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. … Go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness. … And may God grant unto you even according to my words” (Alma 42:31).
Corianton joined his brothers, Helaman and Shiblon, who were among the priesthood leaders. Twenty years later in the land northward, he was still faithfully laboring in the gospel. (See Alma 49:30; Alma 63:10.)
It is a wicked, wicked world in which we live and in which our children must find their way. Challenges of pornography, gender confusion, immorality, child abuse, drug addiction, and all the rest are everywhere. There is no way to totally escape their influence.
Some are led by curiosity into temptation, then into experimentation, and some become trapped in addiction. They lose hope. The adversary harvests his crop and binds them down.
Satan is the deceiver, the destroyer, but his is a temporary victory.
The angels of the devil convince some that they are born to a life from which they cannot escape and are compelled to live in sin. The most wicked of lies is that they cannot change and repent and that they will not be forgiven. That cannot be true. They have forgotten the Infinite Atonement of Christ.
“For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him” (D&C 18:11).
Each of us has a loving Father in Heaven. Through the Father’s redeeming plan, those who may stumble and fall “are not cast off forever” (Title Page of the Book of Mormon).
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!” (D&C 18:13).
“The Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; nevertheless” (D&C 1:31–32), the Lord said, “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
Could there be any more sweeter or more consoling words, more filled with hope, than those words from the scriptures? “I, the Lord, remember [their sins] no more” (D&C 58:42). That is the testimony of the Book of Mormon, and that is my testimony to you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:
The accounts in Alma 11–16 illustrate the sacrifices people are willing to make for their testimony of the truth. As Alma and Amulek began teaching the people of Ammonihah, they met with opposition. After they explained several eternal truths, many people “began to repent, and to search the scriptures” (Alma 14:1), including Zeezrom. However, most of the people were angry and sought to destroy Alma, Amulek, and those who believed in their words. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they failed to repent, the judgments of God would come upon them. Alma and Amulek were arrested, tried, and eventually imprisoned.
The wicked people in Ammonihah cast out the men who believed Alma and Amulek, and burned their wives, children, and scriptures while Alma and Amulek were forced to watch. After many days, the Lord delivered Alma and Amulek from prison and destroyed the wicked leaders of Ammonihah. Once the Lord delivered Alma and Amulek from prison, they went to preach to the people in the city of Sidom. There they found the believers who had been cast out of Ammonihah, including Zeezrom, who was suffering physically and spiritually because of his sins. When Zeezrom declared his faith in Jesus Christ, Alma healed him and baptized him.
Alma established the Church in Sidom, and then returned with Amulek to Zarahemla. Rejecting the call to repent, the people of Ammonihah were later destroyed by a Lamanite army, fulfilling Alma’s prophecy that the city of Ammonihah would be destroyed in a single day. In addition, the Lamanites captured some of the Nephites from the surrounding lands. Choosing to follow Alma’s prophetic guidance, the Nephite armies recovered the prisoners and drove the Lamanites from the land. During a period of peace, Alma, Amulek, and many others strengthened the Church throughout the land of the Nephites.
Mountains to Climb
Finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will help us have the power to endure and overcome even the hardest trials in life.
“John asked if I would give him a priesthood blessing. I responded that I gladly would give such a blessing, but I first needed to ask some questions. I then posed questions I had not planned to ask and had never previously considered: “[John,] do you have the faith not to be healed? If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?” (see video clip below…)
“To the sightless or hearing impaired, [God] sharpens the other senses. … With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him”
Early in his childhood, Spencer W. Kimball suffered the pain that comes with the death of loved ones. When he was eight years old, his sister Mary died shortly after her birth. A month later, Spencer’s parents sensed that five-year-old Fannie, who had been suffering for several weeks, would soon pass away. Spencer later told of the day Fannie died: “On my ninth birthday Fannie died in Mother’s arms. All of us children were awakened in the early night to be present. I seem to remember the scene in our living room … , my beloved mother weeping with her little dying five-year-old child in her arms and all of us crowding around.”1
Spencer W. Kimball and his siblings, about two years before his sister Fannie died. Standing, left to right: Clare, Ruth, Gordon, and Delbert. Seated, left to right: Helen, Alice, Fannie, and Spencer.
Even more difficult for young Spencer was the news he received two years later, when he and his brothers and sisters were called home from school one morning. They ran home and were met by their bishop, who gathered them around him and told them that their mother had died the day before. President Kimball later recalled: “It came as a thunderbolt. I ran from the house out in the backyard to be alone in my deluge of tears. Out of sight and sound, away from everybody, I sobbed and sobbed. Each time I said the word ‘Ma’ fresh floods of tears gushed forth until I was drained dry. Ma—dead! But she couldn’t be! Life couldn’t go on for us. … My eleven-year-old heart seemed to burst.”2
Fifty years later, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, found himself far away from home, recovering from major surgery. Unable to sleep, he recalled the day his mother died: “I feel like sobbing again now … as my memory takes me over those sad paths.”3
Facing the deep sadness of such experiences, Spencer W. Kimball always found comfort in prayer and in the principles of the gospel. Even in his childhood, he knew where to turn to receive peace. A family friend wrote of young Spencer’s prayers—“how the loss of his mother weighed so heavily upon his little heart and yet how bravely he battled with his grief and sought comfort from the only source.”4
In his ministry, President Kimball frequently offered words of solace to those who mourned the loss of loved ones. He testified of eternal principles, assuring the Saints that death is not the end of existence. Speaking at a funeral, he once said:
“We are limited in our visions. With our eyes we can see but a few miles. With our ears we can hear but a few years. We are encased, enclosed, as it were, in a room, but when our light goes out of this life, then we see beyond mortal limitations. …
“The walls go down, time ends and distance fades and vanishes as we go into eternity … and we immediately emerge into a great world in which there are no earthly limitations.”5
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
In His wisdom, God does not always prevent tragedy.
The daily newspaper screamed the headlines: “Plane Crash Kills 43. No Survivors of Mountain Tragedy,” and thousands of voices joined in a chorus: “Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?”
Two automobiles crashed when one went through a red light, and six people were killed. Why would God not prevent this?
Why should the young mother die of cancer and leave her eight children motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her?
A little child was drowned; another was run over. Why?
A man died one day suddenly of a coronary occlusion as he climbed a stairway. His body was found slumped on the floor. His wife cried out in agony, “Why? Why would the Lord do this to me? Could he not have considered my three little children who still need a father?”
A young man died in the mission field and people critically questioned: “Why did not the Lord protect this youth while he was doing proselyting work?”
I wish I could answer these questions with authority, but I cannot. I am sure that sometime we’ll understand and be reconciled. But for the present we must seek understanding as best we can in the gospel principles.
Was it the Lord who directed the plane into the mountain to snuff out the lives of its occupants, or were there mechanical faults or human errors?
Did our Father in heaven cause the collision of the cars that took six people into eternity, or was it the error of the driver who ignored safety rules?
Did God take the life of the young mother or prompt the child to toddle into the canal or guide the other child into the path of the oncoming car?
Did the Lord cause the man to suffer a heart attack? Was the death of the missionary untimely? Answer, if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits. Whatever the answer to this question, there is another I feel sure about.
Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not.
We should be able to understand this, because we can realize how unwise it would be for us to shield our children from all effort, from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, and suffering.
The basic gospel law is free agency and eternal development. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and make growth impossible.6
With an eternal perspective, we understand that adversity is essential to our eternal progression.
If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.
Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.
Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things … righteousness … wickedness … holiness … misery … good … bad. …” (2 Nephi 2:11.)
Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. …
I love the verse of “How Firm a Foundation”—
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
[See Hymns, no. 5]
And Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “No pang that is suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effect … if it be met with patience.”
On the other hand, these things can crush us with their mighty impact if we yield to weakness, complaining, and criticism.
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. …” (Orson F. Whitney)
There are people who are bitter as they watch loved ones suffer agonies and interminable pain and physical torture. Some would charge the Lord with unkindness, indifference, and injustice. We are so incompetent to judge! …
The power of the priesthood is limitless but God has wisely placed upon each of us certain limitations. I may develop priesthood power as I perfect my life, yet I am grateful that even through the priesthood I cannot heal all the sick. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.
Had I limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of fire when he was burned at the stake, and in doing so I might have irreparably damaged him. He died a martyr and went to a martyr’s reward—exaltation.
I would likely have protected Paul against his woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his “thorn in the flesh.” [2 Corinthians 12:7.] And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord’s program. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the “thorn” from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers [see 2 Corinthians 12:7–10]. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from the things that made him humble. …
I fear that had I been in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, I might have deflected the bullets that pierced the body of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved them from the sufferings and agony, but lost to them the martyr’s death and reward. I am glad I did not have to make that decision.
With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the agony in Gethsemane, the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. I would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from suffering and death, and lost to the world his atoning sacrifice.
I would not dare to take the responsibility of bringing back to life my loved ones. Christ himself acknowledged the difference between his will and the Father’s when he prayed that the cup of suffering be taken from him; yet he added, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” [Luke 22:42.]7
Death can open the door to glorious opportunities.
For the one who dies, life goes on and his free agency continues, and death, which seems to us such a calamity, could be a blessing in disguise. …
If we say that early death is a calamity, disaster, or tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration, but the gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin. “… blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. …” (See D&C 63:49.)
We know so little. Our judgment is so limited. We judge the Lord’s ways from our own narrow view.
I spoke at the funeral service of a young Brigham Young University student who died during World War II. There had been hundreds of thousands of young men rushed prematurely into eternity through the ravages of that war, and I made the statement that I believed this righteous youth had been called to the spirit world to preach the gospel to these deprived souls. This may not be true of all who die, but I felt it true of him.
In his vision of “The Redemption of the Dead” President Joseph F. Smith saw this very thing. … He writes:
“… I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth … but behold, from among the righteous He organized his forces … and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel. …
“… our Redeemer spent His time … in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits … who had testified of Him in the flesh, that they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead unto whom He could not go personally because of their rebellion and transgression. …
“I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption.” [See D&C 138:29–30, 36–37, 57.]
Death, then, may be the opening of the door to opportunities, including that of teaching the gospel of Christ.8
In times of trial, we must trust in God.
Despite the fact that death opens new doors, we do not seek it. We are admonished to pray for those who are ill and use our priesthood power to heal them.
“And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.
“Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.
“And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;
“And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.
“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.” (D&C 42:44–48.)
We are assured by the Lord that the sick will be healed if the ordinance is performed, if there is sufficient faith, and if the ill one is “not appointed unto death.” But there are three factors, all of which should be satisfied. Many do not comply with the ordinances, and great numbers are unwilling or incapable of exercising sufficient faith. But the other factor also looms important: If they are not appointed unto death.
Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our life. Yet we ought not be afraid of death. We pray for the sick, we administer to the afflicted, we implore the Lord to heal and reduce pain and save life and postpone death, and properly so, but not because eternity is so frightful. …
Just as Ecclesiastes (3:2) says, I am confident that there is a time to die, but I believe also that many people die before “their time” because they are careless, abuse their bodies, take unnecessary chances, or expose themselves to hazards, accidents, and sickness. …
God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with his plan for us or we may foolishly shorten or terminate them.
I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see back from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life that are so difficult for us to comprehend.
We sometimes think we would like to know what lies ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day. …
We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands.
In the face of apparent tragedy we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail. With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory.9
1. In Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball(1977), 43.
2. In Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
3. In Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
4. Joseph Robinson, in Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
5. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 40–41.
6. Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 95–96.
7.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 97–100.
8.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 100, 101, 102.
9.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 102–3, 105–6.
Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:
After Amulek’s words brought Zeezrom “to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt” (Alma 12:1), Alma stood to expound upon what Amulek had taught. Because the people in Ammonihah had become so wicked, Alma focused on truths that would help them to repent of the hardness of their hearts and other sins. He emphasized the subtle snares of Satan, the judgments that befall the wicked, and the plan of redemption, which makes it possible for those who repent to be forgiven of their sins.
When Alma first taught the rebellious people of Ammonihah, they contended with him, asking, “Who art thou?” and questioned his authority (see Alma 9:1–6). They were in a state of full-blown apostasy, having embraced the order of Nehor—priestcraft, with its goal of personal gain (see Alma 1:2–15; 15:15; 16:11). In contrast to Nehor’s teachings, Alma taught the people about “the high priesthood of the holy order of God,” with its goal to help others repent and enter into the rest of the Lord (see Alma 13:6). Alma also taught about premortal existence and foreordination. He cited the example of the great High Priest, Melchizedek, who had preached faith and repentance and helped his people live in peace. Alma tried to teach the people of Ammonihah to have faith and hope and encouraged them to change so they could prepare to enter into the rest of the Lord.
In Alma 13:17 we see how Alma described the people in Salem (who’s meaning comes from the Hebrew word for “Peace”) when Melchizedek became their king. These words also describe the people of Ammonihah (see Alma 8:9; 9:28). It appears that Alma’s hope was that the people of Ammonihah will hearken to Amulek the same way that the people in Salem responded to Melchizedek’s preaching and efforts (See Alma 13:18).
It’s “A Tale of Two Cities”. So, which city will you be: Salem (the city that found “Peace” through following the Lord’s prophet and repenting) or Ammonihah (the city destroyed in just one day for rejecting the Lord’s servants and resisting repentance)?
Who was Melchizedek?
His name means “King of Righteousness”. He was a notable prophet and leader who lived about 2000 B.C. He is called the king of Salem (Jerusalem), king of peace, and “priest of the most High God.” Unfortunately, information concerning him in the Bible is relatively scarce, being limited to Gen. 14:18–20; Heb. 5:6; 7:1–3. Mention of the priesthood of Melchizedek is given in several other instances, primarily in Psalms and in Hebrews. However, latter-day revelation gives us much more about him and his priesthood (see JST Gen. 14:17 [Gen. 14:18 note d]; JST Gen. 14:25–40; JST Heb. 7:3 [Appendix]; Alma 13:14–19; D&C 84:14; 107:1–4). From these sources we realize something of the greatness of this prophet and the grandeur of his ministry. (See Guide to the Scriptures, Melchizedek.)
[Melchizedek blesses Abram. Melchizedek’s great ministry and the powers and blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood are described.]
25 And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.
26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,
28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;
29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.
30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.
32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.
33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.
34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;
35 And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.
36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.
37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;
38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.
39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.
40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.
Revealed scripture helps us understand the life and role of this prophet-king, who is largely a mystery in the Bible.
Scriptural texts paint a somber scene of events occurring approximately 4,000 years ago in the land of Salem—a place full of abomination and iniquity. There was little room for faith among a people who “had all gone astray” (Alma 13:17). Yet in that time “of all manner of wickedness” (v. 17), an unusual child came forth. His destiny was to receive in time the same priesthood power manifested earlier by the prophet Enoch (see JST, Gen. 14:30–31).
Known to us as Melchizedek, the child grew and soon demonstrated great trust in the Lord. Relying upon God in events whose details are lost to us, the young boy escaped death by stopping the mouths of lions and quenching the violence of fire (see JST, Gen. 14:26). Because of his righteousness, in time he was ordained after “the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch” (JST, Gen. 14:27). Empowered with the same priesthood and covenants granted Enoch, Melchizedek changed his people and led them into righteousness. Indeed, Alma observed that of all the prophets of his time “none were greater” than the prophet Melchizedek (Alma 13:19). Thus, we hunger to know: who was this Melchizedek who merited such praise and admiration?
The Historical Melchizedek
The names Melchizedek and Salem suggest the uniqueness of the king of Salem and his people. In fact, the very name Melchizedek consists of the two Hebrew words malkî (“king”) and sedeq (“righteousness”), implying the king of Salem’s faith in God—“My king is righteousness.”1 Similarly, the Apostle Paul interpreted Melchizedek as “King of righteousness” (Heb. 7:2). Salem, the name of Melchizedek’s land or city, may mean “peace” or “peaceful.” The Bible Dictionary in the LDS edition of the Bible identifies Salem as Jerusalem. Biblical text discloses that Melchizedek was the righteous leader of a group of people who earned a reputation for peace and stability. Thus, in the midst of violent and chaotic times dominated by warring tribal factions, Melchizedek and Salem indeed appear unique.2
But the biblical record provides little historical information about Melchizedek. The few verses in Genesis record his offering Abraham bread and wine and receiving tithes from the spoils of Abraham’s military victory (see Gen. 14:17–24). Apart from a brief verse in Psalms (see Ps. 110:4), the only other biblical mention of Melchizedek is in the Apostle Paul’s instruction to early Christians about the Lord Jesus Christ’s role as the great high priest (see Heb. 5:6–10; Heb. 6:20; Heb. 7:11, 15, 17, 21).
With this limited information it is first helpful to know what those conclude who do not have latter-day revelation to guide them. From the account in Genesis 14:17–24 [Gen. 14:17–24], they note that Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in the Bible, saying that he served the Most High God, the creator of earth and heaven.3 They consider the gift of bread and wine to Abraham a demonstration of Melchizedek’s generosity.4 They view the tithing Abraham paid to Melchizedek as a typical offering of the time, intended to support a king’s sanctuary.5 A number regard Abraham’s willing submission to Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God, as a reflection of Abraham’s covenant with God, or in this case reflecting Abraham’s willingness to recognize other righteous men. Some consider the blessing Melchizedek gave Abraham as a type of priesthood ordination. Others speculate that Abraham’s submission to the order of Melchizedek (see Heb. 7) was a recognition of Melchizedek’s greater authority, authority of which Jesus Christ’s power is an example. Many simply view a subsequent historical reference to Melchizedek in Psalms—“thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4)—as King David’s assumption of priestly functions as part of the royal duties.6
One author summarized this confusion by calling Melchizedek an enigmatic figure “dimly outlined … against a background of immense and mystical remoteness.”7 This uncertainty has led some to examine apocryphal sources and oral traditions. While interesting, such sources do little to provide reliable information on the identity of Melchizedek and his significance.
In contrast, truths restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith provide the most complete source for understanding this great king of Salem. The Joseph Smith Translation, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings contain highly important insights and knowledge about Melchizedek as a historical person, giving an accurate perspective on his remarkable story of faith and valor (see accompanying chart).
The Book of Mormon tells us that Melchizedek reigned under his father. It was a difficult time for the kingdom because the people had “waxed strong in iniquity and abominations” (Alma 13:17). From the Joseph Smith Translation text of Genesis 14, we presume that Melchizedek faced great opposition as a youth in his desires to follow righteousness. These trials of Melchizedek resemble those faced at a later time by the prophet Daniel and his companions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Melchizedek drew upon the power of faith in God to still savage lions and, when faced with a fiery death, quenched the fire through his faith in the Lord (see JST, Gen. 14:26).
We also see similarities in Melchizedek to the prophet Enoch, who preceded him. As Enoch did, Melchizedek worked with a fallen people and continued to stand firm in his overarching determination to lead his people from their wicked ways. His trials and labors won the Lord’s approval, and at some point Melchizedek was ordained a “high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch” (JST, Gen. 14:27). This priesthood, given “according to [the Lord’s] own will” (JST, Gen. 14:29), enabled Melchizedek to exercise the same priesthood power as had Enoch so that, were it necessary, he could “break mountains,” “divide the seas,” “dry up waters,” and “put at defiance the armies of nations” (JST, Gen. 14:30–31) as he continued his mission to encourage his people to repent. As Enoch before, Melchizedek helped them anchor their faith in Christ, the Son of God. These people drew upon the strength and vision Melchizedek received from being able to “stand in the presence of God” (JST, Gen. 14:31). Consequently, in one of the great untold stories of history, Melchizedek succeeded in establishing righteousness in his land. In scriptural brevity the holy text simply states that his people “did repent” (Alma 13:18).
Enoch labored for many years before his people turned from their wickedness. Likewise, perhaps Melchizedek also persisted for a considerable period in his efforts to bring real peace to the people of Salem. In such a labor and after much struggle, finally his people’s hearts were changed and “Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days” (Alma 13:18; see also JST, Gen. 14:33), becoming known as a “prince of peace” (Alma 13:18).
Melchizedek then encouraged his people to seek the same blessings that had been granted to Enoch’s followers. In time the Lord granted their desires. The text succinctly notes that Melchizedek’s people “obtained heaven” (JST, Gen. 14:34), resulting in their being “translated and taken up into heaven” (JST, Gen. 14:32).8 To Melchizedek, the trials and difficulties of his youth and his many years of dedicated service to the Lord must have melted into supernal joys. Little wonder that after considering the life and example of Melchizedek Alma concluded, “none were greater” (Alma 13:19).
Melchizedek and Abraham
Latter-day revelation from the Prophet Joseph Smith gives fuller understanding of the association between Melchizedek and Abraham than can be learned from the biblical text.
Whereas the King James Version of Genesis says that “Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen. 14:18), the Prophet Joseph Smith enlarges our understanding of the biblical text regarding the bread and wine. The Prophet’s translation adds that “he [Melchizedek] brake bread and blest it; and he blest the wine, he being the priest of the most high God” (see JST, Gen. 14:17–18). One can well contemplate that Melchizedek was perhaps not the first ancient prophet to be guided to do so.
The Joseph Smith Translation further enlightens us regarding why Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. JST, Genesis 14:37–39 states that Melchizedek was the “keeper of the storehouse of God; him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor. Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.” Because Melchizedek served as the “keeper of the storehouse of God,” he held stewardship over receiving the tithes and offerings of the faithful and in overseeing their use in blessing others. Such a function is the same as that exercised by the person who holds the keys of presidency in the Lord’s contemporary Church—the President of the Church, the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Lord. Thus, in this light, Melchizedek acted as the Lord’s presiding high priest in accepting Abraham’s tithing and in giving him a blessing.
The Joseph Smith Translation also reinforces the biblical information about Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham: “And he [Melchizedek] lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest. … And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him” (JST, Gen. 14:37, 40).
On Sunday, 27 August 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith discussed this event between these two men in further detail: “Abraham gave a tenth part of all his spoils and then received a blessing under the hands of Melchizedek[,] even the last law or a fulness of the law or priesthood which constituted him a king and priest after the order of Melchizedek or an endless life.”9
In that same 1843 address, History of the Church records that the Prophet further said about this event:
“The King of Shiloam … (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and power of endless life. …
“What was the power of Melchizedek? ’Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.
“Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou has taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood.”10 In reference to this priesthood, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “And Esaias received it under the hand of God. Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him—which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek” (D&C 84:12–14).
Thus, it was with this blessing and ordination that Abraham became, like Melchizedek and holy brethren before him, a king of peace and righteousness. In the pattern of Melchizedek, Abraham also had sought “to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, … a prince of peace” (Abr. 1:2).
Melchizedek as a Type
The Prophet Joseph Smith described the full power of the Melchizedek Priesthood as having the power of “endless lives” and said that they who possess it can become “kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.”11 Thus, the Melchizedek Priesthood differs from the Aaronic or Levitical, which is limited to the lesser, or preparatory, ordinances and the outward commandments of the Mosaic law (see D&C 84:25–27). The Melchizedek Priesthood administers the “key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God” (D&C 84:19). Hence, from the foundation of the world God has caused that faithful brethren like Melchizedek be ordained to the fulness of the priesthood.
The main undergirding responsibilities of such priesthood brethren always have included teaching the Lord’s gospel plan so that God’s children would have the opportunity to “enter into his rest” (Alma 13:6). Those receiving such priesthood are “called after this holy order, and [are] sanctified, and their garments [are] washed white through the blood of the Lamb” (Alma 13:11). Such a description requires that all Melchizedek Priesthood holders who would earn such a blessing earnestly seek to be free from sin and look to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Master.
Truly, Melchizedek stands as a mortal example of one who nobly fulfilled the responsibilities associated with the higher priesthood. He became a type or example of what the priesthood represents. For this reason people anciently, surely under direction from the Lord himself, referred to the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” as “the Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:3–4). They did this “out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name”; thus, “because Melchizedek was such a great high priest” they “called that priesthood after Melchizedek” (D&C 107:2, 4).
It is almost impossible to imagine a greater tribute that the Lord could bestow upon another than to lovingly direct that the very order of the Son of God’s own priesthood be known by the name of one of his cherished servants. What a model, what an example the Lord has said is in Melchizedek! He stands as a type or example to all who accept the priesthood or who seek the peace and blessings it offers. All who honor the priesthood of God can join this ancient follower of Christ in declaring—as Melchizedek’s name indicates—“My king is righteousness.”
A Latter-day Saint View of Melchizedek
The left column lists the Bible’s teachings about Melchizedek; the right column lists additional information restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
What the Bible Teaches
What Latter-day Revelation Adds
• The people of Salem were full of all manner of wickedness (see Alma 13:17).
• Melchizedek was a child of faith who participated in miracles (see JST, Gen. 14:26).
• He learned by the things he suffered (see JST, Heb. 5:6–8).