Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding patience in enduring years of Elders Quorum lessons and ward moving parties, and their extreme age before all other Elders, they choosing to sleep in meetings, even unto appearing to perish ;
One of the difficulties we sometimes have in reading the Book of Mormon is that we sometimes confuse the way things work now with the way things worked in the past. Alma 13 is a great example of the trouble this can cause. The chapter is an explanation of the calling of a High Priests, so we might naturally conclude the high priests referred to in this chapter are the same as those organized in all of the Stakes of Zion. This would be a mistake.
Obviously, I’ve altered the verse above to prove a point. In our current structure, the advancement of men to the office of High Priest is generally done for two reasons: (1) receiving a calling that requires the office (bishopric, high council, etc.), and (2) Age.
Obviously an age based advancement still requires a certain level of church faithfulness and activity, but many times the main reason for moving somebody on is that they are among the older members of the Elder’s quorum.
Alma is talking about something more than just standard advancement in the Melchizedek Priesthood, something we might miss if we latch too closely onto the term “High Priest.”
Observe the qualifications (again, from verses 10-12, the real ones this time):
- exceeding faith
- righteousness before God
- choosing to repent and work righteousness
- called after a holy order
- sanctified by the Holy Ghost
- garments washed white through the blood of the Lamb
- pure and spotless before God
- could not look upon sin without abhorrence
- entered into the rest of the Lord their God
Alma goes on to name Melchizedek as the prototype for this kind of High Priest. Melchizedek wasn’t an everyday High Priest, remember that even Abraham deferred to Melchizedek. Melchizedek obtained the kind of calling we’re talking about, and worked the kind of righteousness in his sphere that brought his entire kingdom to repentance to the degree that they established Zion, had the heavenly beings among them, including the Savior. Melchizedek and his people obtained that degree of righteousness that they were taken up into Heaven as was done with the city of Enoch.
It is with this backdrop that Alma calls on us to repent, that we too may enter into this kind of rest. Do we have enough faith to even consider that such a thing is possible?