Design Flaw or Depraved Indifference?
Our hero makes a compelling statement in verse 3:
And this is the manner after which they [God's priests] were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.Here Alma has boldly proclaimed that the leaders of the church were foreordained to their callings because of the faith they had not yet demonstrated and the good works they had not yet done. God's omniscience allowed him to predict what kind of person these people would be on the earth and foreordain them for his purposes.
But that begs the question: If God has that kind of foresight, why is this life even necessary? He already knows who is going to turn out good and who is going to turn out bad.
And that also begs the question: Does that mean that God sent some of us here to fail? He knew from the beginning which of us would live worthy of exaltation but, as a loving Father, he still put us on earth despite knowing that many of us could not succeed? That's pretty messed up.
Pointless Fanfiction Tie-In
Alma continues discussing the priesthood at length. His rambling should have bored his hostile audience and he probably should have focused on more central doctrines that were likely to win over the hearts and minds of Ammonihah, but for some reason he was permitted to continue his discourse.
He throws in a pointless story about Melchizedek to link up with his priesthood theme. The story is simple (but deceptively lengthy) and not particularly enlightening. All it really does is point back to the Bible so that Joseph Smith could claim that his manuscript aligned with the teachings of that much more universally revered text. It contributes nothing else other than an unnecessary historical anecdote relating to the topic.
Which means that it may demonstrate Alma's ineptitude when it comes to public speaking and persuasive argument.
I'd Like My Plainness with Extra Plain, Please
In verses 22 and 23, Alma discusses the spreading of the "glad tidings" of the gospel across the American continent. He says:
And they [the glad tidings] are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land;Alma's point here is that because of the Nephite civilization's distance from a land steeped in Old Testament teachings and cultural heritage, it's of vital importance that the gospel be disseminated with clarity. I buy that explanation, considering that the only thing Lehi's family brought with them to tie them to the gospel they learned in Jerusalem were Laban's plates.
But my problem is this—aren't we all, metaphorically speaking, wandering in strange lands? We've been cut off from the presence of our God, who is incidentally our only recourse for achieving exaltation. We passed through the veil before birth, losing any memory of him or his plans for us. We're even more directionless than the Nephites. So, using Alma's logic, shouldn't it be one of God's highest priorities to make sure that, in our state of isolation, his truth can reach us with plainness and lucidity?
But, assuming for a moment that Mormonism is true, these truths are not plain. Church doctrines and policies get reversed, altered or discarded. Prophets contradict each other. Scriptures contradict each other. And at every level of leadership, members can get sucked into teaching about things that really aren't that important to our salvation—was Noah the angel Gabriel? Is the fast offering a commandment? Was Jesus married? Will polygamy and the United Order be reintroduced in the millennium? Who returns in the morning of the second resurrection?
If this were really God's church, the prophets and the lesson manuals would all proclaim the same things: the essentials. They'd teach the plain and simple truths—be a good person, have faith in Christ, do your temple work, keep your families strong, study the scriptures, pray daily, spread the gospel and you can return to live with your Father in Heaven. No frills, no contradictions, no unnecessary fringe doctrines. True prophets of God would teach plain principles.
So perhaps Alma the Younger and our current church leaders are not true prophets of God.