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Preparatory redemption

Posted by cherylem on July 6, 2008

Alma 13:3 reads:


  3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being acalled and bprepared from the cfoundation of the world according to the dforeknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to echoose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great ffaith, are gcalledwith a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.


What is preparatory redemption? James Duke addresses this in his article The Literary Structure and Doctrinal Significance of Alma 13:1–9,  

here: http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?id=114&table=jbms

I think, from skimming the article, that Duke explains preparatory redemption as “prior redemption,” that is, prior to the actual coming of Christ. The atonement had effect before it took place.

any comments on this?

20 Responses to “Preparatory redemption”

  1. Andrew Skinner also teaches the same princinple in his latest book Temple Worship. He said:

    …all things in our premortal existence were done in accord with a preparatory redemption. That is to say, the atonement of Jesus Christ already operated on our behalf in premortality in preparation for our mortal sojourn. His infinite and eternal atonement – meaning it was effective both before and after mortality – made it possible for us to enter mortality without stain or guilt, unmarred, born with a clean slate, so to speak. The Lord put it more powerfully: “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God” (D&C 93:38). From the beginning of mortal life on this earth it was revealed that the atonement of Jesus Christ operated from the “foundation of the world” (Moses 6:54; see also 7:47). (p. 39)

    Later he says:

    If the Atonement was in operation during our premortal existence, then, does that mean sin was to be found during that phase of our existence? It certainly seems possible. Elder Orson Pratt, writing about the nature of sin in our premortal existence, said that “among the two-thirds [of God’s spirit children] who remained, it is highly probable that, there were many who were not valiant . . ., but whose sins were of such a nature that they could be forgiven through faith in the future sufferings of the Only Begotten of the Father, and through their sincere repentance and reformation. We see no impropriety in Jesus offering Himself as an acceptable offering and sacrifice before the Father to atone for the sins of His brethren, committed not only in the second, but also in the first estate.” (p. 51)

  2. joespencer said

    From the wiki (I’d have to fish back through the history to see who all might have contributed to this, but I’m pretty sure I had a hand in it):

    Preparatory redemption

    The very phrase, “preparatory redemption,” seems to be paradoxical: a redemption implies some sort of completion, while preparatoriness implies a lack of completion. In other words, a “preparatory redemption” would be a completion that is marked with incompletion because it points towards another completion still to come. The word “preparatory” even hints that eventual completion will be of the same general character as the incomplete completion of the present: this redemption is to give way to a fuller, more real redemption eventually. But as soon as the issue is phrased this way, the difficulty disappears, or at least becomes part of a broader scriptural theme: redemption is always granted first in a preparatory manner and eventually in a complete manner. Perhaps the clearest parallel to Alma’s phrase here is Paul’s word to the Ephesians: “ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (see Eph 1:13-14). Paul speaks to the saints of having received a redemption of sorts, but one that is ultimately preparatory, separated from its eventual fulfillment (“redemption”) by a promise, by hope.

    This gap between two redemptions (the one promising or pointing towards the other) might well be read in terms of ritual as well: ordinances are dramatic enactments of a redemption still to come. Every ordinance might well be called a “preparatory redemption” in the same sense discussed immediately above. That some sort of ordinance–some sort of dramatic enactment of one’s redemption–is what Alma might be talking about is further suggested (and greatly strengthened) by the fact that this “preparatory redemption” is there described as the that according to which and with which a “holy calling” was prepared. The implication seems to be that Alma is speaking of an ordinance that at once dramatically embodies one’s redemption and issues a “holy calling” to the participant. What Latter-day Saints call the endowment might not be far from Alma’s mind.

  3. Maybe the atonement was in effect before the actual atonement event because it is not just some magical thing that makes me feel better or wipes out some penal substitution type penalty.

    Perhaps the power of the atonement is something different than we often suppose

  4. Jacob J said

    As Joe Spencer mentions above from the wiki, I have always assumed this referred to ordinances being available to them, which seems to fit the general theme of the chapter (i.e. priesthood ordination and Melchizedek etc.) as well. It says they were called to a holy calling which was prepared with and according to a preparatory redemption. That sounds an awful lot like our concept of foreordination and a connection to ritual or ordinance.

  5. BrianJ said

    Two questions:

    1) “for such ______”? What goes in the blank? for such faithful people? for such a holy calling?

    2) When did this preparatory redemption go into effect? Was it from the very beginning (i.e., the “foundations of the world”), or after the war in heaven (after they had chosen good), or during this mortal life? I can’t tell for sure, but I favor the later, and here is why: there seems to be a chronology of events set up:

    in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good (premortal life), and exercising exceedingly great faith (mortal life), are called with a holy calling (later on during mortal life)

    And the “preparatory redemption event” seems to be tied to the issue of that calling. In other words, I favor reading this as something akin to an endowment ceremony.

  6. Gerald Smith said

    I think Blake Ostler views it from his Compassion Theory of Atonement as an ongoing redemption, which had its high point in Gethsemane/Golgotha.
    For him, we open our hearts in repentance to God, and he fills us with light and Spirit. In doing so, he begins to indwell in us, and we in him. He absorbs our pains from our sins and life, while we are filled with his redeeming and cleansing love.
    I think Alma’s conversion shows that it isn’t necessarily based on ordinances, as he was in a coma. It was his calling upon God to save him from the “exquisite pain” that released him immediately from the pains of his sins, and filled him with God’s redeeming love.

    I would suggest that there are two parts to the redemption: First, a saving from death and hell (or the pains thereof) caused by faith and repentance. This is an ongoing event, as we can always fall from grace through sins, but can also be redeemed through repentance.

    Second, an imbuing of eternal glory dependent upon our obedience/works, ordinances, and enduring to the end. This second part will not occur until the resurrection, which occurs to all mankind AFTER Christ’s death and resurrection. For those who have lived a celestial law, they will be imbued with a celestial level of light and truth, the glory of God. For those living a lesser law, they will be redeemed to a lower level of glory, or in the case of sons of perdition, no glory.

  7. Matthew said

    I was just drawn back to this passage recently–a passage which, as Joe points out above, there has been substantial work on the wiki. I really like Joe’s quote on this from the wiki above. And, for the record he is the one who wrote it on the wiki.

    Backing up a bit, I’ve been toying with the idea that I’ve tended to overthink this whole passage. I tended to latch onto the idea of preparatory redemption and the foreknowledge bit to emphasize the pattern of foreordination as a sign that the people could know about Christ before he came. in that reading preparatory redemption is preparatory because Christ hadn’t yet come. But now I think there is a simpler and better explanation which ties into Joe’s comments above.

    Alma is in the middle of talking to the people Ammonihah trying to convince them to believe in Christ and repent. Whatever we see in this passage I think needs to be understood primarily in that context.

    The point of talking about high priests here is that the high priests are/were living examples of how redemption works. So when God kicked us out of the Garden of Eden he not only provided new commandments to help us know how to come back to him and a savior to make it possible to come back to him, and angels to explain stuff, (all points Alma has already made) he also provided some high priests so that we could see what it means to become purified from sin and what it means to enter the rest of the Lord.

    The reason then for the qualification “preparatory” is unrelated to the fact that Jesus had not atoned for our sins. Instead this redemption that the high priests received is preparatory because it is a redemption that these high priests received in this life where we could all see the affects and thus learn about what it means to come to Christ. Preparatory because it is not the final redemption that can only come with resurrection. Though verse 12 doesn’t use the word preparatory redemption I take verse 12 as an explanation of what it means to be redeemed in this life, i.e. to receive a “preparatory redemption”:

    12 Now [the high priests], after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

    Alma immediately uses this to invite the listeners to repentance:

    13 And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.

  8. BrianJ said

    Matthew: that’s compelling—but now you’ve created a huge amount of questions in my mind!!

    I wonder about Alma’s high priests: how did they compare to OT high priests. In the OT, there was the distinction between priest and high priest—and I’m curious about Alma saying that “many” were called as high priests because in fact there was only one high priest at a time. Is he blurring that distinction in calling because both priest and high priest held the same high priesthood? And if so, what does that say about the common explanation that the Melchizedek Priesthood was withheld from the Jews? When Alma says to look to the example of the high priests, does he mean that in the strictest sense (i.e., the individual high priests) or more broadly (all of the priests in the temple)? And lastly, what sorts of duties did Alma’s priests and high priest(s) perform? In the tabernacle, the high priest was the only person allowed to enter into the holy of holies; the regular priests were not. There is a lot of rich symbolism in that division of labor, but in order to relate that to what Alma is saying I have to know what division of labors existed for his priesthood (and I’m not ready to believe that it was exactly the same as in the OT).

    (and if you can make any sense of what I just wrote, then you are magical)

  9. joespencer said

    I like these innovations. Might they also link up with Moroni 7, where Mormon speaks of angels coming to select individuals, and of those select individuals speaking to the “residue” of the people?

  10. robf said

    In thinking about the context of this passage, I think it might be important to remember that these folks at Ammonihah were “after the order” of Nehor–the principal advocate of priestcraft in Alma’s time, and perhaps the founder of Nephite (or Mulekite?) priestcraft.

    So whatever Alma is saying about high priests, is probably being said to counter the priestcraft of those at Ammonihah.

    If that priestcraft was some form traditional pre-Classic Mesoamerican religion, it would have involved priests or priest-kings performing sacrifices and taking on the form of gods to perpetuate the mythic and cosmogonic cycles.

    We need to do a lot more work to fully understand Mesoamerican religious practices and how they relate to the various priesthoods in the Book of Mormon (including that of King Noah, Alma and the Church, King Mosiah, the Nehors, etc.).

  11. BrianJ said

    robf, if Nehor-style priesthood was of the type that required a priest to perform certain duties or else life/salvation/heaven stopped, that is actually very similar to how the Jewish priest functioned. (Wow! that sentence was horrible; what is wrong with me today?) Without the temple priesthood, there was no Yom Kippur, no daily peace offering, no trespass offering, nothing. That’s a very scary thought for a Jew. What the pre-Classic Mesoamerican priesthood was saying is really not all that different (in that respect), so whatever distinction Alma makes is subtle (again, depending on one’s point of view).

  12. robf said

    Brian, I think if we look closely we’ll find some subtle differences and that will be very informative. I was trying to move along with the Gospel Doctrine reading schedule, but I guess I’ll have to hang back a little bit to take another look at these chapters!

  13. Matthew said

    #8 Brian, I don’t know any of the answers to your questions. But your questions remind me of some work Nathan Oman did on the wiki on Hebrews and particularly of what he wrote up on Hebrews 5:1-5. There’s also some related discussion on the talk page. I wonder if we shouldn’t see these first verses of Hebrews 5 and the first verses of Alma 13 as almost sister texts–despite their large separation by location and time written.

    Referring to Hebrews 5 brings me back to Joe’s comments above (#2) from the wiki. If we place Alma 13 in the context of our day, we might think of the high priest as anyone who has received the ordinances of the temple.

    We sometimes fall into the trap of looking at the priesthood order as a means for merely facilitating managing the temporal affairs of the church. But when we think of it in its true context as Alma sees it it is to facilitate returning to live with God through preparatory redemption on this earth.

  14. NathanG said

    I have always thought of this reference to high priests as to the times of the patriarchs or at least more contemporary with Melchizedek. I don’t have any reason for doing so, it’s just how I have always read it (probably since Alma jumps from the garden and time immediately afterward to Melchizidek as an example of a high priest). If that’s the case, the distinction over priest and high priest and the temple would not be as important as we just don’t know much detail about priesthood activities before Moses.

  15. robf said

    What do we really know about First Temple priesthood (which may have formed one model of Nephite priesthood) and how it might have differed from Second Temple preisthood (which the Nephites wouldn’t know anything about) after the exile? Perhaps Margaret Barker’s work could help us out here, but all the material seem so fragmentary.

    Also of interest might be the African Lemba, who claim descent from exiled First Temple priests.

  16. BrianJ said

    Nathan, I think you make a good case for looking at the context of Eden-Patriarchs-Melchizedek for understanding to which priests Alma referred. I’ll have to look at that more.

  17. Alonso said

    Joseph Smith: “All priesthood is Melchizedek; but there are different portions or degrees of it. … All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

    the priesthood order spoken in Alma 13 can be read in at three different levels. According to the prophet Joseph Smith, there are three orders of the priesthood:1) the Aaronic priesthood, 2) the patriarchal order, and 3) the Melchizedek order.

    It must be recalled that Aaron had the Melchizedek priesthood and held the office of High priest in the lesser order of the priesthood. Levites did not have higher priesthood (see John Taylor, items of the priesthood, 5-7).

    The patriarchal order as Joseph points out was the promises of innumerable posterity. (Words of JS, 303). To enter into this order of priesthood one must enter and abide by the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. (DC131:1-4; DC132:30-33) Go to the temple find out more there, said Joseph.

    The Melchizedek order which Alma focus on from vrs 14-20 has to do
    with what Joseph Smith Translation covers in Genesis 14 (see DC84:33-34). It is a fullness of the priesthood – DC124. (see Words of JS, 245).It is the order of kings and queens, priest and priestesses of the highest holy order of God. (see Heb 7: Words of Joseph Smith, 245-7).

    Because of limitation of space. I dont here give a full explanation of this view. I have many many scriptures and Prophetic comments touching the issue of the orders of the priesthood (DC107:1-5). I suppose the Lord has deliberately given us this information this way. so that it is received according to
    our maturity in the gospel.

    Here is an puzzling question for you: Why is the priesthood called
    after Melchizedek? if it was to avoid the too frequent repetition and out of reverence to the name the supreme being, why is the church called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

    As to the issue of a “preparatory redemption” see Orson Pratt in Pre-mortal and Post-Mortal Intelligence of Spirits,” Temples of the Most High, 294-7. There is much info in the scriptures about this. i can provide quotes and scriptures upon request.

    Hope this helps. if i confused anyone, it is not my intention. “The text” as John Welch stated, “is unique and complex, yet internally coherent and concise” (Welch, “The Melchizedek Material in Alma 13:13-19” By Study and Also by Faith Vol.2, 263). I love it.

  18. Alonso said

    by the way, no one touched on the logical and epistemic conundrums of foreknowledge. I do not mean the issue of free will vrs determinism, fatalism, or predestination. The more interesting issue is a logical dilemma. God already knows the outcome. All future truths he knows otherwise he could not save us. He already knows who is going to make it and who is not. It is not a matter of our free will. the problem centers more or less on the issue that there is a determined future now.

  19. (Needed some clarity on preparatory redemption; found this three-year-old blog. After reading a few of the entries, I wish to add my nickel.)

    I don’t pretend to be full of references and resources. I only suggest we consider that the Preparatory Redemption from Alma’s teachings to the people of Ammonihah may refer to key, Priesthood-related, redemptive events in both the first and second estates.

    We could apply a parallel from Alma’s teachings here and Abraham’s revelation that God “chose” him, both of which give witness to the existence of “callings” in both spheres. We who bear his Priesthood are called twice, (but not always chosen twice). So, likewise, could there not be a step-wise redemption spanning from the unveiling of the Plan of Redemption in the beginning to the final Day of Reckoning?

    If so, then Preparatory Redemption in our first estate could refer in part to the act of God freeing “those who kept their first estate” from the limitations of pre-mortality, and its associated angst. So by choosing to enter mortality, we accept this inaugural gift in the redemption continuum. Of course without this, our potential for progress decisively ends; our access to redemption disappears. But with redemption as the goal, God continues by combining our intelligent spirit with a most imperfect mortal tabernacle and delivering to every living human soul a singular nascent endowment: precious mor(t)al agency.

    Without this supernal gift we cannot meaningfully pursue the rest of the redemption package offered by our Savior. This package includes, of course, exalting Priesthood Ordinances whereby the “power of godliness is made manifest”. These are developmental and, yes, preparatory, and not just so men alone experience godliness; they are redeeming gifts for one and for all.

    Then given that the final step of redemption, the moment of exaltation, occurs at final judgment, does it not follow that each progressive step we take in working out our salvation and unifying ourselves with the Savior that occurs between the first council and the last judgment might qualify as preparatory to our redemption — independent of the millennium wherein we live?

    It is worth considering.


  20. BJ Spurlock said

    Simply stating it…look up Revelations 13:8 “slain from the the foundation of the world” and Moses 7:47…this is why in Moses 4:3 that Satan was cast out “by the power of the only begotten”.
    A covenant was made between God the Father and Jesus Christ where Christ was elevated to be the redeemer. Because of Christ superb and perfect Character, the demands of justice were satisfied then. This is why Children are redeemed “from the foundation of the world” as found in D&C. This is why we could dwell in the presence of God in the first estate, because no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. This is why all individuals can receive a forgiveness of sins in this life, according to the pre-earth life covenant. But sanctification is only made through the covenants and ordinances of the restored gospel. This is great to understand in order to explain to someone why it is good they have been forgiven buy the LDS church has more.

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