Strangers in Paradox
by Margaret & Paul Toscano

Chapter Fourteen
Priesthood in the Book of Mormon

[p.154]The Book of Mormon is the earliest Mormon scriptural text discussing both the structure and the nature of priesthood. Printed between August 1829 and March 1830, it is the first published scripture of Mormonism although it was preceded by seventeen then unpublished revelations, many eventually appearing in the 1833 Book of Commandments and in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. Prior to publication most or all of these revelations existed in handwritten form and undoubtedly had limited circulation. The content of many of these early revelations (now D&C 2-18) indicates priesthood was being discussed in the early church.

However, when the church was organized on 6 April 1830, the only available Mormon scripture discussing priesthood concepts was the Book of Mormon. Alma 13 contains an extraordinary doctrinal treatise on the nature of priesthood, its source and its scope. This treatise suggests priesthood authority is transmitted or conferred first by means of a “holy calling” (Al. 13:3) and then by an ordination “with a holy ordinance” (v. 8) “given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God” (v. 16). According to Alma, it is the Lord God rather than humans who creates priests (v. 1). This process begins when one is “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God on account of … exceeding faith and good works.” God’s call, we are told, is not based on God’s whim but upon his knowledge of the faithfulness of the candidates, who were “in the first place, left to choose good or evil; therefore, they having chosen good, and exercising exceeding great faith are called with a holy calling” (v. 3). Though it is possible to interpret the phrase “in the first place” as a reference to a time prior to mortality, [p.155]this is not essential. The point of the verse is that God’s holy calling is predicated on faithfulness, not predestination.

The “holy calling” to priesthood referred to by the Book of Mormon appears to be unmediated; it comes directly from God without the intercession of any human agency. This concept is strongly urged in several places in the treatise by Alma. The text states: “the Lord God ordained priests after his holy order” (Al. 13:1). It is the “Spirit of God” (v. 4) not any human being that extends the “holy calling”; and by implication it is by rejecting this Spirit that one rejects the calling itself (ibid.). This also suggests the calling comes directly through the spirit, not through human mediation.

The Book of Mormon tells of priesthood figures called to preach repentance and the gospel by God without ordination: Lehi (1 Ne. 1:18-20), Nephi (17:48-54), Alma the Elder (Mos. 18:13), Abinadi (11:20; 12:1-2), and Samuel the Lamanite (He. 13:5, 7). Nephi and Alma the Elder not only received unmediated callings but relied on these callings to perform gospel ordinances, including ordaining others to the priesthood (2 Ne. 5:26; Al. 18:18). Similar examples can be found in the Old Testament. Moses, Aaron (Ex. 3, 4), and the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 3) all received unmediated callings that served as sources of the priestly and kingly authority of others (10:1; 16:1, 13). In the New Testament Paul receives an unmediated calling to the apostleship when Jesus Christ appears to him on the road to Damascus (Gal. 1:1; Acts 26:14-18).

The conversion of Alma the Younger is the most detailed Book of Mormon story about an individual receiving an unmediated calling to preach. Alma, like Paul a former persecutor of Christians, is rebuked by an angel, falls into a trance, awakens, announces to his astonished listeners that he has been born of the Spirit, declares that his soul was snatched from out of eternal torment, and confesses Christ as his redeemer. Then “Alma began from this time forward to teach the people, and those who were with Alma at the time the angel appeared unto them, traveling round about through all the land, publishing to all the people the things which they had heard and seen, and preaching the word of God in much tribulation, being greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers, being smitten by many of them” (Mos. 27:32).

Alma does not wait to be ordained by human authority: “from this time forward [Alma began] to teach the people.” “This time forward” refers to Alma’s supernatural experience, his trance and vision of [p.156]Christ, who called him to publish the good news of redemption. That Alma rests his authority to preach and teach upon this unmediated calling is clear: “For I am called to speak after this manner according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the things which are to come” (Al. 5:44). Alma rests his authority to preach the gospel upon his vision. The text mentions nothing about an ordination. This formula is repeated in Alma 5:49: “And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.” And in Alma 5:51, we find this statement: “And also the Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying: Go forth and say unto this people—Repent, for except ye repent ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

It is by the unmediated act of God through the Holy Spirit that Alma the Younger is called to preach, not by any human being or acknowledged priesthood figure. However, it is not clear whether this holy calling alone was sufficient to empower Alma with the authority to baptize and ordain others. In any case the “holy calling” is presented as only one of two components of priesthood transmittal. The second, according to Alma 13, is the “holy ordinance.” By this calling and ordinance, we are told, an individual becomes a high priest “forever, after the order of the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father” (v. 8).

The “holy ordinance” involves at least a designation or appointment through the mediation of a human intercessor and perhaps the laying on of hands. For example, Alma the Younger is called by God but then ordained by his father: “I, Alma, having been consecrated by my father, Alma, to be a high priest over the church of God, he having power and authority from God to do these things” (Al. 5:3). The text presents the holy calling as coming before the ordination: “Thus, being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God” (v. 6). Alma the Younger relies upon his holy calling to preach and upon his father’s act of consecration to preside.

Alma’s ancestor Jacob, Nephi’s brother and successor, also rests his authority to preach and teach upon an unmediated calling: “Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the [p.157]temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (Jac. 1:17). Later there appears a clarification: “Thus came the word unto me saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people” (2:11). Although this verse refers to a calling to preach a specific sermon on a given occasion, it is significant that Jacob does not mention his ordination or consecration as a “priest” or “teacher.” This suggests the unmediated calling of God was more important or fundamental than the ordination. Like Alma the Younger, Jacob is presented as the recipient of both a holy calling and an ordination or “consecration.”

Mosiah 18 presents us with the example of Alma the Elder. Without any mention of an ordination, and apparently without benefit of a predecessor, he not only preaches but also baptizes others: “O Lord pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart. And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God. … And after Alma had said these words, both Alma and Helam were buried in the water; and they arose and came forth out of the water rejoicing, being filled with the Spirit” (Mos. 18:12-14). On the basis of this calling, Alma the Elder later organizes a church. When his followers join the community of King Mosiah in Zarahemla, Alma seeks an appointment of the king to settle the church in that place and obtains from the king permission to ordain priests and teachers within the church structure (25:19).

Of course it is possible to argue that Alma the Elder had been a priest of King Noah and was relying upon his ordination to that priesthood to baptize, ordain, and organize the church. But for this argument to succeed, we must assume the priests of King Noah were true priests, which contradicts the text (Mos. 11:5). Or else we must assume that the unmediated calling of God is sufficient to transform a false priesthood into a true one. This is virtually the same as arguing that a person with no ordination can by an unmediated calling from God be authorized to baptize.

In our view the Book of Mormon posits two components of priesthood transmittal: the “holy calling” and the “holy ordinance.” The calling, coming from God without mediation, establishes the relationship between the called individual and God, and for this reason we believe this calling is the most important feature of priesthood conferral. Apparently if this calling comes to those living within an already existing, divinely authorized church structure, the calling empowers individuals [p.158]only to preach repentance and teach the gospel. If the calling comes to one living outside such a church structure, it seems to carry as well authority to baptize, to ordain, and even to organize a church. If an acknowledged church structure exists, the “holy ordinance” appears to establish the relationship of the “called” individual to other “called” individuals within the church. Taken together the “holy calling” and the “holy ordinance” establish the recipients’ obligations to God and to the community of believers and the order of priests. Thus through the “holy calling” one is committed to the love and service of God. Through the “holy ordinance” one is committed to the love and service of humanity.

The Alma 13 priesthood treatise also suggests another point: the “holy ordinance” does not appear to be accomplished simply by means of the laying on of hands. This is suggested by a verbal formula invoked twice, once in verse 2 and once in verse 16. These passages suggest that when high priests were ordained, the manner of the ordination communicated something about the coming of the Messiah and his redemption (v. 2). We are told that the ordination was done in a way “that the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order” (v. 16). The reference to “type” suggests the use of typology, a symbol foreshadowing how Christ would work out the redemption. By 1842 Joseph Smith was teaching that the fullness of the priesthood, which he often called the “holy order,” was communicated by the endowment rituals, which are replete with crucifixion symbols and other Christian typology. Whether these or similar gestures, postures, or rituals might be what is hinted at in Alma is impossible to say.

The Book of Mormon view of priesthood might thus be summarized: God calls his own priests directly. But those called must also be ordained by a holy ordinance, which involves a symbolic ritual typifying the salvific work of Christ. By this holy ordinance the ones called are authorized by the divinely acknowledged priestly order to act within the church structure. However, on occasion certain individuals with unmediated callings are presented as not waiting for ordination before embarking upon their ministries. Ordination, therefore, is not presented as necessary for creating a church or priesthood structure where none existed or preaching repentance or teaching the gospel or castigating an existing ecclesiastical or political structure which has become rigid or corrupt (Mos. 11-17; Al. 31-35; He. 13-15).

These Book of Mormon teachings on priesthood have significant implications for the modern church. First, it seems to us that the Book [p.159]of Mormon advances two types of priesthood authority. The most familiar one is ecclesiastical, the authority to preside in a church office. The other is charismatic or spiritual authority. “Charismatic” comes from the Greek word kharis meaning “favor” or “spiritual gift.” Christ relied heavily upon this authority when he preached on earth. He spoke from outside contemporary structures or organizations, relying on his “holy calling” rather than on an ordination to ecclesiastical office.

These two authorities have different purposes. Charismatic authority (or inward priesthood, as we have called it previously) comes by the “holy calling” and is the heart of the priesthood. It exists to connect the sacred and the profane, to reconcile the fallen world with God, to make people aware of the numinous, and to bring them into the presence of the Most High. This authority is attended to by prophecy, healings, tongues, and other charismatic gifts. Ecclesiastical authority (or outward priesthood) comes by a holy ordinance and exists to develop, maintain, and protect the church, to promote the teachings of Christ, to perform the ordinances of the gospel, and to provide a refuge for those seeking to flee from the world into the community of Saints. The Book of Mormon teaches that these two authorities comprise the priesthood of God and that they should operate together: the ecclesiastical to care for the structure of the church and the charismatic to keep the Spirit burning brightly there.

Ideally these authorities should exist in each priest, as they did in Book of Mormon personages Nephi, Jacob, Alma the Elder, and Alma the Younger. Often they do not, because they descend to us in different ways. The ecclesiastical authority is conferred by humans through ordination. The charismatic authority comes only from God and is received only if the recipient has faith—”exceeding great faith” (Al. 13:3). As we have said, people without either authority are not a puzzle; neither are those who obviously have both. Problems are created by individuals who have only one or the other. The charismatic is endowed with spiritual gifts: insight, knowledge, truth, the power to teach and convince. The ecclesiastic is endowed with the resources and corporate power of the church and the responsibility to watch over the community. Unless theology harmonizes these separate functions, the balance will usually swing in favor of one and then the other. Mormonism began with a short charismatic period—marked by institutional chaos and doctrinal ferment. Since then ecclesiastical authority has predominated with its concern for institutional order, fiscal stability, doctrinal simplicity and consistency, categorical morality, and public image. Alma [p.160]13 with its insistence on both the “holy calling” and the “holy ordinance” suggests there should be a balance between the two dimensions of priesthood; the merits and weaknesses of each are recognized and acknowledged in one system of authority referred to by Alma as the high priesthood of the holy order.

The existence of a charismatic priesthood authority transmitted directly to individuals by supernatural means has important implications for women, who traditionally have been excluded from ordination into priestly orders. It may be argued that their exclusion is merely traditional or cultural and that a woman is just as entitled to a “holy calling” from God as is a man. In fact God’s dealings with such women as Eve, Esther, Ruth, Mary the mother of Christ, Mary Magdalene, and Emma Smith may be interpreted as just such non-ecclesiastical “holy callings.”

But it is not women alone who suffer disenfranchisement. Men too, if they do not submit to ecclesiastical traditions, conventions, and expectations, may be excluded from ordination. D&C 77:11 speaks of the ordination of high priests of “the holy order of God” as being brought about in “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, by the angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth, to bring as many as will come to the church of the Firstborn.” But in spite of such texts, the church rejects the concept that priesthood authority may now be conferred without mediation. In the prevailing view such an idea would undermine priesthood control of the church and spiritual security of its members. In the wake of such a doctrine, couldn’t anyone make a false claim to priesthood authority? How would the good people of the church know the true charismatic authorities from the false?

The phrasing of such questions assumes that tight control of the ordination process coupled with the power to excommunicate or disfellowship rebels and apostates is sufficient to protect the church from false claims to authority. But how is the church protected from lack of spirituality among its leaders from top to bottom? The apostles at Jerusalem were unwilling to spread the gospel among the Gentiles. This would have permanently crippled the church had it not been for Paul’s unmediated calling. In the Book of Mormon, we are presented with corruption at the court of King Noah. The old priests had died or had been replaced with “such as were lifted up in the pride of their hearts” (Mos. 11:5). With corruption at the highest levels, what hope was there for the people of King Noah had it not been for the unmediated calling of Abinadi? Similarly it appears that the church of the [p.161]Nephites just prior to the coming of Christ would have remained spiritually comatose had it not been for the unmediated calling of Samuel the Lamanite.

In each of these situations it could be asked: How did the people realize their religious institutions had degenerated and the time to repent had come? How for that matter did the people of the Old Testament know if prophets such as Lehi were true or false? How did the people know that John had authority to baptize or that Jesus was Lord? This very question was put to Christ: “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did you not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men, they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. And they answered and said unto Jesus, we cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Mk. 11:28-33). Though no answer appears to be given, the answer is there: “We cannot tell,” said the Jewish leaders. And Jesus replied, “Neither do I tell you.”

In our view, this dialogue means that there is no way to validate institutionally the authority of those called directly by God. It is by their fruits that they are known. This was so in the case of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2). Their missionary efforts, at least up to the time of the council at Jerusalem, were carried out on the basis of Paul’s unmediated calling from Christ. It was only later that Paul’s work was acknowledged and ratified by the leaders of the Christian movement. Joseph Smith provides an additional example. The validity and truth of his ministry is still a matter of debate in the Christian world and may be validated only by the fruits of his work.

The church addresses such uncertainty by insisting that an individual be duly ordained. But the Book of Mormon teaches us that being ordained is not the same as being called—a point that is unsettling to many who demand certainty in matters of authority and are quick to reject any charismatic individual without ecclesiastical authority, but who are strangely willing to accept any ecclesiastical officer, because they assume that proper ordination always includes or presupposes a divine calling. This assumption is made in spite of the teaching of the Doctrine and Covenants that the rights of priesthood and the power of [p.162]priesthood are very different, although in practice they ought to be indivisible (D&C 121:36). The Book of Mormon teaches that becoming a full priest means obtaining the powers of heaven by a holy calling and also the rights of the priesthood by a holy ordinance. Both components of transmittal are necessary.

The difference between the Book of Mormon notion of the priesthood and our own contemporary Mormon view is focused in the distinction between priesthood offices and ecclesiastical offices. Most Mormons are aware that the priesthood offices of deacon, teacher, priest, bishop, elder, high priest, patriarch, seventy, and apostle are somehow different from the ecclesiastical offices of quorum president, counselor, ward bishop, high counselor, and stake president. The difference is that priesthood offices attach to the person, while ecclesiastical offices vest in the church structure and are not permanent. In the Book of Mormon, the priesthood offices are the most important: God’s power is presented as operating through individuals. The church is not depicted as the source of God’s power, but as its beneficiary. No reference is made to church offices, with the possible exception of the high priest over the church. In the modern church, however, the ecclesiastical offices are all important. No individual is empowered to act by virtue of his priesthood conferral and ordination alone. He must hold a recognized church office before he can legitimately act in God’s name. A man may be ordained to the priestly office of bishop, but he may not function in the church, even to pass the sacrament, unless he is assigned to do so by a presiding church officer or unless he has been set apart to preside as ward bishop. A father, though a high priest, may not baptize, confirm, endow, or perform a marriage even for his own children without express permission from someone in the chain of command.

Thus in the modern church, both “holy calling” and “holy ordinance” have become subordinate to an additional condition: one’s setting apart in the church structure. To receive the priesthood in the modern church is not to be empowered in any real sense. It signifies only that one has been deemed qualified to serve if and when he is set apart to a church office. What this means is that the authority to act for God is never vested in individuals. It is always retained by the institutional structure. Thus institutional perceptions rather than personal spiritual gifts drive the church.

One might argue in response that this system has developed by inspiration to insure the worthiness of priesthood bearers to perform ordinances and to meet the record-keeping requirements of the church. [p.163]But ordinances are sometimes performed by the unworthy, and it could be argued that worthiness is therefore not essential. If, for example, a person is baptized by an unworthy priesthood bearer, the baptism is still effectual and need not be done again. And the records of the church could be kept just as easily if the authority to act for God was vested in individuals, who were then required as part of their ministries to report all ordinance work performed. The church instead has required setting apart to a church office as prerequisite for full participation in church governance. As a result it has retained the form and name of a lay priesthood while effectively denying the power thereof.

This view of unmediated priesthood conferral is complex and undoubtedly disturbing to those who regard church ordination as insurance against false priesthood claims, but it does provide a theological basis for correcting the ecclesiastical structure if and when it becomes complacent or intransigent. When such problems arise, solutions rarely come from within the hierarchy. The Book of Mormon clearly leaves open the possibility that individuals called of God but not necessarily ordained or acknowledged by the institution might arise and reprove the wayward organization.

A second implication for the modern church may be derived from the fact that the Book of Mormon does not distinguish among Levitical, Aaronic, Patriarchal, or Melchizedek priesthoods. This fact, we think, is important. The earliest converts to Mormonism believed priesthood authority was conferred upon Joseph Smith as a result of his contact with angelic visitants. In other words the first Mormon converts thought of priesthood as undifferentiated in nature and unmediated in origin.

Initially priesthood was almost exclusively connected with the right to preach and teach the restored gospel as opposed to the right to manage and oversee the church. The earliest revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants connect priesthood with crying repentance or going forth to preach or being called to the work or having authority to proclaim the restoration (D&C 1, 4, 11, 15, 16). Apostles were originally seen as missionaries rather than as a board of directors. In short the charismatic rather than the ecclesiastical authority of the priesthood seemed more important in the first few years of the restoration, when Mormons had no reason to be impressed yet with the corporate dimensions of the church. As the church developed emphasis shifted to mediation, ordination, and gradations of priestly authority.

After the church was established and individuals were ordained to [p.164]various church or priesthood offices, the concept of grades or degrees of priesthood became clear.

The third implication relates to the concept of equality presented in the Book of Mormon. This is not an equality of personal gifts or temperament. The Book of Mormon does not condemn differences in spiritual, physical, or psychological make-up or attitude. It does not seek to eliminate variety in the human personality. Nor is there any suggestion in the Book of Mormon that excellence is to be shunned or leveled or that equality is to be imposed by force of law. This is true even in the economic sphere. The rich repeatedly are castigated for not giving freely to the poor, but no one suggests that wealth be redistributed by coercive means of any kind. The equality of the Book of Mormon is personal and voluntary. People are admonished to esteem others as themselves, to freely give as they would freely receive, to relate to others as loved ones.

This type of equality—equality of status and of treatment—does not mean there is no hierarchy of responsibility or no degrees in intellectual or physical capacity. One individual will be a judge, another a dancer, another a grocer, and another a priest. Some will excel, others will not. These are differences of function, intellect, or talent. They are part of reality. But what the Book of Mormon stresses is that such distinctions should not serve as a basis upon which anyone may claim greater entitlements to love, life, liberty, happiness, privacy, respect, or to equal protection and treatment under the law. In fact because each person is equally God’s child, no classes or status distinctions should exist in the church at all. Any form of elitism is anathema, for the teachings of Christ require each person to esteem every other person exactly as if that person were as valuable as Christ himself.

We are told, particularly and emphatically, that those who are called with a “holy calling” and “ordained with a holy ordinance” may not assert these gifts as a basis for privileged treatment. The gift itself is gift enough. The receiver of the gift is admonished to remember the giver and to hold his or her gift in trust for others and exercise it on their behalf. It is in matters of status that the Book of Mormon admonishes us to be equal. And this necessarily involves economic equality. This call to symmetry and reciprocity lies at the heart of the admonition to esteem others as oneself and is the central component of Christ’s unconditional love. His love is never limited because of the worthiness of the loved one, never fades, is not pretended, is not merely self-love disguised. It sees all others as equal in dignity and value and attempts to [p.165]equalize the inequalities of status and treatment by means of individual sacrifice.

When the Book of Mormon inveighs against inequality, it is admonishing us, especially the priests and teachers and prophets and elders, that no person can claim to be the child of Christ unless filled with the love of Christ. And we cannot be full of Christ’s love if we love ourselves, our riches, our comfort, our invulnerability, our superior status, our power, or our prestige, more than we love others, who are like us made in the image of God. Repeating this teaching again and again, the Book of Mormon leads to the climactic verses beginning with Moroni 10:21: “And except ye have charity [that is, charismatic love] ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God. … ”

Such admonitions mean that every member of the church should esteem every non-member as a member. Every bishop and stake president and apostle should esteem every other person as if he or she were called to a like calling. We believe it means that no priesthood leader should hear a confession of sins unless he is willing to confess his sins to the person whose confession he is about to hear. What is needed is a reciprocity and symmetry of power and a vulnerability between the confessor and the penitent. We believe too that true unconditional love and spiritual equality means that no priesthood leader should teach or admonish or counsel or criticize anyone unless he is open and available to be taught, admonished, counseled, and criticized by others.

The idea that priesthood leaders are above this admonition or that they are answerable only to their leaders and not to their followers is repugnant to the spiritual egalitarianism of the Book of Mormon. It is contradicted by such sayings as: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you” (Jac. 2:17). In the church today we must replace our notion of a priesthood chain of command with the concept of a priesthood circle of prayer. Instead of a priesthood pipeline operating within the church machine, we must think in terms of the body of Christ, wherein his blood touches every living member, and the head will not say to the foot, “I have no need of thee.” The gift of the priesthood is no substitute for the gift of the Holy Ghost. The presence of the priesthood correlation program, which standardizes written materials and worship services the world over, cannot compensate for the absence of the integrated community of Saints.

At the heart of divine love is sacrifice—the willingness to be diminished so that another may be increased. This is the meaning of [p.166]Christ on the cross. God, who could have insulated himself from pain, descended to earth, assumed the aspect of his children, and bore the greatest pain in his own person. Rather than hoard the heavenly feast for himself, he invites beggars to his table. He breaks bread with us and drinks from the cup our lips have touched. When he speaks to us, it is no longer from a great white throne centered in a vortex of light, surrounded by celestial griffins, warding off the unwashed. He speaks to us eye to eye from a traitor’s gibbet with his blood and sweat and shame upon him for all to see and with his wounds forever open. He comes not as king but as slave. He comes not as judge but as accused. He comes not as patriarch but as bastard. He comes not to punish us but to let us punish him. He does not ask us to love him until we are first certain that he loves us. He is the great failure who saves us from our success. He is the great fool who spares us from our wisdom. He is the rejected lover who will not in turn reject his love. He is a prophet without honor, a citizen of a despised nation, a poor relation, an unwanted guest. He is the voice of one crying in the wilderness of every human heart. He is the God of grief and sorrow who is the joy of our desiring. He is utterly good because he loves us in our sins and imperfections, because he freely made himself equal to us, and because he freely opened the way whereby we may be made equal to him. This is the equality of which the Book of Mormon speaks—the equality that lies at the heart of Christ’s unconditional, undiminishing, unfeigned, perfectly symmetrical, and completely reciprocal divine love.