The 18th chapter of Mosiah contains references to Alma baptizing at the waters of Mormon, organizing the Church of Christ and ordaining priests. The unusual aspect of these references is that no mention is made regarding from whom Alma received the authority to perform priesthood ordinances.
In Answers to Gospel Questions, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, then of the Council of the Twelve, noted that the Book of Mormon is an abridgment taken from the records or history kept among the Nephites. Therefore, many details are lacking. Information about Alma's authority might have been in the original records."In the case of Alma and his priesthood, we are left to surmise that he legally and divinely received it before the days of King Noah," Elder Smith wrote. "We read that Zeniff, the father of Noah, was a righteous man. Alma evidently received the priesthood in the days of Zeniff, and at no time did he fully accept the teachings nor with full purpose follow the counsels and procedure of Noah and his wicked priests. It was Alma who was deeply touched at the scathing denunciation of the prophet Abinadi. Moreover it was Alma who recorded them, for he believed thoroughly in what Abinadi had declared, and he turned from whatever transgression he had committed and set forth with a repentant spirit to gather together all those who were willing to accept the teachings of the martyred prophet. In order to save their lives, Alma and those who followed him were forced to flee into the wilderness."
Elder Smith surmised that Alma evidently obtained his authority when he received the priesthood, which through his repentance he had not lost. Elder Smith noted, "There can be no serious question in relation to his authority, for it is written: `And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every 50 of their number did he ordain to preach unto them, and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.' " (Mosiah 18:18, italics added.)
To become like Jesus, 'we are commanded to develop grace and truth in our lives'
"Christ is a God of truth," Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve said in his April 1982 general conference address. "He is a God of love, but He is also a God of grace.
"What do we mean by the grace of God?
"Jesus is gracious - that is, He is kind, merciful, compassionate. It is out of His grace, His compassion and His love for us, His mercy, His kindness, His desire for us to become like Him, that He provides us for His glorious gospel.
"But to reject His truth is to reject His grace, His mercy, His kindness, His compassion. It is to say that we want none of it. And of one thing we may be sure; if such is our attitude, we most certainly shall have none of it."
Elder Petersen further said the commandment is given for all to become like Christ. "We are commanded to develop both grace and truth in our lives. If we are to be like Him, and He is a God of grace and truth, we must begin right now to build grace and truth into our own lives.
"Must we not recognize now that we cannot serve two masters? If we should try, the Lord will reject us. He will never be found in tandem with Lucifer, so let us not try to put Him there. When Alma baptized his converts in the waters of Mormon, those humble saints were filled with the grace of God, the love of God, mercy, brotherly kindness, charity. And their priests labored so righteously that they too were filled with heavenly grace. (See Mosiah 18:16-28.)
"When the Lord addressed the early elders of this Church, He taught them that they must grow in grace as well as knowledge before they went out to preach." (See D&C 50:40.)
Alma, who had courage to defy wicked king, left imprint on sacred record
When first mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Alma, a descendant of Nephi, was one of the priests of the wicked King Noah.
After the prophet Abinadi testified and preached before the king and his priests, Noah ordered that the prophet should be put to death.
Alma's heart was touched by Abinadi's stirring testimony, as is attested in this verse:
"But there was one among them whose name was Alma, he also being a descendant of Nephi. And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken, for he knew concerning the iniquity which Abinadi had testified against them; therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace." (Mosiah 17:2.)
Alma risked his own life in his effort to save Abinadi's. Nephite history then bore the imprint of this courageous convert as much of the Book of Mormon record for the next 300 years dealt with Alma and his descendants.