A better way to force sequential ordering of numbered items

That sounds about right. When I’m working with LaTeX, none of this is handled at the formatting stage, and even more so when using MMD. With MMD you turn on titles in the Formatting pane and that automatically generates depth-aware heading levels, which are then turned into LaTeX calls for respective heading levels, like \chapter{The Name of My Chapter}. How that is numbered and if that level is included in the ToC is all determined by the way you set up the LaTeX file.