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As you may recall, Antionum is the land where the Zoramites settled. Immediately following the encounter with Korihor, we find Alma and his brethren amid a people with some peculiar worship techniques. We learn from Alma 31 that this people dissented from the Nephites and were not keeping the law of Moses. As I read from this chapter of the Book of Mormon, I have often paused to ponder the implications in our lives. Let me attempt to explain.

The Zoramites, we discover, built synagogues and had regularly scheduled services. This comes from Alma 31:12 and 23:

Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord;”

 

“Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.”

Once a week, this people would gather together on the day of the Lord, conduct their services and then return home. They would not speak of God until they returned to the synagogue the next week. Do we sometimes exhibit a similar behavior where we switch on our ‘Sunday’ mode, perform our rituals, and then switch off when we leave? I know I have operated in this manner in the past. 

How often do we ‘speak of God’ when we are away from our Sunday schedule? At times, I have felt uncomfortable when ‘Christians’ around me have talked of God and other spiritual topics in the conversations at work. I found myself rarely speaking of God in business interactions because I feared being labeled. How much should we wear our religion ‘on our sleeves?”

Once they gathered together on the day of the Lord, we find a description of their services in the following verses:

13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.

  14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:

  15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.

  16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.

  17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.

  18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.” 

As I read these verses, there are several items of note. While we live our lives, do we adopt some of the same attitudes found in these verses? Do we, in our testimonies, repeat the same tried and true statements? We express our testimony of the prophet, the church, and our family followed by another and another. As I pondered this point, I was reminded of the warning against vain repetitions we find in Matthew 6:7.

I now look at that endearing practice of hauling our young children to the front of the chapel and then coaching them to make statements of their ‘knowledge” in a different light. Are we teaching our children that bearing testimony is no more than the emotional regurgitation of these same worn phrases?

The verses of chapter 31 were written about 75 years before the birth of Christ. The Zoramites speak from the Rameumptum of the ‘foolish traditions of our brethren’ regarding future events, in this case the coming of Christ. It seems rare, in these days, that we hear anything from the pulpit regarding the anticipated coming of Christ and its associated signs. Have we, for example, relegated the signs of the second coming to the foolish traditions of our fathers? Do the recent events in Okinawa, Northern California, Haiti, and Chile have any relevance when the scriptures speak of ‘earthquakes in divers places?’

The Zoramites, in their testimony, speak of being His holy children and their position as the elect of God. The Jews suffered from this same affliction when they boasted of being the children of Abraham. I contrast that pride with the attitude of the people who were listening to King Benjamin in Mosiah 4:2 where ‘they viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.’ Do we, as the bearers of the restoration show forth this same type of pride? How dangerous is it to lean upon our perceived pillar of lineage?

Pride seems to be a recurring theme in the discussion of the Zoramites as we read in the following verses:

 24 Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods
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  25 Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride.

  26 And he lifted up his voice to heaven, and cried, saying: O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?

  27 Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.

  28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.

 

Alma saw that the Zoramites measured their success with the things of the world. He considered their materialism, pride and vanity as gross wickedness.  Can we measure the condition of the modern day church based on the material success of the members and on the gains of the corporate empire the church has been able to build? Is it not gross wickedness to display this same desire for the things of the world today?

Alma speaks of the costly apparel and the adornments that were highly prized by the  Zoramites. It appears from this statement that they used their one ‘day of the Lord’ event to display their fine attire and flaunt the wealth they had achieved. What should our attitude be towards the display of fine clothes and the adornments of the world in our Sunday services?  Should these be prioritized higher than the need for a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit?’

I was surprised by the discussion regarding the preparation for the Sacrament found in a recent issue of the Ensign taken from a talk by Dallin H. Oaks. Here are the first several points identified in the article:

            • We dress properly, including wearing appropriate shoes, to show that we understand the sacred nature of the ordinance.

            • We come to sacrament meeting with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

            • We are quietly seated well before the meeting begins.

            • We bring a spirit of prayer, meekness, and devotion.

• We engage in prayerful meditation, reflecting on the mission of the Savior and our worthiness to partake of the sacrament.

Why is it that what we wear should be listed before the condition of our heart? Is this a subtle indication that we suffer from some of the same problems that afflicted the Zoramites? 

There are things I believe we can learn from the description of the Zoramites. We should not let our worship degrade to rote recitals. We  should speak of God more than on just Sundays. We should not allow ourselves to be defined by what we wear. Pride and materialism are the elements of gross wickedness.  And finally, is anyone else concerned that we seem to have a recent uptick in earthquake activity throughout the world?

What think ye?

6 Responses to “Welcome to the Antionum First Ward”

  • OWIW:

    Spek

    Regarding the preparation of the sacrament that you mentioned, I have a question for you pertaining to the following passage from the BofM,

    “And it came to pass that when *two hundred and ten years had passed away there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.”

    Apparently the Lord expects the church to not administer the sacrament to those who are not worthy.

    How does the church prevent the unworthy from taking the sacrament if they allow visitors who are not personally known, to partake of the sacrament?

    Have you ever wondered about that?

    Is it a wrong practice to allow unknown visitors who may or may not be members and may or may not be worthy to have the sacrament administered and offered to them?

    I am sorry if this is a little off topic…

    what think ye?

  • Watcher,

    You have raised some very good questions. Here is my take on the sacrament.

    When Christ first introduced the sacrament, He said to the disciples:

    “Behold, there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in My name. (3 Nephi 18:5)”

    If only one of the disciples was allowed to conduct the sacrament, how did we arrive at the current situation with teenagers performing this ordinance? I think we have lost the true sacred nature of the blessing of the bread and wine.

    The same chapter re-inforces the need to restrict those who are unworthy from taking the sacrament but we are supposed to minister unto them and pray for them in hopes that they might repent, as defined in verses 30-32.

    So the first issue is the singular person who has the power to bless the bread and wine, the second issue is the definition of the church. If you were to use the definition of the church found in Moroni 6, we certainly wouldn’t have the same level of unfamiliarity that is found today.

    In my opinion, a strict reading of the scriptures on the topic suggests that we have lost the correct practice of the sacrament. Can a member of the twelve delegate the privilege? Can water be substituted for wine as a normal course of conducting the ordinance? Can teenagers be responsible for restricting its use?

    So, if the ordinance was not conducted by one who has authority, does it even matter? I would say that is does. It is doubly bad to perform an ordinance without proper authority and still not treat it with the proper respect.

    Hope that helps.

  • Tom:

    Didn’t come here to totally detract from your post, so I will post a little on what you wrote about the Antonium 1st Ward. I also have been thinking on that the past few months as I’ve watched member after member stand, recite the same testimony, recite how grateful they are for the “true” church, and then sit down. Rarely, if ever, is Christ spoken about. Then, the next month, it happens all over again. I’d be interesting to know how often spiritual things are “discussed” during the week, though it would only be in families as “study groups” are frowned upon from the Hierarchy. I hope I don’t fall into that category – speaking only about spiritual things on Sunday, then retiring to the business of the week.

    Earthquakes: perhaps you are familiar with the work over at this site: http://www.urbansurvival.com/blog/?p=2150 . They work on predictive linguistics and have noted that the number of earthquakes “seen” happening this year is at least six or more of equal or greater value than what happened in Haiti (either in death toll or magnitude). So far, by that count, we’re at two. If you follow that link, there are a few interesting graphs they present on the earthquakes, magnitudes, etc., going back 30+ years. Interesting read.

    Sacrament: I spent some time studying the sacrament last fall and here’s a list I came up with presents the ways in which we differ from scriptural references, though I missed what you found on only “one” doing it, so take my list with a large grain of himilayan salt, if you will:
    (1) Allowing the Aaronic Priesthood to dominate the Sacrament (see D&C 20:38-40, 46, 50 and 58.
    (2) Why don’t we all kneel at the Sacramental prayers? (see Moroni 4:2-3, D&C 20:76-77).
    (3) Why is the Sacrament only a small piece of bread and small bit of water? (see 3 Nephi 18:3-5; 3 Nephi 20:8-9).
    (4) Why don’t we explore the use of wine of our own making? (see D&C 27). HC 1:108 contains one reference when Newel Knight and John Witmer and families, along with Brother Joseph, partook of the Sacrament with wine which they made for themselves. “The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon us, we praised the Lord God, and rejoiced exceedingly…” was the end result.
    (5) Allowing the unworthy to partake the sacrament…as OWIW noted.

    Anyway, sorry to throw that on here.

  • Tom:

    P.S., on the topic of our standards of dress, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the value of this article fresh off the presses at “Mormon Times.” The article, as you’ll find out, is a good piece of “Babylonian Drivel,” as my friend called it. Take the last sentence, replace the name of the person being quoted with Jesus, and see if you agree that’s something he’d have said…

    http://www.mormontimes.com/mormon_living/tips_living/?id=13603

  • Tom,
    Thanks for your insights. It helps to know that others are willing to compare current practice with the scriptures. I am continually amazed that we teach the ‘cycle of apostasy’ as found in the scriptures but exempt ourselves from that fate.

    I blogged recently on the absence of wine in our ordinances. We created the problem ourselves by establishing abstinence from alcohol as a condition of fellowship. How can you prohibit wine yet use it in one of the important ordinances?

    Thanks for the sacrament list of concerns, there were a couple of points I had not considered. If I recall correctly, the congregation kneeled during the sacrament and the elder praying did so with raised hands up to the early 1900′s.

    The link to Mormon Times brought a roll of the eyes – these folks would find a kindred spirit with the Zoramites.

  • [Off Topic] Spek, all my computers are in the shop and I don’t know when (or if) they will be fixed. I have already finished my priesthood research and have found answers to the questions you posed to me but have not had occasion to get online and write the follow-up article. I’ve got all the notes needed for that article, but no computer and time to put it together, yet. I just wanted you to know the situation and reason for the delay. Sorry for the threadjack. Now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

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