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
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?