Alma hears of the wickedness among the Zoramites, because of the worldly teachings of their leader, Zoram.
“His heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people.” (1)
The Zoramites used to have the truth, but they have rebelled and have separated themselves from the Nephites.
Isn’t it interesting that when people who once believed in Christ and His gospel walk away from those beliefs, they seem to always separate themselves.
I’ve had family members and friends who’ve done this. And often they say they feel judged by those that still believe. That can definitely be true at times. But more often, I wonder if our own guilty consciences cause the separation we feel, not other’s judgments. Maybe it’s our own judgments that we reflect upon others. We often are our own harshest judge.
Anyway, the Zoramites have separated themselves and now live in Antionum, close to Lamanite territory. The Nephites fear that they might “enter into a correspondence with the Lamanites, and that it would be the means of great loss on the part of the Nephites.” (4) So, they want to forge a good relationship with these people again.
Alma know the power the word of God has on hearts. It’s more powerful than the sword or any other means to influence people, for good or bad.
Therefore he took Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner; and Himni he did leave in the church in Zarahemla; but the former three he took with him, and also Amulek and Zeezrom, who were at Melek; and he also took two of his sons. (Shiblon and Corianton)”Alma 31:6
Here are some great missionaries. Many of these men had been wicked at one time, or not as close to the Lord as they should have been. Even Alma, the high priest now, had once rebelled with the sons of Mosiah—Ammon, Aaron, Omner—until an angel came and woke them up to their duties.
Amulek had been called many times but would not hear. But once he converted, he stayed true, even though he lost his family, saw many righteous people burned to death, and had to walk away from all his riches and influence.
Zeezrom had once been a wealthy lawyer with power and prestige, but after he began to listen and question with desire to know truth, God converted him as well, and he was healed and born of God.
Now they are all on a mission to help bring a change of heart to the wicked and hardened Zoramites.
Remember this attitude. It will come into sharp contrast with that of the Zoramites soon.
These men believed all men were their brethren and that their souls were precious. Precious enough to risk their lives to go among a hateful people to try to rescue them and bring them back to Christ.
The Zoramites had dissented away from the Nephites. They had “had the word of God preached unto them” already. (8) “But they had fallen into great errors, for they would not observe to keep the commandments of God, and his statutes, according to the law of Moses.” (9)
Falling away from truth is natural when we aren’t committed to God. The Zoramites stopped observing the basic commandments and must have gotten casual with their covenants. The devil easily led them astray when they didn’t protect themselves spiritually.
Alma and his brethren go to set them straight. Right away, they are shocked at what the Zoramites are doing. They have erected high places in their synagogues, called Rameumptom (21), to worship God in a way that they have never seen.
They get up there, one at a time, raise their hands to heaven, and pray with the same exact words:
“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. (15)
Here’s the first error they’ve allowed to creep into their worship—that God doesn’t have a body like them. Only a Spirit.
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.”Alma 31:16
Here are a bunch more errors:
- They’ve separated themselves, and not only that, but they think they’re better than their brethren. Whenever we separate and divide, thinking we are better than someone else or another group of people, we are on dangerous ground. God wants unity, because we are ALL His children.
- They put down their brethren and mock their beliefs and traditions that center on Jesus Christ. Only the devil inspires that kind of behavior.
- They deny Jesus Christ. Anything that preaches against Christ or puts down other people for some reason or another is Satanic. Pure and simple.
They go on to say in verse 17 that they are the only ones who will be saved by their god and thank him that they are so much better than their foolish brethren. They end this vain repetition of a prayer with:
And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.”Alma 31:18
Alma and his brethren are “astonished beyond all measure,” (19) and not in a good way. This is worse than they thought. This Rameumptom symbolizes pride, lifting themselves up above others and feeling superior.
After offering up this canned prayer of pride, “they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again upon the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.” (23)
Alma is grieved, for he sees that they are wicked, perverse and that their hearts are set upon gold, silver, and material possessions. (24)
Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride.”Alma 31:25
Prayer of Faith
Alma needs to lay down the law, but before doing so, he offers up a prayer of faith. He cries out to God, saying how hard it is to see people reveling in sin and pride, as this people are doing.
…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.”Alma 31:27
Pride literally swallows our self-respect. True respect comes as we care for others and see them and love them as ourselves. Pride won’t allow us to truly love our eternal spirit. It locks us in a bubble that doesn’t allow us to see our spiritual nature, and so we can’t see others for who they really are. We just see ways—superficial or made up—that we are superior to them.
Alma asks for strength to endure this mission “that I may bear with mine infirmities.” (30) He is depressed and laid low by this daunting task.
When we love others and see them separate themselves from God, it does cause our souls to ache. But Alma doesn’t give into despair. He knows in whom He trusts.
Wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people.”Alma 31:31
When life gets hard, we always have God to turn to for strength and the ability to ‘suffer with patience’ until the trial ends…and they always ‘come to pass.’
Christ brings comfort if we truly trust Him and believe Him.
Alma doesn’t put down the Zoramites. He has an eternal perspective and knows “their souls are precious.” (35)
After he finishes his prayer for strength, help, and comfort, he claps his hand on each of his companions and they are filled with the Holy Ghost.
What a great gift.
They leave to go use the power of the word of God, giving no thought to what they will eat, drink or wear. God provides for them and gives them “strength that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.” (38)
This is their blessing, because Alma prayed in faith. Faith is powerful.
- Do I pray, exercising faith in Jesus Christ, to be enabled to do His work and will each day?
- Do I pray that I may lift up others, not put them down?
- How can I do better?