Friday, September 25, 2015

Characteristics of the Zoramite errors

12 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; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;
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. . . .
20 For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers.
(Alma 31:12-18, 20)
Reading through what Alma and his posse observed about the Zoramites, it is interesting to note that he recorded what he saw and even recorded one of their prayers.  (Then, in contrast, we get one of Alma’s prayers too.)

I noticed that in the Zoramite prayer there were seven instances of the word holy or holiness. So the Zoramites were obsessed with holy status, but their manner of going about it was misguided.

The Zoramites believed God had separated them from their brethren. However, elsewhere it is noted that they had separated themselves (Alma 30:59), they had dissented from the Nephites (Alma 31:8), and they had gathered themselves together (Alma 31:3). They separated themselves. Just gathering together does make a people holy.

They believed they had been elected by God to be his holy children. Yet election does not make a people holy.

They took pride in not being led away after the foolish traditions of their fathers that, in their words, bound them down to a belief in Christ. It is possible that this began out of criticism of the many rules of the Law of Moses and they believed those things could be dispensed with, since it says elsewhere they would not keep the commandments in the Law of Moses (Alma 31:9).  It is particularly interesting that they saw the commandments they would not keep as instruments for building anticipation of Christ and they rejected that too. Even apostates had been taught these things were types of Christ.

They met at church and thanked God weekly for their favored status, but sadly, Sabbath observance and worship does not indicate holiness.

I have to call attention again to the fact that they did not believe in Christ and instead claimed some sort of revelation that there would be no Christ. The problem with not believing in Christ is that if no Christ, then there is no belief in redemption for sin, so one remains in one’s sins. To remain in one’s sins while claiming to be holy and denying the means of redemption from sins pretty much guarantees a person is spiritually stuck. Damned, if you will.  Further, if one does not believe in redemption, to claim one is elected and holy and all others would perish is contradictory.  All this causes us to wonder what they thought their favored status was based on, if not salvation from sin.

It is possible they had some sort of prosperity gospel, teaching that prosperity and riches meant they were favored of God. This would account for their preoccupation with their wealth, their pride, their boasting, and also the way the richer, popular part of the people despised the poor and cast them out of the synagogues. It would also explain why the priests participated in the expulsions too.

A prosperity gospel might explain why the Zoramites were so incensed when the anti-Nephi-Lehis took in the poor converted Zoramites. To them, all others besides themselves would perish and become destitute. Thus, when the poor converted Zoramites were helped, this flew directly in the face of their beliefs—poor Zoramites outside Antionah were finding prosperity!  Shocking! Horrible!   This could not be tolerated; it was open mockery of the Zoramite holy election, so it had to be stamped out. Thus the armies were called up.

I think it is important to know about Zoramite beliefs and practices because we may slip into them today. We may think our separateness is part of our holiness, but if it isn’t accompanied by belief in Christ as the Redeemer, obedience to the commandments, daily prayer to resist temptation, and charity to others, we are not holy at all. We’re just fooling ourselves. Without those things, our religion degenerates into a prosperity gospel in which we think we are favored if we are in prosperous circumstances and think others are condemned because they struggle financially.