In Alma 31, we read about an inappropriate prayer offered by the wealthy class of the Zoramites. When the prophet Alma and his team of missionaries heard it, they were appalled. Alma concluded from hearing this prayer recited multiple times that the people reciting it were “a wicked and a perverse people” (Alma 31:24).
What was so bad about this prayer?
Once a week, these people would gather at their place of worship, which they called a synagogue. There was a platform “high above the head” inside the building, which was only large enough to hold one person at a time. One by one, they would ascend this platform, which they called the “Rameumptom,” and recite this prayer with their hands raised toward heaven:
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.
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.
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.
And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen (Alma 31:14-18).
Mormon quoted this prayer for a reason. Perhaps he wanted us to avoid the fallacies of these wealthy Zoramites. What are the problems with this prayer?
- It is saturated with self-righteousness. These people thought they were better than other people. They had been chosen to be saved, while everyone else would be condemned. And they seemed to be happy about this. Alma later counseled his son Shiblon, who had also heard this prayer firsthand, not to say, “O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren.” Instead, he encouraged Shiblon to say, “O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercy” (Alma 38:14).
- It depersonalizes God. It emphasizes His holiness and His eternal nature, but does not mention His mercy and love for us. It claims that He is and will always be a spirit, differentiating Him from us. It asks nothing from Him, which adds to the impression of a God who is distant and unapproachable.
- It belittles other people’s beliefs. Why would you use a prayer to disparage the beliefs of other people? This prayer refers to the beliefs of other people as “childishness” and “foolish traditions.” Using prayer as a forum for ridiculing other people’s beliefs is a bad idea.
- It denies Christ. This prayer explicitly states that “there shall be no Christ.” As Alma would later testify to Shiblon, “There is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ” (Alma 38:9). To claim that you are saved while denying the existence of the only One who can save you is self-deception.
Today, I will strive to avoid the fallacies of the Rameumptom prayer. I will strive to approach God with humility. I will remember that He is my Heavenly Father, who loves me. I will be respectful of others as I pray. And I will pray in the name of Jesus Christ, with faith that He has the power to save me.