Prayer at the Rameumptom, LDS Edition

By: Nate
September 8, 2013

I suspect the first question would be “What the heck is a rameumptom?”

What exactly is so objectionable about the prayer of the Zoramites on the Rameumptom? When we discussed it in church a few weeks ago, most members agreed that it was pride: the Zoramites see themselves as chosen and saved, while everyone else is damned because they were not chosen. But is there more to it than that? I thought I would try a little experiment by changing the doctrine within the prayer to official LDS doctrine, and see if the pride is still there.  Today’s guest post is by Nate.

Here is the original version in Alma 31:

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.

Zoromites: prayer + karaoke = sheer genius

Here is the new version, reflecting correct LDS Doctrine:

15. Dear Heavenly Father; we believe that thou art the God, and that thou art holy, and that thou hast a spirit and a body, and that thou art made of flesh and bone, and will be made of flesh and bone forever.
16. Dear Heavenly Father, we believe that thou hast commanded us to be in the world, but not of the world, to stand in holy places and not touch their unclean things; and we do not believe in the false traditions of our brethren, which were handed down to them by the apostasy and wickedness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast revealed to us that we are thy children, and that Christ not only showed Himself to the people at Jerusalem, but also to the Nephites in America.
17. For thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast promised us that we shall be saved in the Celestial Kingdom if we obey all His commandments and become perfect through the atonement of Christ, whilst all around us will go to a lower kingdom of glory, unless they too are baptized by authorized priesthood holders, accepting the gospel either in this life, or the life to come, if they didn’t get the chance in this life; for the which goodness and mercy, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee for bringing us the true gospel, and pray that we may not be led away after the false teachings of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a foolish belief in pluralism and secularism, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.

The original Zoramite prayer is determinist, not unlike Calvinist predestination. The Zoramites are saved, not by their works, but because of the election of God. Others are damned, not because of wickedness, but because they were not lucky enough to be elected. On the surface, a determinist religion might seem prideful. But actually determinism itself can be extremely humble. No one is saved because they are better, smarter, or more righteous than anyone else. One is saved ONLY because of the grace of God. So I’m not sure if the determinist nature of the Zoramite prayer is the source of its pride. Perhaps its pride is more in its flippant attitude towards the unsaved.

Then take the new LDS prayer. Although it corrects the inequalities and unfairness of Zoramite determinism, it preaches salvation “by obedience” through the atonement of Christ, rather than by election. This gives one the chance to gloat in the superiority of one’s righteousness, and condemn others who are less righteous to “lesser degrees of glory.” To a Mormon, this doesn’t seem particularly prideful. It’s simple common sense: the more righteous you are, the higher your position in heaven. What’s so prideful about that?

However, from the outside, the LDS view can seem extremely prideful. Many outsiders see our church as arrogant and proud because of our exclusive beliefs, our insistence that everyone become a Mormon in order to get into the highest degree of heaven, our belief in salvation through works. Our pride could even be perceived as more insidious than the pride of fundamentalists like Evangelicals, because ours is more content. Evangelicals flail about with wild passion, desperately trying to get people to accept Jesus or go to hell. They are just freaks, freaks in love with you, and desperate to get you out of hell. But Mormons know that only personal righteousness (along with universal atonement) can save them in the end, so they can afford to be magnanimous with unbelievers. We know many will not choose to be righteous enough to get the Celestial Kingdom. We preach, they accept or reject. “Take it or leave it” we say. “You don’t want to go to the Celestial Kingdom? You want to be a homosexual? That’s too bad, but still, you’ll get a nice place in one of the lower degrees of heaven. Maybe you will repent someday and come around to our way.”

What do your prayers say about you?

Ironically, I believe the antidote to LDS pride is to adopt a bit of Zoramite determinism. For me, determinism seems the only way I can truly communicate my religion in a way that is humble. My religion is a spiritual voice that unexpectedly told me: “Come follow me.” Did you hear the voice? I don’t know, I don’t judge. All I know is that I heard the voice, and that is the only reason why I follow. Yes, I do believe the Mormon way is superior. I believe our beliefs are superior, our church is superior, our works are superior. But I believe it in the same way the Zoramites believed it, not because I’m smarter or more honest or more righteous, but because I received that knowledge solely from the unmerited grace of God.

The words of a favorite hymn come to mind:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee.

So what do you think?

  • What is the source of pride in the Zoramite prayer:  its false doctrine or its attitude?
  • Is the new LDS prayer [above] still proud, even with true doctrine?
  • Is embracing some determinism a good antidote to pride or is determinism an entirely false doctrine?

Discuss.

Tags: , , , , ,

12 Responses to Prayer at the Rameumptom, LDS Edition

  1. hawkgrrrl on September 8, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    To address your questions, here’s what I think:
    1 – I think it’s the attitude toward those they see as not saved that is the problem. With the Zoramites and with the many born-again Joseph encountered and we still to today.
    2 – It depends. If we assume that WE are saved just by belonging to the church, then yes, we are out of line. Our gospel is more universalist than that.
    3 – I tend to think determinism is false. Even if you “hear” it as you say you did, you don’t have to heed it. But I do tend to think that people are at different readiness levels to adopt a religion at different times in their life. I don’t know that I consider that determinism, though. A cynic would say we are more emotionally vulnerable at times. An optimist would say we are more attuned to the spirit at times. People do tend to fluctuate in receptivity, but I don’t think that means that we don’t all have moments of it. I think we do, they just differ from person to person and time to time.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  2. kd on September 8, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    1- I think its doctrinally false, because it assumes determinism is eternal in nature (not to mention it denies Christ) but also salvation is arbitrary. At least in Calvinist determinism “The Elect” are considered naturally good, and one emulates the attitude of The Elect in order to assuage one’s worries about salvation. It would seem that Zoramite determinism takes no consideration of morality. Thus one is simply saved by the arbitrary will of God, regardless of their behavior. (I read a great book that argues its a tribal thing, this tribe is saved simply because of their blood line)
    2-I think the new prayer is also problematic, because its taking an incomplete look at doctrine and thus is proud. Mormon doctrine would make us mourn for those lost, certainly not thanking God for it. I agree with hawkgirl that we are also far more universalist. It would surprise me if mormons in mortality were in the majority of those in the celestial kingdom. It wouldn’t be surprising if that mormon population was also a fraction of baptized Mormons. To simply pride one’s self in being mormon is committing the same tribal sin of the Zoramites, or of the Jews of Christ’s day
    3-I’ve wondered about determinism. Considering that a majority of Mormons believe that one’s life assignment is made by God, I suppose it has its grounds. I think however that no matter how much mortality is determined, everything eventually rest’s on one’s faith in the end. I don’t think Christ will turn many away who still believe on Him, though we will be liable for our understanding. Thus one can never really tell who will be saved and who won’t be saved.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  3. Hedgehog on September 9, 2013 at 2:14 AM

    I don’t think determinism is at all helpful, and I have seen elements of it seeping into a number of church discussions (everything happens because God wants it to, for instance, really?). I do think as members we can display that Zoramite pride and arrogance, unfortunately (as in we are better than/removed from the world – in all kinds of ways). I determinism makes the situation worse.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. juliathepoet on September 9, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    My understanding of why the Zoramite prayers were so problematic were because they really were all that the religion entailed. It never went beyond that, and the rest of the week was not governed by any religious thoughts or feelings. A Zoramite was not just chosen through determinism, but they didn’t believe that more than the time on the rameumptom was required of them. Certainly there was pride in being “chosen” but even more, the pride led them into a strange belief that nothing more was required of them, in their daily lives.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  5. Mary Bliss on September 9, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    “pride led them to a strange belief that nothing more was required of them”. Yup. As evidenced in their neglect and exclusionary treatment of the poor in their society. A potential pitfall that any religious group, including mine, must be wary of.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  6. Kullervo on September 9, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Given early Mormonism’s strong Methodist/Wesleyan roots, it seems like the Zoramites’ prayer is just a straw man for Calvinism.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  7. nate on September 9, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    Good comments everyone. Hawkgrrrl, thanks for the opportunity to post here, and I understand what you, Hedgehog and kd are saying about determinism. From a rational point of view, it makes little sense, and of course it is patently unfair.

    My own attraction to predestination is emotional, not rational. It’s a powerful feeling of unworthiness at God’s incomprehensible grace to me, and the mystery of why others who are more worthy than myself have not been given that grace. I feel it when I read the scripture “we love Him because He first loved us,” and I love the Pauline epistles on the subject.

    But it’s also a solution to what I see as the unfairness of life. I feel an attraction to predestination when I look at the lives of so many millions in the world that suffer needlessly, while my life is so blessed, though I don’t deserve it. I’d rather believe in the mystery of God’s arbitrary grace, than that my state in life is the result of some kind of karma from the pre-existance, or that everyone’s diverse trials and blessings are all tailor-made to give everyone the best shot at the Celestial Kingdom. These explanations don’t feel right to me. They don’t seem to add up when I look at this suffering world.

    I feel that embracing the arbitrary nature of God is an essential element of faith. Job evoked it when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I love the expression from the medieval poem: “Even if there were no heaven, I would love thee, even if there were no hell, I would fear thee.” This kind of submission, this divine “Stockholm Syndrome” if you will, is a beautiful and humble place to be.

    So yes, rationally, predestination doesn’t make sense, and I suppose if I really need to see things rationally, I can tell myself, “Of course God is fair, and everything works out fairly in the end.” But I don’t want to have to believe in God because He is fair. I want to believe in God even if He is unfair. I want to submit to the mystery and the unknown.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  8. nate on September 9, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Juliet, thanks for your comment. “It never went beyond that, and the rest of the week was not governed by any religious thoughts or feelings.” That’s an important lesson from the prayer that I missed by taking it out of context, and it makes all the difference when contrasting the LDS view.

    Kullervo, you and I think the same way about the Book of Mormon! I think a lot of what we find in the Book of Mormon is in fact some kind of submiminal response to the 19th century forces that shaped Joseph Smith, and Calvinism would certainly have been one of them! For me, it doesn’t make the book less inspired, but rather it makes it more practical.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  9. Kullervo on September 9, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    Yeah, to me it pretty much conclusively demonstrates that it is not inspired.

    I sincerely doubt that God revealed an anti-Calvinist strawman.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  10. hawkgrrrl on September 9, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    nate: your argument actually reminds me a lot of Sam Harris’ book Free Will. I recommend giving it a read. It makes a compelling case that the circumstances in our lives are very much determined, for good or bad.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  11. nate on September 10, 2013 at 2:07 AM

    Thanks for the recommendation Hawkgrrrl. I think I would be very interested in his views. Right now, my own speculation is that human nature is 33% biological determinism, 33% environmental determinism, and 33% free will from our eternal spirit. And I ascribe biological and environmental determinism to God’s active or passive will, (pre-destination.). But I’m always changing my mind about these things.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  12. Jon on October 11, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Kullervo, so because the book contains a lesson that was directly applicable and helpful to the people at the time of its revelation/writing that demonstrates that it wasn’t inspired?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Archives

%d bloggers like this: