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.
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.”
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?