I’ve been thinking lately about the story of the Zoramites and their Rameumptoms. They Zoramites were apostate Nephites who built high towers. They would stand on the towers and yell out memorized prayers to demonstrate their own righteousness. Every time I’ve had a lesson in church about this story the focus has been on the “vain repetition” of the prayer, and the pride and quest for riches that the people were caught up in.
Something else struck me about it recently, though. The Zormanites’ loud public prayers were not just bad because they were designed to draw attention to ones’ self, it was bad because that is all they did. Their public personas and private lives were at odds; they were not living their faith.
Observing social media of late has been a painful experience. Everyone has an opinion, and a venue in which to share it. And that is fine. The painful part is the unwillingness to take any perspective but one’s own. The painful part is the lack of empathy. The painful part is the defensive and divisive stubbornness. The painful part is the pride.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:5, “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” In thinking about why humility is so important, I’ve long felt that it was because humility makes us open to learning, and isn’t that why we are here? Part of that is learning about experiences other than our own. Each human only gets one life. That is not enough time to learn and know everything first-hand. We need to listen and empathize and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Pride makes us defensive and closed.
Then, once we know something, we need to do something about it. Knowledge is not worth anything unless we use it for the benefit of others. We need to be out advocating for our neighbors, caring for the poor, and mourning with those that mourn. My own faith has become passive and stagnant, and recently I’ve developed an us-versus-them attitude. And it has been miserable. I have seen others with similar approaches. So I went back to the chapter in Alma that talks about the Zoramites. Here is how it ends: Alma the Younger prays. At the end of his prayer he says, “Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren.” ALL SOULS are precious to God: conservative souls, liberal souls, straight souls, gay souls, immigrant souls, black souls, police souls, man souls, woman souls. They are all alike unto God. I think that is the key.
It’s naive to say that labels are unimportant. The impact our earthly experience in very real ways, as we have seen with the treatment of minorities, the LGBT community, etc. However, we are all brothers and sisters. And brothers and sisters fight; that’s what happens when you live in the same house or on the same planet. Siblings also have fun together and look out for each other. I know that the problems facing the church and the world right now are complex. I do not want to sound idealistic. But I really do believe that this is the place to start.