CLICK HERE to read Alma 31.
After Korihor died, Alma heard news that the place where he had been, with the Zoramites under their leader Zoram, were bowing down to idols and Alma’s “heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people” (verse 1). Alma was sorrowed not only because he knew the people were choosing poorly, but because he knew this would separate them from the Nephites (verse 2). He grieved them like someone in mourning.
The Zoramites had moved away from the Nephites, declaring themselves non-believers, and so the Nephites were concerned that they would join with the non-believing Lamanites (verses 3-4). Since they had experienced themselves how the teaching of principles, or “the preaching of the word” did have “a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just – yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword or any anything else (verse 5). So the prophets and several leaders went to visit them (verse 6), and this chapter is the story of what happened there (verse 7). The difference, though, with this mission is that the Zoramites already knew the truth. So this mission was not to non-believers, but to inactive members who had fallen away (verse 8).
“… they had fallen into great errors, for they would not observe to keep the commandments of God, and his statutes, according to the law of Moses. Neither would they observe the performances of the church, to continue in prayer and supplication to God daily, that they might not enter into temptation… they did pervert the ways of the Lord in very many instances…” (verses 9-11).
When the missionaries got to the Zoramites, they were surprised to discover that they had built synagogues, and that they even gathered once a week for worship (verse 12). However, it was like nothing they had ever seen. There was a high place for standing built up in the middle of the synagogue, like a platform that only admitted one person at a time (verse 13). This is how they worshipped, one person at a time upon that platform (verse 14). The person on the platform would pray loudly, with his hands lifted to the sky, saying that they knew God was only a spirit (verse 15), and that they were selected to be the only holy children and that there would be no Christ (verse 16), and they thanked God that were elected especially and not like the Nephites (verses 17-18).
“Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure” (verse 19).
They saw it happen over and over again, one person at a time climbing up to “worship” in such a way, saying the same words (verse 20). Each one climbed up and repeated the loud prayers (verse 21) thanking God that they were not deceived into thinking there would be a Christ because they knew there would not be and that there was no way to know there would be (verse 22).
After all the people had taken their turns saying these same things, the people went back to their homes. There was no teaching, no singing, no leadership, no other praying (verse 23).
Alma was grieved when he saw this, and more grieved when he saw how they lived, that all they cared about was saving up their money for themselves and living in their fancy homes with their fancy clothes (verse 24). He saw “their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride” (verse 25).
Alma cried out in distress, asking God how long he would let people pervert the truth so severely, and bring up children in such perverted ways (verse 26) all while focused on their own pride instead of depending on the Lord for sustenance or being accountable for how they use their blessings to care for others (verses 27-28). He even asks for clarification, saying that these people say that God has told them there will be no Christ (verse 29), and so how long will God let them say such un-true things? He asks for strength because “such wickedness among this people doth pain my soul” (verses 30-31).
But then he does something interesting, going one step further. He prays for the people, that they will be strong enough to endure their own consequences that they are bringing about upon themselves as a society (verse 33).
Then he also prays for help bringing the people back to Christ (verse 34), because “their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren” (verse 35). They love these people. These people are their friends and family, and they long for them to return home – both physically and spiritually safe, healthy, and well.
This was the prayer of the group of the missionaries before they separated to go teach the people, “taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on” (verse 37). This is not a moment of concern for their own physical needs; it is a crisis for the spiritual needs of their families and friends.
“And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith” (verse 38).