After Korihor was *Ahem* dealt with, Alma heard of another problem in the land. Apparently the Zoramites, in the land east of Zarahemla called Antionum, were perverting the ways of the Lord. This concerned Alma because they might gang up with the Lamanites, and that could be really bad for his people. He considered his options, and decided that preaching to them would be better than fighting them, because in his mind, "it [preaching] had a much more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, that happened unto them".
Now it came to pass that after the end of Korihor, Alma having received tidings that the Zoramites were perverting the ways of the Lord, and that Zoram, who was their leader, was leading the hearts of the people to bow down to dumb idols, his heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people. 31.1
For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people; therefore his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites. 31.2
Now the Zoramites had gathered themselves together in a land which they called Antionum, which was east of the land of Zarahemla, which lay nearly bordering upon the seashore, which was south of the land of Jershon, which also bordered upon the wilderness south, which wilderness was full of the Lamanites. 31.3
Now the Nephites greatly feared that the Zoramites would enter into a correspondence with the Lamanites, and that it would be the means of great loss on the part of the Nephites. 31.4
And now, as the preaching of the word had 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 anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. 31.5Alma gathered together the dream team: Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek and Zeezrom, and two of his sons: Shiblon and Corianton. He left Aaron's brother Himni and his son Helamon to hold down the fort.
Therefore he took Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner; and Himni he did leave in the church in Zarahemla; but the former three he took with him, and also Amulek and Zeezrom, who were at Melek; and he also took two of his sons. 31.6
Now the eldest of his sons he took not with him, and his name was Helaman; but the names of those whom he took with him were Shiblon and Corianton; and these are the names of those who went with him among the Zoramites, to preach unto them the word. 31.7Alma and his crew had a tough job ahead of them. Not only had the Zoramites stopped praying to God, they were actively involved in another cultlike religion. They had built "synagogues" that were almost like pyramids, where only one man could pray at once. He would climb to the top of the synagogue, stretch his hands toward the sky, and recite a prayer in a loud voice.
|Here is an artistic rendition of a Zoramite synagogue, from LDS.org|
Now the Zoramites were dissenters from the Nephites; therefore they had had the word of God preached unto them. 31.8
But 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. 31.9
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. 31.10
Yea, in fine, they did pervert the ways of the Lord in very many instances; therefore, for this cause, Alma and his brethren went into the land to preach the word unto them. 31.11
Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld; 31.12
For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person. 31.13
Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying: 31.14
Here is the prayer (verses 15-18). Apparently every single Zoramite would recite this same prayer. (It must have taken a while.)
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. 31.15
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. 31.16
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. 31.17
And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. 31.18
For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers. 31.20
Alma and his brethren were pretty shocked when they heard this prayer for the first time.
Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure. 31.19And the second time. And the third time. And the 4th time. Yes, every single Zoramite made this exact same prayer once a week, and then they just went home and carried on with their lives until the next week, when they did the same thing again.
Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about. 31.22
Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner. 31.23While observing them, Alma also happened to notice that they were wicked, greedy, perverse people who bragged all the time.
Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods. 31.24
Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride. 31.25Alma finishes up the chapter with a long prayer to God, asking him to give them strength and success in converting the Zoramites. The prayer worked, and Alma and his brethren were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words, that he clapped his hands upon all them who were with him. And behold, as he clapped his hands upon them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 31.36Alma's fellowship then split up to go preaching to the Zoramites. They didn't stop to think about what they would eat, drink, or wear during their mission. As luck would have it, though, God cast a magic spell on them so they wouldn't have to eat or drink during their mission, and they would have extra strength. How cool is that?
And after that they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on. 31.37
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. 31.38