Monday, August 31, 2015

Alma 31:17 -- On False Prayers and Choosing to be Chosen

"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."
Alma 31:17

This is part of a Zoramite prayer.  The Zoramites, as Alma writes, "did pervert the ways of the Lord in very many instances" (verse 11), which is why Alma's group had gone to preach to them.  This part of the twisted prayer struck me especially because of the idea that God elects us arbitrarily either to be exalted to heaven or to fall to hell, no matter what we do.  This idea--of being chosen and holy because we were born to it, while others were born to slavery and ruin--has been a pretty popular one throughout history.  Being born with the blood of the Gods, or having royal blood, or one group of people being born to serve another... whatever it is.  It's a tempting thought.  We all want to think that we are special, important... that we have an advantage.  We also like the idea that we don't have to work as hard as others or that things will come to us easily.  I imagine the Zoramite religion became popular for just those reasons... because we like to hear that we are better than other people and that we are just automatically going to be saved without having to do anything about it.  It's a pleasing lie to hear that we could just sit back and be guaranteed heaven without having to work for it.
Unfortunately, as with all other lies, it isn't as pleasing when you are on the other side of it... the people who aren't chosen, or the ones chosen to be enslaved or persecuted or cast down to hell.  So, let's clear this up a little bit.  The scriptures do talk about callings, elections, being chosen, heaven, hell, and all the rest of the vocabulary words used here.  But this prayer is twisted... imitating something pure and turning it into darkness, especially with the denial of Christ and his atonement, which is exactly what gives us the power to *be* chosen.  God's chosen and his elect are *always* the ones willing to live the gospel.  The ones willing to listen, and love, and serve.  The ones that put him first, and love their neighbors ... any neighbors ... as themselves.  No matter where we were born, or what skin color, desires, race, or blood, we are chosen, and welcome in God's kingdom.  And no matter how royal our line or how holy our birth, if we walk away from God, we reject that.
None of this means that we aren't special or that God isn't interested in us.  We are, and he is.  It just means that he doesn't choose arbitrarily, and that *we* make a choice as to whether to be chosen or not.  When I was deciding whether to go on a mission I read this verse: "Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work" (D&C 4:3).  To me, that means, God wants *everyone* ... and he welcomes us all.  But if we don't want it, then we need to get our lives together and in the right place before we make a commitment to do something that we will hate.
Today, let's not be like the Zoramites, thinking we get everything for nothing, and other people aren't as cool as we are.  Let's remember that we all get to choose whether we want to be chosen.  God will choose any of us, if we want it.  If we are willing to serve him and do the work that it takes to build the kingdom and help others.  We won't always get to choose the specific place to serve, but God has a place for each of us, as we choose to volunteer.  He will never turn anyone away.

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