Last week in Come, Follow Me I studied the false teachings of Korihor in one chapter and the Zoramites in another chapter. The Zoramites met once a week to worship God and never spoke of God again until their next meeting. They built a tall tower in their synagogue, and each person who wanted to pray climbed the tower and said the exact prayer as the person before him said. Poor people were not allowed to worship in the synagogue even though they had helped to build it. The impoverished people sought Alma to ask how they could worship since they could not enter their synagogue.
This week’s studies consist of the teachings of Alma and Amulek to the poor Zoramites. In Alma 32, Alma taught them about gaining faith in Jesus Christ and told them that the first step was a desire to know. Once they had a desire, they should experiment on the word. He compared the word to a seed, which is nourished and encouraged to grow. We plant the seed of faith in our hearts when we have a desire to know the truth, and we nourished it with prayer, scripture study, listening to prophets and apostles. After a time, the seed of faith will grow into a tree of knowledge.
Alma taught the poor Zoramites that God hears their prayers whenever they are said. Although we are commanded to gather each week to worship God, we can pray at any time and in any place. In fact, scriptures tell us to pray always or to pray unceasingly. This does not mean that we should multiply many words, use flowery speech, and engage in long hours of solitude. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints explained, “Our hearts can be drawn out to God only when they are filled with love for Him ad trust in His goodness” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, 16).
Quoting an ancient prophet named Zenos, Alma told the people that they could pray in the wilderness, in the field, in the house, in the closet, or in congregations. Alma quoted two other ancient prophets, Zenock and Moses. Zenock was stoned to death because he testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Moses also testified that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
19 Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
20 But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them. (See Alma 33:19-20.)
The Israelites in the time of Moses were bitten by fiery flying serpents, and many of them died. The Lord told Moses to make a brass serpent, put it on the end of a pole, and hold it up for the people to see. Those who looked at the brass serpent would be healed, and those who did not look would die. The hearts of some of the people were so hard that they would not perform the simple task of looking because they did not believe.
At the end of March 2020, President Russell M. Nelson asked members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to fast for the blessings of God. In April, he asked us to fast again on Good Friday, and he invited people from other faiths and all areas of the world to join us in fasting and prayer. He gave us four blessings to fast and pray for: (1) the present pandemic may be controlled, (2) caregivers protected, (3) economy strengthened, and (4) life normalized.
About the same time as the second fast, the “curve” began to flatten, and deaths began to decrease. About this same time, the “experts” looked at other nations and saw that the virus was better controlled in those countries where the people wore masks. As more people began wearing masks as well as practicing physical distancing and washing hands frequently, cases were falling. Then we celebrated Memorial Day with people gathering. The protests began with hundreds and thousands of people marching and shouting in the streets, many of which did not wear masks. Not long afterwards, we celebrated Independence Day, and now we are seeing the number of coronavirus cases climbing once again.
Could the simple request for Americans to wear a mask be the answer to our fasting and prayers? A mask helps to control the virus, protect the caregivers, open the economy, and normalize life. Are we so proud and stubborn that we refuse to do one thing that will solve all four problems? Are we as hard hearted as the Israelites that we too refuse to do a simple task that will save lives? Are we willing to do the small and simple task of wearing masks in public?
I dislike wearing a mask as much as anyone else, and I take my mask off as soon as I am in the car. I hate to wear anything on my face or head, but I wear a mask for my own protection as well as to help my neighbors and to be a good citizen. I am an adult, and I do not need to be forced to do the right thing. I am also willing to accept counsel that may have been the answer for which we fasted and prayed. Miracles come in small and simple packages, and the idea of wearing a mask may be our own miracle.