You have now heard many examples of people learning about God and Jesus and being blessed. So it is easy to believe that believing in God will make you better. And people who believe in God will get better and better and better. And everyone else will get worse and worse and worse. And God will bless the righteous and they will be wealthy and happy. And soon enough you will be able to tell who is righteous because they will be so blessed. They will all be beautiful people, with big houses, and swimming pools in their big yards. And the wicked will be poor and ugly.
This is not true. But some people believe it. Even back in the Book of Mormon people believed it. They were called the Zoramites. And they said, “Thank you God for making us better than everyone else.” And they went around looking at their neighbors and seeing who had the most money and jewelry, and who was the most handsome and funny and cool.
They thought that God must have blessed these people with wealth and beauty and humor and coolness. And so they must be very righteous. And so everyone else tried to figure out what made these handsome, funny, cool people so righteous. Because they wanted the same blessings.
And soon enough the wealthy people began to write self-help books about how to earn more money to be happy and they gave speeches about setting goals and work ethic. And they called it “righteous living.” And told people to pray, to work hard, and to not be angry that the wealthy people had swimming pools while the poor people didn’t have clean water. Because God can see their hearts and he will bless them if they are righteous. If you are righteous enough, soon, you too will have a swimming pool.
And so the poor and needy went to the bookstores and bought these books. But all these books did was make the wealthy more wealthy. Because they were built on a lie. And one man saw the lie for what it was. His name was Korihor. He said, “these self-help books are rubbish. These people are not successful because they are righteous. They are successful because they are smart and clever and most of all lucky.”
Korihor did not like that the wealthy people were using God to persecute the poor people and keep them poor. Korihor thought God was made up. He was just something the wealthy people used so that the poor people wouldn’t complain. So that the poor and the needy would keep working and building the swimming pools without complaining that they didn’t even have clean water. And the more he saw, the more angry his heart became.
And Korihor was partly right, and partly wrong. He was right that it is wrong to use God as a reason to not help people who need help. And he was also right that sometimes, even though it is wrong, religious people do just that. But he was wrong that all religious people do that. And he was also wrong that just because some people use God as an excuse to not help other people, God does not exist. God does exist!
But Korihor went around telling everyone that there was no God. And he tried to convince Alma that there was no God. “You are just like the Zoramites,” he said. “You are just using God to make yourself rich and other people poor, and that makes you bad and God fake.”
And Alma had to explain to Korihor that he was wrong, and to Zoramites that they were wrong. Because neither one of them understood grace.
Alma explained that there is a God. That God does bless us when we are righteous. But that is because he is blessing us all of the time. “Look at the world,” he said. What a beautiful blessing. God created mountains and oceans, rivers and birds, and birds playing in rivers. Do you see how the grass grows up tall, pointing towards heaven? The grass tells us that there is a God. Do you see how the sun is shining down from heaven on the grass and the trees and the animals and helping them to grow tall and strong? The sun tells us that there is a God, and that He loves us all. And in that sun, we see grace.”
What Alma was trying to say, what Korihor and the Zoramites didn’t understand, is that God blesses all of us, each day, no matter what we do. He blesses us because he loves us. And when we sin, he doesn’t stop blessing us. No, that’s when he blesses us even more. He blesses us with Jesus. No one succeeds because they are righteous. We succeed because God is righteous. He is so so so righteous. He is full top to bottom with grace. He will never stop blessing you.
But it is also true that God does not always bless you in the exact way you would like. Maybe you want a big swimming pool in your yard. Maybe you will get that, maybe you won’t. Blessings like that are given to some and not to others. And if you’ve received God’s grace, then share. Fill your swimming pool with friends and guests. Because you did not earn it. It was given to you, like all things, by God’s unending grace.
But Korihor still did not understand, his heart was too hurt and angry. And the Zoramites did not understand, their hearts were too content and proud. And so Korihor said he would never believe in God unless God proved that He was real. “If God is real,” Korihor said, “then why doesn’t he just stop me from saying he is not real. Then I will believe.“ And so, guess what happened?
God wanted Korihor to believe. So he answered this prayer and made it so Korihor couldn’t talk anymore. And because Korihor couldn’t talk, he couldn’t do his work. And so Korihor became poor and hungry and weak. But he was poor and hungry and weak because God had answered his prayer. But the Zoramites didn’t understand. They thought poor people were abandoned by God. And that he must have been very wicked and deserved what happened to him.
So when Korihor begged for clean water and food, they said it was his fault for being poor. And they trampled over his soul with their pride. And they let him die.
When Alma heard what had happened to Korihor, he set off to teach the Zoramites that they had been very wrong. He walked many miles to their city and while he walked it was hot and he got dirty and sweaty. When he arrived the Zoramites did not listen. When Alma spoke, they simply put their fingers in their ears and said “la la la la” and they kicked Alma out of their church because he was very dirty and smelly from his long walk to their city, and they thought that God didn’t want dirty, smelly, poor, sad people to be in His church.
Which is to say, they didn’t understand that the exact people God wants most in His home, the people who God is reaching out to with His broken and scarred hands, are people who are dirty, smelly, ugly, poor, hungry, broken, sinful, and sad.
All artwork by Lauren Blair.
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