Rameumptom in Sunday School
I have heard the story of the Rameumptom used to teach some interesting lessons in talks and Sunday School classes. This story in chapter 31 of Alma in The Book of Mormon is a memorable one to readers, and the events in the chapter catalyze approximately 11 more chapters of important narrative, pieces of which are very popular for missionary discussions and other lessons.
The conclusions that get drawn are sometimes a bit odd however. As a result, I had to ask a few questions about it. First, for any of you who aren’t familiar with the whole deal:
What is a Rameumptom?
A Rameumptom is a word used by the Nephites to mean “holy stand” (Alma 31:21). A dissident group of Nephites called the Zoramites had built a Rameumptom that they would use once a week to climb upon, one at a time, to then give an extremely prideful and misguided prayer. They would thank God for being chosen to be better than others, and thank God for knowledge they claimed to have been given that there would be no Christ, and that God was, is, and forever will be nothing but a spirit.
It also appears that the way to be allowed in the church and considered “chosen” had more to do with material wealth than anything else (see Alma 32:2-5). This ended up being great news for the poor people and us since it made the poor people humble enough to learn about the truth and it gave us some of the most popular chapters in The Book of Mormon.
Why do we have the Rameumptom Account?
With many scriptures, I find it useful to try to figure out why we even have the information. This includes thoughts as to why God would find it useful enough to have it in scripture, as well as more practical considerations as to how it got there. For the Rameumptom, I think of the functional reasons, as well as purposeful reasons why we have the account
The first functional requirement for inclusion is for the event to have actually happened. I tend to assume that if the gospel is true, then the sacred texts aren’t made up (and the entirety of this article presupposes that the gospel is true.) Some stories may be more symbolic than historical, and although this has strong elements of symbolism, the events had to have transpired to be included in the record this way.
Another functional requirement is that the event be significant enough to be recorded. In this case, the event had to be recorded at some point by Alma the Younger (who was the main man of faith, and the prophet in charge of keeping the sacred records), and then copied and kept by Mormon, who compiled the final version of the Book of Mormon that we have now. There are many things that made the Rameumptom account significant.
One thing that made it significant was the degree of widespread doctrinal perversion. The Zoramites had gone so far from the truth that they had previously followed that it caused Alma to exclaim in Alma 31:26:
O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?
Alma continues with a prayer that hopefully never gets said about any of us. Alma was clearly very grieved at the whole situation, and undoubtedly had no trouble getting motivated to record it.
Another thing that made it significant was the quality of the sermons and doctrine given during the subsequent narrative. Alma 32 contains many gems about humility and faith, and came about because Alma and Amulek had the opportunity to teach the poor people who were cast out of their churches. It gave us famous verses like Alma 32:16:
Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without subbornness of heart…
And Alma 32:21 about faith:
And now as I said concerning faith–faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if he have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
And Alma 32:27, just before Alma starts his comparison of faith to a seed:
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
Another thing that made it so significant was the violent episode that followed. The Zoramites that were part of the Rameumptom racket ended up kicking the believers out of the land in chapter 35, then went to war in chapter 43. and 44.
The Rameumptom episode also provided context for Alma’s council to his sons in chapters 36-42. That’s where we see the famous chiasmus in Alma’s retelling of his conversion story, and learn significant doctrine concerning the spirit world and resurrection such as Alma 40:23:
The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yeah, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.
Many of the most memorable narratives in The Book of Mormon came as a result of the Rameumptom episode.
There are many important lessons this story has on its own right that would have influenced Alma and Mormon to keep it in the records.
This narrative really hits on the sins of pride. The Zoramites allowed themselves to be deceived and their doctrine to be polluted as they sought more for self-aggrandizement than truth. It’s no surprise that having hearts set on unimportant or material things leads people away from God, but the Zoramites demonstrated how easy it can be for even people that once had a knowledge of the truth to stray.
The narrative also demonstrated how much harder it is to return to the Gospel after leaving it. Again, many of the people were consumed by pride, and it seems the only ones that returned to the truth were the ones poor enough for the Zoramites to kick out. These people were humble enough to accept direction. The big take-away for us is to focus on being humble before you become poor and kicked out of society.
The Zoramite’s prayer also helps remind us of many gospel truths as it shows us how not to pray. A recurring theme in their prayer can be summed up in Alma 31:18:
we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people
But it wasn’t enough for them to simply be chosen, it also mean that everyone else was condemned to hell because they weren’t as chosen as they were. However, we know from scriptures like Acts 10:34-35 that:
God is no respecter of persons:
But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
That’s not quite what the Zoramites had in mind at the time.
The narrative also reinforces our understanding that church and spirituality are not meant to be once-a-week things. Just to drive that home, Alma 31:23 tells us that after they finished their “prayer,” they
returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand…
In case we weren’t sure that we should have God in our lives all the time, the Zoramite’s behavior noted above gave Alma a chance to be extra clear on what’s expected.
The story also drives home other important points, such as how church isn’t meant to be some sort of show, that we shouldn’t make material possessions our goal, that we need to have compassion for others in spite of their circumstances, etc.
Alma’s good example also teaches us a few lessons. Alma gave us an example of showing compassion and praying for people that cause us problems. Alma records a prayer that he said with his missionary group, and although it starts with some clear frustration in Alma 31:26:
O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?
but by verse 35 he’s saying
O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren…
They then proceed to labor under very difficult circumstances to try to help their brethren return to the truth.
One last thing I’ll mention about what we can learn from the story: the importance of having multiple witnesses when speaking of the truth. Alma didn’t come alone, but he brought his BFF Amulek, some of his sons, and a few others to go with him to help re-share the gospel to the Zoramites. It’s like 2 Corinthians 13:1 says:
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
Who was the Rameumptom Account Written For?
To me, this is one of the most interesting questions. I think this because every once in a while I’ll hear this story abused or its lessons misunderstood. It’s easy to think that this event was recorded to bash on other faiths that worship in ways we would find faulty. People will sometimes use the story to talk about the pride, the confusion, the or go-to-church-once-a-week-ism of others. This is understandable; it can feel good to point fingers at others and feel like you have something on them. Most people would also never suspect that they would ever commit egregious sins themselves anyway.
It’s my opinion that when Mormon included this account while he compiled the Book of Mormon that he probably had the sins of the believers in mind more than those of the unbelievers.
First, I think he was aware that not many people who did not believe his writings would end up ever hearing about the story. It really does no good to tell a group of people to shape-up if they are never going to receive the message you send. This means that the warnings against becoming prideful and seeking more after riches than after God are probably meant for people in Christ’s church. Since scratching out writings on metal plates probably isn’t much fun, I would also assume that bothering to include that whole story to teach those principles means that Mormon was inspired by God of the importance of including it. It’s not unreasonable to bet that we would have struggles with these principles in our day.
Heck, Mormon saw the Nephites struggle with this a bunch of times in his own days and throughout the entire Nephite record. They didn’t always have problems as obvious and dramatic as a Rameumptom, but there were frequently instances like that found in 3 Nephi 6:10,12-13:
But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches…
And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning…
Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions…
So what does all this mean? It means that when the story of the Rameumptom is used to say that other churches suck, that we’re “doing the Rameumptom.” It means that when we think ourselves superior to others for having the truth, we’re doing the Rameumptom. It means that spending a ton of time talking about how completely lost and ridiculous others are, or how wicked the rest of the world is, without action and compassion behind trying to provide solutions to perceived problems, we’re doing the Rameumptom. When we go to church and act like a good person once a week and disregard the gospel the rest of the week, we do the Rameumptom. When we stop attending church because we think others there are doing the Rameumptom, we do the Rameumptom.
Alma knew that recording that example would be important to future generations. Mormon knew that followers of Christ would need it in our day. It’s a lot easier than we think to “do the Rameumptom,” so we ought to use this dramatic example to help keep an image in our mind as to what we’re really doing when pride starts to leak in.
Keep seeking truth.