Reader voices: Responding to the Zeezroms of our day

By Timothy Berman

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Sept. 23 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Looking at Amulek and Zeezrom's interchange in the Book of Mormon shows ways to help answer questions about the Mormon faith.

Koji Sasahara, AP

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are facing more scrutiny about the church, its history and its doctrines. In this "Mormon Moment," the interest in the LDS Church is making it increasingly important for us to share our faith, respond appropriately to the questions posited, and to live the gospel as we best know how. Along with this increased interest, there will be a continuum of criticism that will inevitably cross our paths and we need to stand our ground to respond to such criticism. How can members of the church respond to such confrontation? To answer this question, one can rely on the encounter between Zeezrom and Amulek in Alma 11: 21-46.

Answer according to the dictates of the Spirit

The dialogue from the encounter opens with Zeezrom saying to Amulek, "Will ye answer me a few questions which I shall ask you?" Amulek responds, "Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord." Amulek establishes how he will answer.

The key to accomplishing this is:

  • Consistent scripture study
  • Consistent cultivation and reliance on the Holy Spirit
  • Consistent daily prayer
  • Consistent study of and reflection on teachings
When we have engaged in these basic principles, the answers will be given to us, even in times when we are confronted by our critics. We will be able to "lean unto the Lord and not our own understanding" (see Proverbs 3:5).

Quid pro quo — If you will then I will …

The Latin term "quid pro quo" means "this for that" and is the tactic Zeezrom employs by offering Amulek "six onties of silver" if Amulek will publicly deny the existence of God. In our day, critics often ask a Latter-day Saint this question: "If I can prove to you that Mormonism is wrong, will you deny it, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon and embrace the Jesus of the Bible?" It is a quid pro quo line of questioning that can soon undermine a member’s testimony — unless that member is prepared and equipped to engage in that type of conversation. Undeterred, Amulek responded with boldness, truth and exposed Zeezrom for who he was. It is recognizing the attempt the critic makes and exposing that attempt.

Engaging the critic, defending the faith, and standing on the truth

The conversation between Zeezrom and Amulek moved to a question and answer session. The conversation contained in Alma 11:26-46 shows a typical twisting of something that is said. In this case, Zeezrom poses a question for Amulek and after Amulek answers, Zeezrom responds by attempting to show that Amulek did not understand his own words.

This is important to understand because Amulek called out Zeezrom on the deception. While the critic may take offense to it, the proof is in the very words that have been spoken or published for all to hear/see. Amulek calls Zeezrom a liar and then goes on to show the context in which Zeezrom had lied. Amulek then expounds further on the question and the answer provided.

Amulek stood up for himself, stood up for the message of the gospel, boldly corrected the false assumptions of Zeezrom, and boldly called Zeezrom on his lies and deceptions. Today, when we engage in conversations about the church, answering questions about our faith, critics will come with their well-prepared questions, their lists of "unanswerable questions" that no member of the church has ever answered. The problem is that many of those criticisms and questions have already received adequate responses. Like Zeezrom, the critics seek to exploit worldly pride and arrogance.

The Zeezroms of today want to break down and destroy testimonies of the faithful. They want to plant seeds of doubt; they want to create confusion by using the devices and tools of the adversary. Even our Savior, Jesus Christ, had to deal with Zeezroms in his day. These people were the religious leaders who held to the notion that they were the sole purveyors of truth. They were well-educated, taught by the best, and held lofty thoughts of themselves compared to the rest of society around them.

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