As always, remember that these are only supplements and are not intended to replace the official Gospel Doctrine Manual.
Here are some questions to ponder before we look at the account of Korihor. First, why in the world would we give any air-time to this man? Why would Mormon use precious space on the plates to explain to future generations the falsehoods Korihor taught? President Ezra Taft Benson answers:
The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Nephi 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon is similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.” (Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning, p. 3.)
Another question we might ponder before we begin the story of Korihor is this: “how do we learn truth?” One answer is through the scientific method: The scientific method could be stated briefly as:
- State the problem
- Form a hypothesis
- Observe the Data
- Interpret the Data
- Draw Conclusions
How do we “observe the data?” With our five senses. Are there other ways, other than sight, smell, sound, touch and taste to learn truth?
Alma 30 – Korihor the antichrist; his teachings and his demise.
6 – “he was Anti-Christ” What is an anti-Christ? The Bible Dictionary states that an anti-Christ is “anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel or plan of salvation and that openly or secretly is set up in opposition to Christ. The great antichrist is Lucifer, but he has many assistants both as spirit beings and as mortals” (“Antichrist,” 609). Elder Bruce R. McConkie adds: He is one who offers salvation to men on some other terms than those laid down by Christ. Sherem (Jacob 7:1–23), Nehor (Alma 1:2–16), and Korihor (Alma 30:6–60) were antichrists who spread their delusions among the Nephites” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 39–40).
7, (11) – “no law against a man’s belief” Their law allowed freedom of thought; The verse cited from Joshua 24:15, “Choose ye this day” implies that they had a choice, and that they should have a choice. Elder Neal A. Maxwell made this prophetic observation: “Soon we may see such situations in which there will be ‘no laws against a man’s belief,’ but also few laws against a man’s behavior” (Plain and Precious Things, 69).
10 – “if he murdered he was punished” Laws concerning theft and murder are still enforced today. Laws against adultery are no longer enforced in our day.
13 – “O ye that are bound” Notice the list of derogatory adjectives Korihor used to describe the believers — “bound,” “foolish,” “vain,” “yoked,” “deranged.” This is a clever tactic. No one wants to be thought of as stupid, gullible and controlled. We must be careful and discerning of those in the latter-days, who try to persuade us that we are without freedom, and then announce, “Let me liberate you from this.”
13 – “no man can know of anything which is to come” One of Korihor’s objections is regarding the idea of prophecy. (Notice footnote 13b, that Sherem, another antichrist, used the same argument).
15 – “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see” According to Korihor, the only way to know with surety is to see (seeing is believing). Do you think it would be harder to believe in Christ if he hadn’t come yet? That was the challenge of those who had to believe in a Christ who was yet to come, and an atonement that hadn’t occurred. Our challenge is different. There is ample evidence that Jesus of Nazareth came. Art, literature, music, and even the way we count the passage of the years were affected by The Savior’s appearance. Our challenge is this – was Jesus really the Messiah? (Footnote 15a reminds us that Samuel the Lamanite received a Korihor-like response from the people when he prophesied of Christ.)
16 – “frenzied mind” Again, notice the words – You’re frenzied and deranged!
17 – “every man fared … according to the management of the creature” This phrase and those that follow remind us of the idea of “survival to the fittest.”
17 – “whatsoever a man did was no crime” Whoa, that’s a frightening thought. Korihor teaches that there really is no such thing as “right” and “wrong,” no absolute truth, only what society decides by consensus.
18 – “lift up their heads in wickedness” When we are ashamed, we normally look down. Korihor is telling them there is no shame in sin, and they “lifted up their heads.” This caused them to make what we might call Kori-horrible decisions.
18 – “leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms” Many of my students have wondered, since there was no law against a man’s belief, how could the believers be justified in binding Korihor and taking him to the high priest? Some have cited Mosiah 27:2, in which King Mosiah made a law against persecution, and Korihor was breaking that law. That could be, but I believe the answer is here in this verse. Remember, the law against adultery was still on the books and enforced (verse 10), and Korihor led many to “commit whoredoms,” which was against the law, and I suspect Korihor was right there “committing whoredoms” with them.
22 – “to interrupt their rejoicings” I love this statement of Giddonah. If we really believe there is a Christ (and there is), if we really believe there is a plan of redemption (and there is), and if we really believe there is an opportunity to repent and be forgiven and changed (and there is), we should be rejoicing without interruption! We should be rejoicing that there is a Christ! Sadly, some focus on the wrong things, and the net effect of the gospel for such is not joy, but guilt! As some have jokingly said, the 14th Article of Faith is “We believe in guilt, we have endured much guilt and hope to be able to endure more guilt, if there is any reason to feel guilty, we seek after these things.” With the Savior, our joy can be full, and our guilt can be “swept away” (Enos 1:6).
23 – “to usurp power and authority” Korihor speculates as to the motives of the chief judge. The non-believer has to find a way to explain why people would voluntarily be righteous, why they would voluntarily go on missions, and pay tithing and so forth. He also has to find a way to explain why people would serve God so tirelessly and with such devotion.
24 – “ye do not know that they are true” Korihor seems to be saying, “If I don’t know, then you can’t possibly know.”
25 – “a child is not guilty because of its parents” That’s true! Korihor is clever. We have all been affected by the fall of Adam. But just because we’re affected by the fall doesn’t mean we’re responsible for it. Men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
27 – “Glut yourselves with the labor of their hands” Again, Korihor attempts to explain why people serve in the church by assigning unrighteous motives to its leaders.
28 – “nor ever will be” Korihor contradicts himself in the last sentence of this verse. How can he know that this being “never will be?” Earlier he said you can’t know of things to come. This being, Christ, did come, so Korihor’s attempt at prophesy failed.
34 – “we do not receive anything for our labors in the church” Alma will not let Korihor’s accusation stand. Alma’s real motive for service is rejoicing with his brethren.
39-44 – “I know there is a God” Notice that Alma first bears his personal testimony. Personal testimony is first in Alma’s list of what we might call a “hierarchy of testimonies:”
- I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come
- Ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren
- And also the holy prophets
- The scriptures are laid before thee
- All things denote there is a God
Many years ago, I remember walking into a group discussion of EFY counselors and non-member students in a common area of the dorms at a university in Canada. The group was discussing archaeological evidences of the Book of Mormon, and the argument was going nowhere. One of our counselors, Nate Pinnock, walked over and sincerely declared, “I’ve read the Book of Mormon, and I’ve prayed about it and I know it’s true, and if you’ll read about it and pray about, you can know too.” The entire tone of the discussion changed. Nate knew that you start with personal testimony, as Alma did. The other testimonies are important too, but the order is critical. Alma did not start with evidences of the planets and their motion; he started with his personal testimony.
43 – “show me a sign” Jesus taught that “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matthew 16:4), and Joseph Smith taught, “”Whenever you see a man seeking after a sign you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.” (History of the Church, 3:385.) Korihor’s demand to see a sign is perhaps another evidence that Korihor was committing adultery among these people.
We may ask, what is the connection between adultery and sign seeking? They are very similar: Sign seeking says, “I want the evidence, but I don’t want to do any work,” and adultery says, “I want the pleasure, but I don’t want any commitment.”
40 – “what evidence have ye that there is no God?” Alma brilliantly shifts the burden of proof to Korihor. In order to know, by the scientific method that there is no God, you would have to inspect every cubic inch of the universe.
47 – “better that thy soul should be lost” Notice the footnote to 47a which takes you to 1 Nephi 4:13 “It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”
48 – “I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe” Perhaps Korihor is attempting to go from an atheist to agnostic here.
51 – “wrote unto Korihor” Why would the chief judge have to write a message to Korihor? Perhaps Korihor was not only struck dumb, but deaf.
52 – “I always knew that there was a God” We remember that Alma said that Korihor was “possessed with a lying spirit” (verse 42). So he wasn’t just declaring what he believed, he was lying about what he believed.
53 – “in the form of an angel.” What a strange story. So he believed there was a devil but not a God? It reminds me of a joke I heard from a Christian comedian. He talked about devil worshipers, and asked, “How did they learn about the devil? Well, they must have read about him in the Bible. Well did they read how it ends!?” Sheri Dew entitled a chapter in one of her books, “Sin Makes you Stupid and it Costs a Lot Too.” Korihor said what he heard was “pleasing unto the carnal mind.” Perhaps when other people love what you’re saying, and when it gets the results you want, you start to believe it yourself. The word “carnal” means sensual, fleshy, physical.
57 – “they must speedily repent” Alma admonishes them to repent if they had followed Korihor, or they could face a similar fate. Korihor was gone, but we can only imagine the lingering effects from all the sin he caused, perhaps in broken hearts and broken homes.
60 – “And thus we see” Here is an answer to our question – why would you give Korihor any airtime? For this lesson – “the devil will not support his children at that last day.” You may think he’s your ally, you may have benefitted in a carnal way from following him, but in the end, he will leave you as miserable as he. Remember, “he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
Here’s a modern story you might want to use – President Boyd K. Packer had an interesting encounter with an atheist on an airplane and retells the story in the January 2007 New Era magazine:
Now that Korihor is gone, Alma turns his attention to the Zoramites. Their belief was different than Korihor’s belief. The Zoramites believed in God, but not in Christ. They believed that salvation came apart from Christ. This is another philosophy the ancient prophets knew we would encounter in the latter-days.
Alma 31 – Alma’s mission to the Zoramites.
1 – “bow down to dumb idols” Idols are called “dumb,” in that they do not speak. The God we worship is a living God who speaks and has life. A favorite Psalm compares those who worship idols to the idols themselves:
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. (Psalms 115:4-8.)
5 – “more powerful effect … than the sword, or anything else” President Boyd K. Packer taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (Do Not Fear, 79).
15 – “thou wilt be a spirit forever” The Zoramite’s prayer describes their theology — God is a spirit and will remain a spirit (anti-Christ).
16 – “thou hast elected us to by thy holy children” Notice the word “elected.” This suggests a false doctrine of salvation by election or some sort of predestination rather than salvation through the atonement of Christ. Shortly thereafter, they say in their prayer, “thou hast made it known unto us there will be no Christ.”
17 – “whilst all around us are elected to be cast … down to hell” Furthering the idea that they are elected to be saved, is the idea that all others are elected to be cast down to hell.
18 – “we thank thee that we are a chosen and a holy people” The prayer itself comes across as arrogant and prideful. What does it mean to be “chosen?” It’s not to sit on thrones and be admired. It’s more like being chosen to mow the lawn. It’s a blessing and a burden, like the Abrahamic covenant. You enjoy the blessings of the gospel, but also the burden to “bear the ministry” (see Abraham 2:9).
What we learn about Zoramite theology from their prayer:
- One must pray a set prayer, and worship in the synagogue
- God will be a spirit forever (Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament will not take on a body and come down among men)
- False doctrine of “election” (rather than atonement) – our fate is already decided no matter what we do.
- No belief in the Son of God, Messiah or Christ
Remember this list when we move forward to Alma 32 and 33, and watch how Alma and Amulek confront is point by point.
19 – “astonished beyond all measure” I have researched it, and Alma’s reaction to the Zoramite prayer constitutes the highest level of astonishment in the Book of Mormon. You might have noticed that people in the Book of Mormon are never “mildly surprised,” they’re most often “astonished” to one degree or another. Below is a worthless chart I compiled just for fun:
The Astonishment Continuum – The Book of Mormon contains:
1 case of: “less astonished”
9 cases of: “astonished”
1 case of: “more astonished”
2 cases of: “greatly astonished”
9 cases of: “exceedingly astonished” or “astonished exceedingly”
1 case of: “astonished beyond measure”
1 case of: “astonished beyond all measure”
23 – “never speaking of their God again” While we are busy shaking our heads at those misguided Zoramites, it might be a good idea to ask, “Could we possibly treat the Church this way?” Get dressed up, go to church, come home, put our comfortable clothes back on and “never speak of God again” until next Sunday? D&C 59:9-11, teaches that our “vows should be offered up on all days.”
26-35 – “such gross wickedness” Watch how Alma softens through the prayer: In verse 26 he says, “they’re grossly wicked!” But by verse 35 he says, “their souls are precious!”
35 – “many of them are our brethren…” This phrase implies that some of them were not. For many years, people thought that Lehi’s family and the Mulekites with the lone inhabitants of the promised land (a claim which the text of the Book of Mormon never makes – for example, where did Sherem come from in Jacob 7?). This phrase, “many of them are our brethren” strengthens the idea that they had mingled with other peoples and cultures.
38 – “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” A wonderful promise that our afflictions will pale in comparison to the joy of Jesus Christ and his gospel.