Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, July 7

Book of Mormon: Korihor vs. the Nephite Social Contract; The Law of War

Book of Mormon: Korihor vs. the Nephite Social Contract; The Law of War

(A big thanks to Warship!)

Contrary to popular opinion, Korihor’s attack centers on the Nephite social contract, not on religion–which however, happens to be part of the argument. After Korihor, there were many other attacks on the Nephite social contract.

So what is “social contract”? Wikipedia helps here a little:
“The term social contract describes a broad class of philosophical theories whose subjects are *implied agreements by which people form nations and maintain a social order*. Such social contract implies that the *people give up some rights to a government and/or other authority in order to receive or jointly preserve social order*.
Social contract theory provides the rationale behind the historically important notion that *legitimate state authority must be derived from the consent of the governed*. The starting point for most of these theories is a heuristic examination of the human condition absent from any structured social order, termed the “state of nature” or “natural state”. In this state of being, an individual’s words or action are bound only by his or her conscience (this is where Korihor stands). From this common starting point, the various proponents of social contract theory attempt to explain, in different ways, why it is in an individual’s rational self-interest to voluntarily subjugate the freedom of action one has under the natural state (their so called “natural rights”) in order to obtain the benefits provided by the formation of social structures.
Common to all of these theories is the notion of a ‘sovereign will’, to which all members of a society are bound by the social contract to respect. The various theories of social contract that have developed are largely differentiated by their definition of the *’sovereign’ will, be it a King (monarchy), a Council (oligarchy) or The Majority (republic or democracy)*. Under a theory first articulated by Plato in his Socratic dialog Crito, *members within a society implicitly agree to the terms of the social contract by their choice to stay within the society*. Thus implicit in most forms of social contract is that freedom of movement is a fundamental or natural right which society may not legitimately require an individual to subrogate to the sovereign will… Since rights come from agreeing to the contract, those who simply choose not to fulfill their contractual obligations, such as by committing crimes, deserve losing their rights, and the rest of society can be expected to protect itself against the actions of such outlaws. To be a member of society is to accept responsibility for following its rules, along with the threat of punishment for violating them.” ( )

The Nephite social contract starting with Nephi’s right to rule over the others–including Laman and Lemuel–is covered a little in my Brass Plates articles. It was also God that established Nephi as leader and ruler over his brethren, so to say–based on everyone’s choices and actions. The way was decreed here:
1 Nephi 2:22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
1 Nephi 2:23 For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also.
1 Nephi 2:24 And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
It is interesting that even though Nephi and his people later left the Lamanites and established their own land and government, God supported Nephi and the Nephites in their continued right to rule over the the Lamanites by never allowing the Lamanites to have power over the Nephites.

Remaining in Nephite land was subjecting oneself to the Nephite social contract and Nephite law. No doubt that many of the dissenters desired to commit acts that were considered crimes in Nephite society but not in Lamanite society. There were almost always unbelievers who lived in Nephite society, who were under the Nephite social contract even though they might not have believed, worshiped, or acted as true believers did (see, for example: Mosiah 26:1, 4, 5; Mosiah 27:1, 8; Alma 4:11; 3 Nephi 1:9).

It is evident that those who did not wish to remain in Nephite society were free to leave and join the Lamanites or others, from the very beginning on down:
Alma 43:13 And the people of Ammon did give unto the Nephites a large portion of their substance to support their armies; and thus the Nephites were compelled, alone, to withstand against the Lamanites, who were a compound of Laman and Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, and *all those who had dissented from the Nephites*, who were Amalekites and Zoramites, and the descendants of the priests of Noah.
Alma 47:35 And it came to pass that Amalickiah sought the favor of the queen, and took her unto him to wife; and thus by his fraud, and by the assistance of his cunning servants, he obtained the kingdom; yea, he was acknowledged king throughout all the land, among all the people of the Lamanites, who were composed of the Lamanites and the Lemuelites and the Ishmaelites, and *all the dissenters of the Nephites, from the reign of Nephi down to the present time*.
Helaman 5:35 Now *there was one among them [the Lamanites] who was a Nephite by birth*, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.
3 Nephi 3:10 And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that *this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you* because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs…

In the Book of Mormon, we have the actual story of the Nephites–at the time of king Mosiah–entering into their social contract. First, king Mosiah lays down an extremely succinct and powerful summary of a monarchical social contract and its many problems, including the difficulty of breaking the social contract by the people. King Mosiah commands them to change to a new social contract, based on a judicial/ republic model, which increases each man’s responsibilities and sure freedoms in civic affairs and ultimately personal matters:
Mosiah 29:30 And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.
Mosiah 29:32 And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land, yea, even as long as any of our posterity remains upon the face of the land.

These new Nephite societal contract laws are handed down from God to king Mosiah, and from the king to the people. Importantly, also, the Nephite people agree to them:
Helaman 4:22 And that they had altered and trampled under their feet *the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people*…
Alma 1:1 …king Mosiah having gone the way of all the earth, having warred a good warfare, walking uprightly before God, leaving none to reign in his stead; *nevertheless he had established laws, and they were acknowledged by the people; therefore they were obliged to abide by the laws which he had made.*
Alma 1:14 Therefore thou art condemned to die, *according to the law which has been given us by Mosiah, our last king; and it has been acknowledged by this people; therefore this people must abide by the law.*
Alma 27:9 But Ammon said unto him: It is against *the law of our brethren, which was established by my father*, that there should be any slaves among them; therefore let us go down and rely upon the mercies of our brethren.

The people start their duties of the social contract:
Mosiah 29:39 Therefore, it came to pass that *they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges*, to judge them according to the law which had been given them; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them.
Mosiah 29:41 And it came to pass that *they did appoint judges to rule over them, or to judge them according to the law; and this they did throughout all the land*.

Korihor might have even been a non-Nephite, from one of the apostate groups living with the Lamanites.

Having now laid the foundation of Nephite societal law, we see that Korihor was preaching against the validity of the Nephite social contract. Korihor could have been more open about it, and he could have used the means provided by Nephite law to enact changes in the social contract, such as Amlici did (Alma 2). But he didn’t.

Korihor’s preaching and game, I believe, centered on destroying the foundation of the social contract. Here it is:
1. There is no God/ you cannot prove there is a God–
2. therefore, the Nephite social contract–which originates with God and which laws come from God–is null and void/ not valid–
3. therefore, you can do anything you want, and God can’t/ won’t punish you, and the law that was supposedly handed down from God cannot have effect.

While the law had of Nephite society hold of Korihor a few times, it was a minor point for both sides. The main point for both sides was that if the Nephite social contract was to be proven valid, it required proof of God.

So Korihor actually enters into a contest of “conquer according to strength” and “power” with his opponent, God, to test the foundation of the Nephite social contract. Alma, the high priest of God, God’s representative (Alma 13), stands in for God in this battle. Argument between them centers on the existence of God.

Korihor claims that there is no proof of God. Interestingly, Alma could have presented quite a bit that probably most Nephites knew about (we’ve already covered this in the “Korihor in Jershon and Gideon” article). But he doesn’t. He just takes the opposite side that Korihor does.

Then, Korihor forces Alma’s (God’s) hand:
Alma 30:43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, *show unto me that he hath power*, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.

Interestingly, Korihor has three chances to convince the high priests and judges, with no major punishment inflicted in the first two; and in the confrontation with Alma, Korihor denies God three times after Alma brings it up/ asks him (Alma 30:38, 43, 45). Alma, in the name of the Lord, then warns Korihor that if he denies again, he will be punished; Korihor still “denies” (Alma 30:48), and is struck dumb (Alma 30:49-50).

This is a double fulfillment of the Law of War, given in Doctrine and Covenants 98:
In Doctrine and Covenants 98, it is written that Nephi (and therefore the Nephites?) had this law given to him:
32 Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles.
33 And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.
34 And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue;
35 And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord;
36 Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.
37 And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children’s battles, and their children’s children’s, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.
38 Behold, this is an ensample unto all people, saith the Lord your God, for justification before me.

Note that Korihor was purposefully attacking the doctrine of Christ, the priests, and leading people away by his attacks on Nephite social contract and lyings.

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