Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, February 12

“Book of Mormon: Are Saved Christians in Any Better Position than Atheists?” by grego

“Book of Mormon: Are Saved Christians in Any Better Position than Atheists?”

(c) 2010

Reading about Nehor the “All Are Saved” preacher in Alma 1 in the Book of Mormon last night, I contemplated the position of the All-Saved—and their cousins the Once-Saved—relative to the Atheist, and didn’t find as much difference as I had imagined.

The atheist doesn’t believe in God. Many people, including many Christians, claim that this lack of belief leads to sinful living. No doubt in most cases it does. No God, no judgment, do as I please…

Some atheists, however, say that the lack of a future life helps them to live a meaningful life right here and now, and that while they don’t feel a responsibility to God, they feel a responsibility to mankind for living a good life.

Many Christians scoff at those ideas. But, are many of the Christians in any better position?

They believe that either through grace everyone is saved, or that through predestination they are saved, or that through reciting the sentence “I accept Jesus as my Savior” or such, or that just by being baptized once, etc., all is forever fine.

What moral support does that give? Or does this also lead to a life of sin? Or a life lacking in responsibility?

I once asked a such-believing Christian why, if he was saved, would he bother trying to live a Godly life? He answered that though he was saved, he felt a responsibility to God to do so. I don’t doubt that.

Reading about Nehor made me wonder about others, though. If heaven was already locked and set, and all people would be saved alike, what else is there?

Why, this life! Make money the easy way, lie, shop well, live the “good” life, do what you want, make yourself big, kill someone (Gideon) if they stand in your way of enjoyment, you are saved anyway!

Similar to the effect of Korihor’s atheistic preaching on the Nephites (Alma 30).

And the other Nehorites, such as in the city of Ammonihah? Someone tries to burst your bubble? Break the law; lie; kill them–cast the women and children and scriptures into a holocaust! Kill the prophets Alma and Amulon!

Is there any real difference in motivation for the Saved Christian than the atheist?

Anyone? Saved Christians… Atheists… anyone?

2008, July 3

Book of Mormon: Korihor in Zarahemla

Book of Mormon: Korihor in Zarahemla

(for more articles on Korihor, type “Korihor” in the search function–there are many!)

After Gideon, Korihor is sent to Zarahemla:
Alma 30:29 Now when the high priest and the chief judge saw the hardness of his heart, yea, when they saw that he would revile even against God, they would not make any reply to his words; but they caused that he should be bound; and they delivered him up into the hands of the officers, and sent him to the land of Zarahemla, that he might be brought before Alma, and the chief judge who was governor over all the land.

All according to the law, it seems, right? Except some critics cry foul: what is Alma doing there?! See, it’s the priests and the Church meddling in civic affairs! And he’s the one–not the judge–that’s even questioning and arguing with Korihor! Ok, everyone, remember: Alma is the defendant in this case–the chief high priest under whom all priests that Korihor has been speaking against operate. Not only is it his right to be there to defend his side and answer the charges, it might even be required for him to be there. Also, in at least one country’s court where I have been before, the defendant actually has the right to interview/ question the accuser in the presence of the judge without a lot of dilly-dally lawyer and judge stuff–which is very possibly what happens next.

Alma 30:30 And it came to pass that when he was brought before Alma and the chief judge, he did go on in the same manner as he did in the land of Gideon; yea, he went on to blaspheme.
Alma 30:31 And he did rise up in great swelling words before Alma, and did revile against the priests and teachers, accusing them of leading away the people after the silly traditions of their fathers, for the sake of glutting on the labors of the people.

Once more, he makes accusations. But Alma proves the charge of glutting on the labors of the people to be false, and therefore a lie:
Alma 30:32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.
Alma 30:33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time.
Alma 30:34 And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?
Alma 30:35 Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain?

Alma continues:
Alma 30:35 And now, believest thou that we deceive this people, that causes such joy in their hearts?
Alma 30:36 And Korihor answered him, Yea.

At this point, Alma understands clearly–if he hadn’t already–that Korihor is a wicked liar, not just an innocent atheist or unbeliever, and I believe that Alma has a few revelations about Korihor, which lead to the next part:
Alma 30:37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
Alma 30:38 And he answered, Nay.
Alma 30:39 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.
Alma 30:40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
Alma 30:41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?
Alma 30:42 Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God.
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.
Alma 30:44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.

Alma goes to the other part of Korihor’s lying–that the priests don’t and can’t know, yet Korihor can. It doesn’t seem to be about Korihor not being able to believe the religion he wants to; it’s about his imposing on others, that they can’t know, and therefore they are liars by saying they can; yet he’s not a liar by saying he can know that they don’t know, or that there *won’t* be a Christ, etc.

Most critics completely miss the point of Alma’s arguments here. Alma could have presented strong evidence of God that the Nephites and Anti-Nephi-Lehies/ people of Ammon were familiar with (I did that in the “Korihor in Jershon and Gideon” section). I believe the evidence would have held in court, and Alma could have won by doing so. But he doesn’t.

Korihor had no evidence or proof to back up his accusations about the priests, and Alma showed it. Korihor doesn’t have any evidence or proof to back up his other accusations, either, and Alma knows it; he will create a parallel to let that point sink in.

Alma just shows that the other side of the coin of not seeing God in anything, which is seeing God in so many things; and that the other side of not having proof that God exists, is not having proof that God doesn’t exist. Korihor preaches that the doctrine of Christ is foolish traditions; that’s not the first time that accusation had been made (see 2 Nephi 25:26, Jacob 7:7, 9, 11-13; Alma 8:11, Alma 28:7-8). Alma says, you say they are foolish; but I say, where is evidence or proof that yours aren’t? As Elder McConkie says: “All false doctrines are fables. That is, they are stories which have been imagined, fabricated, and invented as opposed to the gospel which is real and true. Apostasy consists in turning from true doctrine to fables” (McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3: 114).

Alma’s arguments have nothing to do with proving God’s existence and aren’t meant to be taken that way! In fact, Alma has no intention whatsoever of proving God, to anyone–especially to Korihor. Alma is just showing: if neither side has proof that anyone and everyone can see, how then can Korihor claim knowing there is no God? And how then can Korihor claim to be certain that others can’t know there is a God? Alma just proves that Korihor’s arguments are baseless; no proof or even evidence is needed. Korihor’s universe is one of anarchy and disorder, where the strongest wins and anyone can do anything they want; yet the universe apparent–in the sky and everywhere, that anyone and everyone can see–is one of order and function. So, in essence, Alma shows that, based on what can be known through the senses and the physical world around–nature–his argument is just as strong–well, even stronger–than Korihor’s argument of survival of the fittest, found in nature.

There is no need for Alma to “show a sign” or “convince” in court; it is good enough to show that Korihor’s charges are false and he is guilty of them. Alma knows that when a wicked, adulterous, and lying [person] seeks a sign and gets one, it remains as having no significant meaning or a cause to repent (see Helaman 9, 10; Helaman 16:6, 23; 3 Nephi 2:1-3, 3 Nephi 1:4, 5). So why bother? The faithful receive signs to their favor, and the faithless receive signs to their condemnation (Alma said that in Alma 29)–and we’re going to see this in a minute. Alma has also let Korihor off somewhat easily–look, you want proof for God, I’m not going to give you any; you don’t have proof God doesn’t exist; you lied; it’s over with your preaching. Korihor knows that even without Alma presenting evidence, he has lost. However, I imagine that Korihor doesn’t like how it just ended, and is angry. So now he backpedals on some previous statements of belief, and changes the argument from one of belief, to one of proof. Very importantly note here that Korihor, not Alma, changes it from a legal questioning/ trial about belief, to a religious confrontation based on proof.

Alma 30:45 And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses? And he said: Yea, I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign.
Alma 30:46 And now it came to pass that Alma said unto him: Behold, I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart, yea, that ye will still resist the spirit of the truth, that thy soul may be destroyed.
Alma 30:47 But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words; therefore if thou shalt deny again, behold God shall smite thee, that thou shalt become dumb, that thou shalt never open thy mouth any more, that thou shalt not deceive this people any more.
Alma 30:48 Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.
Alma 30:49 Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.

Alma gives Korihor four chances to admit he is lying. Korihor doesn’t take them.

Alma 30:50 Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not
have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
Alma 30:51 And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more?
Alma 30:52 And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.

Well, what do you know!! Korihor really *was* a liar from the start.

Alma 30:53 But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.
Alma 30:54 Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the curse might be taken from him.
Alma 30:55 But Alma said unto him: If this curse should be taken from thee thou wouldst again lead away the hearts of this people; therefore, it shall be unto thee even as the Lord will.
Alma 30:56 And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor…

Here’s where the critics cry and whine: “I’m an atheist, but I’m not a liar! Really!” First of all, Korihor is not an atheist, and he never was. Remember, he just said that. He preached atheism, but he was never an atheist. Are there atheists? If someone says they are atheist, I believe them–after conversation. I say that not through bigotry but because of experience. I’ve met many proclaimed atheists; most were scared agnostics who had been hurt before by religion. That’s ok. That’s cool. I can understand, just like I understand people who don’t want to get married because they were hurt in past relationships. And that doesn’t mean there really aren’t atheists, and if someone doesn’t want to believe, or won’t allow themselves to believe, well, that’s where they are, too. “See, all Mormons believe all unbelievers and atheists are liars!” Does this story show that? Does this story say that all atheists are liars? No. Or all unbelievers? No. Does it mean that liars might have no problems blaspheming? Yes. Does it mean that someone *might* be lying when they say things to build themselves up, even if it means destroying God’s work in the process? Sure. And notwithstanding the plethora of ex-believers who say they aren’t liars, many ex-believers I’ve met have admitted that they really did know when they said they didn’t know and said all sorts of lies. Not only that, but baptsimal requirements mean that if someone is baptized, they have had a spiritual witness of the truth, a testimony from the Spirit. So either they didn’t have one and lied during the baptism; the interview wasn’t conducted properly or the interviewer allowed them to be baptized unproperly; or they had one and now say they don’t and didn’t (lying), to some extent. (What does often happen to unrepentant sinners is that one forgets or avoids (consciously or subconsciously) knowledge and the Spirit/ witnesses received.) Does that mean all ex-believers are liars like Korihor? Of course not. In fact, no true atheists and very few ex-believers could be like Korihor–Korihor had a testimony that God existed, he was personally visited by Satan, he listened to Satan and his doctrine and chose to preach and follow it, and he chose to follow Satan to the end, due to continual choosing of wrong rewards over right.

So Korihor admits he knows his words never were true at the start–he only started to believe them later (this also happens to many ex-believers); and notwithstanding all his excuses, he does recognize that he brought the curse on himself (something most ex-believers don’t do, which is why the story of Korihor gets many of them really riled up). This is also evident when Korihor doesn’t ask Alma to take the curse from him, but he asks Alma to ask God to take the curse from him.

Does Korihor repent? No! Contrary to what many critics say, he doesn’t repent. Alma makes it clear he hasn’t, and won’t–that’s why the curse isn’t taken off him. Korihor just wants his voice back so he can keep going. Making an admission of being wrong and asking for a blessing is not repentance. I’ve seen it myself many times–people asking for mercy from others just so they can continue to do their own evil things. (You know, like “Get off of me and let me up–so I can try to hit you again…”) If Korihor had really repented, maybe instead of asking for his voice back, he might have said he’s done with preacing and withstanding the truth; he might have asked for repentance and baptism; he might have asked about restitution. He could have done many of the things that other repentant people in the Book of Mormon do (like Alma himself and the sons of Mosiah, Amulek, Zeezrom, etc.). Korihor does nothing of those things–look, I just confessed, so you should give me my voice back. And what was his confession? Mostly one excuse after another, blaming others for his problems.

In the end, it says that Korihor is cast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food (Alma 30:56). Is that “cast out” from the presence of the chief judge, or from the Nephites? Either way, his judgment seems to be according to the law. It says, in Alma 11:2: Now if a man owed another, and he would not pay that which he did owe, he was complained of to the judge; and the judge executed authority, and sent forth officers that the man should be brought before him; and he judged the man according to the law and the evidences which were brought against him, and thus the man was compelled to pay that which he owed, or be stripped, or *be cast out from among the people* as a thief and a robber.

One of the penalties for owing another is being “cast out from among the people”. What is the penalty for accusing others of being complete liars to control, exert dominion over, and monetarily gain from others, and all his other crimes? I don’t know, but casting out doesn’t seem a far stretch…

In the Book of Mormon, when some are questioned–even by judges–they retain what seems to be their right to remain silent or to answer as they please. Korihor clearly gave away this right, in order to be able to speak against the church leaders. So, to say that he was forced to respond, is too strong.

Some might say that the charges were still too weak to arrest and question Korihor in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, it *was* somewhat uncertain about whether his crimes were enough to be punished for, at first. Ask most police officers if most arrests don’t start out with a small matter of a few questions and maybe something that sounds fishy, or a small “mistake”/ crime. After arrest and more questioning, or at the trial, if the defendant chooses to speak, more comes out… busted! But from what Korihor was telling the judge of Gideon, it appears he just might have been saying more than what was just recorded. Still, even if that came out only later to the judge of Gideon, that would be more than enough to send him to the chief judge and the main defendant of his accusations, Alma. No doubt he was a public nuisance to the people of Ammon, but I imagine that when he was taken before Ammon he might have said much of the same things that he said to the priest of Gideon (Korihor seemed to have not been able to pass up a chance to rail on those priests!).

So, what crimes might Korihor have been charged with and condemned for, based on some current criminal concepts? How about: continued public nuisance, lying, inciting others to commit crime, sedition, insurrection, slander/ defamation/ malicious falsehood (with intent to monetarily gain from it), (fraudulent) misrepresentation (lying to get others to follow his teachings), etc.

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

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