Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, July 1

Book of Mormon: Korihor: What It’s Not; How the Law Got Korihor

Book of Mormon: Korihor: What It’s Not; How the Law Got Korihor

What It’s Not

First, many people (especially non-LDS) see Alma 30, with Alma vs. Korihor, as a religious battle between the LDS/ Mormon prophet/ believer vs. the honest innocent agnostic/ atheist, and how the Book of Mormon and Mormons believe that God supports the believer and curses atheists to death, and that Satan is atheists’ master. It shows how you can break the law and arrest heretics just because you don’t like what they say against your religion. It shows how it is futile to resist obeying the prophet, or God will smite you. It shows you how far the LDS Church will go to mistreat you, rough you up, and abuse you to force you to not stand in the way and persuade people to not believe.

Not quite. In fact, while it seems that way in many ways, it’s very far off. (True, the doctrine that Korihor preaches is what some atheists believe.) I’ll get into it all later, but not only is most of that not going on, there are many more other things going on instead.

How the Law Got Korihor

The beginning of the Alma 30 says this:
Alma 30:6 But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla, and he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ.
Alma 30:7 Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
Alma 30:8 For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
Alma 30:9 Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.
Alma 30:12 And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, (and the law could have no hold upon him) began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ. And after this manner did he preach…

So, it’s clear that belief is protected under Nephite law. As other strong evidence, note that king Mosiah did nothing to force the rising generation of unbelievers to believe and convert, or leave the land, or any such thing (Mosiah 26:1-5 ). Even when the unbelievers persecuted the believers for their beliefs, this is the extent of what was done:
Mosiah 27:1 And now it came to pass that the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great that the church began to murmur, and complain to their leaders concerning the matter; and they did complain to Alma. And Alma laid the case before their king, Mosiah. And Mosiah consulted with his priests.
Mosiah 27:2 And it came to pass that king Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land round about that *there should not any unbeliever persecute any of those who belonged to the church of God*. That’s it.
Note also that the order of the Nehors that was responsible for the previous mess at Ammonihah (Alma 16:11), still existed in Nephite society.

These show that this statement of belief not being under the law is *not* just a “display of words”, but part of the Nephite societal contract.

Alma 1 already talks about men being free to believe as they wish, back at the very beginning of the reign of the judges:
Alma 1:16 Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.
Alma 1:17 Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.
Alma 1:32 For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, and murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.
Alma 1:33 And it came to pass that by thus exercising the law upon them, every man suffering according to that which he had done, they became more still, and durst not commit any wickedness if it were known;
Alma 30:10 But if he murdered he was punished unto death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished.
Alma 30:11 For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes.

Note, however, that while judgment is not about belief, it is about crime, including lying.

In addition, Nehor died not because he was a heretic, but because he was a criminal:
Alma 1:7 And it came to pass as he was going, to preach to those who believed on his word, he met a man who belonged to the church of God, yea, even one of their teachers; and he began to contend with him sharply, that he might lead away the people of the church; but the man withstood him, admonishing him with the words of God.

Alma 1:9 Now, because Gideon withstood him with the words of God he was wroth with Gideon, and drew his sword and began to smite him. Now Gideon being stricken with many years, therefore he was not able to withstand his blows, therefore he was slain by the sword.
Alma 1:10 And the man who slew him was taken by the people of the church, and was brought before Alma, to be judged according to the crimes which he had committed.
Alma 1:11 And it came to pass that he stood before Alma and pleaded for himself with much boldness.
Alma 1:12 But Alma said unto him: Behold, this is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people. And behold, thou art not only guilty of priestcraft, but hast endeavored to enforce it by the sword; and were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction.
Alma 1:13 And thou hast shed the blood of a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people; and were we to spare thee his blood would come upon us for vengeance.
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.

Was priestcraft a crime? It could have been; Nephi had spoken against it. But I don’t know, as the death penalty was for slaying Gideon… In addition, there’s this, which seems to say that priestcraft was not a crime:
Alma 1:16 Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.
Alma 1:17 Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.

By saying “the crimes which he had committed”, crimes could have meant: drawing a sword in public, fighting in public, fighting not in self-defense, etc., and yes, murdering someone.

Back to Korihor:
Alma 30:12 And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, (and the law could have no hold upon him) began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ. And after this manner did he preach, saying:
Alma 30:13 O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.
Alma 30:14 Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.
Alma 30:15 How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.
Alma 30:16 Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.
Alma 30:17 And many more such things did he say unto them, telling them that there could be no atonement made for the sins of men, but every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength…

Notwithstanding the persecution–preaching against someone’s religion and ridiculing them for it–these are all beliefs, and not big crimes, and probably why the law couldn’t lay hold on him.

Alma 30:17 …and whatsoever a man did was no crime.

Ok, I imagine Korihor’s already on bad ground here. He’s not just openly speaking out against God’s laws (which would be “sin”, not “crime”), but against Nephite law. This is already grounds for crimes such as incitement, public nuisance; even sedition, etc. (Of course, we don’t know all their laws, but I’m assuming some basic concepts and principles here.)


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Next: Korihor in Jershon and Gideon

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