Alma Chapter 30
Alma 30 The Antichrist Korihor leads many from the truth. He is eventually brought before Alma, the chief judge in Zarahemla, who is the governor over all the land. Korihor brazenly refuses to be persuaded by Alma's testimony and asks for a sign as the reality of God. Accordingly, he is struck deaf and dumb. Realizing his predicament, Korihor then claims, conversing of course by writing, that he has been deceived by the Devil who appeared before him in the form of an angel, and he pled with Alma to lift the curse from him. Alma perceived that he would resume his evil proselyting if the curse be lifted, and he refused and had him cast out. Korihor was then reduced to begging and he is eventually trampled and killed while in the land of the Zoramites.
Alma 30:60 The devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.
Alma 30 concerns itself with the antichrist Korihor and even provides us with an account of his teachings. One might well wonder why Mormon thought these materials sufficiently important that an entire chapter ought to be dedicated to an evil man and his teachings. Obviously Mormon did feel justified, and we will explore the possible reasons as we go along.
Brother Gerald N. Lund in his article "An Anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon" (The Book of Mormon: Alma, the Testimony of the Word, 107-28) has suggested that one possible purpose of chapter 30 is to serve as a scriptural "foil". A "foil," according to Webster, is something used "to enhance by contrast." Brother Lund mentions the example of a jeweler who displays his diamonds on black velvet in order to provide an enhancing background or foil for the gems. He points out that this account of the "evil missionary," Korihor is sandwiched between the account of the mission of the sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites and Alma's great mission to the Zoramites.
If we examine Korihor's "doctrines," we learn that the same false philosophies he espoused are rampant in the world today. Perhaps this is another valid reason why Mormon was inspired to include this rather detailed account of the beliefs of a wicked man in the Book of Mormon. President Ezra Taft Benson wrote: "The Book of Mormon . . . 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 are 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" (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 56).
The essence of Korihor's beliefs are found in Alma 30:13-24. Korihor was, first of all, an atheist.
How might we explain atheism? It would seem there are at least two major factors involved:
1. First, with each giving in to your natural self (each sin), there occurs an incremental insensitivity to the influence of the Spirit of God. With repeated sins, one may become completely taken up by things of the world. Things an individual can experience with his five physical senses become all important. In fact, they are the only things that matter. With repeated sin, there also occurs a progressive insensitivity to things of the Spirit. Spiritual things eventually become unimportant, and even the object of skepticism and scorn. One becomes completely unable to feel spiritual impressions and promptings. "The only things that are real are things of the world, things I can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Everything else is imagination."
This leads to the religious philosophies of rationalism, empiricism, and cynicism. Rationalism is the philosophical doctrine that reason alone is the source of knowledge. Empiricism is the philosophic doctrine that all knowledge comes only through the physical senses, through physical evidences, through observations. Cynicism is simple a tendency to doubt the existence and therefore reject the very existence of the spiritual and supernatural realms. According to the cynic, every account of a "spiritual" experience or impression is subterfuge. It is self delusion. A captivation by worldliness also leads to a belief in naturalism. Naturalism is the belief that all phenomena are explained by laws of science and that all theological, spiritual, or supernatural explanations are therefore without value.
What constitutes reality? To the incorrigible sinner, the here and now of this life is the only reality. There is nothing beyond this life. There is no life after death. When a man dies, that is the end of him. Here in this life, people will succeed or fail solely based upon their own strengths and ingenuity. This leads to a belief in the "law of the jungle"-the survival and success of the fittest, and only the fittest.
There is no God and hence no revelation, there exists no set of divine laws. There is no absolute right or wrong, no good or evil. None of us is in jeopardy of eternal punishment. Therefore we may behave as we please without fear of eternal consequences. We may ignore those rules or "commandments" ecclesiastical leaders use to brow beat us. Moral standards and values come only from human experience. The ethical standards so derived are often called "situational ethics." This is the philosophy of relativism. Relativism is a theory of knowledge, truth, or morality in which there is no absolute. The standard of judgment, then, varies with each individual and his or her situation and environment.
2. The promptings of the Spirit of Christ, though blunted, never disappear completely. Therefore when an individual becomes caught up in sin and therefore rejects all things spiritual, there remains an inevitable element of subconscious fear for one's eternal future. This fear often leads to an urgent, defensive need to self justify. "How naive and unsophisticated to actually believe in such things as God or an afterlife." "Are you an adult? Do you require someone to tell you what you can and cannot do? If I want to sleep with my girlfriend, and it does no harm to anyone, then I will. What can be wrong with that? There is no God. There are no valid commandments."
The fear of the eternal future and the need to justify self is particularly strong if the individual is an apostate who once accepted, but now rejects, the truth.
This may lead to the adoption of the philosophy of humanism. Humanism may be defined as a system of thought or action in which human interests, values, comforts, needs, and dignity predominate. In fact, they are the only criteria by which judgments can be made. Human beings are the supreme reality in a natural world.
Humanism usually rejects the importance of a belief in God. The humanist may have become purely atheistic, or he even may remain undecided, and uncaring or unbothered by the question of whether or not there is a God. He may be in the category we refer to as agnostic. "If, by chance, there is a heaven and a God who chooses who enters his heaven and who does not, then he will judge me for my value as a human being, and not for my belief in him." A fear of death and the eternal future lie at the origin of this philosophy. Humanism is merely a cover-up and attempt at self- justification.
Korihor preaches that man ought to be free rather than be bound down and limited by any type of authority placed over him (verses 23-24). This argument here is intended to appeal to the natural man within all of us. We all have a natural tendency to resent any type of restraint or authority placed over us. We want to be "free." The individual hiding his underlying fear likes to point out to others just how they are enslaved by religious law. Korihor says in effect, "Look at yourselves. You are slaves to your ancestors. You are a victim of the so-called commandments." Since misery loves company and a fellowship of like believers (actually unbelievers) can be of great comfort to the sinner, Korihor hopes that people will respond with an indignant attitude: "Like heck I am. Let me show just how 'enslaved' I am." He may provoke others to demonstrate their unfettered "freedom." We might term this philosophy liberationism, a theology which stresses freedom from any restraints. You may notice that we have postulate several names for the philosophy or philosophies of the individuals who have wholly gone over to worldliness. They are all related and all share in the same "etiology and pathogenesis" (these are medical terms that mean "cause" and "sequence of development").
Finally, Korihor generalizes from his own experience (verse 24). He assumes that what is true for him is true for everyone else. If he doesn't know, then he assumes no one else can either.
As you read the arguments proffered by Korihor in chapter 30 against the truth, notice their familiar ring. You have heard them before. He raises most all the points apostates usually raise. His arguments have been referred to as the "arguments of apostasy."
For additional insight, see also the following commentary on Korihor. See also the accounts of three other well-known Book of Mormon apostates in the commentary on Alma 1:2. Brother S. Michael Wilcox has proposed six "articles of no faith" which he defines as follows:
1. A man cannot know of things to come (verse 13).
2. A man cannot know things he cannot see (verse 15).
3. Every man prospers according to the law of the jungle-the survival of the fittest. Only those things are beneficial that bring comfort, pleasure, notoriety, etc. (verse 17).
4. Whatever a man does is okay-there is no absolute truth or law; all things are relative (verse 17).
5. When a man is dead, that is the end (verse 18).
6. Either there is no God, or God is unknown to man, and who cares anyway (verse 28)?
1 Behold, now it came to pass that after the people of Ammon were established in the land of Jershon, yea, and also after the Lamanites were driven out of the land, and their dead were buried by the people of the land-
2 Now their dead were not numbered because of the greatness of their numbers; neither were the dead of the Nephites numbered-but it came to pass after they had buried their dead, and also after the days of fasting, and mourning, and prayer, (and it was in the sixteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi) there began to be continual peace throughout all the land.
verse 2 "also after the days of fasting, and mourning, and prayer" See the commentary for Alma 28:6 for a discussion of the custom of fasting in this situation.
3 Yea, and the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the law of Moses until it should be fulfilled.
verse 3 "the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses" There is general agreement that the Nephites understood and lived the ethical portion of the law of Moses, the ten commandments. Apparently they also participated in the ordinances of blood sacrifices and burnt offerings (see Alma 34:10; 4 Nephi 1:12). It is also clear that the Nephites were given to understand the law of Moses as a type and a shadow of the great and last blood sacrifice, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 9:19).
The rhetorical question may be asked, "Were the Nephites Jews or Christians?" They were obviously both. They were as Jewish as Jesus himself. Jesus continued to observe the law of Moses until it was fulfilled upon his death and resurrection. In the first chapter of the gospel of Mark, Jesus not only healed the leper but purified him and sent him to the temple to make sacrifices according to the law of Moses. There is evidence that Jesus went up to Jerusalem regularly to observe the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Passover. Jesus also, obviously, understood the deadness of the law of Moses without his own vital atoning sacrifice and death.
We will also learn it is likely the Nephites also understood and observed the Lord's commandments to gather periodically at the temple to celebrate the Jewish festivals. If you have an interest in this topic, please read the supplemental article, The Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals and Their Relationship to King Benjamin's Speech.
4 And thus the people did have no disturbance in all the sixteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
5 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the seventeenth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace.
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.
verse 6 Here we are introduced to Korihor. The sentence structure of this verse suggests that the word "Anti-Christ" is being used as an adjective. However, the upper case "A" provides evidence that it is intended here as a name or title rather than an adjective. For a discussion of some of the characteristics and beliefs of Korihor, see the introductory discussion for this chapter.
It is interesting to note that the name Korihor probably has Jaredite origins. See also the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.
verses 5-6 "in the commencement of the seventeenth year" "in the latter end of the seventeenth year" Randall P. Spackman has defended the idea that the Nephite year could be divided in half. The first half is referred to in the Book of Mormon as "the commencement," while the latter half is the "latter end" ("Introduction to Book of Mormon Chronology: The Principal Prophecies, Calendars, and Dates," a FARMS reprint, 4).
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.
verse 7 A law that favors one set of religious beliefs over another would, naturally, favor one group of people over another. Then it would "bring men on to unequal grounds."
It is interesting that the people of Zarahemla enjoyed the right of free speech much as we do today. Their "Bill of Rights" was apparently received under the inspiration of God, just as we believe ours was today. Our rights today, of course, are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
8 For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
verse 8 Here Mormon makes an editorial comment. He is quoting Joshua 24:15 which was apparently well-known in his day as it is today.
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.
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.
verse 10 We have already learned that capital punishment was practiced among the Nephites as it had been among their Hebrew ancestors. Note also, once again, the differentiation between "robbery" and "stealing" (see the commentary for Mosiah 13:22 and the commentary for Helaman 3:12).
The major tenets of the law of Moses were obviously the law of the land.
11 For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man's belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.
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:
verses 13-15 Korihor here expounds a type of rationalistic or empiricistic philosophy. These philosophies include the idea that knowledge cannot be gained by any other means than through the natural senses. Also the universe is regarded as an inanimate, self-acting, and self-perpetuating system, and there is no real underlying purpose in the existence of the universe.
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.
verse 13 Note here Korihor's use of Brother Wilcox's "first-temptation" strategy (see the commentary for Alma 1:2). Korihor uses such rhetoric as "ye that are bound down" and "why do ye yoke yourselves"?
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.
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.
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.
verse 16 Korihor believes that "a frenzied mind" and "this derangement of your minds" are simply terms for unnecessary guilt. See also the commentary for verse 22 below.
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; and whatsoever a man did was no crime.
verse 17 "every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature" In a naturalistic universe such as that advocated by Korihor, there would be no laws of God to break. There would be no accountability to a higher power. There would be no need for an atonement. People would not be motivated in their actions by the fear or love of God. Instead people's actions would be motivated by the law of the jungle-the survival of the fittest. Hedonistic philosophies would be appropriate: live for today, for tomorrow we die, and there is nothing after death. The phrase "management of the creature" refers to what directly benefits a man in temporal or worldly ways; i.e. what gives him pleasure, comfort, notoriety, and status.
Obviously Korihor's teachings would be readily received by a worldly society. The concept of "nihilism" refers to a denial of any life after this mortal one. If there were no life after this one, one might make a persuasive argument for immoral behavior. Why not be immoral? Why not just rejoice in pleasure and wickedness? What is there to restrain us? When a man dies, that is the end.
18 And thus he did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness, yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms-telling them that when a man was dead, that was the end thereof.
verse 18 "causing them to lift up their heads in their wickedness" Once a man identifies an intellectual rationale for his behavior he tends to become proud of his special intellectual insights. What a great victory for Satan! Not only are these intellectual rationalizers wicked, but they are proud of their wickedness-they "lift up their heads in their wickedness." And why not? Man is the supreme being.
"leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms" This phrase may refer to the ritual prostitutes of both sexes such as those that were part of some apostate religious cults in the ancient Middle East. These took part in the fornication that was part of the religious ritual of those cults.
19 Now this man went over to the land of Jershon also, to preach these things among the people of Ammon, who were once the people of the Lamanites.
20 But behold they were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people.
verse 20 Why was Korihor bound and carried before Ammon? We have already referred to the Nephites' Bill of Rights which allowed a man to believe and to preach anything he wanted so long as he did not urge the people to unlawful acts. We can only assume that he was guilty of the latter. Or, the people of Jershon simply saw the danger in Korihor's teachings and wanted no association with him. They desired that Ammon or even Alma should deal with him.
21 And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and bound and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land.
verse 21 The high priest Ammon ordered Korihor out of the land of Jershon.
The reader should bear in mind that Alma was the high priest over the entire Nephite land, the greater land of Zarahemla. Keep in mind the two separate meanings of the name "land of Zarahemla." Most often it refers to the entire Nephite-occupied land north of the land of Nephi and south of the land Desolation. Also, it may refer to the limited land surrounding the city of Zarahemla and controlled by that city-a small land within the greater land of Zarahemla. Other lands within the greater land of Zarahemla include Gideon, Jershon, Manti, and others. In each of these small lands is found a city of the same name. Each individual smaller land within the greater land of Zarahemla apparently had its own high priest and chief judge.
The land of Gideon is that land near the city and land of Zarahemla to the south and on the east side of the River Sidon. People passed through Gideon as they traveled southward from the city of Zarahemla to reach the land of Manti or as they "went up" to the land of Nephi. We will learn that the high priest of the land of Gideon is named Giddonah.
22 And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?
verse 22 The high priest (Giddonah) asks Korihor why he is trying to destroy the faith of the believing Nephites, especially since they are obviously receiving so much joy from their belief in Christ. In the following verses, Korihor will ignore the issue of his personal motives, but he will provide two reasons why he believes the people have come to believe in these "false" ideas. First, he contends they have been indoctrinated or propagandized by their parents (the "foolish traditions" of their fathers). Secondly, they have been brainwashed by false religious leaders who are motivated by the hope of personal gain or power. Korihor contends that this type of indoctrination is most harmful as it leads to guilt and shame. As mentioned in the commentary for verse 16, he refers to these unnecessary psychological hang-ups-guilt and shame-as "derangement" or a "frenzied mind."
23 Now the high priest's name was Giddonah. And Korihor said unto him: Because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words.
verse 23 "I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them" Here Korihor again employs the "first-temptation" strategy to appeal to that natural-man tendency within all of us to resist any type of confinement or enslavement. He also cleverly uses the debunking approach (see the commentary for Alma 1:2) and attempts to undermine the credibility of the Nephites' priesthood leaders by referring to those good men as "ancient," referring to their well-crafted laws as "foolish," and questioning their motives.
We need only ask ourselves, "Who is truly free?" Is it the individual who accepts Christ and his gospel-which gospel enables him to achieve the ultimate fulfillment of becoming like God? Or is it that man who resists the "enslavement" of the gospel plan, and unwittingly falls into Satan's trap?
24 Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.
verse 24 "I say that ye do not know that they are true" Here Korihor follows the familiar pattern of doubters. He generalizes from his own experience. He assumes that what is true of him is true of everyone else. Because he doesn't know, he assumes that no one else can. It is a defense born of his ambivalence. Perhaps he dares not admit that anyone else can believe because deep down he fears they might be correct in their beliefs.
25 Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.
verse 25 Note the subtlety of Korihor's approach. The "parent" to which Korihor alludes is Adam. It is entirely true that an individual is not guilty because of the transgressions of a parent. Hence, Korihor equates the doctrine of the fall with being punished for the sins of a parent. We know, and Korihor knew as well, that those "penalties" which man suffers as the result of Adam's sin (separation from God and physical death) are erased through Christ's atonement. Man will only be punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgression (Article of Faith, 2).
26 And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ. And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world-
27 And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.
verse 27 For a reminder as to the particulars of "the foolish traditions of your fathers" see the commentary for Enos 1:14 and Mosiah 10:12-17.
"your fathers" (italics added) Korihor was likely a descendant of the Mulekites, or perhaps the Jaredites, rather than of father Lehi. See the commentary for Alma 1:2. See also verse 31 which contains the phrase "silly traditions of their fathers" (italics added).
"ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands" Korihor calls into question the motives of the Nephite priesthood leaders. He accuses them of seeking for riches-practicing priestcraft. People with evil motives have difficulty acknowledging pure motives in others. Actually, we will learn from Alma that Korihor knew that this accusation was not true (see verse 35).
28 Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God-a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.
verse 28 "they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests" Korihor accuses the Nephite priesthood leaders of practicing unrighteous dominion-making the Nephites feel that all they produced by their own labors was rightly owed to the church and not intended for their own use.
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.
verse 29 "when the high priest and the chief judge saw the hardness of his heart" See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.
"he would revile even against God" To revile is to blame or to address with contemptuous language.
We will learn in the next verse that Korihor was guilty of blasphemy. Blasphemy is of two types: (1) speaking or acting offensively to or about the divine, and (2) claiming the attributes or prerogatives of Deity. Korihor was guilty of the first type because of his reviling against God.
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.
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.
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.
verse 32 "Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people" Alma discerns that Korihor is deliberately lying and twisting the truth. Though we do not know the specific origins of Korihor, Alma here implies that he lived close enough the city and land of Zarahemla to have been well acquainted with things happening there.
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.
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?
35 Then why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain? And now, believest thou that we deceive this people, that causes such joy in their hearts?
36 And Korihor answered him, Yea.
verses 37-40 As mentioned, Alma has perceived that Korihor is lying. Now, in his questioning, he will now catch Korihor in the act of telling even more lies.
37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
38 And he answered, Nay.
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.
verse 39 Alma has certainly encountered many unbelievers in his travels and is certainly not intimidated by Korihor. It is likely that Alma's main concern was that Korihor might lead astray the innocent and unwary.
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.
verse 40 This question by Alma is brilliant and catches Korihor in a major inconsistency. Korihor has taught that people should believe only that which they can experience with their senses or otherwise prove to be true. Then Korihor unequivocally states that he believes there is no God. If Korihor were consistent in his beliefs, then he could not believe there is no God, because he cannot prove there is no God.
Just how might any person go about proving there is no God? Brother Gerald N. Lund illustrates the difficulty of such an endeavor:
Since the scriptures claim that God dwells in the heavens, the first task the person would have is to examine every cubic inch of the heavens (the universe), to see if there was a God. But even that impossible task creates a new set of problems. First of all, it would have to be an examination in the fullest sense of the word. Human beings see only visible light, which is a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. If by see we mean only what the eye can register, God would be totally missed if he exists at another frequency of the light spectrum. In other words, suppose God were at the ultraviolet or infrared frequencies. This person looking for God would miss him completely. But examining every inch of the universe across the fulness of the electromagnetic spectrum still wouldn't provide irrefutable proof. Suppose the person marked out the universe in a grid and began to search it systematically, square by square, from A to Z, and doesn't find God in any of the squares. Could that person then say there was no God? No! What if God was in square L when the searcher started in square A, but by the time that person reached square L, God had moved back to square B or C? Let's put it simply. Korihor says he will only believe what can be seen or proven. Yet he says he believes there is no God. To prove there is no God, a person would have to perceive (in the fullest sense of the word) every cubic inch of the entire universe simultaneously! In other words, one would have to be a god in order to prove there is no God. And yet Korihor blithely denies any belief in God's existence. In other words, Korihor is acting as much on faith (not righteous faith, but belief based on evidence that cannot be seen) as are those who believe there is a God. No wonder Alma accuses Korihor of having a 'lying spirit' (Alma 30:42)" ("An Anti-Christ in the Book of Mormon," The Book of Mormon: Alma, the Testimony of the Word, 107-28, 123-24).
Indeed, it is wholly impossible to argue effectively the position that there is no God.
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?
verse 41 "I have all things as a testimony" Those who are responsive to the Spirit are prompted to see evidence of God's existence in almost every object and situation in their lives.
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.
verse 42 "Behold, I know that thou believest" Alma is not merely using a technique of formal debate here. Rather, he knows by prophetic insight and discernment that Korihor does suspect that there is a God. In verse 52, Korihor will confirm that Alma had perceived the truth.
How does one come to believe in God when they have "put off the Spirit of God"? After all, is not the Spirit of God the only influence capable of revealing eternal truths to man? It is likely that Korihor's belief in God was largely an intellectual ambivalence about the question of whether or not there is a God, a nagging suspicion that there was in fact a higher being, a grudging acquiescence and acknowledgment that even worldly logic suggests that the existence of God is highly plausible. There may even have been a prior witness given to Korihor by the Spirit which he now denies but still remembers.
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.
verse 43 In making this statement, Korihor is lying yet again. If, at this point, Korihor had been shown undeniable evidence of God's existence, he would not have accepted it. He was unresponsive to the promptings of the Spirit and hardened against the truth. Though he asks for proof, he does not want proof, nor would he believe it if it were shown him.
Jesus was unequivocal in his condemnation of sign seekers. He said "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (Matthew 16:4). Joseph Smith affirmed this principle, saying it "is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man" (TPJS, 157). Joseph here suggests that those with an inclination to seek after carnal pleasures are also likely to be those who seek for signs in religious matters. Why is this so? Those who follow a pattern of repeatedly satiating their physical desires become invariably insensitive to subtle promptings of the Spirit-they develop spiritual blindness. They respond only to physical sensations. They communicate only on a physical level. They prefer the here and now rather than things of eternity. They strive to meet the needs of me rather than you.
Almost all heavenly signs are given as a reward for great faith to further strengthen those who manifest that faith (D&C 63:11). In asking for a sign, Korihor likely knew this principle and assumed there would be no sign. Then he would feel that he had more evidence for his own position. The doubting sign seeker is only rarely afforded the opportunity to witness a miracle. In these unusual instances the sign usually takes the form of a divine judgment upon the doubter (Alma 30:48-56).
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.
verse 44 Here Alma summarizes the means given by God to man here in mortality, through which God intends that man learn of him: (1) the testimony of others, particularly the prophets; (2) the scriptures; (3) the grand design of nature itself.
Alma concludes his thoughts here with that memorable statement, "All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it" (see also Moses 6:63).
"all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth . . . and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form" Alma's statement makes it clear that he knew something about astronomy. It is interesting that the 16th-century Spanish historians who lived in Mesoamerica (Ixtlilxochitl and Sahagun) recorded that an ancient culture in Mesoamerica, the Tultecas, were men of science who understood things pertaining to astronomy. Some believe that the Tultecas were the Nephites (Joseph L. Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, 169). Somewhat later, the classic Mayans (AD 200 to AD 900) went to great lengths to erect observatories in order to study astronomy.
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.
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.
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.
verse 47 "behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction" Note that Alma uses the same justification here in warning Korihor that Nephi used in 1 Nephi 4:13 for the killing of Laban (see the commentary for 1 Nephi 4:13).
"by thy lying and by thy flattering words" For a discussion of the various forms of the word flatter, see the commentary for 2 Nephi 28:22.
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.
verse 48 Notice that when the heat is on, Korihor changes his previous frankly atheistic philosophy for more of an agnostic one. In effect he says, "I'm not saying God could not exist; I'm just saying I don't believe he does."
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.
50 Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
verse 50 "Korihor was struck dumb" The following verse indicates that Korihor was not only stuck "dumb" but also deaf and dumb.
John W. Welch has discovered an ancient practice, in the Mediterranean world, of cursing a person with speechlessness. These curses have usually been found associated with legal proceedings, that is, one litigant (opponent in a lawsuit) would write a curse against the other litigant in hopes that one deity or another would receive and act upon it. They would ask the gods to bind the tongue of the legal opponent so the opponent would lose the lawsuit. The litigant writing the curse would thus hope to receive an advantage in the legal proceeding. The earliest of these written curses date to the fifth century BC, not far from the time of Lehi. The speechlessness of Korihor, and the stunning of Sherem (Jacob 7) were precisely the kinds of signs or restraints that people in the ancient Mediterranean world expected a god to manifest in a judicial setting when false accusations or unfair ploys placed an innocent party at a distinct disadvantage. The stricken litigant, exposed by a god through illness or accident, would sometimes then confess his guilt. In hopes of appeasing the offended god, a punished litigant would inscribe in stone a clear profession of his newly admitted faith and would warn others not to disdain the gods. Similarly, God was seen as an active participant in the courts of Hebrew law in biblical times, and the trials of Sherem and Korihor show the same use of confession. Sherem recanted his public teachings, confessed the truth of God who had intervened against him, admitted his error, and expressed concern that he would never be able to appease God (see Jacob 7:17-19). We will read of Korihor's penitence in the ensuing verses (FARMS Update in Insights [October 1998], 2).
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?
verse 51 "In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign?" Probably sensing Korihor's distress at finding himself deaf and dumb, the chief judge says, in effect, "Why are you so upset? What did you expect? When you so foolishly ask for a sign, what did you expect Alma to do? Was he supposed to afflict someone else to prove to you that God lives?"
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.
verse 52 "I always knew that there was a God." What a remarkable, and moving, confession!
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.
verse 53 "the devil hath deceived me" Lest we assume that Korihor was an innocent victim of Satan's deception, let us keep in mind an important principle taught by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "Lucifer does not come personally to every false prophet, as he did to Korihor, any more than the Lord comes personally to every true prophet, as he did to Joseph Smith. Such an appearance-either of God on the one hand or of Satan on the other-is, however, the end result of full devotion to the respective causes involved. In each instance an earthly representative, by obedience to the laws that are ordained, may see the face of the master he serves" (Millennial Messiah, 72).
"I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind" Korihor's teachings appealed to the carnal minds of those whom he taught. You can be sure they were pleasing unto Korihor's carnal mind as well.
54 Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the curse might be taken from him.
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.
56 And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor; but he was cast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food.
57 Now the knowledge of what had happened unto Korihor was immediately published throughout all the land; yea, the proclamation was sent forth by the chief judge to all the people in the land, declaring unto those who had believed in the words of Korihor that they must speedily repent, lest the same judgments would come unto them.
58 And it came to pass that they were all convinced of the wickedness of Korihor; therefore they were all converted again unto the Lord; and this put an end to the iniquity after the manner of Korihor. And Korihor did go about from house to house, begging food for his support.
59 And it came to pass that as he went forth among the people, yea, among a people who had separated themselves from the Nephites and called themselves Zoramites, being led by a man whose name was Zoram-and as he went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead.
verse 59 The Zoramites were a group of Nephite separatists who followed an apostate named Zoram. This verse was probably written by Mormon, in part, as a segue between Alma 30 and Alma 31. In chapters 31 through 35, we will study the account of Alma's mission among the Zoramites.
60 And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.
verse 60 "And thus we see" The prophet Mormon concludes with a powerful lesson. Those who give their soul to Satan will ultimately be abandoned by him. He has no ability to love and no ability to create a familial or fraternal support system.