17 November 2014

Alma 30: Korihor (part 1)

Remember back in Chapter 28, when the Lamanites attacked the people of Ammon in the land of Jershon, and the armies of the Nephites rushed to their defense? Well, after the countless dead were buried from that battle, things were peaceful again for a few years. 

 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— Alma 30.1
 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. 30.2
 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. 30.3
 And thus the people did have no disturbance in all the sixteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. 30.4
 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the seventeenth year of the reign of the judges, there was continual peace. 30.5
 Which is another way of saying that something interesting in coming up. Because, as we all know, peace and prosperity is pretty boring and the Book of Mormon usually skips right over it. So, in the 17th year of the Judges, the Anti-Christ came into Zarahemla! He started preaching to the people, telling them that their priests were liars, and that all of their prophecies about Christ were wrong.
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. 30.6
And the church couldn't do anything about it! You see, even back then they had freedom of religion laws. Which, as it turns out, are kind of a pain when you are trying to silence any opposition to the established religion in the land.
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. 30.7 
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. 30.9 
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. 30.11

So the Anti-Christ (his name was Korihor) was free to go around and question the beliefs of the church, which he did pretty effectively. He basically said that they couldn't be sure of things they can't see, and that they were just believing in the "foolish traditions of their fathers" because they had "frenzied minds".

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: 30.12 
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. 30.13 
Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.  30.14 
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. 30.15 
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. 30.16

Korihor is one of my favorite characters in the Book of Mormon. But I will admit that he took his moral philosophy a little far. In verse 17, he claims that "Every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength, and whatsoever a man did was no crime". I'm not sure exactly what he means by that last part, but it seems like he's a bit of an anarchist (which probably sounds like a pretty good option after living in Zarahemla for a while).
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. 30.17
But whatever his political beliefs were, his preaching was pretty darn successful, leading many of the people away from the church. He caused many of the women and the men to commit whoredoms, because he convinced them that there was no life (or punishment) after death.
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. 30.18
When Korihor tried to go to Jershon and preach, though, he didn't have as much success. They were wiser (according to the BOM anyway) than the people in Zarahemla that Korihor was preaching to earlier. You see, the Jershonites arrested him and brought him before their high priest. What happened to all of that talk about freedom of religion?
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. 30.21
The high priest asked Korihor why he was questioning the teachings of the church, and he answers in a beautiful little speech about skepticism, evidence, and morals. One particularly nice part is verse 25, where he says that "A child is not guilty because of its parents." The rest of his speech pretty much just says: "You say that these ancient prophecies are true. But you don't know any better than the rest of us if they are true or not. You are just using your authority to manipulate and maintain control over people."
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? 30.22 
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. 30.23 
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. 30.24 
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. 30.25 
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— 30.26 
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. 30.27 
 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. 30.28

The high priest didn't have much of a response. He didn't say a word - he just tied Korihor up, and sent him off to Zarahemla for Alma to deal with. Alma was the chief judge and governor over all the land, so he would have to decide what to do with this troublemaker.
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. 30.29

And that's where we'll leave it for today. How will Alma deal with Korihor? You'll just have to wait till next time to find out.

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