Friday, August 15, 2014

Alma 30: Korihor the Not-So-Terrible-After-All

Korihor enters, stage left.  Korihor is an Anti-Christ, which in the Book of Mormon just means he's a successful preacher of non-Mormon values.  He tries to convince the Nephites that there is no God and that they should pretty much do whatever they want because nothing special happens after they die.  Expectedly, the existing religious establishment in the area becomes uncomfortable.

Only God Can Make Us Unequal
As Korihor begins leading away the righteous, this chapter is careful to point out that there is, in fact, freedom of religion under Nephite rule.
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.
Here, God is saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."  Though God has apparently ensured that there can be no law among the Nephites that would promote inequality, he's free to make other groups of people unequal as he sees fit.  And, yes, for about the six thousandth time, I'm referencing the curse of dark skin that God put on the Lamanites so that his precious Nephites wouldn't sully their seed with corrupted Lamanite blood.

Also, this verse sounds like a pretty good reason to legalize gay marriage, but I doubt your average Mormon would see it that way.

Ammon Disobeys God
After spreading his damnable lies among the Nephites, Korihor travels to their protectorate, the land of the people of Ammon (the ones who used to be called the Anti-Nephi-Lehies).  The people of Ammon, however, weren't quite so gullible:
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.
And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. 
We just got done talking about how there could be no legal ramifications for believing differently than anyone else because God wanted everyone to be equal...and then this happens.

Korihor, who theoretically is supposed to be able to believe and preach whatever religion he wants to, is put under some kind of citizen's arrest and taken before Ammon, who decides to deport him.  That sounds like a legal punishment to me.  This is freedom of religion?

And not only that, but Ammon has just directly disobeyed what verse 7 explained was God's will.

Korihor Knocks one Out of the Park
In the land of Gideon, Korihor is brought before the high priest, who questions why he's teaching all these awful things among the people.  Our favorite Anti-Christ responds with another accidentally prophetic section of the Book of Mormon (see Ammonihah:  A Portent of Things to Come).  
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.
Ye say that this 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.
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.
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
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.
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 Goda being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.
This is gonna be good...
He gets a little darker than I would at the end there, what with the there has never been a God stuff.  But despite the length of this quote, I kind of had to include it all.  It speaks so dramatically and so eloquently to the current state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that it's uncanny.

Korihor knew what he was talking about.

Yes, of Course, the Planets!
When Korihor is brought before Alma and the chief judge over the entirety of Nephite civilization, Alma makes a weird statement:  "What evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?  I say unto you, ye have none, save it be your word only."

After accusing Korihor of having no evidence to support his claim, Alma then rebukes him for having the audacity to request that Alma not be a complete hypocritical ass and provide his own evidence that God does exist.  Korihor merely asks for a sign that God exists.  Probably frothing at the mouth, Alma responds:
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 the 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.
Oh, hon.  That's what you call circumstantial evidence.  You expect a skeptic to buy into any of that crap?  He wants a sign, not a sermon.

And also, how exactly are the planets supposed to help Korihor realize God exists?  Copernicus won't be born for another fifteen hundred years or so.  The telescope won't be invented for another century or so after that.  What are you going to do, Alma?  Point up into the night sky and say, "Look at that little shiny dot over there.  That's not always in that same spot in the sky because it moves!  Checkmate, God is real!"

More Groupthink
The chief priest's public service announcement informing his people of Korihor's deception has an overwhelmingly effective impact:
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.
That was easy!
For like the zillionth time, Joseph Smith makes his ancient American civilizations act in completely unified groups that often break down along racial lines.  Although the racial aspect doesn't appear to be present in this particular example, it's still absurd to think that a simple edict from Alma calling Korihor's followers to repentance would immediately re-convert every last one of them to the true church.  

Come on.  People aren't like that.

The Fate of Almihor
So let's review the plot of this chapter:
  • Korihor preaches bad stuff
  • People start believing what Korihor is saying
  • Korihor is brought before Alma
  • Alma reprimands Korihor with all the fire and vitriol of his prophetic calling
  • Korihor asks for a sign that God exists
  • Alma has God strike Korihor dumb
  • Korihor writes that he'd been deceived by the devil and he really knew God was real all along
  • Alma throws Korihor out into the streets without lifting his curse of muteness
  • Korihor has to beg for food
  • Korihor is trampled to death
So this huge threat to the membership of the church turns out to be a dude that said he was tricked by the devil, who appeared in the form of an angel.  When his beliefs are challenged, he makes no argument other than to ask for a sign that his challenger is correct.  He's not exactly a skilled debater, but we're expected to believe that he led away a number of the Lord's faithful from their deeply entrenched and culturally reinforced beliefs?

And then, because Korihor dares to ask for the E-word (that is, evidence), he's struck dumb and has to write out his full confession.  Reading this part as a faithful member of the church, this was a moment of supreme comeuppance.  He got what he deserved, admitted he was wrong, was cast out as a beggar and eventually meets an undignified demise.  It's all very neat and kind of wrapped up in this fable-esque kind of self-righteous schadenfreude ending.

But it shouldn't be.  Think of the similarities between Alma and Korihor.  In his youth, Alma the Younger worked against the church and spent his time tearing town the testimonies of the members (see Mosiah 27).  Alma, however, due to the prayers of his father, was visited by an angel and given a chance to repent of his sins.  When he realized that he had been wrong, he completely turned himself around and became a proponent and a leader of the church.

Why doesn't Korihor get that same chance?  He gets no heavenly visitation.  He admits that he was wrong and professes the truth, but instead of being in a coma for a while so he can battle his inner demons, repent, and wake up refreshed and righteous, he gets kicked to the curb and trampled.  Not only does this seem incredibly unfair on God's part, but it also seems horribly insensitive on Alma's.  Wouldn't Alma have seen a little of himself in Korihor and had compassion for him?  Wouldn't he have wanted to help Korihor find his way back to the church the same way he had?

Nope.  Let him fend for himself and then feel smug when he gets killed, that's the spirit.

Always Blame the Devil
Now let's move on to the moral of the story:
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.
Sure, it's the devil's fault.  And why wouldn't it be?

First of all, we don't clearly see the end of those who pervert the ways of the Lord, because we have a success story (Alma) and a failure story (Korihor) occupying the same chapter.  Both fought God, one was saved, and one was not.  The only real difference between them seems to be that Alma's daddy was the prophet and Korihor's wasn't.

Which leads me to point out that it's not just the devil who doesn't support his children.  God doesn't either.  He didn't give Korihor the same second chance he gave Alma the Younger.  He just took his voice and then let the devil do the dragging.  That's pretty cold for a loving, benevolent creator.

Poor Korihor.  


  1. I wish I'd had these excellent "cliff notes" back when I was attending seminary.

    1. Sadly, when I was in seminary I liked this chapter a lot. Alma sure showed him!

      Too bad we didn't realize how messed up it all was back then.

  2. The devil has NO children. They are all god's children, and apparently god doesn't understand the atonement of Jesus. Thanks for pointing out the absurdity of this story that never made sense to me. I agree with you, that statement by Korihor is prophetic. In fact, he is probably the most accurate prophet in the entire Book of Mormon.

    1. I was assuming that the term "children" was being used metaphorically to denote followers. I guess I was giving it the benefit of the doubt.

      Which is silly, because the whole point of these posts is to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    2. I totally agree with you. It is used metaphorically. You were simply pulling it from the verse you quoted. It is silly. What parent abandons his children that way? A loving parent would do everything he could to support and help his child. In the Book of Mormon, god allows his prophets to be murdered as a witness against the murderers, children to be cursed because of the sins of their parents, and repentant people to be cast out and killed. It's messed up!

    3. Definitely messed up. The Book of Mormon spends so much time calling God just and loving and merciful but he perpetrates or condones so manu atrocities in its pages. And he doesn't even apply similar punishments to similar crimes, as in the cases of Alma and Korihor.

  3. He tries to convince the Nephites that there is no God and that they should pretty much do whatever they want because nothing special happens after they die.

    Kind of like the conclusion that the author of Ecclesiastes comes to.

    1. Wow, I bet that's a fun lesson to teach! "Trust in God, beat your children and enjoy life. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."