Saturday 20 December 2014

A remarkable, exciting and hard-hitting episode in the Book of Mormon - Alma: Chapter 30

I am currently reading through the Book of Mormon carefully and in proper order, and yesterday I came to a really hard-hitting section - the book of Alma, chapter 30 - which describes the activities of 'an Antichrist' named Korihor

To clarify - this episode happened before the birth of Christ - since the BoM depicts a Christian society living by explicit faith in Christ, on the basis of the confident expectation of Christ - based on prophecy.

Thus this 'Antichrist' came before Christ - and worked to erode the belief in his future coming: the faith upon-which was based this Christian society.


One very striking thing about this self-contained episode is that the Antichrist figure's criticisms of Christianity are presented in explicit and harsh detail.

I found this quite shocking in the context of a work of scripture: shocking, but wise and useful.

Because Korihor's arguments are immediately recognizable as the current secular-skeptical-atheist critique of Christianity, and religion in general; and therefore especially valuable to modern Christians.


Edited from Alma verses 22 - 28

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?...

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 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. 

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 God!

a being who never has been seen or known, who was nor ever will be!


The various ways in which Korihor is dealt-with - in context of an ancient Christian society which practices that freedom of worship necessary to real Christianity - is also very striking.

This Antichrist is first tolerated, then dealt with mercifully - even therapeutically; and only when Korihor refuses to stop his actively-subversive and antisocial behaviours are sanctions reluctantly requested and imposed - but not by the authorities, instead miraculously by the hand of God.

After which Korihor confesses - but yet he does not repent or repudiate his ways. 

The story finishes with Korihor's grisly end, and draws a moral of of caution against trusting the promises of the devil.


Altogether, I find this a vivid and compelling mini-narrative, of great current relevance; and overall the equal of, while distinct from, any episode in the Old Testament


1 comment:

Adam G. said...

One of the Book of Mormon's strengths is its willingness to grapple with how and why Christian societies go wrong. This is probably because of the unique situation where Nephi's prophecies meant that the scholarly/religious elite who were writing the texts would have known from the beginning that their efforts to maintain a Christian society were ultimately doomed.