Yesterday in Sunday School we discussed Alma chapter 30 in the Book of Mormon, the story of one of the most famous anti-Christs in scripture, Korihor. It was a great lesson, with lots of class participation and it got me thinking about the application of reading such a story in the scriptures. Why did the prophets feel it was important to talk about a man who preached against the coming of Christ and what he taught and what happened to him? I believe it gives us a pattern to follow when dealing with opposition in our own lives, because we know that there will be those who do not understand why we believe and act as we do. I’m not saying we’ll run into anti-Christs daily or anything, or even that everyone who disagrees with us is an anti-Christ, but I think it is important to ponder the scriptures and learn how the Lord would have us deal with opposition that must come in our lives.
What is an anti-Christ? – Alma 30:6 describes Korihor as “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.” That is what it means to be an anti-Christ — to teach against the prophecies of Christ, to teach that there is no Christ. Korihor goes further and teaches that not only is there no Christ, there is no sin, no punishment for wrong-doing, for there is no wrong doing. He states, “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” (Alma 30:17). No consequences for your actions. That is the crux of what Korihor is teaching. And that is a very nice thought. It would be great to think that I could do what I wanted, be as good or not as I wanted, and not suffer any consequences. It would be nice to “prosper according to [my] genius”, to succeed because of my own skill and strengths. That kind of thinking is very pleasing to the natural, carnal man, who glories in his own strength. But, it is, from an eternal perspective, incorrect.
I find verse 25 particularly interesting, when it describes Korihor teaching that, “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.” For a long time I struggled with this chapter because I agree with this verse. I read that phrase, “a child is not guilty because of its parents” and I have to agree, especially as it pertains to the Fall of Adam, because, well, so does the 2nd Article of Faith — “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” As I have pondered on this verse, I think I have come to understand it in the context of the entire gospel. It is true that we are not guilty because of the Fall of Adam, we will not be punished for his sins, or for anyone else’s sins, but that does not mean we are entirely free of the consequences of his actions. There’s that word again, consequences. That could be the one word summary of this chapter. Adam fell, and he alone is guilty of that transgression, but that fall brought the whole world into a fallen state and so the rest of us must live with the consequences of his actions. We are not guilty, and in fact we will be redeemed of the effects of the Fall of Adam through the grace of Christ. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 COR 15:22). Christ’s atonement covers the effects of the fall and redeems us from physical death, and that is a free gift because we are not guilty of the transgression of Adam. What we are responsible for, though, are our own actions, our own decisions, and our own sins. But, again, through the grace of Christ we can receive forgiveness of all of our sins and even be free of the consequences of those actions.
But this verse shows us how the devil works. He is not above using truth to teach a lie. It is true that “a child is not guilty because of his parents”, but it is not true that we do not need a Redeemer. The devil will use whatever truths or half-truths he needs to convince the world of his lies. And he teaches the same lies over and over again. If we were to summarize the argument of Korihor it is that there is no punishment, no consequences, no sin. If there is no sin, there is no need of a Christ, a Redeemer. If there is no Christ, there is no God, because God has taught us that Christ has come to redeem the world – so, if there is no Christ, then God is a liar, and if God were a liar, he would be no god. And, of course, if there is no god there is no devil. It’s just like in 2 Nephi 28:22, “others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none.”
How should we react? When Korihor went among the people there were many who listened and believed him, but when he went to the people of Ammon and the people in Gideon, they took him, bound him, and delivered him to their High Priest to answer for his preachings. It is interesting to note that earlier in this chapter we are told that the law of the land had no hold on Korihor for what he taught, because a man was free to believe anything he wanted. If he stole or committed any other crime, he would be punished, but for believing a thing or speaking his mind, he could not be punished. These people did not take Korihor to the Judge to be judged of any crime, but they took him to the High Priest to be answered for the spiritual lies he was telling. They turned to their pristhood leader and asked him what they should do. And they ended up kicking him out of their cities. As one sister in class put it, “They basically did the equivalent in our day of changing the channel. Of turning it off.” And that’s exactly how we should react when we encounter people or things that seek to destroy our faith in Christ, or teach us that there is no Christ – remove it from our lives. Only allow the wholesome, uplifting things in.
And then Korihor was brought before Alma and Alma spoke with him and allowed him to explain what he believed. Then Alma bore a simple testimony of the things that he believed and the evidences that he had for the existence of God. “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.” I must admit that I am of two minds when it comes to this verse. On the one had, bearing testimony is the only way to withstand opposition, it is the only way to react. I consider myself pretty articulate and intelligent, but there are no proofs or explanations I can give that will convince somebody of the truth, that can only be done by the spirit, and the spirit is best invited as one bears an honest testimony. Testimony is the only tool we have, and then we invite the spirit and invite the person with whom we are speaking to act upon the words and the promptings of the spirit and pray about the truthfulness of the gospel of Christ. That is the only way conversion can happen, not through my words and cleverness, but through the spirit of God. But, on the other hand, just telling somebody “I know this is true”, when they don’t want to believe is a little hollow. Bearing testimony does require that the other person have a desire to know. I have long had the feeling, when reading this verse, that if one wants to believe in God, then all of these things will act as witnesses and proof that God exists, but if one does not want to believe in God, they will always be able to find another explanation.
So, where does that leave us? What has been the benefit of Alma chapter 30? It teaches us that there will always be those who teach against the gospel of Christ, but that, with faith in God, we do not need to be swayed by their smart words, their keen arguments, or their railings against our testimony. And that is the mark of a true follower of Christ, I believe, how he treats another person’s belief. Christ has never torn anyone down, or taught that their belief system was evil. He taught truth with boldness and without shame, but he never put anyone down, but sought to build them up, to add to what they had to make their lives better. I simply do not understand why some people get so angry that I believe something different from them, why does it matter so much to them what I believe? As a missionary people, Latter-day Saints do go forth and seek to serve and make people’s lives better, but we do not argue, we do not berate anyone for believing anything, we simply strive to help them come unto Christ, the source of all goodness.