Did you hear the one about Korihor?

Wisdom From The Past

Preachers against Christ are not new. There have been anti-Christ as long as there have existed people who would dare believe in Him.

In the scriptures is the account of one such anti-Christ who made a compelling argument--just as compelling as the atheist and agnostics of modern thought. In His wisdom, God knew that following the Age of Enlightenment, many Christians would convert to intellectualism and deny the divinity of Christ.
So, He instructed Mormon to include in the record of the Book of Mormon encounters the people of God had with those spouting intellectualism.

In the record, the words of the anti-Christ are not called intellectualism. As we explore those words it will be evident that intellectualism is the religion this anti-Christ was preaching.
King Benjamin Teaching in Ancient America about Christ coming
King Benjamin Teaching in Ancient America about Christ coming

The Setting: A Pre-Christ Christian Society

About 70 years prior to Christ's birth, the Nephite civilization had the great privilege of revelation that Christ would come, and so taught it to their people. During this time, the people did not have the same religious culture that Christians have today.
These people still lived the Law of Moses, except that every sacrifice was understood to represent the sacrifice that Christ was to perform in their future. They exercised faith that a savior would come and atone for their sins just like in the animal rituals they performed.
Nephite society at this time was small, and the people were closely linked. At this time in their history, they had just triumphed in a war where more died than they could count.
They had established a church to help focus their faith on Christ and established places of worship for that purpose. These were Christian people because they waited on the coming of his birth and ministry. Their scriptures were clear regarding His coming. With the devastation that follows war, these people used their faith to give them fortitude to continue.
They did not have priest among them after the order of Aaron, but they did have priest after the order of Melchizedek who could function in the lower offices of the priesthood of Aaron and Levi.
Mormon noted that "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." Alma 30:3 Being a mostly agrarian group, they lived out their days planting and building their society to promote peace.
They had recently absorbed a group of refugees from among the Lamanites who had converted to the coming Christ who were facing genocide in their own lands because of their religion.
Groups of self-expatriated Nephites lived among the Lamanites and constantly stirred their new government in contention against the Nephites. The same former Nephites shared a different religious belief based on Judaism but persecuted any group that shared the coming of a Messiah.
This Christian society just experienced a major cultural infusion and suffered a mighty tragedy in war. It was slowly recovering when the anti-Christ came, Korihor.
Depiction of Korihor By James H. Fuller
Depiction of Korihor By James H. Fuller

Destroyer of Faith

"[T]here 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." Alma 30:6
Much is not known about Korihor because his story starts in Zarahemla as he boldly goes before the people and begins to teach the insensibly of living the Law of Moses and believing in the coming of Jesus Christ. Nephite society was a free society for religions because "there was no law against a man’s belief; ...therefore all men were on equal grounds." Alma 30:11
Because of this freedom to believe as they wanted, it opened Nephite society to the influences that would pull people away from Christ, and for them, the proper execution of the ordinances established by God through Moses.
The Intellectual Key of Korihor
  • Denigrate
  • Postulate
  • Propagate
  • Perpetuate
Korihor had a talent for speaking. For whatever reason he decided to interfere with the faith of his fellow countrymen, he knew what to say and how to say it to gain acolytes.

Denigrate - Anti-Christs Insult!

The first thing that Korihor is recorded to have done is to insult the religious life of the people--having the affect of bringing shame. Because what he said was so pointed, his words seems to have been recorded or paraphrased for future instruction--because he delivers a entire sermon based on his intellectualist knowledge. Possibly these are Korihor's actual words and quote them as such.
Says Korihor, "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. Alma 30:14
So then, and so now, the first key for an intellectual argument against a belief in Christ, or religion in general is to denigrate the system.
Some would say the freedom with which atheist and agnostics persecute religions is retribution for the evil things performed in the name of one god or another. However, what most do not realize is that the freedoms they enjoy are because the True God inspired his followers to allow free expression of faith in American and other free societies just like the Nephite societies.
Korihor went into a Christian society, a known Christian society and began to preach against its cultural beliefs and religious practices--sounds like an anthropological nightmare to purist. Even intellectualism has missionaries.
Another depiction of Korihor
Another depiction of Korihor

Postulate - Anti-Christs Speculate

The second Key for intellectualism is to define what can be known and what cannot be known. Korihor follows to says, "Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ." Alma 30:15
Korihor and modern atheist and agnostics take away any such insights that lead to things that are not explained by the five senses. It is true that the senses can be deceived, but it is not a point of consideration in their rationale--not in Korihor's rationale anyway. Intellectualists say that it is impossible to know something that cannot be measured.
If a way is found to measure it then comes the next level of the "Knowledge" spouted by Korihor and the ilk. "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." Alma 30:48
Basically, if Intellectualists do not know something or believe it, it cannot be known or should not be believed. Usually that statement is followed by asking for a sign or proof that what the believer holds true is actually true. The only problem with this is that even if the believer attempts to explain how he or she came to such a position, the atheist, agnostic or Korihor will call it foolishness. If the Korihor-like person gives the believer a try on his words, it is done so without faith or desire to know the truth.
Intellectualists are not without faith. They believe in their own words and perspective. Korihor thought that he presented to the people in the land freedom from oppression to a belief system that promotes the worship of a god they could not see, sacrificing fine animals to this god, not enjoying life because of offending this invisible god and--now this is the clincher--telling the people that god will have a son who will save them from their sinful and wicked selves, whom will also not be seen because it will happen in some far off distant time!
Oh, and not to mention that the future god-being will be born from a virgin! Faith has always cried in the face of logic. Korihor, however, was not a man of logic as he purported himself we shall discover--just like agnostics and atheists are not truly such unless they were reared to be such from birth. And only then are they such because they have no other knowledge. The same goes for believers. In truth all are on equal footing when it comes to beliefs, though intellectualists consider believers foolish.

Propagate - Anti-Christ Become Missionaries

Korihor spread his dogma among the Nephites "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.
"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." Alma 30:17-18
This type of belief system was not known among the people of Nephi, but is very well known in modern society. The things sound pleasing to us because we no longer have to deny our nature. We can give ourselves over to our own selfish personal weakness instead of mastering them if we believe no god exists to give commands and punishment--and this is the only life there is for us!
Korihor spoke the truth about men faring in life based on initiative and genius, but perverted it with denying the next life. Agnostics love to avoid the unknown. This mindset is to deny for themselves nor acknowledge that others might know also. Atheist just flat out deny God or any god. At least agnostics have a possibility to have faith. Korihor was agnostic.
In a different city, called Jershon, Korihor let forth a fury of words that left the people fluster to the point where the believers would not speak to him. Alma 30:23-28 follows with Korihor teaching his precepts and defending his right to hold his views as a citizen:
23 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alma 30:23-28
Need anyone add more to his words? Korihor passionately spread his view and won weak-hearted men and women to his cause because "the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him" Mosiah 3:19

Perpetuate - Anti-Christ Reproduce

Korihor did not actually have the chance to perpetuate his view of humanity. The reason Mormon put Korihor's story in the scriptures is the Lord made an example out of him. Korihor, like all atheist and agnostics, say they want signs form heaven to prove a belief. The scriptures teach by the mouth of Christ that "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" Matthew 16:4.
The teachings of Korihor continued well after he was gone. He asked Alma the high priest to give a sign so that he would believe. Alma told him the sign would be that he would be struck dumb and not have speech abilities henceforth.
After it occurred, Korihor wrote to him to have the curse removed, but Alma said it is up to the Lord to remove the curse. It was not removed. Korihor wandered among a group of vicious Zoramites begging for food some time later and was stomped until he died at their cruel hands, or in truth, their feet.
Said Korihor before he left Alma,
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. Alma 30:53
The devil told him to do it!

In the end, all unbelievers had an experience that caused them not to believe anymore--be it a traumatic life experience or a crisis of faith.

Live Your Faith

Today Korihor types perpetuate the notions of no Christ or God. They deride those who have faith and bring shame on religion. What can we do? Because God is not in the habit of striking all of His children dumb who do not believe Him!
Gerald N Lund advises in his articleCountering Korihor’s Philosophy writing,
Alma does not get into philosophical debate with Korihor. He doesn’t allow himself to be pulled onto the ground that Korihor tries to define as the area of debate. There is a great lesson in that. We combat false philosophies with revelation and true doctrine, not academic debate.
The truth is true no matter who debates it after the fact. God reveals the truth and there is no debate about its truthfulness. People try to debate the truth, but in the end the truth wins out--truths such as to whether it is of God that only men and women should marry and have families.
God has revealed this truth and men debate it as if it can be legislated otherwise. There is a reason God set the family up the way He did, and the truth of it will be evident in the way society looks since society legislated it away.
Nephi teaches that wicked people take the truth to be hard against them. Alma instructed his son that (Alma 41:10)"wickedness never was happiness"--indulging in bad behavior thinking that it is happiness is an illusion. Korihor was caught in a delusion of his own making!
"Korihor is not consistent in his own thinking," writes Lund. "If we truly can know only those things for which we have empirical evidence, then we cannot teach there is no God unless we have evidence for that belief. And Korihor has no evidence."
Korihor failed to see his own error though he quickly points out the error in the people of God and Alma. The irony in his observations, Korihor that is, is he claims Alma and his people are living a lie, when in actuality it is he who lives the lie. Korihor is so emphatic about his beliefs and conning in delivering his teachings but they are incorrect!
Lund suggest a neat example of the impropriety of Korihor's logic:
Korihor will consider only evidence that can be gathered through the senses. In such a system, it is much easier to prove there is a God than to prove there is not a God.
To prove there is a God, all it takes is for one person to see, hear, or otherwise have an experience with God, and thereafter the existence of God cannot be disproved.
But here is what it would take to prove there is no God: Since God is not confined to this earth, we would have to search throughout the universe for him.
We assume God is able to move about, so it would not be enough to start at point A in the universe and search through to point Z. What if after we leave point A, God moves there and stays there for the rest of the search?
In other words, for Korihor to say that there is no God, based on the very criteria he himself has established
The point of this article is to show a way to recognize the deceptions of the Adversary who will do all in his power to destroy faith--using even loved ones if he can. All must be aware of Satan's tactics to fight against them. If everyone listens to people like Korihor, all will find that they started to kick against the Saints until they are questioning the very existence of God. I have seen it happen!

The purpose of the scriptures in general is to bring to our minds understanding of how God dealt with people in the past and give us a life-lesson through other people's mistakes. God intends that the words of scripture to keep us always in remembrance of the past so that we may learn to be more wise than our past brethren as Moroni admonishes in Mormon 9:31.