Lesson 27: “All Things Denote There Is a God” Reading: Alma 30–31
Lesson 27: “All Things Denote There Is a God”
Reading: Alma 30–31
We begin chapter 30 seeing the winding down of the events with the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, now called the Ammonites. They are settled by the Nephites near the border and wilderness with the Lamanites, in a land called Jershon. There are some LDS researchers that believe the land of Jershon was possibly in the current land of Belize, surrounding an ancient city named, Lamanai (Mayan for "submerged crocodile"), perhaps a cognate of Lamoni or Laman. For me, this is an interesting thing, but I am not sure if it is evidence or a coincidence at this time.
Korihor is one of the major contenders in the Book of Mormon. He is described 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" (Alma 30:6). Instead, Korihor preaches a new doctrine, somewhat similar to that of Nehor, but still different.
"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.
Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers" (vs 13-14).
How do slick and charismatic people convince others to become atheists or unbelievers? First by telling them that what they hope for are "foolish traditions." To enhance his teaching, he insists that no one can know the future. Their scriptures are full of myths and legends, even as we would look upon Aesop's fables or Greek mythology today. Why can Christians today believe in prophecy and Christ, when they are no more logical than a belief in Zeus, Hercules, and the Hydra!
Korihor continues his logical discussion:
"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.
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" (vs 15-16).
Korihor insisted that we should only believe the things we can actually see, touch, hear, or smell. We cannot see God, or whether he exists or not. The prophets are not real, but are affected by psychological problems. They and their followers are either deranged, or deceived! No one can know that God or Christ exists or will come.
In our day, there are many Korihors that abound in the world. Some of them claim to be Latter-day Saints, while others gleefully rejoice in their apostasy and seeking to convince others to join them. I know several of these people, and am actually friends with a few. One former saint, Dan Vogel, writes frequently on the Church. He believes that Joseph Smith hallucinated in regards to the First Vision and other events. For Dan, Joseph Smith is a pious fraud. Another is John Dehlin, who began questioning the Church several years ago, and so began Mormon Stories podcasts to discuss his questions with others. Today, he has stopped attending Church or believing in God, and uses his podcasts to help others gently ease their way out of the Church and Christianity. As professor Daniel Peterson notes, Korihor introduced the first echoes of Social Darwinism, and many atheists and agnostics today use the same logical tactics today that Korihor used anciently.
While some may not consider Vogel or Dehlin anti-Mormons, they may be considered anti-Christs, for their active teachings are based and biased on their disbelief, seeking to lead others to stop believing as well. We will shortly see how Alma handled such active unbelievers.
"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" (vs 17).
Daniel C Peterson has a recent article in the Deseret News regarding "Korihor and Social Darwinism." Insisting we cannot know the future, Social Darwinists mandate we must not believe in the mythologies of ancient or modern peoples, that we must see natural forces (and not God) involved in all things, and that we all must manage by the "survival of the fittest" is all we can hope for in this humanist religion of scientific atheism. By the way, Darwin did not begin his voyage of discovery until the end of 1831, and the concept of Darwinism being used in all the natural world developed much later, with the term "social Darwinism" not coined until 1877, all after the printing of the Book of Mormon!
Once brought before Alma, the battle of minds began. Korihor claimed that the people were "bound down" by the priests' traditions, and taking power from the people. He insisted that the priests earned their wealth off the tributes and contributions of the poor. Alma quickly explained that he and his priests took no money from the people, but solely worked as a service to God. This quickly ended this argument from Korihor, and he went on to other arguments. But why would Korihor make such a claim? I suggest that Korihor had been among the people of the Zoramites (to be discussed in the following chapters), where the lead Zoramites did bind down the poor and sought tribute from them. In seeing how the Zoramite religion performed, he presumed that the Nephite church worked similarly.
Korihor sets up several straw men logical fallacies. He takes a belief, twists it into a 2 dimensional character, and then easily knocks it down with his logic:
"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" (vs 25).
As an example of a straw man, we see Korihor taking a small portion of Nephite belief, and tearing it apart. For example, the belief that mankind is guilty of transgression because Adam fell, is not fair. Yes, mankind is fallen, and that would be a tragedy, except for the understanding of the Fall and the Atonement. LDS do not believe men are punished for Adam's transgressions, but only our own sins (Article of Faith 2). Christ saves all mankind from Adam's fall.
Yet, Korihor separates the Fall from the Atonement, knocking each of them down as separate items that are not correlated:
" ...ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ....[the people are afraid to] 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." (vs 26-28).
Dividing and conquering, or so he thought, Korihor was able to convince many of his teachings, but not Alma.
As noted, Alma began by first refuting the idea that he and his priests took tribute from the people, and weighed them down with sorrow. Alma noted that the people were happy and living in peace.
"...why sayest thou that we preach unto this people to get gain, when thou, of thyself, knowest that we receive no gain? And now, believest thou that we deceive this people, that causes such joy in their hearts?
And Korihor answered him, Yea.
And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?
And he answered, Nay" (vs 35-38).
Alma then uses Korihor's own logic against him:
"Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.
And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.
But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?" (vs 39-41).
If Korihor insists we can only believe what we can see and experience, Alma can question him about his knowledge of things Korihor has not seen, but others have. Alma has seen angels and heard the Lord's voice. He knows people like Ammon and Lamoni, who have seen Christ in vision. He has the scriptures of Nephi, Lehi, Isaiah, and many others, who have witnessed the mission of Jesus Christ. Can Korihor see across the world, through the whole universe, and determine that God does not exist? Or does he only have his limited observations? Does he know anyone else that has observed there is no God through out all the universe? And anyway, who made Korihor the expert on whether visions and revelation should count as evidence or not?
Alma doesn't stop there.
"... 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" (vs 44).
Who hasn't walked through nature and felt a special power or force that has created the beauty that awes us? Many scientists today DO believe in God, because the complexities of the universe statistically seem to be too great to create all things from mere chance. One renowned scientist and Latter-day Saint is Henry Eyring (father of the apostle). He saw God's handiwork in creation, evolution, and all things of science. He disagreed with some LDS apostles who did not agree with evolution, yet he stayed very faithful to the Church, raising his son up to be First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. I met brother Eyring a couple years before his death, where he spoke on cloning, which was a big topic at the time. He had no problem with it, believing that in the resurrection, God may not use the exact matter we are made of, but by using DNA just replicate a body for us. The testimony he shared of God and Christ will long be remembered.
The secret here is that there is no perfect proof that God does or doesn't exist. But instead of allowing imperfect science and religion confuse us, we need to ask ourselves this question: does a belief in Christ bring joy to our souls? If it does, then why allow someone to dissuade us from that joyful belief? If it is a choice between a hope in a glorious resurrection and heaven, or being worm food, then why give up a great hope for nothing? I often come across people who struggle with their faith. They will say that there was a time when they were very active and HAPPY in the gospel, but now question this or that, and are not happy any longer.
Patrick was like that. In 1985, I was stationed by the Air Force in South Korea. I worked as a military working dog handler, patrolling installation borders and fences. I heard of a new guy that recently came on shift. He had already gained himself a reputation for being a carouser. He actually had a very vulgar nickname that every one else called him, because of his reputation. One night, I saw that for the first time, I was to be stationed with him on an offsite ammo dump. I did not look forward to spending a 14 hour night shift with someone that had nothing in common with me.
When we got out to our post, one of the first things he said to me was, "I really admire you. I once was active in a Christian church, and was very happy in it, but fell away from it. Now I'm not happy at all. I wish I had what you have."
We spent the rest of the night talking about Christ and the gospel. By morning, he wanted to meet with the missionaries. I set up an appointment with a missionary couple out of Seoul to come down to our base and teach him once a week. In August of 1985, the four of us traveled to Seoul to see the temple under construction. As Patrick and I walked around it, I showed him where the cornerstone was and about both the cornerstone ceremony and the dedication ceremony. He asked if he could touch the temple, and I told him to do so. He touched the cornerstone and said, "this is where I want to be married after I'm baptized." In September, I baptized him in the base swimming pool. He found the joy that he once lost, and it amazed other co-workers that the sleaziest person they knew could make such a major change in his life.
So it is with all of us. If you feel the Spirit and the atonement filling you with love, peace, hope and joy, do not let the Korihors in the world offer to replace that joy with distraction, confusion, and misery. The greatest evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world, is the peace and joy we find in our lives when we are close to Him.
Rameumptom: A Holy Stand or Podium, where I can pontificate to my heart's delight.