In chapter 30 in the Book of Alma, the consummate anti-Christ, Korihor, comes on the scene. He preaches that “there should be no Christ” and disciples of Jesus Christ are “foolish and vain” for believing. Their devotion 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.” Ordinances and covenant-making are tools that “bind” individuals “down” so that “priests (can) usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance.”
Korihor goes on to deny sin and give credit to the creature rather than God for any successes an individual has. He accuses church leaders of teaching untruths that they might “keep (the people) down 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.” As Alma explains, Korihor encourages sin, condones “wickedness” and leads “away many women, and men, to commit whoredoms.”
It sounds familiar — like what many have preached throughout history. Religion is the “opiate of the masses,” and those who exercise authority in society, especially religious leaders, use religion as a tool to “oppress” the masses or so say many demagogues and anti-Christs over the march of history.
I remember when re-reading these Book of Mormon sections recently — and thinking how Satan dupes individuals, then uses them to distort truth and mislead others — that Satan simply rehashes the same arguments over and over again. I thought to myself, “Really Satan, after all these years, can’t you do any better than that?” Then followed the realization, “He doesn’t need to do any better than that, this old line seems to be serving him very well.”
While it is most helpful to be aware of some of the many ways Satan attempts to deceive and destroy individual testimony, there is one part in Alma 30 that I find even more alarming, and often overlooked when read. It is verse 25, where Korihor regales the people about the false doctrines taught by the church. He challenges church doctrine accusing leaders, “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 it parents.” Note that Korihor’s message is effective, he leads “away the hearts of many.”
The chilling take away from this claim is that Korihor is lying yet members of the church seem not to recognize the lie. Simple, clear and concise, the doctrine of Christ’s church is, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression” (2nd Article of Faith). The great prophet Nephi taught this same truth, “ ye are free to act for yourselves — to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ denounces the doctrine of “original sin.” Rather, individuals born into this life are infused with the light of Christ, the ability to discern truth from error, and are personally responsible for the choices they make. They are not born evil and burdened by Adam’s transgression.
Where was the hue and the outcry from the Nephites? What members of Christ’s church in Korihor’s audiences challenged him when he misrepresented Christ’s doctrine? There is no mention of this happening. We can only surmise that there was no challenge because many of those listening did not know the doctrine of the church well enough to challenge Korihor. And consequently, many fell away.
Herein lies the meaning, and to me, perhaps, the most disturbing point of these passages. We are at risk if we do not know Christ’s doctrine. Individuals in Christ’s church must know the principles of the gospel if they hope to survive today’s world where myriad cacophonous voices challenge our doctrine.
We are easily deceived when people level untrue charges that, because of ignorance, seem plausible and offend us, and sometimes lead us to question the faith. It is both a truth and a great tribute to our leaders that members of Christ’s church are discouraged from taking everything they teach at face value. Rather, our leaders constantly encourage us to study the scriptures and the teachings of God’s prophets and go to God to know if these things are true.
I would suggest that we make this a lifelong process. In the October 2007 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught us about “Good, Better and Best” in the use of our time.
Scripture study is a worthy and beneficial activity — it is a "best" use of our time — that provides us untold benefits and enormous protection from the adversary.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World."