Alma 30: The Pattern of Korihor

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Now the people of Ammon have settled in their new land, and defended, and mourned those who were lost in war (verse 1), they were a people of peace (verse 2).  They were deeply converted, keeping the commandments of the Lord and strict in observing his ordinances (verse 3).  These laws developed a people who lived well, and at-one with each other, because they believed that Christ would soon come and they lived prepared to welcome Him (verse 4).  This brought peace for all the people (verse 5).

But then came trouble.  A man came who did not believe in Christ.  He told the people they were wrong for believing the prophesies of ancient texts and of living prophets (verse 6).  This man could do so because the people had freedom laws that protected each individual’s right to believe as they decided, and to worship as they please (verse 7).  While the people had kept that law because they knew what it was like to be persecuted for their beliefs, this man used the law to preach against them with his own right to believe what he wanted.  Just as the people remembered the words of Joshua, to “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve” (verse 8; see Joshua 24:15), and used the motto to remember that they had chosen to follow and serve the Lord, so this man used it as his defense to know that He was not choosing and not serving.  This was the political culture at the time:

“Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him” (verse 9).  The people have been through so much persecution that they do not want laws deciding their religion, and so also respect the rights of those who do not choose to be converted.  However, if someone tried to harm others (murder, robbery, adultery), there were laws about that (verse 10).  In this way, “men should be judged according to their crimes.  Nevertheless, there was no law against man’s belief” (verse 11).

So this man, with the right to say what he does (or does not) believe, comes to town to say he does not believe.  His name is Korihor, and he “began to preach to the people that there should be no Christ” (verse 12).  He told the people they were foolish with false hopes (verse 13).  He told them that what they believed were prophecies handed down by holy prophets were only foolish traditions (verse 14).  He said there is no way to know these things are true, and so it is all silliness (verse 15).  He called them crazy for thinking that a Christ would come to provide a way for sins to be forgiven, and said instead that people will do as well as they can think and use their own strength to live well (verse 17).

“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” (verse 18).

Korihor tells the people there is no Christ, no Heaven, and that dead is dead – so eat, drink, and be merry!  It is a hedonistic message, but childish in nature and without the wisdom of other ancients who at least maintained balance and purpose.  Korihor removes all meaning from life, leaving no purpose in living well or any reason to live well.  It is all for self-pleasure, even at the expense of others.

The people, however, know that this is not wise, much less consistent with their spiritual beliefs.  So they take him to Ammon to decide what to do with him (verse 20).  Ammon asks Korihor to just leave their peaceful people alone, thus leaving him with his ability to choose for himself but also keeping the covenants of the people not to declare war.

Korihor respects this, and leaves, but goes “next door” to another people and preaches the same thing, and again gets brought before the leader (verse 21).  This leader, Giddonah, questions him, asking Korihor why he would take the words from a God he doesn’t believe in, and pervert them?  Why does he want to disturb the people who are at peace, living well, and happy?  Why does he speak against the prophets?  (verse 22).

Korihor answers him, saying that he is not twisting the words of a God he doesn’t believe in; he is only pointing out foolish traditions that keep the people in ignorance and oppression (verse 23).  He says he does not believe the ancient prophesies (that a Christ shall come) are true.  He does not say they are false, he just says he does not know how to know if they are true (verse 24).  He says he doesn’t understand why the people are “fallen” because of what their ancestors did (verse 25).  He says there is no way to know that there will really be a Christ, and no way to know that He will really be sacrificed for the entire human race to be redeemed (verse 26).  He says the church is oppressive, keeping the people from being bold and enjoying their rights as humans (verse 27) in fear of offending “some unknown being, who they say is God – a being who has never been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be” (verse 28).

When Giddonah heard these words, and saw how hard Korihor’s heart was, he did not even bother to reply to his words.  This is a reminder of how Alma and the other missionaries “held their peace” when accused while on their mission, and a type and shadow of the Savior who will “hold his peace” when being falsely accused by those in process of killing Him.

There is a time to engage in good discourse, healthy discussion, and even share differing opinions.  But there is no point in engaging in negative or ugly verbal battle with one who is closed-minded or already decided or unable to find common ground.  When one is shaming or demeaning another belief, that is not discussing it in healthy and appropriate ways like grown-ups.  It is childish and ugly, and that is the time to hold our peace and not engage.

So instead, Giddonah sends Korihor to the prophet Alma, who was the leader of all the land (verse 29).  When Korihor arrived, he did the same thing: offending instead of discussing, and ridiculing instead of respecting (verse 30), and accusing instead of uniting on common ground (verse 31).

Alma rebukes him, saying that even Korihor himself knows the leaders of the people do not oppress the believers.  The leaders of the church do not take the people’s money, but labor with their own hands doing their own work to support their own families (verse 32).  All of this they do, like our church today where our un-paid Bishops keep their day jobs, and are not paid by the church (verse 33).  So there is no profit for them, he says, other than teaching the truth and the joy of the people (verse 34).

Yet it is Korihor who is preaching to the people for personal gain, and the one deceiving the people and stealing their joy (verse 35).

Korihor himself agrees with this (verse 36).

Now that Korihor has been called out, and is at least responding, it is finally time to engage him in discussion.  Alma asks him if he believes in God (verse 37), and Korihor says that he does not (verse 38).

Alma clarifies, asking if Korihor is denying there is a God and thus also denying Christ, and testifies to Korihor that he (Alma) believes there is a God and that Christ will come as the ancient prophets promised (verse 39).  He points out that Korihor has no evidence that there is no God (verse 40), while he himself (Alma) has evidence there is a God, because he feels the truth inside of him and sees the evidence of it in his own life and in the lives of his people (verse 41).  Alma tells Korihor that he (Alma) knows that he (Korihor) really does believe in God, and that Christ will come, but that he (Korihor) is lying, “working devices that he (the devil) may destroy the children of God” (verse 42).

To this Korihor replied that he would believe if he could only have a sign (verse 43).

And thus it is that the pattern of Korihor is established.  Those who are after the pattern of Korihor are those who seek evidence of God before believing in Him (the evidence always comes after believing, and miracles always follow faith) and those who offend instead of discuss, and ridicule instead of respect (verse 30), and accuse instead of uniting on common ground (verse 31).  And, if we go back to verse 18, we see how this pattern is always connected to sexual sin.

This is why, over and over again, those involved with sexual sin of any sort – even “minor” (as if such were possible) cases of inappropriate emotional attachment, are almost always those who also ridicule church leaders, accuse others of what they themselves are doing wrong, and offend the people they should be helping or sustaining.  This is why, over and over again, those involved with sexual sin also struggle with their testimonies, and/or have a deep need to recognize signs or proof or evidence of God before they can believe in Him or believe Him (which is different from believing Him, and being aware of the evidence that follows and giving Him credit for it).  These are the people who rely on the miracles of others instead of creating their own, and these are those who create destruction through affairs, inappropriate emotional attachments, or other sexual sins by trading their birthright (celestial-ness for eternity) for a pot of porridge (immediate gratification) (see Genesis 25:31-34).

This is the pattern of Korihor, the sexual sin, the offending others, the refusing to discuss issues to resolve them, and sign-seeking.  Pride, as we learn later in verse 53, is always a part of this.

Alma responds, saying that Korihor has already had plenty of signs, including the testimonies of all those who have already talked with him, and the evidence in their changed lives.  Even the earth testifies of God, he says, “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” (verse 44).

And yet still, with all that evidence, with all those signs, you do not believe, Alma says.  And with all those signs, with all that evidence, you want to make other people not believe.   And Korihor says that this is true, that he wants another sign to know that God is real (verse 45).

And so Alma gives him what he asks, after having warned him to be careful what you wish for, and he says to Korihor, “I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart, yea, that ye will still resist the spirit of the truth, that thy soul may be destroyed… if thou shalt deny again, behold God shall smite thee, that thou shalt become dumb, that thou shalt never open thy mouth any more, that thou shalt not deceive this people any more” (verse 47).

This gets Korihor’s attention enough that he starts to back-peddle, saying that he did not deny the existence of God, but that he only said he did not believe there is a God and that the people also cannot know there is a God.  Then he says it out loud once more: “… except ye show me a sign, I will not believe” (verse 48).

So Alma gives him the sign for which he asks: “This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance” (verse 49).  Soon as he said this, it happened!  Korihor could no longer speak (verse 50).

Now Korihor responds by writing, “I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me” and then he even recants, saying, “and I always knew there was a God” (verse 52).  He writes that it is true what Alma had said, that the devil had deceived him, appealing to his pride, giving him the idea that he could save the people from this unknown (verse 53).

He begs Alma to take away this curse (verse 54), but Alma declines because he knows that Korihor would just do the same thing again.  So Alma leaves it up to God whether to remove the curse from Korihor or not (verse 55).  And the Lord did not remove the curse from him, and so he had to go from house to house begging for his food (verse 56).  This he did until getting run over in the busy streets, where he died (verse 59).

This story was published in all the land where Korihor preached, including that Korihor had recanted (verse 57).  All the people who had believed him repented, and returned to the Lord and His commandments (verse 58).

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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