Book of Mormon Lesson 27 (Alma 30–31).
The Purpose and Effects of Adversity
Adversity can have a strengthening effect upon people, but it can also turn some people away from their faith. The focus of this lesson is on two groups of people who experienced the same misery and misfortune as other Nephites, but whose reactions were markedly different. For some, humility led to faith, self-mastery, and salvation. For others, faithlessness led to apostasy.
President Spencer W. Kimball said, “One time or another we all face adversity’s chilling wind. One man flees from it, and like an unresisting kite falls to the ground. Another yields no retreating inch, and the wind that would destroy him lifts him as readily to the heights. We are not measured by the trials we meet, only by those we overcome.”1
KORIHOR THE ANTI-CHRIST
What (who) is an anti-Christ?
—An anti-Christ is one who denies the existence of Christ or of the Father, or refuses to confess his knowledge of them (1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:2–3).
—An anti-Christ is “anyone or anything that counterfeits the true gospel or plan of salvation and that openly or secretly is set up in opposition to Christ” (Bible Dictionary, “Antichrist,” p. 609).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “An antichrist is an opponent of Christ; he is one who is in opposition to the true gospel, the true Church, and the true plan of salvation. (1 John 2:19; 4:4–6). He is one who offers salvation to men on some other terms than those laid down by Christ. Sherem (Jacob 7:1–23), Nehor (Alma 1:2–16), and Korihor (Alma 30:6–60) were antichrists who spread their delusions among the Nephites.”2
After establishing the people of Ammon in the land of Jershon and driving the warring Lamanites out of the land, the Nephites lived in peace for nearly two years (Alma 30:1–5). But then Korihor (an anti-Christ) began preaching to the people against Christ and his prophets (Alma 30:6–7, 12). Alma could have silenced him, but for Alma, a free society allowed a man to think and say whatever he chose (Alma 30:8–12). Korihor used that freedom to fight against the Church.
The False Teachings of Korihor:
—Disrespect for anyone who dares to disagree with him. Anyone who disagreed with him was “foolish” (Alma 30:13–14) and “silly” (Alma 30:31). And believing things other than what he taught was “the effect of a frenzied mind” (Alma 30:16).
—A strictly rational and scientific approach to truth. “No man can know of anything which is to come,” he said (Alma 30:15). Note how contradictory it was for him to say that no one can know of things to come and then predict that there would be no Christ (a future event). He also said, “Ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ” (Alma 30:15). Today, scientists insist that if something cannot be directly observed (and the observation replicated by others) it does not exist. Yet, we could make a long list of things scientists once denied were true and now embrace (e.g., existence of other planets).
—A new morality and the shedding of old inhibitions. “Whatsoever a man [does is] no crime” (Alma 30:17). This is the part of secular humanist thinking that is most popular, because it claims to “set us free” from consequences. If there be no God then there is no sin, and it’s perfectly okay to think or to do whatever we want without fear of any kind of accountability or punishment.
—Strict materialism as the measure of a man’s success. “Every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and . . . every man conquer[s] according to his strength” (Alma 30:17). This belief leads to pride. If I’m doing better than you it is because I am smarter than you, stronger than you, or more valuable than you.
—Strict naturalism in understanding mankind and his destiny. “When a man [is] dead, that [is] the end thereof” (Alma 30:18) If this is so, then there is no purpose to life. Bertrand Russell is today one of the most revered proponents of the naturalistic viewpoint, and his philosophies are built around this same notion of the “purposeless” of life.
—Accusing Church leaders of profiting from the faith of others. “Ye keep them down . . . in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with [their] labors” (Alma 30:27) The hypocrisy of this claim is breathtaking. Alma and his associates supported themselves temporally, and did not rely upon any form of tax or welfare from the people. On the other hand, Korihor was profiting from his preaching (Alma 30:53).
—His teachings caused people to be proud of their wickedness (Alma 30:18). False prophets appeal to people because they can use their teachings to feel justified in doing as they wish.
How to Respond to Antichrists
Korihor next attempted to preach the same things among the people in Jershon and Gideon. Alma’s response to Korihor tells us how to properly deal with antichrists.
—Do not engage in arguments (Alma 30:19–22). While the people of Zarahemla listened to Korihor’s false teachings, the people of Ammon and Gideon would not.
—If they are Church members, hold them accountable (Alma 30:21–22). The people of Ammon delivered him to their high priest, Ammon, and the people of Gideon delivered him to their high priest Giddonah. This indicates that Korihor was a member of the church. He was probably being tried for his membership.
Korihor was teaching false doctrine. He denounced the Church leaders who were trying him, then denounced the Fall, Atonement, and revelation (Alma 30:23–24, 27–28).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”3
Korihor challenged their testimonies, saying, “Ye do not know that they are true” (Alma 30:24). He was then delivered to Alma, the chief judge over all the land, and continued “to blaspheme” (Alma 30:29–30). The word blaspheme as used here means to speak evil of or to revile against God.
—Know the truth (Alma 30:31–35). Alma responded to Korihor’s accusations against Church leaders by providing the facts of the situation. Anti-Christs often distort or “make up” facts to suit their purposes.
—Bear personal testimony (Alma 30:39–40). Our personal witnesses cannot be assailed by any other person. This is why a testimony is so vital to our salvation.
—Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost (Alma 30:41–42). Alma was able to discern through he Spirit that Korihor was lying and that he (Korihor) knew what he was saying was not true.
Korihor demanded a sign that will prove God’s existence (Alma 30:43). But faith is not generated by signs. Signs come only to those who already believe, to help and sustain them and reward their faith (D&C 63:7–12).
Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “In a world filled with skepticism and doubt, the expression ‘seeing is believing’ promotes the attitude, ‘You show me, and I will believe.’ We want all of the proof and all of the evidence first. It seems hard to take things on faith. When will we learn that in spiritual things it works the other way about—that believing is seeing? Spiritual belief precedes spiritual knowledge. When we believe in things that are not seen but are nevertheless true, then we have faith.”4
Alma said to Korihor, “All things denote there is a God,” and cited “all these thy brethren,” the prophets, the scriptures, and the entire material universe as proof of this (Alma 30:44).
Alma then provided a sign—Korihor was struck permanently dumb (Alma 30:45–50). Korihor then admitted that he always knew there was a God. He acknowledged that he had chosen to follow Satan because it was pleasing to the carnal mind and brought him “much success” (Alma 30:51–53). This curse remained with him and he eventually was trampled to death while begging in the streets (Alma 30:54–59). The prophet Mormon here editorialized concerning the story of Korihor, saying that, in the end, Satan will not support those who follow him, but will abandon them (Alma 30:60).
ALMA’S MISSION TO THE ZORAMITES
The Apostate Zoramite Religion
The Zoramites posed a threat to Nephite peace because their wickedness would inevitably lead to destruction for the Nephites. Alma was “exceedingly sorrowful” about this possibility (Alma 31:1–4).
Alma organized a mission to the Zoramites, saying that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead people to do that which is just” (Alma 31:5–7). This is in part because when it is written or spoken it is attended with the witness of the Holy Ghost.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The gospel is the only answer to the problems of the world. We may cry peace. We may hold peace conferences. And I have nothing but commendation for those who work for peace. But it is my conviction that peace must come from within. It cannot be imposed by state mandate. It can come only by following the teachings and the example of the Prince of Peace.”5
Elder Boyd K. Packer said with regard to the best way to change men’s lives, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”6
The Zoramites had become apostate for two primary reasons: (Alma 31:8–11)
—They were dissenters
—They were disobedient
The beliefs of the Zoramite religion were: (Alma 31:12–21)
—v. 9 They did not believe in the law of Moses.
—v. 10 They had forsaken daily prayer.
—v. 11 They had perverted the ways of the Lord.
—v. 12 They practiced their religion only one day per week.
—v. 15 They believed God was, is, and always will be a spirit.
—v. 16 They did not believe in the traditions of their fellow Nephites.
—v. 16 They taught that “there shall be no Christ.”
—v. 17 They believed they would be saved but everyone else would not.
—v. 17 They believed others are bound by “foolish traditions.”
—v. 18 They saw themselves as “a chosen and a holy people.”
—v. 21 Rameumptom: They offered public prayers from a “holy stand” in their synagogue.
The character of the Zoramite people: (Alma 31:22–25)
—v. 22 Elitist. They believed they were the only people God loved.
—v. 23 Shallow. They practiced their religion only on the Sabbath.
—v. 24 Worldly. They loved gold and silver.
—v. 25 Proud. They engaged in great boasting.
Alma and his brethren were astonished by their false worship (Alma 31:19, 24, 34).
Alma’s prayer is a model to missionaries everywhere (Alma 31:30–35).
—v. 30 “Give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities.”
—v. 31 “Wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ.”
—v. 32 “Give unto me success, and also my fellow laborers.”
—v. 32 “Wilt thou comfort [my fellow laborers’] souls in Christ.”
—v. 34–35 Help us bring the Zoramites “unto thee.”
—v. 35 “[The Zoramites’] souls are precious.”
—v. 35 “Give unto us . . . power and wisdom.”
The worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18:10–14). President Brigham Young said, “The least, the most inferior person now upon the earth…is worth worlds.”7 The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Souls are as precious in the sight of God as they ever were, and the Elders were never called to drive any down to hell, but to persuade and invite all men everywhere to repent, that they may become the heirs of salvation.”8
Alma gave blessings to his missionaries and they proceeded to teach the people, and “they were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Alma 31:36–39). The Lord provided for them that “they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (v. 38).
1. General conference Address, October 1974; Ensign, November 1974, 82.
2. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 39–40.
3. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 156–157.
4. Faith , 43.
5. Title of Liberty, , 213–214.
6. In Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20.
7. In Journal of Discourses, 9:124.
8. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 77.