Book of Mormon Institute Class Lesson by Lynda Cherry
April 28, 2014
Antichrist. The term is as much a definition as it is a title. For many Christians today the word brings fear and dread, aggravated by their interpretation that there is an individual who is called “Antichrist,” and works in conjunction with the beast described in the book of Revelation (See Rev. 13). Numerous Christian books, such as the series Left Behind, written by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, have added to the doomsday interpretation of a singular demon of a man who deceives and controls millions.
But John, the author of Revelation, wrote in other epistles: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. … For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (1 John 2:18; 2 John 1:7).
The Bible Dictionary notes that “Antichrist is a word used by John to describe one who would assume the guise of Christ, but in reality would be opposed to Christ. In a broader sense it 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. The great antichrist is Lucifer, but he has many assistants both as spirit beings and as mortals” (p. 609). Elder Bruce R. McConkie adds: “… He is one who offers salvation to men on some other terms than those laid down by Christ” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 39). Using this definition, can you identify antichrist teachings in the world today?
The Book of Mormon exposes three notable antichrists: Sherem (Jacob 7), Nehor (Alma 1), and Korihor (Alma 30). They embody the definition John provided: they deny that Jesus Christ will/has come in the flesh to atone for sin, and to reconcile mankind to God. They are alarming individuals, not only in what they teach, but in the fact that they seem to hold so much power over others. President Benson taught: “The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious and philosophical concepts of our time” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 64, emphasis added).
Fear is never the best tool by which to overcome antichrist teachings; knowledge is. As Latter-day Saints, we must avoid the doomsday dread that leads to helplessness and hopelessness. Rather, we must be prepared through study, prayer, consistent temple service, and the Spirit that comes as a result of living our religion, so that we can readily recognize false teachings, and also have the ability to refute them. Joseph Smith taught that “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance” (Teachings, p. 301). The study of Alma’s encounter with Korihor will provide helpful tools and insights. Korihor’s teachings have been practiced for centuries, and are as current today as they ever were:
• Korihor taught against the ancient prophecies and taught that there would be no Christ (Alma 30:6, 12).
• Korihor mocked the faithful, telling them that they were “bound down under a foolish and a vain hope.” He asked: “Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come” (Alma 30:13, 26).
• He said “These are foolish traditions of your fathers” (Alma 30:14).
• He claimed that no one could know of things which could not be seen, “therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ” (Alma 30:15).
• He claimed that their hope in a remission of sins was but the effect of a frenzied mind …” (Alma 30:16).
• Korihor asserted that “… there could be no atonement made for the sins of men … and whatsoever a man did was no crime” (Alma 30:17, 25).
• He taught that “…when a man was dead, that was the end thereof” (Alma 30:18).
• He said that people bound themselves down under the foolish ordinances taught by their priests, who only sought to usurp power and authority over them, and to keep them in ignorance (Alma 30:23, 27).
• He accused the priests of “glutting” themselves with the labor of the people, taking their money (Alma 30:27-28, 31).
• Korihor demanded a sign before he would believe (Alma 30:43, 48).
It is worth noting that Korihor was rejected by both the People of Ammon and the city of Gideon. Mormon tells us that they “were more wise than many of the Nephites” (Alma 30:20). Each of these groups bound Korihor and took him to a higher authority, eventually leading him to Alma (Alma 30:20-21). When the priest of Gideon questioned Korihor, he accused him of “interrupt[ing] the rejoicings” of the people of the land (Alma 30:22).
We can learn a valuable lesson by the action of this high priest: he made no attempt to “contest” with Korihor (Alma 30:29). Our “contesting” often leads to contention without any real resolution. We cannot give room to the teachings of those who are determined to “interrupt our rejoicings,” but have no real intent to listen, exchange ideas, or to learn. Note that this is quite a different circumstance than that of responding to the honest seeker of truth who has questions.
Unfortunately, Korihor did have a great deal of success amongst the Nephites (Alma 30:18). It’s interesting to note that the almost-immediate result of his success was the turning of the people to immorality and “whoredoms” (Alma 30:18) – the “plaguing sin of [our] generation” (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1986, 4). Why is this connection so strong? Why does this seem to be “the sin of choice” for those who do not believe in the atonement of Christ?
Alma’s method of responding to Korihor gives needed insight as to handle our own interactions with the “Korihors” or antichrists of our day. Before we attempt to respond, we ought to ask ourselves if we are coming from the same position of strength that Alma did.
• When Korihor “reviled” Alma and “rose up in great swelling words,” Alma logically and calmly responded to him (see Alma 30:31-35).
• He began to question Korihor, instead of giving way to Korihor’s attempt to take control. Rather than be in an offensive or defensive position, he led with the Spirit and began with the most basic and important query: “Do you believe that there is a God?” and “Will ye deny the Christ?” (see Alma 30:37).
• Alma bore testimony of these important truths to Korihor. “I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come” (Alma 30:39).
• Instead of responding to Korihor’s challenge to show him proof that Christ would come, Alma asked Korihor to provide evidence that there was no God (Alma 30:40).
• Alma testified that “all things [are] a testimony (or proof) of God’s existence. When Korihor asked for a sign, Alma testified that “all things denote there is 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” (Alma 30:41, 44).
• Alma testified that he knew that Korihor knew the truth, but was possessed “with a lying spirit” and had “put off the Spirit of God that it [could] have no place in [him].” By putting off the Spirit, the devil had taken control and “carried” Korihor about, “working devices that he may destroy the children of God” (Alma 30:42).
At Korihor’s insistence for a sign, the Lord granted him one: he was left without a voice (and possibly deaf) (Alma 30:49-51). Writing his words, he now admitted that he had always known there was a God, but that the devil had deceived him, appearing to him in the form of an angel.
This “messenger” had given him instructions to “go and reclaim this people.” The angel had told him what to say, and Korihor had taught them “because they were pleasing to the carnal mind.” They were so pleasing that as he taught them, Korihor became convinced that they were true (see Alma 30:52-53). These doctrines which please the carnal mind of man can become more convincing as they are repeated … the philosophies of our day rephrase and replicate them time and again – with many converts! Giving a place to them in our hearts and minds will eventually leave us as they did Korihor, spiritually deaf and blind.
These carnally-minded false teachings had independently also got hold upon a people called the Zoramites. They had separated themselves from the Nephites, choosing the man, Zoram, to be their leader.
Alma took a mighty missionary force with him in his efforts to reclaim the Zoramites. Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek and Zeezrom all accompanied him, in addition to two of his sons (Alma 31:6). This action again points to the wisdom of having help and authority when confronting false doctrine. Alma “thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God” in their efforts amongst the Zoramites. It had served each of these missionaries well in the past, and had a “more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” (Alma 31:5).
It is the word of God, accompanied by the Spirit and the authority of the Lord’s priesthood representatives that exposes and confounds evil.
Alma’s heart sickened with the iniquity of his people, and the foolishness of their ways. He was filled with grief for the welfare of their souls (Alma 31:1-2). They had “pervert[ed] the ways of the Lord” in their methods of worship and teachings. Puffed up with their own pride, they had built the Rameumptom, or “holy stand” upon which they took turns climbing and presenting a declaration to God. Their speech was not a prayer, but a pronouncement stating their superiority over all others. At its heart was yet again a statement that “there shall be no Christ” (Alma 31:16-17). Satan and his angels had done their work in Antionum; the Zoramites spewed forth the same dark doctrines, with the only exception their profession of belief in God – who they maintained was and always would be but a spirit (see Alma 31:10-17). Although they claimed to believe, after each person took his turn on the stand, “they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again” (Alma 31:23).
Alma cried out for strength to the very Savior that each of these antichrists denied. “O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength ….” He prayed also for his companions: “…wilt thou comfort their souls in Christ” (Alma 31:31-32). He begged that they would have success in bringing the “precious” souls of the Zoramites back to their Savior. The Lord answered Alma’s prayer, in that he “provided for them that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38). The Lord will provide comfort and strength to us as we seek to live by His doctrine, giving us needed aid in discerning truth and confounding false doctrine.
May we look to Alma, the People of Ammon, and the people of Gideon as we respond to antichrist doctrine. They rejoiced in Christ continually, firm in their testimony of His reality. Therefore, they were not shaken by false teachings, although they did seek to reclaim those who had been. Besides a firm testimony, their tools were the word of God in its simple purity, and love for their fellowmen. May we look to the comfort and strength that only Christ can give, remembering that it is only through His life, teachings and atonement that we can find hope and joy. Indeed, all things do testify of Him!