By Eric Johnson
Note: The following was originally printed in the September/October 2020 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
As you can imagine, sometimes we at MRM receive angry emails from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, the following asked us several different questions: “How are you going to feel when you meet God at the Bar and have to explain your persecutions? . . . Remember, ‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’? If you really think your mission is of God, it will be to your own condemnation. Remember Korihor?”
Referencing this same Korihor from the Book of Mormon, another angry Latter-day Saint wrote, “What really and truly puzzles me is how is it that you can turn dumb as rock when it comes to Mormonism. How is it that you can be told by truly brilliant Mormons that you don’t understand what you are doing and you refuse to see it?”
Should the name “Korihor” be used by Latter-day Saints who don’t like Christians sharing their faith with them?
Just who was Korihor?
In the July 2020 Ensign magazine, an official organ for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a description of the character “Korihor” is provided in the “Family Study Fun” section of the magazine, which is aimed at children and families. On page 35 it said, “Korihor was an anti-Christ who preached ‘against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ’ (Alma 30:6). He preached other falsehoods and led ‘away the hearts of many’ (Alma 30:18).”
In an article from that same issue titled “Korihor’s Charisma: The Philosophy of an Anti-Christ,” Benjamin Hyrum White—a visiting instructor in ancient scripture at church-owned Brigham Young University—explains more about Korihor: “During a time of unparalleled missionary success in the Book of Mormon, a man named Korihor appears among the Nephites and preaches against belief in the coming of Jesus Christ. Many today preach the same appealing philosophies…” (42).
Saying that it is possible to see how “righteous Nephites dealt with these philosophies,” White added this on the same page: “Korihor tries to tear down faith in Christ using distinct methods. Four times he claims that Church members ‘cannot know’ or ‘do not know’ spiritual realities (Alma 30:15, 24,26, 58). Furthermore, he mocks believers by calling them ‘frenzied’ and deranged, and their traditions and ordinances ‘foolish’ and ‘silly’ (verses 16, 23, 31). Sound familiar?”
A List of Korihor’s Characteristics
White listed seven different arguments that he says were used by Korihor to attack the faith of Latter-day Saints using “parallel language we hear today.” Let’s take a closer look at these arguments and see if they should be considered similar to the reasons against Mormonism used by Evangelical Christian apologists like us. We’ll keep a checklist and see if Christians have earned the title “Korihor.”
- There is no God or Satan (see verses 12, 28, 30)
According to White, a person like Korihor believes that God and Satan do not exist. This is opposite of what Christians say. It pains me when I find out that someone is leaving Mormonism to become an atheist or agnostic, which is a very common finish line for ex-Mormons upon discovering that their religion is not true.
We hear it all the time: “If the church isn’t true, then nothing can be.” We ask, “Did you learn that catchy line from members of the church? If so, and you have rejected all the other lies of Mormonism, why do you still believe that lie?” Instead of getting people to reject God, Christians want to show the Latter-day Saint how God does exist and explain their need to know God personally. While he is real, Satan can be battled by the Christian who utilizes the armor of God as talked about in Ephesians 6:10-18.
Check 1: We’re not Korihor
- There is no need for faith or repentance (see verses 15-16)
Korihor attempted to cause the Nephites in the Book of Mormon to lose their faith. This is not a strategy used by Christians. In fact, believers emphasize faith and repentance since this is what the Bible teaches. Verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 are used to explain how grace and mercy are available for the asking. When a person receives forgiveness of sins, repentance will become obvious.
According to the Bible, justification is not based on works of the law (Romans 3:38) but rather on the imputing work of Jesus and what He made available through a person’s faith. Rather than telling Latter-day Saints to reject salvation by faith alone (sola fides), we promote the idea!
Check 2: We’re not Korihor
- There can be no atonement made for sin (see verse 17)
According to the Bible, Jesus atoned for sin. Hebrews 9:12 says He “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Verse 22 adds that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” First Peter 2:24 adds that “by his wounds you have been healed.”
Check 3: We’re not Korihor
- There is no afterlife (see verse 18)
While this is a common atheistic argument, it is not how the Christian believes. The Bible teaches that there is a literal heaven and a literal hell. While the Mormon can argue that there are three kingdoms of glory along with an Outer Darkness reserved for very few souls, Christians would disagree. We can agree with Mormons that there is an afterlife, regardless of what the atheist may say.
Check 4: We’re not Korihor
- Commandments restrict freedom and lead to blind obedience (see verses 23, 28)
While Christians do not believe that keeping commandments is what gets a person into heaven, the Bible is chock full of imperatives that command sanctification. Just after Paul said that a person is saved by grace and not by works in Ephesians 2:8-9, verse 10 adds: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” James 1:22 says that believers are not supposed to “merely listen to the word” but instead do it. And Jesus said in John 14:23 that “anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”
Check 5: We’re not Korihor
- Church leaders exercise power over Church members and use funds for selfish purposes (see verse 27)
It is true that the LDS Church has wealth. It was reported in 2019 that one church fund has more than $100 billion! (See mrm.org/what-about-the-100-billion.) While we don’t have sources for the compensation numbers of other church leaders, including the general authorities, we know that mission presidents get compensated through “living allowances” that are, at minimum, six figures. (See here.) A book by D. Michael Quinn (The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth & Corporate Power) details some of the vast holdings of the church. (See here.) We at MRM have never accused the leaders of being selfish with their money. The point is a red herring.
Check 6: We’re not Korihor
- Nothing is a crime when you only live once (see verse 17)
A Christian will never use the type of argumentation that we should “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Licentious behavior is never acceptable according to God’s Word. We must make a choice in this life to determine, as Christian author C.S. Lewis put it, whether Jesus is Lord, Liar, or Lunatic. Second Corinthians 6:2 says “now is the time of salvation.” Hebrews 9:27 explains that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” James 4:14 says this life is but a mist because 60, 80, or even 100 years goes by quickly. What we decide about Jesus here determines our final destination.
Check 7: We’re not Korihor
Following these points, White cited Seventy Lawrence E. Corbridge who, in January 2019, told a BYU devotional audience, “You cannot prove the Church by disproving every claim made against it. That will never work. It is a flawed strategy” (italics in original). White explained how the Book of Mormon character “Alma brilliantly appeals to Korihor’s intellect, adding logic as a dual witness to his own testimony. We need not appeal only to our testimonies when addressing accusations that shake beliefs” (43).
I say “amen” to this. While we don’t expect a Latter-day Saint to “disprove every claim,” we encourage what Isaiah 1:18 says: “Come now, and let us reason together.” A cordial conversation and points supported by evidence will do. To use loaded language such as “anti-Mormon” or intimating that our tactics are in line with Korihor’s in order to deflect is not a “gentle” nor “respectful” method (1 Peter 3:16).
As the checkmarks ascertain, there are seven reasons why Christians should not be likened to Korihor. Instead, we proclaim the message of Good News, and desire that every Latter-day Saint “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).