Saturday, March 23, 2013

Contra Moral Relativism

The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Christ, contains a brief account of a man named Korihor (Alma 30).  After thousands of Lamanites had been converted to Christ and his gospel, and after a period of war among the Nephites and the Lamanites, this man came into the land of Zarahemla and began to preach against Jesus Christ.  He ridiculed Christ, the Atonement, and the spirit of prophecy, teaching that there is no God, no fall, no penalty for sin, and no Christ.  

The Nephites had laws to help keep men on equal grounds, and there was no law against a man's belief, so Korihor continued to preach against Christ.  Not only was his message false, but his manner was cunning and condescending.  He mocked the faithful for their belief in Christ by claiming that they were "bound under a foolish and vain hope" and telling them that no one can know the future. (v.13) He mocked the people's belief in the prophets as following the "foolish traditions" of their fathers.  He taught that there could be no "atonement made for the sins of men" and that "every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature" and "every man prospered according to his genius" and "every man conquered according to his strength" and "whatsoever a man did was no crime" (v.17).

Korihor led away many women and men to commit sin by teaching that "when a man was dead, that was the end thereof" (v. 18)  But when he went into the land of Jershon among the converted Lamanites they bound him and he was carried out of the land.  In the land of Gideon he was bound again and taken before the high priest Giddonah.  Korihor blamed the people and the priests for attempting to "usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance" (v.23).  He accused the priests of trying to "glut" themselves "with the labors of their hands" (v. 27)  He then went on to deny the existence of God and to blaspheme, and to mock the "silly traditions of their fathers" (v. 31)

Needless to say, Alma was grieved, but Korihor was confounded, demanded a sign, was struck dumb, and was finally trampled to death (v.59)

Why did Mormon include this story in his abridgment of the records?  What does this story have to teach a modern audience?  Do any of Korihor's teachings sound familiar or have they found expression in any modern philosophies?  

In the April 2010 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Christofferson stated:

"God uses scripture to unmask erroneous thinking, false traditions, and sin with its devastating effects. He is a tender parent who would spare us needless suffering and grief and at the same time help us realize our divine potential. The scriptures, for example, discredit an ancient philosophy that has come back into vogue in our day—the philosophy of Korihor that there are no absolute moral standards, that “every man prosper[s] according to his genius, and that every man conquer[s] according to his strength; and whatsoever a man [does is] no crime” and “that when a man [is] dead, that [is] the end thereof” (Alma 30:17–18)."

No matter how popular the philosophies of moral relativism become, they will never be true.