Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #27 "All Things Denote There is a God"

Alma 30-31

Post the following equation on the board:  

1 + 0 = 10

Could I fool anyone into believing this equation?  I might be able to fool someone unfamiliar with mathematics, for example a small child.  I could show him that if you just put the 1 and the 0 together, it looks like a 10, so it is a 10.  Since I am an adult and therefore an expert in his mind, he might believe me.  And it sort of makes sense, if you don't understand the rules of math.


But imagine a doctor using this kind of logic.  Suppose I go to a check-up and my doctor finds that I am diabetic, but he doesn't want to upset me, so he says, "You are perfectly healthy (write 'healthy' under the 1), so you need no medical intervention (write 'no help' under the 0), and everything will work out fine (write 'happy ending' under 10)."  I may be glad that I'm okay and that I don't need any lifestyle change or medical procedures, but the truth is, I am probably not going to enjoy the happy ending, because this equation is false.  I was not healthy, and I did need medical help to produce a happy ending.

Imagine I am buying a new home.  The building inspector finds that the chimney is not fire-safe, but being a close friend, and knowing that I don't want any more hassle or expense, he says, "This building is perfectly sound (write 'sound' under the 1) and needs no improvement (write 'no change' under 0) and everything will work out fine (write 'happy ending' under 10)."  I may be relieved for the time being knowing that I have nothing more to take care of, but the truth is, when I light a few fires in the winter, my home and my family will be in grave danger.  The equation was not based on truth.  1 + 0 does not equal 10.

(Erase the two example equations, leaving the original.)

Today we are talking about the anti-Christ philosophy, which is very prevalent today.  This philosophy acts on the same false basis as this mathematical equation.  Anti-Christs say, "you are fine and whatever you are doing is fine (write 'OK' under the 1) and therefore you need no religion or savior (write 'no savior' under 0) and everything will be fine (write 'happy ending' under the 10)."

The true mathematical equation is, of course, 1 + 9 = 10 (write on board), and the true spiritual equation is found in the first Beatitude:  "Blessed are the poor in spirit (write 'fallen, imperfect' under the 1) who come unto me (write 'repent through Atonement' under the 9), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (write 'happy ending' under the 10)" (3 Nephi 12:3).  This procedure causes some discomfort or even pain because repentance and change are no picnic, but without it there can be no happy ending.

As C.S. Lewis wrote, "If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: If you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth--only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair" (Mere Christianity, p. 39).

ANTI-CHRISTS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON

President Benson has told us that the Book of Mormon not only teaches the doctrine of Christ, but also exposes the enemies of Christ. "The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon is similar to the type we have today."  (Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning, p. 3)  Just as the Lord gives us two or three witnesses in most everything, he has given us three witnesses (so far) of the methods of anti-Christs in the Book of Mormon, so that we know how to recognize and deal with them:  Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor.  That we know about anti-Christs is very important.  In fact, it is interesting to note that chapter 6 of the book of Jacob sounds very like a final farewell.  The last words of that chapter are, "Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear.  Amen."  (Jacob 6:13)  But, apparently, years after he thought he was through writing, this incident came up involving Sherem and his negative doctrine.  Jacob as the prophet of the Lord saw that it would be very valuable information for us to have, and therefore tacked it on to the end of his record, and then added another farewell.  (Jacob 7)

Sherem and Korihor both taught the philosophy illustrated by this false equation.  Nehor taught that there would be a Christ, but that he would save everyone unconditionally.  The resulting premise was the same: there was no need for change or repentance.  We can find both philosophies abounding all around us today, and even though they make as little sense and are about as far from the truth as 1 + 0 = 10, anti-Christs are very successful at convincing people that they are true.

Listen to these two familiar modern philosophies:

"Whether we ought to follow a moral principle or not would always depend upon the situation....In some situations unmarried love could be infinitely more moral than married unlove.  Lying could be more Christian than telling the truth....Stealing could be better than respecting private property....No action is good or right of itself.  It depends on whether it hurts or helps....There are no normative moral principles whatsoever which are intrinsically valid or universally obliging.  We may not absolutize the norms of human conduct."  (Situation Ethics: True or False? A Dialogue between Joseph Fletcher and John Warwick Montomery, quoted in Gerald L. Lund, "Countering Korihor's Philosophy," Ensign, July 1992, p. 20)

"We believe that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species....Traditional religions often offer solace to humans, but, as often, they inhibit humans from helping themselves or experiencing their full potentialities....Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than independence."  ("Humanist Manifesto II," The Humanist, quoted in Gerald L. Lund, ibid.)

In other words, according to these philosophies, there are no rules; there is no standard to be measured against.  This is a frightening and damning philosophy.

CHARACTERISTICS OF ANTI-CHRISTS

Anti-Christs of the Book of Mormon times or of today have many characteristics in common.

Negative.  First, their doctrine is usually a doctrine of negatives.  Their aim is to tear down other beliefs.  Much like the anti-Mormon literature of today, they offer nothing to replace or build upon the doctrine they seek to destroy.  They never say, like President Hinckley often did, "Bring with you what is good and let us add to it." 

There are at least seven negatives in Korihor's philosophy (found in Alma 30) (seven established beliefs he wants to destroy) and he does not replace them with anything better.

  1. No Christ (verse 12)
  2. No prophecy (verse 13)
  3. No faith (verse 15)
  4. No Atonement (verse 17)
  5. No laws (verse 17)
  6. No life after death (verse 18), and therefore
  7. No accountability (verse 18)
Demeaning Speech.  Another inherent characteristic of an anti-Christ is a complete lack of respect for others' religions, since the anti-Christ "religion" is only based upon disproving other religions.  Their speech is inflammatory and angry.  Look at the hostile, demeaning words Korihor uses for Christians:  "foolish," "frenzied," "deranged" (verses 13-18).  Verses 22-23 sound very similar to the words of apostates today in their criticism of Church leadership.  Korihor was likely a church member who had apostacized, since "there was no law against a man's belief" (verse 11), and therefore he wasn't punished by the political leadership, but he was brought in each land he entered before the high priest in a church court.

Lying.  Of course, all anti-Christs are liars.  They ignore the truth they could find deep within themselves if they searched for it (verse 42). Korihor's lies were evident in his condemnation of the church leaders.  He said the purpose for which they taught their doctrine was to bind men down and to glut themselves upon their labors.  He knew very well, as did everyone around, that the church was lead by a lay ministry, volunteers who worked without pay.  As Alma said in verse 33, "notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor."

Seeking for Proof.  Sherem and Korihor both demanded signs, allegedly to prove whether the Christian doctrine was true.  It may be well to pause here for a minute and talk about epistemology.  Epistemology is a word that I had never seen in my life before preparing this lesson.  It is a branch of philosophy that studies how we know things.  There are several systems of epistemology.  (Write on board "Epistemology or Ways of Knowing Things.")  To briefly state some of them that apply here:
  • Empiricism means we know something is true because of personal observation or experience. 
 OBSERVATION
  • Rationalism means we know something is true because it is logical.
 LOGIC
  • Authoritarianism means we know something is true because experts told us it was so. 
 EXPERT TESTIMONY
  • Pragmatism means we know something is true because it produces the desired results. 
 RESULTS
  • Another method we as church members also use regularly is Revelation.  We know something is true because the Spirit told us.  (Write "Holy Ghost.")
(Sorry...couldn't find a picture of the Holy Ghost...)
  
(For more detail on epistemology, refer to Gerald Lund's article.)

False philosophies always claim to use some of these epistemological methods as their proof, but there is always some contradiction.  For example, Korihor said that he knew there was no God because there could be no personal observation of something that was not in the present and visible world (verse 15).  He said there was no logic in an Atonement because a child is not guilty of what his parents do (verse 25).  He said there were no experts to testify of God, only "deranged" people (verse 16).  He said that the results of these beliefs were that the people were ignorant and downtrodden (verse 23, 27-28, 31).  And, of course, he didn't believe in revelation at all (verses 14-15).  But every one of these points had a contradiction:
  • Observation:  There are so many things to observe in the world around us that point to the existence of God, yet it is impossible to prove that there is no God.  One would have to go everywhere in the universe at once and not find Him there to prove that He doesn't exist.  Without doing that, a researcher would break his own scientific rules of proof (verse 40).
  • Logic:  Korihor's statement that nothing is inherently a crime defies logic (verse 17).  In even the most base societies, there are certain things known to be criminal.  "Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of doublecrossing all the people who had been kindest to him.  You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five.  Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to--whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone.  But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first.  Selfishness has never been admired.  Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four.  But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked."  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 19) Laying this aside, if Korihor truly thought that nothing a man did was a crime, why did he care what the church leaders did?
  • Expert Testimony:  Korihor had the testimonies of his brethren of the church, all the holy prophets, the scriptures, the motion of the planets, and in fact everything around him that there is a God (verse 41,44).  All of these he was willing to overlook.
  • Results:  Korihor's claim that the people were downtrodden and ignorant as a result of their belief is just as false today as it was in his day, yet detractors of the church often state this as a claim.  Alma countered, "If we are deceiving the people, why are they filled with joy?" (See verse 35.)  That the gospel produces peace and joy in people who live it is another evidence that it is true and good.
  • Revelation:  Korihor knew in his heart that Christ was real (verse 42,46,52).  This knowledge is available through the Light of Christ to any soul who will obey the call to "be still and know that I am God."  (Psalm 46:10)
Despite the fact that all of these ways of knowing the truth were easily in place for Korihor, Korihor did not think it was enough, and he asked for a sign (verse 43).  Sadly, when all the evidence is already clear and still a person asks for a sign, the sign given must be a curse because "faith precedes miracles".  Korihor and Sherem both were stricken with physical ailments that eventually led to their deaths (verse 50; Jacob 7:14-15,20).

Joseph Smith was, of course, intimately acquainted with the Book of Mormon and the truths and patterns found there.  Knowing how the Lord dealt with the sign-seekers Sherem and Korihor must have given him the precedent to deal with similar situations in his own time.

"I recollect a Campbellite preacher who came to Joseph Smith...and said that he had come a considerable distance to be convinced of the truth.  'Why,' said he, 'Mr. Smith, I want to know the truth, and when I am convinced, I will spend all my talents and time defending and spreading the doctrines of your religion, and I will give you to understand that to convince me is equivalent to convincing all my society, amounting to several hundreds.'  Well, Joseph commenced laying before him the coming forth of the work, and the first principles of the Gospel, when [the minister] exclaimed, 'O this is not the evidence I want, the evidence that I wish to have is a notable miracle; I want to see some powerful manifestation of the power of God, I want to see a notable miracle performed; and if you perform such a one, then I will believe with all my heart and soul, and will exert all my power and all my extensive influence to convince others; and if you will not perform a miracle of this kind, then I am your worst and bitterest enemy.' 'Well,' said Joseph, 'what will you have done?  Will you be struck blind, or dumb? Will you be paralyzed, or will you have one hand withered?  Take your choice, choose which you please, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ it shall be done.'  'That is not the kind of miracle I want,' said the preacher.  'Then, sir,' replied Joseph, 'I can perform none, I am not going to bring any trouble upon any body else, sir, to convince you.'"  (George A. Smith, in Journal of Discourses, 2:236, quoted in Robert L. Millet, The Power of the Word, p. 56-57)  (See Alma 30:51.)

Self-Destruction. Many people don't ever face the truth in this life, unfortunately.  Sherem and Korihor both did, but only after receiving their deadly signs (verse 52).  When people of our day refuse to accept truth that is before and about them in any topic, gospel or otherwise, they eventually unravel.  Korihor had fallen into the trap of believing his own lies, and the result of that was self-destruction (verse 53).

It is a very interesting and pathetic testimony of the epistemological concept of pragmatism (remember, that is: judging the truth of something by its result) to compare the stories of these two anti-Christs from the time of their curse-signs until their deaths.  Korihor was struck deaf and dumb, and in this impaired state was killed by the heartless Zoramites, a people who, ironically or not, believed exactly as Korihor had taught (verse 59).  Sherem's curse was apparently paralysis or some similar major disability that caused him to be completely unable to care for himself.  But, unlike Korihor, he had the good fortune to be among the Christians he had so ruthlessly condemned (Jacob 7:15).  Those he had abused kindly cared for him.  Robert Millet writes, "This act alone demonstrates Christianity at its highest and discipleship at its deepest."  The Christians bore out the truth of their belief by their works, to Sherem's benefit.  The Zoramites emulated the lies of the devil in their actions, to Korihor's demise (Alma 30:60).  Although the devil and his anti-Christs always offer an easy way and a happy ending (refer to equations on the board), as Alma taught the Zoramite poor (Alma 34:39), "[the devil] rewardeth you no good thing."

BEING UNSHAKEABLE

The interesting thing is that the truth of the gospel bears out under all these methods of finding out what is true, the very methods anti-Christs try to use to disprove it.  To quote Gerald Lund, "The gospel...is truth--truth that has stood the test of centuries, truth that can withstand rational examination, truth that is pragmatic and practical, truth that can be confirmed through personal experience.  A believer need not apologize for his or her beliefs, for these beliefs withstand every scrutiny much more efficiently than do the doctrines of Satan."  (Ensign, July 1992, p. 21)

President Benson warned, "Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use [the Book of Mormon] to expose and combat the falsehoods in socialism, organized evolution, rationalism, humanism, and so forth...Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains."  (Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning, p. 6, quoted in Robert Millet, ibid.)

"To be able to bear witness of the truth in the face of ridicule, and to give no heed to the enticing and otherwise convincing voices of the worldly-wise is, according to President Joseph F. Smith, to have entered into the 'rest of the Lord,' that state 'born from a settled conviction of the truth.'  To enter the rest of the Lord 'means entering into the knowledge and love of God, having faith in his purpose and in his plan, to such an extent that we know we are right, and that we are not hunting for something else, we are not disturbed by every wind of doctrine, or by the cunning and craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive.'  To enter into the rest of the Lord is to enjoy 'rest from doubt, from fear, from apprehension of danger, rest from the religious turmoil of the world.'"  (Robert L. Millet, p. 54, quoting Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 58)

Jacob said of Sherem, "He had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me.  And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken."  (Jacob 7:5)

Likewise we, as Latter-day Saints, have each been ministered to by angels sent from God, either of this world or of the spirit world.  We have heard the voice of the Lord speaking to us, if not in very word, then in the still, small voice of peace and guidance.  We have access to even more revelations than did Jacob.  And the evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel is all around us in the collective lives and works of the saints of the latter-days.  If we build our testimonies upon these experiences, and sink our roots deep in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we need not fear what anti-Christs may do or say:  We may rest in the Lord.

How do we do this?  Tune in next week!  The story of Korihor and his false ways of looking for truth is immediately followed in the Book of Mormon by Alma's great discourse to the poor of the Zoramites in which he teaches them how to experiment to find out whether the gospel is true: the analogy of the Word as a seed.


3 comments:

Jill said...

Thanks so much for you wonderful insights. I love reading your summaries and using them to teach the 14 year olds. Thanks for taking the time to share them with us!

Anonymous said...

Nancy, I just taught this lesson yesterday and used your math equations. Brilliant; such a unique way of looking at the anti-Christ philosophy versus the TRUTH! My class really seemed to grasp these ideas in ways we hadn't before. We spent a lot of time comparing the two equations, particularly how the "9" represents the Atonement and the work & faith involved on our part to become whole and complete/healed 10s thru Christ. This as opposed to the big comfortable ZERO in the anit-Christ equation, from which we ultimately gain no long-term growth, comfort or peace. Loved it! Thanks SO much for all your fabulous help.

Your new friend :),
Carol P. in SJ

Petersen Palace said...

Thank you for this amazing lesson! I love all the quotes and research that you put into this. I think my tiny kids will be able
To grasp the math. You have an awesome ability to relate so many great concepts and make them easy to understand. I really enjoy your blog. :)