This article was originally published on February 8, 2015 in Meridian Magazine by Maurine Proctor. Below is an excerpt.
What if Nehor and Korihor had had blogs, created podcasts, collected comments, solicited letters on their behalf, and formed candlelight vigils of their supporters when they were called before Nephite chief judges? What if they had been able to send out press releases to an obliging media? They missed those technological opportunities, but their arguments sounding from the pages of the Book of Mormon seem remarkably similar to today’s assaults upon the Church.
It is as if Mormon, writing expressly for our times, wanted to arm us for the debates of the day with those “enlightened and emancipated” voices that would swarm the Internet, criticize the Church, its leaders and doctrine, seek to win souls and then complain if their membership was on trial in a church they didn’t believe in.
Nehor and Korihor were clearly great orators, powerful personalities and very persuasive speakers. They also enjoyed the heady thrill of seeing their arguments land and stick with a good share of the Nephite population.
Nehor comes bounding on to the scene, energized by the honor and attention brought by his crowd-pleasing doctrine. Though his personal story is short—contained in only a few verses, his philosophies remain, widely influencing society and becoming a major source of division among the Nephites, ultimately igniting the 63 BC wars and fanning the flames that made the people of Ammonihah burn the Saints.
Nehor did all this by “bearing down against the Church” with a most seductive alternative. If he had a blog he might have written, “I have my complaints” about the Church, and then later said that he got in all this trouble “Just for asking questions”. Of course, like many who say they are “just asking questions”, what Nehor actually did was make a series of assertions that flew right in the face of doctrine, while probably claiming that he was doing it for the people’s own good. He may have claimed that he was saving the anxious and depressed who found the laws of the Church terribly strict.
He certainly believed that he had a more enlightened idea than God. He might have said something like, if this “strait is the way” doctrine is God’s, “he’s got a lot of explaining to do.”
Here was his alternative doctrine: “that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice;…and in the end, all men should have eternal life (Alma 1:4).
That is certainly a very soft and amiable revision of the gospel Alma was teaching. No wonder Nehor was the first to introduce “priestcraft,” that every priest and teacher ought to become popular. You’d get a lot of support with a popular doctrine like that—riches and honor and quotes in the national press. Nehor did, probably becoming the very champion of the dispossessed.
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