Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor
I have been re-reading the Book of Mormon recently, well, listening to it while I drive to and from work. I just started into the section where Alma goes out with the sons of Mosiah, and a couple things stood out to me about how the entire Book of Mormon up to this point teaches us about what we will encounter in the last days.
Sherem is the first person we read about that comes into the people of Nephi trying to dissuade them from following the teachings of Jacob, specifically the teachings about Christ, who was still to come. The scriptures describe him as:
4 And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.
He comes in to speak with Jacob, in fact, he says, "Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you;"
Seems he was trying to get Jacob's attention for quite some time. He gets his audience, and despite his skills, Jacob bests him, not with superior language, not with flattery, not with power of speech, but with the scriptures.
10 And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
11 And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.
He also uses the power of testimony to counter Sherem's arguments.
12 And this is not all—it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost.
Finally, Sherem demands proof, in the form of a sign, that what Jacob has said about the Holy Ghost is true.
13 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much.
14 And I said unto him: What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true? Yet thou wilt deny it, because thou art of the devil. Nevertheless, not my will be done; but if God shall smite thee, let that be a sign unto thee that he has power, both in heaven and in earth; and also, that Christ shall come. And thy will, O Lord, be done, and not mine.
Sherem is then stricken and dies, which I am sure was not exactly the sign he wanted.
The most important part of this is where Jacob acknowledges that even if he did show Sherem a sign, Sherem would "deny it, because [he] is of the devil." This becomes an important weapon in Satan's toolkit, demanding proof, other than the proof of the Holy Spirit.
I have often asked, "What proof would be sufficient for you? What would you need to believe that there is a God, or that the Book of Mormon is true?" Even if I found a sign that said, "Zarahemla 10 miles" or a tomb of King Nephi, what would that prove? Fortunately, there are ample evidences for the authenticity of the restored gospel. I recommend Of Faith and Reason by Michael Ash, but there is still nothing more powerful than the witness of the Holy Spirit to obtain a testimony of the restoration. Sherem was relying entirely on his own wisdom, and on his own abilities, but Jacob was relying on the Power of God, through the Holy Spirit.
Next we come across Nehor, and his doctrine is a little more subtle. What is most interesting to me is that we don't hear about him until he breaks the law by killing Gideon. Unlike Sherem, he was teaching the people, but never seems to seek out the High Priest like Sherem did. Nehor's doctrine might sound similar to what you could hear on Reddit, Facebook, or in a Youtube video:
3 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.
4 And he also testified unto the people 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; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.
5 And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.
6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching.
This reminds me of all the super-church pastors one can find that are asking people to donate, or "seed" their money so that the pastor can purchase a new jet, or sometimes two. Nehor's beliefs were not against the law, which Alma admits, but rather that he tried to enforce his views with violence, taking the life of a respected member of the community, and for that he was put to death.
Nehor's particular belief system would be cause for a lot of heartache later in the Book of Mormon, with the Amalekites and Amulonites who had defected to the Lamanites causing a slaughter among the people of Ammon.
28 Now the greatest number of those of the Lamanites who slew so many of their brethren were Amalekites and Amulonites, the greatest number of whom were after the order of the Nehors.
Seems to be a theme of enforcing their beliefs through violence. It is also important to notice that they were once Nephites, but they had dissented and gone to live with the Lamanites, and because of this they were even more hard in their hearts than the Lamanites:
3 Now the Lamanites of themselves were sufficiently hardened, but the Amalekites and the Amulonites were still harder; therefore they did cause the Lamanites that they should harden their hearts, that they should wax strong in wickedness and their abominations.
Finally we come to:
Korihor stands out as being referred to as Anti-Christ:
6 But it came to pass in the latter end of the seventeenth year, there came a man into the land of Zarahemla, and he was Anti-Christ, for he began to preach unto the people against the prophecies which had been spoken by the prophets, concerning the coming of Christ.
The things that Korihor taught are very similar to what members of the church might read in an anti-mormon thread on any social-media platform.
13 O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come.
14 Behold, these things which ye call prophecies, which ye say are handed down by holy prophets, behold, they are foolish traditions of your fathers.
15 How do ye know of their surety? Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see; therefore ye cannot know that there shall be a Christ.
16 Ye look forward and say that ye see a remission of your sins. But behold, it is the effect of a frenzied mind; and this derangement of your minds comes because of the traditions of your fathers, which lead you away into a belief of things which are not so.
Alma 30: 13-17
All these are arguments that are still used today:
Why do you worry about attending the temple? Don't you have better things to do?
Joseph Smith wasn't a prophet! Just look at [polygamy][masonic temple rituals][money digging]!
If you can't touch it, or verify it through the scientific method, it can't be real!
You say you received a testimony of the church, or the Book of Mormon, and that you felt a burning in your heart, but those are just human emotions!
You believe because your parents indoctrinated you into believing things that are not true!
Some things never change, and he continues to spout the same party line:
23 Now the high priest’s name was Giddonah. And Korihor said unto him: Because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words.
24 Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage. Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true. Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.
25 Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent. Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.
26 And ye also say that Christ shall come. But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ. And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world—
27 And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.
28 Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.
Alma 30: 23-28
The biggest one I see currently is accusing the General Authorities of getting rich off the tithes of the church, but the others are still pretty popular, especially the "foolish traditions of your fathers". The accusation that the church's teachings keep people down, and don't allow then to enjoy their rights and privileges is one that is becoming even more popular among people that want to have sin accepted.
In the end, Korihor ends up in the same place as the others, asking for a sign never ends well:
48 Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.
49 Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance.
50 Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
51 And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more?
52 And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.
53 But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.
54 Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the curse might be taken from him.
55 But Alma said unto him: If this curse should be taken from thee thou wouldst again lead away the hearts of this people; therefore, it shall be unto thee even as the Lord will.
56 And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor; but he was cast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food.
59 And it came to pass that as he went forth among the people, yea, among a people who had separated themselves from the Nephites and called themselves Zoramites, being led by a man whose name was Zoram—and as he went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead.
60 And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.
Alma 30:48-56, 59-60
I believe that Mormon included these stories in his compilation of the Nephite writings because he knew these same arguments would be made in our day. I also believe that this is why we are counseled to read the Book of Mormon regularly, so that we can recognize these patterns in our own lives. Remember that Mormon saw our day, and knew what was coming, and the Book of Mormon is a warning to us, lest we fall into the same traps the Nephites did.
35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?
39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?
40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?
41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.
Mormon 8: 35-41