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The Consistency of Satan's Tactics
by Mary Lee Treat

Since all scripture is given for our reproof and learning (2 Timothy 3:16) the accounts of the three antichrists in the Book of Mormon-Sherem, Nehor and Korihor give us valuable insights for living in today's world. According to the purpose principle (everything written in the Book of Mormon is there for a purpose), these accounts are included in the Book of Mormon by design, for our benefit, and not as "filler."

Sherem (Jacob 5)
The purpose principle is obvious in Jacob's account of the antichrist, Sherem. Jacob gives a final farewell at the end of chapter 4, then adds the account of Sherem in chapter 5 with a second farewell. The purpose principle indicates that Jacob added the account of Sherem for a purpose.

    Sherem taught:
   -no Christ to come
   -no Holy Spirit
   -Jacob was perverting" the law of Moses

Jacob tells us that Sherem had a way with words (v. 6). It is significant that he gives us the exact words of Sherem. in their encounter (vv. 9-37). Sherem. begins by flattering Jacob, calling him "Brother Jacob" and then proceeds to accuse him of perverting the law of Moses and leading the people astray. He accuses Jacob of blasphemy.

Jacob's response is sure. He has a first-hand testimony, because he has heard the voice of the Lord on more than one occasion. Sherem cannot sway him.

When Jacob asks him bluntly if he denies Christ, who will come, Sherem equivocates by saying "If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him..." and then goes on to say that there never has been nor will there ever be a Christ.

This evasive response is typical of one who "bends" the word of God. Jacob goes on to challenge Sherem's supposed belief in the scriptures:

... none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save
    they have spoken concerning this Christ.
Wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made,
    all mankind must be lost.      Jacob 5:19, 21

Sherem counters by asking for a sign "by the power of the Holy Ghost in the which ye know so much."

Jacob's response is to say that if God should smite him it would be a sign that he has power in heaven and earth and a testimony that Christ would come. Immediately Sherem is struck down by the power of God. Before he dies several days later, he denies the things he has taught and confesses the reality of Christ and the Holy Ghost.

We observe several things:
-Jacob's accuser is a brother in the faith
-the accuser uses scripture
-Jacob's defense is a first-hand testimony: he has heard the voice of the Lord
-by faith Jacob has power to "smite' Sherem

There is yet another "purpose" for Jacob's added account. The book of Jacob is from the unabridged small plates of Nephi. Unabridged means they are the exact words of the original writers-in this case, Jacob.

Mormon added the small plates to his abridgment "for a wise purpose" (WM 1:10) and Nephi tells us that he made this second set of plates for wise "purposes" (1 N 5:223-224). It seems logical that another purpose for Nephi's small plates (besides replacing the 116 pages of manuscript lost by Martin Harris) is to be a first-hand witness to Jews today. His record is the most "Jewish" in all the Book of Mormon because he had lived among Jews in the Old World.

With that in mind, Jacob's account of Sherem who did not believe in Christ, who said it was a perversion of the law of Moses, that no atonement was needed, that there was no Holy Ghost power, etc., speaks directly to Jews today. Jacob is giving a powerful message to all who do not believe in Christ but especially to Jews who believe in the law of Moses. His message and testimony are that all the prophets testified of Christ to come.

The fact that Jacob added this account after he had "finished" his record in chapter 4 gives added emphasis to his message.

Nehor (Alma 1:3-24)
In the first chapter of the book of Alma we learn of an antichrist named Nehor. Alma's brief account tells us that Nehor taught:
-because God created all men, all would be redeemed to eternal life
-priests and teachers should be supported by the people

His teachings became so popular that he established a church. However, a man named Gideon contended for the word of God against Nehor; Nehor became angry and killed Gideon. When Nehor was brought before Alma 11, the chief judge of the land, he was sentenced to die by the laws established by Mosiah 11. Alma said to him in sentencing him:

Behold, this is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced
   among this people ... [and if it were] enforced among this
    people, it would prove their entire destruction.    Almal:17-18

The record then tells us that Nehor suffered an "ignominious death" after acknowledging that what he had taught was contrary to the word of God.

Mormon, the abridger, comments that Nehor's death did not put an end to priestcraft in the land. Nephi defines "priestcraft" in Second Nephi 11:106-107:

... priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up
    for a light unto the world,
That they may get gain and praise of the world,
But they seek not the welfare of Zion.      2 Nephi 11:106

What can we learn from this incident?

-Nehor's insidious philosophy that all will be saved is very much alive today. This comfortable philosophy allows one to do anything without being accountable. The concept of sin and judgment is eliminated.
-Alma rebukes the concept of a "priest class." The priests and teachers were not to become a separate class of people, supported by the people. The priest class depicted in the murals and art of Mesoamerica bear mute testimony that his prediction of destruction came true.
-As a people we must be vigilant in guarding against both of these philosophies.

Korihor (Alma 16:7-77)
The account of the antichrist Korihor is more in-depth than the other two accounts. We would call Korihor an atheist. He taught:

-no God; the coming of Christ was not prophecy, but a foolish tradition imposed upon the people by the priests and teachers
-no atonement; everyone was responsible for their own destiny in this life
-no life after death, therefore, they could "lift up their heads" now in their wickedness

After futile attempts to preach in the lands of Jershon and Gideon, Korinor was delivered to Alma, the chief judge and governor of all the land of Zarahernla.

Korihor accused Alma and the priests and teachers of keeping the people in bondage and living off their labors. Alma reminded him that he had not received even "one senine" for his ministry. His only salary was for time in the judgment seat, which was prescribed by law.

Alma asked him if he believed there was a God, and he answered, "no." Alma asked him if he would deny again that there was a God and also Christ.

As with the previous antichrists, Korihor asked for a sign that there was a God. Alma told him he had enough signs. He had the testimony of his brethren and the holy prophets as found in the scriptures. Alma reminded him that the earth and the planets all testified to a Creator.

Korihor again denied the existence of God.

Alma said it grieved him, but it was better for one soul to be lost than many. So he said a third time that if Korihor denied God, he would be struck dumb.

Like Sherem, Korihor equivocated, "I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe there is a God ... and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe."

Alma said he would have his sign:

I say that in the name of God that ye shall be struck dumb,
    that ye shall no more have utterance.    Alma 16:61

When Alma finished those words, Korihor could not speak. Alma wrote a note to him asking if he was convinced of the power of God.

Korihor responded that he knew it was the power of God; he knew there was a God, but Satan appeared to him as an angel of light and persuaded him to deceive people. He asked Alma to pray for the curse to be removed, but Alma refused because he said that he would return to deceiving the people.

Korihor turned into a beggar and ended up being trampled to death by the Zoramites.

In summary:
-Korhior repeats a common accusation still used by atheists today: religion is bondage by clerics for the purpose of control and financial gain.
-Satan literally converted Korihor to be his disciple for the purpose of destroying belief in God.
-Alma was merciful (as God is with us) and gave Korihor three opportunities to repent. Korihor's willful rejection of mercy shows there will be some who will ultimately reject God no matter how many opportunities for repentance they are given.

Application
What can be gained from studying these three antichrists? Satan is using the same arguments and methods today. Therefore it must be profitable to our understanding to study the arguments these antichrists used, even though they were hundreds of years apart.

It is important to realize that all three of these antichrists were former believers. They not only held these beliefs personally, they actively proselyted others. Their arguments can be grouped in two ways:

  1. Satan's deception within the church:
    -no literal fulfillment of scripture; foolish tradition to look for coming of Christ -God made all people and will save all people
  2. Satan's deception outside the church:
    -no God; religion puts people in bondage

For the clearest description in all scripture of how Satan operates, see Nephi's summary of these three philosophies in Second Nephi 12:24-28.

Satan is not creative. He deceives by employing the same methods throughout all ages. These clear and direct examples in the Book of Mormon of how Satan deceives and operates gives us much to ponder. Truly, clinging to the rod of iron--the word of God--will take us through the mist of darkness and deception to Jesus, the tree of life. Alma's counsel to his son Helaman is profitable for us today:

For just as suredly as this director did
    bring our fathers, by following its
    course, to the promised land,
Shall the word of Christ, if we follow
   its course, carry us beyond this
   vale of sorrow into a far better
   land of promise.       Alma 17:80

This article taken from the Zarahemla Record issue 62 July/August 1992