The next piece of the content exchange that I agreed to do with my friend was Alma 30, from the Book of Mormon.
My memory of the exact content of each chapter is a bit rusty, but I suspected this might be the Korihor chapter, and I was not disappointed!
So here are some thoughts about Alma 30.
Basic, high-level point: BoM Evidence
I probably sound tedious repeating this so many times but I will say it again. There is no good supporting evidence for the Book of Mormon and plenty of good counter-evidence and arguments against its authenticity. These include:
- 1769 Edition King James Bible translation errors in the Isaiah chapters
- 1769 Edition King James Italics directly copied (word for word) into the Isaiah chapters
- These two imply a direct copying of King James Bible content (in some form or another) into the Book of Mormon
- A large number of anachronisms
- Lack of supporting DNA evidence (and contradictory DNA evidence)
- The presence of very similarly themed books right in Joseph Smith’s back yard, on which 4gram studies have been conducted finding high amounts of word correlation, these books include View of The Hebrews, The Late War, The First Book of Napoleon, and others.
- The presence of 19th century Protestant material in the Book of Mormon (particularly the long sermons in early Alma) (Richard Bushman)
- The Witnesses all being from, or related to two families, saying they saw the golden plates with their “spiritual eyes” when pressed on the subject, and some of them later witnessing for other religions.
- The list goes on.
Suffice it to say I think for anyone looking at the Book of Mormon from the outside, it’s quite clear it’s merely the creation of a young Joseph Smith’s interesting mind.
So, approaching Alma 30 then: it’s extremely unlikely that Alma or Korihor were actually real people. When I read this story, I take it as just that – a story, a fictional account of an exchange between two people.
Korihor is the “bad guy”, Alma is the “good guy”. In modern language, based on the arguments that Korihor makes (before being “struck dumb”), Korihor could reasonably be characterised as an agnostic.
Of course the purpose of this chapter is, overall, to demonise atheists and agnostics, somehow implying that they “actually knew better” (AKA they know that “God” really exists), were “possessed of a lying spirit” or “deceived by the devil”. And finally they will meet a bitter end as they are dragged to hell by Satan!
Indeed, in a nicely summarised way at the end we have the moral of the chapter:
“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.”
There’s actually been an entire book written analysing just this one chapter of the Book of Mormon from an ex-Mormon called The Korihor Argument. I’ve read it. It’s good. It basically explains how from a debating / logical point of view it’s very obvious that Korihor has the rational high ground here.
In fact, Alma is quite a hypocrite here condemning Korihor for requesting evidence — when he himself went about destroying the church (Alma 36:6) some number of years earlier and didn’t believe until an angel appeared to him and struck him down to the ground — in other words, Alma didn’t believe until he had evidence!!
The Believing Box: Fear of Hell
If I could say something to my Mormon friend who I am doing exchanges with, I would ask him this:
“You seem very confident that you won’t go to hell, even though over a billion Muslims (who mostly sincerely believe in Islam) sincerely believe that you will. Furthermore, a whole bunch of Catholics, protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all think you are either going to hell or your existence will terminate on death because you don’t believe in their dogma.
So why aren’t you scared?
Why aren’t you afraid that you will go to the Muslim version of hell for not being a Muslim?
Why aren’t you afraid of going to Purgatory because you’re not a believing Catholic?”
I feel the same way about the hell described for Korihor as most Mormons do about the hell described for infidels who don’t believe in Islam.
There’s no good evidence for any of them. So why should I be afraid?
The Believing Box: “Hardening your heart”
“And now it came to pass that Alma said unto him: Behold, I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart, yea, that ye will still resist the spirit of the truth, that thy soul may be destroyed.” Alma 30:46
A similar criticism is levelled against agnostics like Korihor (and me) that we “harden our hearts” against the truth.
The truth is, I would accept the truth, no matter what it is and no matter how difficult it is to accept it. But I have extremely high standards for what I consider “truth”, and Mormonism, Christianity and Theism generally don’t meet those standards.
Religions tend to praise credulity. Credulity is defined as “The tendency to believe readily (easily)”. This is what is referred to as a “soft heart” in Mormonism. It’s people who open their hearts and minds, with little or no scepticism, to “the word” (“the message” of “God” and the “prophets”).
I am no longer a credulous person. This is interpreted as being “hard hearted”. The truth is quite different: I would believe anything, but I have high standards of belief (the need for evidence). But I don’t think I am a hard hearted person.
Finally, I’d also ask my Mormon friend: Why do you harden your heart against the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why don’t you let them into your house to listen to their message with the seed of faith? Why do you reject their message without even hearing it?
Can you imagine a Jehovah’s Witness looking at you and saying “He has such a hard heart against the message of Jehovah”? Or a Muslim looking at you and saying “He has such a hard heart against the message of Allah in the Qur’an”?
We all “harden our hearts” to most of the religious messages that most religions produce, some of us just go one religion further.
Conclusion: I call the bluff
In John 4:48, it writes that Jesus says:
“Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe”
“A lifetime of foolishness and self-deception awaits anyone who won’t call this bluff.”
I echo this sentiment. I call the bluff. The Korihor story tells of an agnostic man who is struck dumb by God. But it is just that — a story. There is no evidence behind the Book of Mormon to establish that this ever actually happened.
I call the bluff. I invite God to strike me down as a blasphemer. At least then, after being struck down, I would have evidence to support the claim of his existence, and I would admit that I’m wrong. I am a reasonable man — show me the evidence, and work me through it, and I will be convinced. If I need to “repent”, then so I will — sincerely.
But when is the last time you actually heard of some blasphemer being struck dumb by God? Has it happened in the last 10 years? 100 years? No. These are ancient stories.
I am not afraid. I have knowledge.