The Arrest and Trial of Korihor," by George Potter

At first glance it might appear that the Book of Mormon account of the arrest of the Anti-Christ Korihor is an inconsistency in the Book of Mormon, when in fact it is yet another evidence of the truthfulness of this amazing book.

The story of the rise and demise of Korihor is found in the 30th chapter of the book of Alma. The narrator begins by reminding us that the Nephite legal system was based on the law of Moses:

Yea, and the people did observe to keep the commandments of the Lord; and they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the law of Moses until it should be fulfilled (Alma 30:3).

The chapter also tells us that the Nephites had the legal right of freedom of religion:

Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds. For thus saith the scriptures: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve. Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him. (Alma 30:7-9).

Chapter 30 also informs us that the judges in the land had standard punishments that were required for those who committed crimes and that they were delineated in the law of Moses (2 Nephi. 5:10, 25-24; Jarom 1:5, Alma 30:3):

But if he murdered he was punished unto death; and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they were punished (Alma 20:20).

Finally, before the record of Korihor's arrest and trial is recounted, the Book of Mormon states that no Nephite could be arrested for his "belief..."

For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man's belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; there all men were on equal grounds (Alma 20:11).

Under the protection of the law, Korihor began preaching his beliefs to the Nephites:

And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, (and the law could have no hold upon him) began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ (Alma 30:11-12).

While many Nephites believed in the false doctrine of Korihor, we learn that when he preached to the Lamanites in the land of Jershon...

They were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people. And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and bound and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land" (Alma 30:21).

Is the arrest of Korihor an inconsistency in the Book of Mormon? If it was not a crime to believe in any doctrine, why didn't the high priest and chief judge in Gideon free Korihor? Instead, they put him in the "hands of the officers, and sent him to the land of Zarahemla, that he might be brought before Alma, and the chief judge who was governor over all the land." (Alma 30:29) In other words, the high priest in Gideon must have known that Korihor had broken a law-but what law?

It should be remember that the high priest of Gideon only asked Korihor, "Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings?" (Alma 30:22). Both the high priest and the chief judge witnessed that Korihor "...would revile even against God." (Alma 30:29). In other words, it was not Korihor's doctrine or private belief that violated the law; it was his public denial of Christ and his reviling against God that was a violation of the law of Moses. By denying the existence of God, Korihor was committing a crime that was universally recognized by the children of Israel. Clearly he had violated the Nephite law against the blasphemy of God.

The LDS Bible Dictionary defines blasphemy as:

Generally denotes contemptuous speech concerning God, or concerning something that stands in a sacred relationship toward God, such as his temple, his law, or his prophet.... The punishment for willful and intentional blasphemy was death by stoning (Lev. 24:11-16, cf. John 10:31-33; Acts 7:58). Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which is willfully denying Christ after having received a perfect knowledge of him from the Holy Ghost is the unforgivable sin (Matt. 12: 31-32; Mark 3:28-29; D&C 132:27).

Even today, where I live in Saudi Arabia, I can believe anything I want. There is no crime for having a given faith; however, I can be subject to death for publicly teaching that there is no God. In a similar fashion, there is freedom of religion in England; however, you cannot blaspheme the king or queen. We read in the book of Jarom that the Nephite law strictly prohibited blasphemy.

And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the Sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict. (Jarom 1:5).

In Korihor's trial before Alma, we see the wisdom and mercy of the great prophet and judge. During his trial, Alma never questions Korihor about his beliefs, i.e., whether he believes in life after death or what rites he observes. That's because a Nephite had the right to believe anything he wished. Alma only questions him about his public denial of God (blasphemy). While the law of Moses required the Chief Judge of all the land to sentence Korihor to death if he was guilty of blasphemy (Lev. 24:16), Alma appears to have given Korihor every possible opportunity to acquit himself of having denied God. Knowing he had violated the law, Alma repeatedly offered him the opportunity to reverse his guilty position:

"Believest thou [Korihor] that there is a God?" (Alma 30:37), Alma asked.

Again, "Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ?" (Alma 30:38). This time the loving Alma seems to plead with Korihor by sharing with him his personal witness: "For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come" (Alma 30:38).

Since Korihor was on trial for having committed a capital offense, Alma was obligated as a judge to ask the accused to enter his evidence: "And now what evidence have ye {Korihor] that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?" (Alma 30:40)

It seems that Korihor could not provide the court any logical or empirical evidence, for Alma continued: "I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only." (Alma 30:40).

Appropriately, Alma then enters his evidence to support the law by declaring that all things testify of God. In reply, Korihor tempts the court by stating that he would believe in a God if Alma showed him a sign. After all the opportunities he had given Korihor to have the charge of blasphemy dropped, Alma tries one last time to convince Korihor to stop denying God and to bring upon himself a sure judgment that would end his life. Alma said unto him:

Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? [blasphemy] (Alma 30:45).

The defiant Korihor replied: "I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign" (Alma 30:45).

Thus, despite the Nephite's right to freedom of religion, Korihor had violated the public law of Moses forbidding blasphemy. The high priest and chief judges were properly following the law by having him bound and brought before Alma. As the Chief Judge over all the land, Alma not only provided Korihor evidence of his crime, but provided him several opportunities to repent of his crimes and not be found guilty. When Alma placed the curse on Korihor, as a judge under the law of Moses, he was properly following the law, for as we see the curse appears to have eventually led to the death of Korihor.

Rather than an inconsistency in the Book of Mormon, we see that our sacred book is, to an incredible degree, completely in harmony with the law of Moses as it is found in the Holy Bible.