I’ve been thinking a lot about language this week. Many people are speaking out about systemic racism, changing their profile pictures to support Black Lives Matter, and denouncing George Floyd’s death at the hand of police officers in Minneapolis. And though I’m a proud Yankee who doesn’t particularly like cops, I was very unsettled by what I was seeing, especially among fellow Saints. The Book of Mormon was made for our day. The Spirit has testified to me of this again as we studied Nehor and Amlici last week for Come, Follow Me.
I find the placement of these two men back to back provident. The Nephites transition to a new system of government and Alma, the leader of the Church, also becomes the Chief Judge. While one might think this would lead to great harmony in Nephite society, almost immediately there is contention and apostasy. Nehor is brought before Alma in the first year of his reign for killing Gideon and for introducing priestcraft among the Nephites. He preached his Gospel of popularity, universal exaltation, and priestcraft to the people for quite some time before he ran afoul of the law. There is some evidence in the scriptural account that there were many who did not want Nehor to face punishment. Nehor himself defended his actions “with much boldness.” Even as Nehor acknowledged his deception at his execution, priestcraft continued in the land “for the sake of riches and honor.”
Nehor becomes the first of many false priests, a template that so many follow that Mormon calls it “the order of Nehor.” These new soothsayers are smart enough to not repeat Nehor’s mistake; they preached according to their beliefs and did not commit crimes to avoid the law. But they led to great contention in the Church, as many church members fought against them. This contention lead to the excommunication and name removal for many in the Church. Though the church members who stayed faithful received great blessings and prosperity, there is an undercurrent of apostasy and division beneath the surface. The next Nehor came quickly, five years later.
At first glance, Nehor and Amlici are different. Nehor was a religious leader, an apostate for sure, but he had no interest in political power. Amlici, on the other hand, was explicitly political. He used his cunning and wisdom of the world to gain political power; he wanted to become king. Mormon, however, tells us that Amlici was after the “order of him who slew Gideon by the sword” and Amlici and his followers’ ultimate goal was to gain political power to “destroy the church of God.” To steal a phrase from Mormon, thus we see that the Church is besieged by dissenters and also by politicos, not to mention the constant threat of war. What does this have to do with us in our day? Everything.
The Church is being attacked by dissenters and through political means as well. This was clarified for me this week. I remember a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago who was looking into Ordain Women. She was skeptical of their efforts and did not support them, but she felt a bit uncomfortable writing them off as apostates. She said, “They’re just asking questions. And asking questions is exactly what Joseph Smith did. They can follow that model too.” I was taken aback because I’d never heard a principle of the Gospel twisted for a negative end in that way before. It was brazen. Though I recognized Ordain Women and Kate Kelly would eventually be exposed as “after the Order of Nehors,” I realized their rhetoric was subtle and genius.
Nehor killed Gideon; Kate Kelly, the leader of Ordain Women was excommunicated, began working for Planned Parenthood, and divorced her husband. But that was not the end of Nehors. Just as we see in Alma 1, the next crop of soothsayers is careful to mask their apostasy. We are admonished to “mourn with those that mourn” on LGBT issues; to our modern-day soothsayers this means we must support same-sex marriage and the LGBT lifestyle. The Honor Code debacle at BYU earlier this year illustrates many of our young people have become convinced that standing up for the commandments is Un-Christlike and distasteful. This is the environment that Black Lives Matters came into after a few years of dormancy. And I believe, like Amlici, its ultimate goal, while political, is to destroy the Church of God.
Why would protesting the murder of a black man at the hands of a white cop be against the Gospel? President Nelson even issued a statement condemning racism, obviously, some might say, these protests are a good thing to help us recognize the shortcomings of our society. I firmly believe “all are alike unto God” (2 Ne 26:33). My family is Mexican and we’ve experienced negative treatment because some people did not think we were equals. I understand that racism still exists. But I also believe in the 2nd Article of Faith: We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.
I am not responsible for the death of George Floyd any more than I am responsible for Adam’s fall. The idea of systemic racism takes away that agency and attributes actions of both black and white to factors that are out of their control. Instead of Jesus Christ’s atonement which “succor[s] his people according to their infirmities,” we are left to ourselves, weak and powerless to change our natures unless we submit to a Marxist worldview that wishes to abolish the nuclear family.
The destruction of the family, the denial of the Atonement of Christ, and the destruction of His Church is the ultimate goal of the leaders of this movement. Unlike Amlici, there probably won’t be a public battle and confrontation between the people of God and those that would deny us our freedom. This battle is taking place in each of our hearts. Stay vigilant, to better recognize the next Nehor that comes into our lives.
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020, May 25-31.
- “Why Do We Serve?” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 1984
- “Truth and the Plan” -President Dallin H. Oaks, October 2018
- “A Message to the World” -President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1975
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