Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Alma 30:48-52 -- On Not Becoming Dumb

"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.
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.
Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma.
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?
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."
Alma 30:48-52

The whole story of Korihor is an interesting and tragic one, but what struck me today was the 5-verse turnaround between "I do not believe" and "I always knew."  ... It seems to begin with sign seeking.  Seeking a sign from God is pretty typical of humanity I think.  We read about it in Mark 8:11,  Matthew 16:1, Jacob 7:13, and even in Isaiah 7:11-12, where Ahaz was smart enough to know *not* to ask.  Ether 12:6 reminds us that "ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith," and Ether 4:18 (and several other scriptures), remind us that "signs shall follow them that believe in my name."  ... Signs follow our faith, they don't precede it.  When people demand signs in order to believe, it often turns out badly, as it did for Korihor.  Because it is so common, and because it seems natural to ask for a confirmation of belief, perhaps we wonder why this is.  D&C 63:7-11 explains it pretty well.  It seems that faith is part of what makes signs/miracles possible.  We know that Paul talks about the "faith to be healed" (Acts 14:9) as well as Christ telling the woman who touched the hem of his garment saying "thy faith hath made thee whole" (Matthew 9:22).  What happens when we have zero faith and ask anyway?  Maybe this... tailored to what God needs rather than what would be best for us, because we have no faith to help direct the power.  Korihor would have just kept deceiving the people had he not been struck dumb, so a sign that accomplished more than one thing for God was to stop the deception by striking him dumb.  A similar thing happens to Sherem in Jacob 7.  I think the idea here is that if we have faith, and we desire to be healed, or to have a prayer or question answered, or even just to find our keys, God will help us.  Signs and miracles are everyday occurrences among the believers, and we don't insult or tempt God by asking for his help.  But if we have no faith, and we are asking for a sign from a desire to embarrass others or prove them wrong, or because we think that we need a perfect knowledge before we give God a chance... then that is a total other thing.  It's like the newest intern walking up to the CEO and saying, 'Hey freakshow, you aren't the CEO.  You're lying.  I don't think you really have the power to make decisions around here.  Prove it.  PROVE IT!'  ... Do we have any doubt about what that CEO is going to use as proof?  Probably not give the intern a full-time job or a pay raise, right?  Is a reward a reasonable expectation at that point?
It's interesting how quickly Korihor decides that he has always believed.  He then asks for the curse to be removed.  Alma tells him that if he got his voice back that he would go back to his old ways, and he remains cursed.  This was good for the church... we learn that the people who he led astray were all converted again.  But Korihor was still lost.  ... I think that we're unfortunately a lot like Korihor sometimes.  We want something badly, and although it is an unwise request in the first place, we keep asking for it, sometimes rudely, with lots of whining, ignoring the consequences completely, and then something bad happens.  Sometimes the bad thing IS what we were asking for, and we find out, oh... I guess I should have been more careful with my wish.  Other times the bad thing is the consequence of our belligerence or not listening when God says no.  Either way, we are lightning fast when we backpedal.  Oh, no... no no no.  This isn't what we want.  This isn't what we asked for.  We're good, we're faithful, please take it away, please make things better... immediately we are begging for the opposite of what we wanted before. :)  But have our hearts changed in that instant?  Are we really different or repentant?  Likely, no.  We might want to be, and in that moment we of course will promise anything to get out of it... but if God delivers us, we will just blow it off as a promise made when we were scared, but now that things are normal again we don't need to be that dramatic.  ... Does this sound familiar?  It does to me.  And that is scary, right?  We're too much like Korihor. 
Today, let's work on NOT becoming dumb like Korihor was. :)  Let's not seek after signs, but instead work on our faith.  Let's not demand anything from the Lord, but always always put his will first.  And when we get ourselves into jams, let's not make empty promises... let's practice some sincere and heartfelt repentance.  Let's be open to changing our ideas, our attitudes, our actions, and even our self-definitions for God.  There is so much good to be had from lives lived in harmony with God and his gospel.  Let's let the signs follow righteous lives, and never ask for things out of order.

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