“Therefore Ye Cannot Know That There Shall Be a Christ”

Brant Gardner

Rhetoric: Korihor’s attack on belief in the Atoning Messiah continues with an attack on the source of those beliefs. Relevant to this argument is Abinadi’s trial before Noah’s priests. They professed a belief in the law of Moses and the doctrine found on the brass plates but denied the Atoning Messiah (Mosiah 13:26–33), even though Abinadi asserted that all of the prophets from Moses on taught of this Messiah (Mosiah 13:33–34).

The brass plates overlap with part of the Old Testament with which we are familiar, although the exact degree of overlap and variations from it are not known. Like Abinadi, we may see references in the old texts as a testament to the Messiah’s mortal mission, but the Jews were easily able to read those same passages and deny (then and also now) that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah.

Korihor may or may not accept the brass plates as scriptural. It is virtually certain that the prophets he is belittling are Nephite. Just as Noah’s priests could maintain their position only by denying the teachings of the New World prophets, it seems likely that Korihor similarly attacks the New World tradition of prophets rather than those of the Old World, since he calls the prophecies the “foolish tradition of your fathers.” This term nearly always refers to the New World context. Korihor is attacking the Nephite prophets who would not have the support of the sacred brass-plate tradition. In a very real sense, he parallels the modern world that denies the words of the modern prophets, dismissing their instructions as “foolish traditions.”

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4