Ezra Taft Benson taught that the Book of Mormon identifies the enemies of Christ.
“… the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.
There is a consistent struggle throughout the scriptures. The prophets tell people again and again what commandments the Lord would have his people follow.
So what do we see time and again in the enemies of Christ throughout the scriptures. What sort of beliefs stand in opposition to the truth in the scriptures?
The primary issue in the scriptures seems to be simple: righteousness, righteousness, righteousness. It is obedience to the commandments. It is submitting our will to the will of the Father by keeping his commandments.
We may be surprised in John 14 when Christ states that he measures our love for him by how well we keep his commandments.
But we see a pattern in generation after generation in the book of Mormon. Certainly their people of any religion professed their love and devotion for God as vehemently as any religious preacher of modern times. But the most recurring theme is that those religions that rise up in opposition to the true church really have one main thing to offer: Their followers don’t have to follow the commandments.
The chief commandment that people like to find a way around is the law of chastity. That is why other religions are called the “whore of all the earth”.
In Jacob 2-3 we see an apostasy taking place within some portion of the believers. They have determined that they are allowed to take additional wives and concubines to themselves. What makes this movement popular? Isn’t it obvious? It gives its followers a way out of keeping the law of chastity. It loosens the bands of the great commandment of the body – the centerpiece of Christlike living – the law of Chastity.
What doctrine do the priests of King Noah offer? They challenge Abinadi’s preaching with the verses:
Mosiah 12:21 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;
22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;
23 Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;
24 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God
The point the priests of King Noah are trying to make is that Abinadi is a judging judgy pants. They are claiming that a real prophet gives a message that is uplifting and fills people with joy. They are saying his teachings do not make them feel edified, and so he can’t be a real prophet. A real prophet would be compassionate. He would be offering compassion and teaching peace. He would be bringing good tidings and singing salvation. He would be telling them to sing together in joy. A real prophet would be offering God’s comfort, not condemning them. After all, all the earth shall see the salvation of God.
We get a little more insight into the doctrine of these people when we read:
Mosiah 12:13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?
14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain.
Obviously one of the main messages of the priests of King Noah was that the people were worthy. In reality they were so wicked that God sent Abinadi to warn them of impending doom. They grew up under righteous Zeniff and they had the commandments. But somehow all their wickedness didn’t make them unworthy. The say “we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned”.
The priests of king Noah offered salvation without responsibility. They taught that there was no need to obey commandments because the gospel was a message of joy. Thus they could spend their time with harlots.
Nehor also taught salvation without responsibility. Nehor taught that there was no need to obey the commandments because everybody will be saved.
Alma 1:4 And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.
Nehor’s message was that they were worthy. They didn’t need to obey to be worthy. His message was a message of joy: They didn’t need to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Instead they could lift up their heads and rejoice. Each of us is a unique creation of God and he will save all of us.
Korihor’s message makes the same conclusion about the commandments in mortality but does it by denying their is a God. His message is that there is no need to keep the commandments because there is no God. His message is that we need not doubt our own worthiness because worthiness isn’t even real.
Other messages are warned about in the scriptures.
We read of the teaching to “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and if it so be that we are guilty God will beat us with a few stripes and at last we will be saved in the kingdom of God.” Again the message is that we don’t need to keep the commandments. Again the message is that we are worthy, or at least worthy enough.
Another message we are warned about is “I am no devil for there is none.” Again the message is that we don’t need to keep the commandments. We can do as we please without consequence.
A strict warning is given against the message “All is well in Zion.” And why? Well by now it is completely clear. That is the great message of the apostate. It is the message that we are worthy. It is the message that we don’t need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
In the Book of Mormon we see Zeezrom teaching that if we are to say God requires obedience for salvation then we are acting as if we have the right to command God. In modern vernacular, we are “judging” if we declare that God will indeed judge us by our works precisely as he has declared in the scriptures. Zeezrom’s message is, again, that we don’t need to keep the commandments.
The foremost great message of the enemies of Christ in the book of Mormon is the same message that is popular now. It is the message that we are worthy. We are deserving.
It is the message that we are all created by God and we are worthy.. We are worthy without pressing forward diligently. We are worthy whether or not we submit our will to the will of the Father even as a child submits to his father.
It is the message that to say someone should feel ashamed for their actions is offensive to God. Because shame itself is never merited because we are worthy.
It is the message that God will be mocked in matters of immorality among his covenant members. We can make covenants and then misbehave sexually: having “friends with benefits”, and watching sleaze and filth with no bottom to its depths in movies, on television, and in pornography and there will be no thorny road to repentance. Maybe God will beat us with a few stripes. But he offers no retribution for moral transgression in violation of our covenants.
Christ measures our love for him by our obedience: “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”
And the adversary succeeds insofar as he can separate us from obeying our God. His message is that we are worthy.
God’s message is that we can BECOME worthy of exaltation, but that to do so we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.