Korihors, Secular Humanism, and the Book of Mormon

The topic of Korihor, noted Book of Mormon anti-Christ, has come up in Mormon discussions recently. The identification of Korihor with various contemporary groups or individuals marks such as illegitimate and dangerous. Boundaries, separation, and vigilance against such ideas is warranted. One of the most popular interpretations is that Korihor teaches secular humanism, situating secular humanists (and often religious humanists) as not only heretical, but also demonic. It is worth mentioning that the text justifies Korihor’s murder on the basis of his beliefs, so the violence of the comparison to modern individuals is something to think about.

A while ago, co-blogger RT and I discussed the question of Korihor’s supposed “secular humanism” in relationship to the Book of Mormon’s place in history. The problem, as I explained, is that the Book presents itself as an ancient text, but that secular humanism is an entirely modern phenomenon. Basically, secular humanism is anachronistic to the Book of Mormon’s narrative. Check out my post outlining a non-secularist reading of Korihor here, and RT’s response connecting Korihor to the 1829 controversy over atheist-skeptic Abner Kneeland here.

We are left with a seeming paradox. The use of the secular humanism line of interpretation in the Korihor account does certain kinds of religious boundary maintenance in Mormon discourse, but at the same time threatens to undermine the Book of Mormon itself.

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