BEWARE OF FAITH-SHAKERS! Faith-shakers take on many forms. In today’s reading Sherem is the personification of a faith-shaker. Jacob describes meeting the faith-shaker Sherem with these words: “and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me… And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken. (Jacob 7:3, 5, emphasis added)
Jacob 7:2 teaches us that faith-shakers attack Christ and His true doctrine. Faith-shakers are antichrists. “An antichrist is an opponent of Christ; he is one who is in opposition to the true gospel, the true Church, and the true plan of salvation. (1 John 2:19; 4:4-6) He is one who offers salvation to men on some other terms than those laid down by Christ. Sherem (Jacob 7:1-23), Nehor (Alma 1:2-16), and Korihor (Alma 30:6-60) were antichrists who spread their delusions among the Nephites.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., p.39)
We may have faith-shakers in our life who are like Sherem, but I find that the more common and subtle faith-shakers that Christ’s disciples face today are FALSE DOCTRINE FAITH-SHAKERS! Sure. a person can preach false doctrine, but it can also come from many other sources.
HOW Can False Doctrine Be a Faith-Shaker? President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has taught that, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986). Therefore, believing false doctrines will change one’s attitude and behavior as well. False doctrine is a great faith-shaker! What are some modern-day false doctrine faith-shakers? Media, theories, environments, governments, etc. can all be faith-shakers. What are false doctrines do they preach? They speak of coincidental creation, overpopulation, redefining family and marriage, abortion, etc. Robert L. Millet, a professor at BYU, put it this way, “I thought back on a few of the antichrists in the Book of Mormon–of Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor–and reconsidered their doctrine, their approach, their success, and their demise. I then broadened my scope a bit and realized that evil attitudes, as well as perverse teachings and false systems of salvation, also qualify as enemies of Christ. Such teachings as ‘We have not [prayed about this], for the Lord maketh no such things known unto us’; ‘All is well in Zion’; ‘Eat, drink, and be merry’; ‘Dig a pit for thy neighbor’; ‘We have received and we need no more’; ‘There is no devil; ‘Ye cannot know what ye cannot see’; ‘Do this or do that and it mattereth not,’ and myriads of others–these symbolize the slogans of an antigospel.” (Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p.68)
HOW Do Faith-Shakers Preach? Antifreeze is probably a good object-lesson to answer this question (Alma 30:53): It is very toxic, but animals are attracted to its sweet taste–they temporarily find pleasure in that which kills them. Jacob 7:2-7 helps us identify some Sherem’s faith-shaker tactics. President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “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” (CR, Apr. 1975, 94–95).
CLEAVE TO FAITH MAKERS! Most of us have not experienced the great manifestations that Jacob did which helped him to “not be shaken” in the faith (Jacob 7:5). So how can we “not be shaken”? Jacob 7:10-12 identifies three things that every disciple of Christ has been given to help them “not be shaken” in the faith. President Benson identified them during a talk in general conference: “May I suggest three short tests to avoid being deceived. . . .1. What do the standard works have to say about it? . . . 2. The second guide is: what do the latter-day Presidents of the Church have to say on the subject—particularly the living President . . . 3. The third and final test is the Holy Ghost. . . . This test can only be fully effective if one’s channels of communication with God are clean and virtuous and uncluttered with sin” (Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 16-17).
CLEAVE TO TRUE DOCTRINE FAITH-MAKERS! There are a few questions that one can ask to evaluate the doctrine that is being presented to discern if it is a faith-shaker or a faith-maker. Faith-maker doctrines receive a YES to each of the following questions:
- Is the doctrine clearly expressed in the standard works of the Church?
- Is the doctrine found within the official declarations, proclamations, or statements of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles?
- Is the doctrine clearly taught or discussed by current general Church leaders in general conference or other official gatherings of the Church?
- Is the doctrine found in the general handbooks or the presently approved curriculum of the Church? (Sunday School: Spring 2005 President’s Message)
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “There is not anything in this world of as great importance to us as obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us search these scriptures. Let us know what the Lord has revealed. Let us put our lives in harmony with his truth. Then we will not be deceived” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:301). Jacob 7:23 shows how this principle affected the Nephites after Sherem was revealed as a faith-shaker.
Robert J. Matthews, a respected Latter-day Saint scholar, wrote: The Book of Mormon was written specifically and pointedly for our time. The principles needed for salvation anciently are the same principles needed now. Likewise, the way of apostasy in ancient times is a pattern of apostasy in our day. The Book of Mormon shows how apostasies occur, and the terrible effects that apostasy has in the lives of individuals as well as in groups such as political governments and churches. Men such as Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor are notable examples of individual apostates in the Book of Mormon, and it clearly demonstrates their pride and sophistry. These were intellectual giants, but they were spiritually undeveloped and each fell victim to the cunning of the devil, who captured them with an appeal to their carnal and natural desires.” (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series , p.359)
Interestingly, Jacob’s Faith-Shaker VS. Faith-Maker account with Sherem is followed by the faith-making experience of Jacob’s son Enos. Enos is a pattern for becoming a Faith-Maker (Enos 1:8, 11). A close examination of his experience provides an excellent illustration of the effort required to become an unshakable Faith-Maker. After Enos receives a witness for himself of Christ, he begins the faith-making process of seeking the welfare of others (Enos 1:8-16). As you continue to look for examples of Faith-Shakers and Faith-Makers during your study the Book of Mormon you will be able to identify things that you can do to become a Faith-Maker and avoid Faith-Shakers.