In Alma 23:17 we find that the converted Lamanites "called their names Anti-Nephi-Lehies. . ." According to Hugh Nibley, the name Anti-Nephi-Lehi means Nephi brought face to face, or joined together with the other descendants of Lehi. Note that in the name "Anti-Nephi-Lehi" the Lamanites and Lemuelites are not named separately. Rather they are covered by the name "Lehi." Thus "Anti-Nephi-Lehi" means Nephi and Lehi [Laman and Lemuel] brought together again, which they were. . . . In the same manner, Korihor was "Anti-Christ." He confronted Christ face to face and claimed to be him. He claimed to replace him. He was the false Christ. There are lots of Anti-Christs. The Anti-Christ comes and says that he is Christ. This is what Satan does. Remember in the beginning of [the book of] Moses, Satan said, "I am the Only Begotten, worship me," and he ranted upon the ground. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 428]
In the missionary account of the sons of Mosiah we learn that the Lamanite people converted by Ammon and his brethren take upon them the name of "Anti-Nephi-Lehies" (Alma 23:17). The reader should note that the name is not "Lehi-Nephi" like the city that Zeniff inherited, but "Nephi-Lehi." The question one might ask is, Why this name? What significance does this name have?
It seems that Anti-Nephi-Lehi was the brother of Lamoni and because of their father's death, was now the current king (Alma 24:3). Apparently, Anti-Nephi-Lehi was sympathetic to Ammon's cause (Alma 24:5) and the people might have either taken on his name of their own accord or he had given the people his name (possibly in some connection with rights, freedoms, or privileges that they were allowed). The reader should note that in Alma 24:23-27 not only did the converts refuse to take up their swords, but they also were commanded by their king not to, and it so impressed the other pure Lamanites that they not only stopped their killing, but were converted also. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 24:1,5,23-27]
“That They Called Their Names Anti–nephi–lehies”
According to Kent Jackson and Darrell Matthews, the precise meaning of the name Anti-Nephi-Lehies is not known, but it appears that the Lamanite converts chose it because they desired a name that would identify them as descendants of Lehi who were not descendants of Nephi. Later the people began to be called "Ammonites," after the leader of the Nephite missionaries who had converted them (Alma 27:26.) Still later, their children referred to themselves as "Nephites" (Alma 53:16). According to the Book of Mormon record, these people remained faithful to the gospel and "never did fall away" (Alma 23:6).
There is no question about the fact that the Book of Mormon holds in extremely high regard these people who, on the grounds of conscience and covenants, refused to bear arms--even in what might normally be considered justifiable self-defense. (See also Alma 24:16-27; 27:2-3, 23-24, 27-30).
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies obeyed the law of Moses, believing that it was a type of Christ's coming. (Alma 25:15) Obeying the law strengthened their faith in Christ: "They did keep the law of Moses; . . . for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them. Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relaying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come." (Alma 25:15-16)
This is one of the finest statements in the scriptures about the role of the law of Moses as a"type," a symbol or pattern, of the mission of Christ. [Kent P. Jackson and Darrell L. Matthews, "The Lamanite Converts Firm in the Faith," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 1, pp. 337-339]