“They Began to Support Him and Give Him Money”

Brant Gardner

In the ancient context in which this commentary is suggesting the Nephites lived, it is not coincidental that both the priests of Noah and Nehor are connected with both the rejection of the atoning Messiah and a paid priesthood.

In the cultural context, these ideas would have been available in the surrounding cultures, albeit the doctrines were modified so that they would be more easily acceptable to people who held to the fundamentals of the law of Moses. The connection between priesthood and elitism was unmistakable in Mesoamerica, and was an obvious facet of Noah’s court. It is now described as happening again.

This is not a case of independent invention, but rather of reintroducing a model with which they were well acquainted, and perhaps even envied. Nehor was able to package the beliefs of the world in a way that it allowed the Nephites to presume that they could have the best of both worlds – the religion of their fathers and trappings of the world that they probably envied.

Translation: This verse contains a clear translation error. The people of Zarahemla clearly provided Nehor support so that he did not have to work, but Joseph Smith translated this support as “money.” The use of money as a medium of exchange was not known in Mesoamerica.

Even though the original Nephites would have known of money, it is unlikely that they would have instituted a monetary system early in their community as there was nothing to give it value. Money has value only because we agree that it has value. In the types of communities known in Mesoamerica, there was little to “buy” in many cases. Barter was the means of exchange, and the support Nehor received would have initially been subsistence that he didn’t provide with his own hands.

However, it is also clear that he was provided with more than simple necessity. He was supplied with some type of surplus. Nehor was able to turn his “support” into the trappings of wealth. It is in this sense that Joseph translated “money.” Nehor was able to “buy” the trappings of wealth. While the word is technically incorrect, the connotation is correct.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon