“They Began to Support Him and Give Him Money”

Brant Gardner

It is no coincidence that the priests of both Noah and Nehor are a paid priesthood who reject the Atoning Messiah. The connection between priesthood and elitism was unmistakable in Mesoamerican culture generally, as it was in Noah’s court. Nehor’s beliefs are not independent inventions, but Nehor packaged worldly (Mesoamerican) beliefs in a way that allowed the Nephites to toy with the temptation of having the best of both worlds—the religion of their fathers and trappings of the world that they envied.

Translation: This verse contains a clear translation error. Zarahemlaites supported Nehor so that he did not have to work. Joseph Smith translated this support as “money,” but the use of money as a medium of exchange was unknown in Mesoamerica (or anywhere else in the New World at the time). Even though the original Nephites may have known about money, it seems unlikely that they had instituted a monetary system early in their community as there was nothing to give it value, no agreed-upon unit of exchange. (See commentary accompanying Jacob 2:12–13.)

Because barter was the means of exchange, the support Nehor received would have been food that he didn’t provide by his own labor. However, he obviously received more than simple necessities—enough that he could turn it into the trappings of wealth, which explains why Joseph translated it as “money.” Nehor was able to “buy” the trappings of wealth. While the word is technically incorrect, the connotation is correct.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 4