Alan C. Miner

It is interesting that as soon as the Nephite kings relinquish their absolute power over the people of Zarahemla, "priestcraft" appears (Alma 1:12). According to 2 Nephi 26:29, "priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." This would shed light on the statement in Alma 1:3 where Nehor taught that "every priest and teacher ought to become popular."

According to Bruce R. McConkie, "when ministers claim but do not possess the priesthood; when they set themselves up as lights to their congregations, but do not preach the pure and full gospel; when their interest is in gaining personal popularity and financial gain, rather than in caring for the poor and ministering to the wants and needs of their fellow men--they are engaged, in a greater or lesser degree, in the practice of priestcrafts." [Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 593]

“His Is the First Time That Priestcraft Has Been Introduced Among This People”

According to Hugh Nibley, it is interesting that Alma not only introduces the term "priestcraft"--"This is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people" (Alma 1:12)--but that he seems to have a historical knowledge of it's destructive capabilities--"were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction." Alma doesn't specifically say where he got this historical perspective; however, it is interesting to note that about the time of Lehi, in the twenty-sixth dynasty [of Egypt], priestcraft ruled the world. . . . Incidentally, the first high priest [of the twenty-first dynasty in Egypt] was called Korihor [the same name as Korihor the anti-Christ mentioned in Alma 30] and his son was called Pianki [the same name as Paanchi, who contended for the judgment-seat at the time Kishkumen and his band (the Gadianton robbers) came into power--see Helaman 1-2] [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 2, p. 219]

“Priestcraft Has Been Introduced”

Referring to the teachings of Nehor, Alma records, "This is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people" (Alma 1:12). This statement adds chronological meaning to a statement in Alma 21 referring to the missionary efforts of the sons of Mosiah in the land of Nephi, specifically at the city of Jerusalem:

Alma 21:4: And it came to pass that Aaron came to the city of Jerusalem, and first began to preach to the Amalekites. And he began to preach to them in their synagogues, for they had built synagogues after the order of the Nehors; for many of the Amalekites and the Amulonites were after the order of the Nehors.

If these statements reflect Nephite chronology; that is, if the order of Nehor originated exclusively with the Nephites, then these synagogues would have had to have been built since the execution of Nehor. The reader might wonder, How could this be so?

According to Michael Hobby, the key to unlocking this dilemma might be tied to Jaredite culture which the Mulekites (the people of Zarahemla) had apparently brought with them when they became subject to Nephite kings. The fact that the Mulekites were deeply involved in Jaredite culture is obvious . . . the fact that they spoke the Jaredite tongue is evidenced by their personal and city names, names of coinage, etc. One direct example is the name Nehor [Mulekite] in Alma 1:2-15. There is also a Nehor [Jaredite] mentioned in Ether 7:4. In all, as much as 30-40 percent of all Nephite/Mulekite names may have been Jaredite or contained one or more Jaredite elements. This could hardly have resulted from reading the record of a fallen people. [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, pp. 21-22]

Thus, the reader should not find it surprising that in a very short period of time, this "order of Nehor" would be the dominating political force in such diverse locations as the city of Ammonihah (Alma 14:16) (located somewhat to the northwest of the local land of Zarahemla--Alma 8:3,6) and the city of Jerusalem (Alma 21:1-3) (located near the borders of Mormon--Alma 21:1). One should also notice that Nehor was executed on the hill Manti (see Alma 1:15), and that the land Manti was located near the border between the general land of Nephi and the general land of Zarahemla (see Alma 22:27).

If, in a few short years, the people at Jerusalem "had built synagogues after the order of the Nehors; for many of the Amalekites and the Amulonites were after the order of the Nehors," then what cultural phenomenon would account for such a spread of the "order of Nehor"? Did the Nephites or Mulekites in the land of Zarahemla establish intercultural communications with the Lamanites in the land of Nephi? Or did the "order of Nehor" really begin in Nephite times? Perhaps a Jaredite/Mulekite order of Nehor had established cultural ties with the Lamanites through the Amalekites and Amulonites. And perhaps the name Nehor is an example of "metonymy" by the editor Mormon in order to provide the reader with this cultural connection. In other words, in writing his edited story, Mormon gave this person the Jaredite name "Nehor" in order to link him to the same philosophies that arose in the Jaredite civilization where the name "Nehor" also appears. What this then might imply is that the Jaredites were destroyed because of priestcraft! [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Alma 8:20; Ether 8:9]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary