Social: Verse 23 tells us that the differences of opinion caused “much trial” in the church. These trials included people who not only left the church, but left the community.
It is one thing to leave this artificial division that Alma created, but quite another to leave the community entirely. Modern man does not completely understand how severe an action this would have been.
Inside ones’ community are one’s kin, and the kin group serves as a first line of defense against the world. Systems of obligations are created among kin so that one may be cared for inside of the group, but typically excluded from another kin’s attention. Thus someone who left a community left not only a familiar environment, but a protective safety net and entered into another community where such a connection may or may not have been present.
We may suspect that those who “withdrew themselves from among them” would have gone to some other community where they had some kind of connections. The context of those who leave comes as an extension of those whose “names were blotted out.” Thus there were two kinds of people who left – those who simply left the church and remained in the community, and those who left the church and the community.
For those who physically left, they could have had kin in another area, or they may have had business (that is, trading) relations with the other community. In any case, those who withdrew themselves would certainly not leave for another community dominated by the Nephite religion/culture. They would go to some other location where the culture matched better their new understanding of how they chose to live. The introduction to these problems began with Nehor, and we may presume that they were following this order of Nehor, as it came to be known.