“Their Names Were Blotted Out”

Brant Gardner

Culture: These economic/religious differences of opinion caused “much trial” in the church (v. 23). Some church-men responded by leaving, not only the church, but the community. Modern readers would probably not understand how drastic an action it was to physically leave the community. One’s kin and the kin group, usually located in a particular neighborhood, was a first line of defense against the world. Systems of obligations among kin assured being cared for in the group, while another kin group would feel no similar obligation. Thus, someone who left a town not only departed into an unfamiliar environment, but was also leaving a protective safety net and undertaking the enormous personal and social burden of finding a place, as an “outsider,” in a “foreign” community. Such a relocation was typically undertaken when there was already some connection in the new community, such as a wife’s or sister’s family.

The record specifies that a large group of “names were blotted out” while a smaller group “withdrew themselves from among them”—in other words, were not only excommunicated but who also physically moved to some other town or village, logically one where they had some kind of connection. That connection might have been kin or possibly trading associates. In any case, those who moved out certainly did not leave for another community dominated by the Nephite religion/culture. They would go to a locale whose culture better matched their new philosophy and lifestyle—the order of the Nehors, as it came to be known.

Variant: There is no variant in the manuscript or printed tradition, but Royal Skousen nevertheless suggests a textual change. The current text reads “that they were remembered no more among the people of God.” Skousen proposes:

The original text here in Alma 1:24 [should] read “they were numbered no more among the people of God.” Usage elsewhere in the text consistently states that when people’s names are blotted out, the people are no longer numbered as members of the church.… In support of this conjectural emendation, we have the accidental change of numbered to remembered in 1 Nephi 15:16 (which therefore shows that the verb number can be visually misread as the verb remember). It is much more reasonable that the people were no longer numbered than no longer remembered.

While the social intent of not being numbered and not being remembered are probably more similar than Skousen suggests, the stronger evidence for “numbered” carries weight. Without an extant original, Skousen’s suggestion that this is a transcription error like that of 1 Nephi 15:16 seems reasonable.

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