Social: Once again, Mormon does not make explicit the kinds of changes that are happening in Nephite society. He tells us of their consequences, but not of the more purely historical information about the changes themselves. With our understanding of the kinds of clues Mormon gives us and their interrelationships, we can reconstruct the nature of these changes.
We have the indication from verses 14 and 15 that the society had returned to an emphasis on social hierarchy and the accumulation of wealth that could mark such a social change. One of the aspects of that social shift that is listed in verse 15 is a quest for power. This was discussed as a means of access to the avenues that would create and maintain the social differentiation.
What we have in this verse is the confirmation that these trends are working their way into the political structure of the Nephites. While Lachoneous the son of Lachoneous may have been as righteous as his father, there were nevertheless many other positions of political power and authority among the Nephites that were being filled with those who had adopted the cultural definitions that led to social differentiation. It is this very adoption that constituted the Nephite apostasy, and therefore created the kind of people who would first of all deny the coming Messiah, and secondly see some threat from those who preached that Messiah.
With this background it becomes completely understandable why “those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers.” These people were precisely those who were in the positions that benefited from the social segregation, and who would stand to lose the most if the social order they were enjoying were dismantled by a return to the egalitarian ideal espoused by the Nephite gospel.