“Anger of the Chief Judges, High Priests and Lawyers”

Brant Gardner

Culture: Mormon describes the consequences of changes in Nephite society but provides few details about the changes themselves. However, it is possible to read between the lines to reconstruct what was happening. He has already described an emphasis on social hierarchy as communicated by the display of wealth (vv. 14–15). The quest for power (v. 15) provided access to trade (and therefore wealth) that created and maintained the social differentiation. Verse 21 confirms that these trends are working their way into the Nephite political structure. While Lachoneus2 may have been as righteous as his father, many other positions of political power and authority were being filled by those with worldly values, including social hierarchies. Adopting these values constituted the Nephite apostasy. These people would, first, deny the coming Messiah and, second, see a threat from those who preached that Messiah.

This explains why those angry at the preachers “were chiefly the chief judges, and… high priests and lawyers.” These people were in the positions that benefited from the development of social hierarchies. They would lose the most if the social hierarchies were dismantled by a return to the egalitarian Nephite ideal.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5