Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, November 27

Book of Mormon | How Did the ‘Order of the Nehors’ Begin before Nehor?

Book of Mormon | How Did the ‘Order of the Nehors’ Begin before Nehor?

by grego
(c) 2008, 2010

It seems we have a problem in the Book of Mormon.

In Alma 1, we are told:
Alma 1:2 And it came to pass that in the *first year of the reign of Alma in the judgment-seat*, there was *a man brought before him to be judged*, a man who was large, and was noted for his much strength.
Alma 1:3 And *he had gone about among the people*, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that *every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people*.
Alma 1:5 And it came to pass that *he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money*.
Alma 1:6 And *he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching*.
Alma 1:12 But Alma said unto him: Behold, *this is the first time that priestcraft has been introduced among this people*…

Yet, in Alma 20, we read:
Alma 21:1 Now *when Ammon and his brethren separated themselves in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, behold Aaron took his journey towards the land which was called by the Lamanites, Jerusalem*, calling it after the land of their fathers’ nativity; and it was away joining the borders of Mormon.
Alma 21:2 *Now the Lamanites and the Amalekites and the people of Amulon had built a great city, which was called 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*.
Alma 21:5 Therefore, as Aaron entered into one of their synagogues to preach unto the people, and as he was speaking unto them, behold there arose an Amalekite and began to contend with him, saying: What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us? Behold are not this people as good as thy people?
Alma 21:6 Thou also sayest, except we repent we shall perish. How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, *we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men*.
Alma 21:8 And the man said unto him: We do not believe that thou knowest any such thing. We do not believe in these foolish traditions. *We do not believe that thou knowest of things to come, neither do we believe that thy fathers and also that our fathers did know concerning the things which they spake, of that which is to come*.

Nehor—with this belief system/ religion, of the order of the Nehors–seems to have first started in the Nephite lands at the same time that the order of the Nehors was already established in the Lamanite lands—even long enough to build synagogues specifically built for the order. How is that possible? There wouldn’t likely have been time for the order/ religion to pass over from Nehor and his followers to the Lamanites that quickly!

One LDS apologist, Brant Gardner, wrote about this problem:
“The “order of the Nehors” is named for a murderer. Since the religious movement was around prior to Nehor (such as in king Noah’s court) then Nehor wasn’t the originator. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be all that important to it. Nevertheless, Mormon names the movement after him. Was that historically correct? Probably not. However, he certainly named the movement after a murderer. That tells us what he thought of it.”

Unfortunately for that line of thought, I find little evidence and certainly no proof in the Book of Mormon text that:
–the order of the Nehors had been around since king Noah’s court,
–or that Nehor wasn’t the originator (particularly among the Nephites, which Alma seems to say he was),
–or that he wasn’t that important to the order (as it’s clear in Alma that he is very important to the order and its history among the Nephites).

So, is there really a mistake in the text with timing (by Alma or Mormon?), or did Mormon—as Brant Gardner says—strongly exaggerate or twist the naming of something “on purpose” for the purpose of the text (which I admit is possible, but I disagree with Brant as to the extent), or… is there another possible way?

There are other possible ways.
Nehor may not have been the originator of the order of Nehors among the Lamanites, it might have been called by another name there.
Or perhaps his father, Nehor, was the founder.
Or, Nehor might have been the name of the leader of the order, more like a title–similar to how all the Nephite kings were named “Nephi” for a while (Jacob 1:11), or like the Dread Pirate Roberts (for those familiar with “The Princess Bride”).
Or, of course, Nehor was a Nephite dissenter/ descendant who came over to the Nephites from the Lamanites (possibly as Sherem had come).

As support for these latter possibilities, note that at least three times the order is called “order of the Nehor*s*, that is, in the plural:
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*.
Alma 24:28 Now the greatest number of those of the Lamanites who slew so many of their brethren were Amalekites and Amulonites, the greatest number of whom were after *the order of the Nehors*.
And here, possibly:
Alma 16:11 Nevertheless, after many days their dead bodies were heaped up upon the face of the earth, and they were covered with a shallow covering. And now so great was the scent thereof that the people did not go in to possess the land of Ammonihah for many years. And it was called Desolation of Nehors; for they were of the profession of Nehor, who were slain; and their lands remained desolate.

So, if it’s named after Nehor, why isn’t it called the “order of Nehor”?

Note that the order of Nehor was already established among the Lamanites—particularly the Nephite dissenter groups, the Amulonites and Amalekites—when it is heard for the first time among the Nephites; and that Nehor is the one that brings it to the Nephites. As “God saves all” was the main principle of belief, the Amulonites and Amalekites would be a good place for the order of Nehors to spawn—they were dissident Nephites familiar with God and the old religion, yet basically excommunicated by the Nephite Church of God for not obeying the commandments.

I don’t see this order of Nehor existing much earlier, especially in king Noah’s time, because not only is there little or no evidence of it, but also because of this verse:
Mosiah 24:11 And *Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries*; and he put guards over them to watch them, that *whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death*.

And especially these verses:
Mosiah 24:4 And he appointed *teachers of the brethren of Amulon* in every land which was possessed by his people; and thus the language of Nephi began to be taught among all the people of the Lamanites.
Mosiah 24:5 And they were a people friendly one with another; *nevertheless they knew not God; neither did the brethren of Amulon teach them anything concerning the Lord their God, neither the law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi*;
Mosiah 24:6 But *they taught them that they should keep their record, and that they might write one to another*.

Note also this important verse:
Alma 22:7 And *Aaron* answered him and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And *the [Lamanite] king* said: I know that *the Amalekites say that there is a God, and I have granted unto them that they should build sanctuaries, that they may assemble themselves together to worship him*. And if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe.

The king gave the Amalekites permission to build sanctuaries to assemble and worship God. What sanctuaries are these? I imagine them to be the order of Nehor sanctuaries/ synagogues–they might be the same as in Alma 21:4-6. So, this was within the king’s lifetime as being king (How long? I have no idea. I’d say no more than 40 years maximum, he’s probably 64 or so at this time, just my guess! ), and to me it seems like in the conversation it was just in the recent past. King Noah was about minimum 58 years before we hear of the order of the Nehors in Nephite land (about 148 BC to about 90 BC), and probably a decade or two before the reign of this Lamanite king.

As further support for my argument, note the internal consistency between Alma 22:7 and the earlier verse I mentioned of Mosiah 24:4-6. There is no mention of the Amulonites saying that there is a God and desiring to worship him; Mosiah 24 says that at least at that time, the Amulonites didn’t teach the Lamanites about God or their religion.

That the Amulonites might have used some of, or relied on, the teachings or traditions of the original wicked priests of king Noah, from whom they descended, is very possible. The priests seem to have believed somewhat in “do what you want, just make a sacrifice, God’s cool with it”. However, note that Nephi (2 Nephi 28) was aware of this as a doctrine of the latter days, and it’s a typical viewpoint of many people. Likewise, the priests of Noah didn’t seem to accept that God (Jesus) would come down and be like a man and atone for man’s sins, similar to what the order of Nehor (in Ammonihah) believed. Nehor preached the priests should be supported by the people, and that’s the lifestyle of the wicked priests of king Noah/ Amulonites.

But we see there are differences between the priests of king Noah and the order of Nehors:
1. The order of Nehors taught that all would be saved (Alma 1:4); the priests taught that adherence to the law of Moses saved (even though they didn’t adhere to the law very well…).
2. The order of Nehors worshiped in synagogues; the priests in the temple.
So, to say the order basically existed at the time of king Noah, is stretching it, at the least.

I imagine that Nehor decided that with the establishment of the Church not too long before, and especially with the Nephite switch from government-by-king to government-by-judges, it was an opportune time to start the order among the Nephites; and whether he was at the head or whether he was chosen to spread it among the Nephites or if he personally saw the monetary opportunity—gave it a go. The Nephites worrying about religion and God much more than the Lamanites, always having religious contentions and sinners, and having much more money and riches, and there possibly being less competition among the Nephites, likely gave Nehor a level of success he could only dream of among the Lamanites, Amulonites, and Amalekites.


Bookmark and Share

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: