We learn here in the remainder of this chapter that priestcraft did not come to an end among the people of Nephi at this time. Yet there was a distinct separation between those who were steadfast in the church verses those who separated themselves from the church and followed after preistcraft.
It is that separation or distinction between the people of the church and those that did not belong to the church that occupies these verses. There actually appears to be two points of division that take place.
First, it is a distinction between those inside, and those outside the church -- those that were more humble being persecuted by those who did not belong to the church or would not take upon themselves the name of Christ.(vs. 19) What was the cause of their persecution? Or what motivated those outside of the church to be so concerned about what those inside of the church were doing? Those of the church were not proud, and they would impart the word of God without money and without price. (vs. 20) This was a great deterrent to preistcraft (that the popular should be supported by the labors of the people).
Second, there was also a division among the membership of the church on the point of how to respond to the persecutions. There was strict law among the members of the church to not engage in conflict with those that would persecute them.(vs. 21) However many in the church began to be proud, and "to contend warmly with their adversaries" even to the point that they were punching and hitting each other with their fists. (vs. 22)
Those members of the church who allowed themselves to get angry against those outside of the church, served as a means of hardening their hearts to the point that they too separated themselves from the church and their names were blotted out from the records of the church "that they were remembered no more among the people of God."(vs. 24)
And so there began to be a notable division among the people just a few years after Alma the Younger had taken control of the judgment seat. The division is then detailed the these terms.
Those that belonged to the church of God:
- Gathered regularly to impart the word of God to each other.
- Esteemed teachers and learners to be equal, everyone working for their own support.
- Imparted of their substance to those in need.
- Did not wear costly apparel, yet were neat and comely.
- Began to become exceedingly wealthy for their much abundance and industry.
- Gave freely to any in need, and began to be much more prosperous than those outside of the church.
- Wearing Costly Apparel
- Committing Whoredoms
I appreciate the clarity of distinction that these verses offer on the points of true prosperity.