(I've started reading this chapter by asking myself, "What does this chapter have to contribute to my testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ?" I've discovered this to be a good practice when I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the key points of the chapter.)
This chapter emphasizes the point of agency, or our complete freedom to choose, in the Gospel plan. There is also some discussion on the purpose and weight and reality of covenants. Additionally, there are some unique insights into social dynamics.
The catalyst for discussion in this chapter is the curse or marking that the Amalicites voluntarily administered to themselves (see verses 4, 13). The author's purpose in including this particular historical point is to illustrate how it was that the covenants of the Lord were fulfilled, which were originally given to Nephi and which were given as a protection for the people of Nephi (see verses 5-8, 14-17). Within that covenant was a curse to anyone that would rebel against the prophets of God.
On the point of social dynamics, or in other words, traditions, this particular curse was administered on the community level. The author is clear to point out that it was "the Lord God" who did set the mark upon those that rebelled (vs. 7), and that His reasoning for doing so was to "preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction." (vs. 8, emphasis added)
In verse 11, anyone that chose to believe and keep the commandments of God and to believe in the records that were brought out of Jerusalem where counted among the people of Nephi, or his seed. In verse 17, the author then reminds us readers of the promise of God given to Nephi and his seed, "and I will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever."
Verse 18 goes on to explain that though the Amalicites had come out in open rebellion against God, they knew nothing of the curse which they had brought upon themselves. Nephite times were actually very interesting in that anyone that chose not to keep God's commandments, for the most part knew that they were not doing it. I'm talking about Laman and Lemuel, the Amalicites, King Noah, children of parents who knew that what they were doing was not right. Those that were cursed of God, did not break God's commandments ignorantly.
There is a brief account of a war at the end of this chapter, it is referenced primarily because of the loss of lives in the conflict and were then sent on into the eternal world to make an accounting of their choices, "that they might reap their rewards
according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were
bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the
spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad
one." (vs 26)
Verse 27 then concludes: "For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth." Or in other words, though there were markings to distinguish the righteous from the unrighteous, there was never a delineation on the terms of who could receive salvation. The covenant promises were made available to all.
The words of Peter, which I had recently considered again, seem to have application here: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Acts 10:34-35