There seems to be a lot of head scratching over the converted Lamanites suddenly taking the name “Anti-Nephi-Lehies” in The Book of Mormon. (Alma 23:17) To our modern ears it sounds like the Lamanites decided that they were against all that the Nephites stood for. It’s like some new convert coming to love The Book of Mormon so she decides to name her son “Anti-Mormon.”
I’ve heard all sorts of attempts to explain this. I’ve heard “anti” means “in place of” rather than “against.” I’m not sure why being a changeling would be better than being against someone, but there you go. I’ve heard that “Anti” was just a Nephite word that didn’t get translated but probably had some meaning to the Lamanites. I like that one better, but it doesn’t really explain much.
Perhaps we’re trying too hard. Maybe “Anti” in this context just means “not” or “not of” and maybe the real punctuation should have been “Anti-Nephi Lehies”. So “Anti-Nephi Lehies” really just means “the Lehies (i.e. descendants of Lehi) that are not of Nephi.” In other words, they wanted to emphasize their “Lehite” origins.
Perhaps even the son named “Anti-Nephi Lehi” (Alma 24:3) meant to Lamanite ears “Lehi who is not from Nephi’s lineage.”
Any takers for starting a new Church folk doctrine? 🙂