Zoram is another critical element of this narrative. Once again, we learn later in the Book of Mormon that there was controversy concerning Zoram’s departure from Jerusalem and joining Lehi’s expedition—enough controversy to eventually fuel a serious political movement and secession (Alma 31-35). It’s another instance of Nephi portraying himself as heroic, faithful and possessed of a liberal spirit. One certainly hopes that Lehi’s later blessing of Zoram corroborates Nephi’s account—but Zoram’s joining the Lehite project is another oddity.
Why does Zoram join them so readily? He was from the lower classes, perhaps made naturally compliant on account of his life circumstances. He might well have felt compelled or lacking better alternatives. I suspect that this is where Nephi’s murder is revealed. I imagine a terrified Zoram asking what Nephi (who is “large in stature,” and this time the description is obviously physical—he’s just physically restrained Zoram from fleeing) what he did with his master Laban and how he had gotten Laban’s clothes and sword. Nephi’s brothers surely had the same question. Facing the question, and aware of how conspicuous his wearing of Laban’s clothing was, and particularly given the dramatic nature of the night’s events and the effects this would’ve had upon an exhausted young Nephi, it’s plausible that he straightforwardly confessed. It’s easy to picture Zoram, physically restrained by the “large in stature” Nephi, who has just explained to the group that he murdered Laban, feeling like he had no choice: go submissively or face the wrath of a physically large and unknown, self-proclaimed murderer. However Zoram felt (both at the time and later on), it’s quite easy to see how this story could be politically exploited by later, nationalistic secessionists.
Another conspicuous oddity occurs with Zoram leading Nephi to get the plates. Zoram speaks many times concerning the elders of the Jews. This seems natural enough. But why would Nephi mention it? Why remark on their conversation at all? He mentions it three times in fact. What did this mean to Nephi’s audience? We of course can’t know. My best guess is that it demonstrated a sort of street cred possessed by the later, older, friend-of-Nephi Zoram. Perhaps Zoram’s knowledge of the elders of the Jews lent credence to Lehi’s narrative, and likewise (indirectly) to Nephi’s.