The conversion of Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah is one of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon. I especially love that we get Alma’s first hand take in Alma 36.
I had never noticed before that Alma and the Sons of Mosiah are described as “secretly” going around seeking to destroy the Church. I had always imagined them in open rebellion speaking out against the Church. But now I see them rather as agitators within the Church. If their plot was secret, then they must have maintained the outward visage of membership. And they probably used their position as sons of prominent church leaders to convince members that they were trustworthy. This fits the pattern spoken of in the previous chapter of members of the Church who caused disputation and disagreement within the Church. They could inflict great harm simply by causing members to disbelieve in the inspired leadership of Alma and to doubt true doctrine.
I may be biased by the perspective of current events, but I wonder if they rallied against Alma’s decision to excommunicate dissidents. Perhaps their crafty words were directed towards arguing that this decision was inconsistent with religious freedom and the equality between members spoken of in the previous verses. In this fashion perhaps they stirred up dissension and caused factions to arise among the members.