Chapter 12: The Nephite Experience with Secret Combinations
A Review of the Second Sixty Years of Self-government
In the prior chapter we surveyed the major political events of the first sixty years of the reign of the judges among the Nephites. In that period, many wars were fought and hundreds of thousands were killed. Insofar as can be determined, in every case the aggressors were led, urged on, and incited by apostate Nephites seeking to overthrow the Nephite government and impose a system of enforced priestcraft.
We will now consider the second sixty years of self-rule and we will find that during this period, the efforts to capture political control continued with the aggressors being secret combinations. Furthermore the attempts made by this group were as unceasing and frequent as were those of the proponents of priestcraft. Since a great many Lamanites had been converted to the Gospel at this time and the race wars between them and the Nephites had ceased, we find Lamanites and Nephites joining together on both sides. Regardless of this change, the purpose of the aggressors was still the same as theretoforeto capture control of the Nephite government and abolish freedom. The government was overthrown twice during this second period. In the first instance, the Gadianton Band obtained control through secret murders, intrigue and the teaching of false political doctrines. The Nephite voters were seduced into abolishing the laws of God and substituting therefore the laws proposed by the secret combinations.
The second overthrow occurred just three or four years before the coming of Christ. In this case the Robbers through murder and corruption brought about a dissolution of the government but were unable to seize control. In this instance the Nephites knowingly and intentionally corrupted the Lords laws. Then when the prophets tried to preach [p. 76] repentance, they were slain. When there was an attempt made to bring the judges responsible for these murders to justice, they formed a secret combination, murdered the chief judge, and caused the Nephite government to break up into tribes. Unpunished prophet-murder is the one crime the Lord will not tolerate and so He virtually exterminated the Nephite nation when He came among them in the year 34 A.D. Let us note the methods used by the Gadianton Band in their surreptitious takeover of the Nephite government. To provide a better understanding of why so many Nephites and Lamanites elected to join, fight, and die for the secret combinations, let us note what the record says about their purpose and philosophy.
What Is the Purpose of Secret Combinations?
We have no record of secret combinations among the Nephites prior to the fortieth year of the reign of the judges. But in that year a group formed under the leadership of a man named Gadianton, and these groups bore his name among the Nephites from that time forward. They were called robbers and murderers because, as the record states:
It was the object of all those who belonged to his band to murder, and to rob, and to gain power, (and this was their secret plan, and their combination) . . . (Hel. 2:8)
The power these organizations always seek is political. They want to control the armies and the police because these are the greatest physical forces in society and when they control them, they can steal, kill and commit other wickedness with impunity. Without power over government, they must act in secret through their combinations: hence the name, secret combinations. If those in political power are using government as the Lord intends, and are punishing evil which comes to their attention, then the only way these organizations can operate is in secret.
Moroni describes their insatiable lust for power in these words:
For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; . . . (Ether 8:25) [p. 77]
What Is the Philosophy of the Secret Combinations?
We noted that the purpose of those advocating enforced priestcraft was to seize control of government so that they might use it for the main purposes of compelling the teaching of falsehood, and of preventing the teaching of the Lords plan of freedom. Although the underlying philosophy of secret combinations includes these objectives, it goes even further. Their aim is to totally destroy freedom by abolishing the right of private property. When the state controls the very means by which life is sustained and freedom is exercised, it is able to dictate and control virtually every human activity including that of education.
This underlying philosophy and purpose is revealed by the following excerpt from a letter written by Giddianhi, the leader of the secret band to Lachoneus, the leader of the Nephites. In this letter he threatens to exterminate the Nephites unless they surrender their property voluntarily:
Therefore I write unto you, desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you.
Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto usnot our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance. (3 Ne. 3:6, 7)
This excerpt reveals two important facts: (1) The Gadianton Band was practicing communism and, (2) They were trying to compel the Nephites to be like unto us, and engage in it also. What else could Giddianhi have meant by the term, partners of all our substance? What other meaning can be placed on his threat to destroy the Nephites unless they yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions?
Communism Appeals to the Baser Instincts of Men
Communism has a greater appeal to the evil in men than any other political philosophy. While enforced priestcraft provides government jobs only for teachers, priests, educators and those who administer the [p. 78] system, under Communism where the state owns all the property and all means for the production and distribution of goods and services, state jobs are created for every activity whatsoever. Also the opportunity to exercise unrighteous dominion is increased to its maximum. And finally those who control government also control all of the things of this world, which lie within their jurisdiction. It is for these reasons that Communism has such an irresistible appeal to the proud, the power- hun-gry and those who seek to live on the labor of others. It is the perfect system for wickedness of all kinds.
Members of secret combinations use it to commit murder and plunder in their own interest. But to obtain and maintain their power, they appeal to the evil in men. To the poor and the indolent they offer a living without work. To the power hungry they offer countless opportunities to rule over others. To those who desire to destroy the work of God, they provide a police force which will kill the saints and the prophets. To those who desire to commit sin without punishment, they offer a set of laws which either do not punish iniquity, or which enable the wicked to escape punishment by the payment of money. A completely corrupted government is truly the MOTHER OF ABOMINATIONS.
The Nephite Voters Were Seduced into Adopting Communism
With the foregoing observations in mind, let us note what the record says regarding the reasons for the Communist takeover of the Nephite government the first time. The following quotes tell us that the laws had been corrupted by the voice of the people:
. . . they had altered and trampled under their feet the law of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; . . . (Hel. 4:22)
For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and those who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted. (Hel. 5:2)
Then in the following verses we are told the role of the Gadianton Band in the corruption of these laws: [p. 79]
And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.
And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations. (Hel. 6:37, 38)
This quote states that even the more part of the righteous Nephites were seduced to partake of the spoils of government. These spoils of course, are the fruits of Communism. It is obvious that the Band had induced the voters to adopt welfare state programs into the laws of the land. It will be recalled that the Nephite voters had the power to impose taxes and thus enrich themselves from the public trough. This should explain one of the main reasons the laws had been corrupted. The Book of Mormon gives a concise description of the consequences of this corruption. Let us note what it says. Nephi, who had resigned his position as chief judge, and had been in the land northward preaching, returned to Zarahemla to find this situation:
And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment seatshaving usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;
Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills. (Hel. 7:4, 5)
Has anyone written a more accurate and concise description of Communism than this? It is Satans ultimate plan of wickedness and its effective operation requires the abolition of private property. Obviously the Lords Church cannot function under such a system. Not only would such a government jail or murder those who attempted to operate the Church, but without the ownership and control of private property, there could be no building of chapels and temples; no printing of books and literature; no support of missionaries and similar activities carried on by religious denominations. If the Church were permitted to exist at all in a [p. 80] Communist country, it would continually face restraints which would prevent it from functioning properly.
Character Weakness Caused Nephite Voters to Adopt Communism?
Nephi, the son of Helaman II, who was the prophet at this time, delivered a speech to the Nephite people regarding the corruption of their laws. He accused them of uniting themselves to the Gadianton band and listed in some detail the reasons for their having done so. A portion of that speech is found in the seventh and eighth chapters of Helaman. We quote the following therefrom:
But behold, it is to get gain, to be praised of men, yea, and that ye might get gold and silver. And ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor, and do all manner of iniquity.
Yea, wo be unto you because of that great abomination which has come among you; and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band which was established by Gadianton!
Yea, wo shall come unto you because of that pride which ye have suffered to enter your hearts . . . (Hel. 7:21, 25, 26)
Once again, as was the case with those who favored enforced priestcraft, it was the sin of pride which induced the people to corrupt their government.
The Lord Permitted the Nephites to Escape from the Gadianton Band
It appears that because the Nephites had been seduced and deceived into accepting Satans plan this first time, the Lord was merciful to them and permitted them to repent and restore His government of freedom. This repentance however did not come without extensive suffering. With Satans forces in control, civil war broke out and became so widespread that the entire nation faced extinction. At that point the Lord sent a famine which stopped the fighting but threatened mass starvation. Only [p. 81] when faced with annihilation from this source did the Nephites listen to the words of their prophet, repent, and cleanse their government of secret combinations. (Hel. 11)
Tens of Thousands Continued to Join the Secret Combinations
The Nephite experience with Gadianton robbers, civil war, and famine, ended in the 76th year of the reign of the judges. However it was only four years thereafter that the Band formed again and enticed tens of thousands of Nephites and Lamanites to join it. In the eighty second year of the reign of the judges, which was only the seventh year after the first destruction of the Band, the record states that it had increased to such an enormous size that it threatened the combined armies of the Nephites and the Lamanites:
And the robbers did still increase and wax strong, insomuch that they did defy the whole armies of the Nephites, and also of the Lamanites; and they did cause great fear to come unto the people upon all the face of the land.
Yea, for they did visit many parts of the land, and did do great destruction unto them; yea, did kill many, and did carry away others captive into the wilderness, yea and more especially their women and their children. (Hel. 11:32, 33)
It was at this point in his labors as a historian that Mormon paused to comment upon the rapidity with which his people forgot the consequences of their awful iniquity and returned to it time and again. As usual he attributes their troubles to pride:
O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish . . . . and to set their hearts upon the vain things of this world! Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity . . . (Hel. 12:4; 5)
The Secret Combinations Finally Destroyed the Nephite Government
During the forty years immediately preceding the coming of the [p. 82] Lord, the Band continued to form time after time and many thousands of both Nephites and Lamanites continued to join it and fight and die for it as they repeatedly attempted to conquer the Nephite government. At one point the robbers became so numerous, and the threat of destruction so serious, that the righteous who opposed them found it necessary to gather up all of their possessions including a seven-year food supply, and retire to a relatively small area where they could better defend themselves.
The robbers, not having anything to steal, and having exhausted almost all the wild game in the mountains, found themselves in such a weakened condition that they decided to temporarily abandon their efforts to conquer and retire to the land northward. They were headed in their flight and annihilated. All of them were either killed or compelled to enter into a covenant of peace. The record relates that this was the most sanguinary war ever fought among the descendants of Lehi up to that time. It ended about eight years prior to the coming of the Lord.
The enormous relief the people felt when the threat of their extinction was removed, deeply humbled them. The record says:
Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night. (3 Ne. 5:3)
As impossible as it may seem, it was only five years until the Nephites once again reverted to extreme wickedness. Things became so bad that,
In the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith, and they would not depart from it . . . (3 Ne. 6:14)
Once again the source of their problem was pride:
Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was thisSatan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world. (3 Ne. 6:15)
Apparently pride had once again caused the corruption of government because we are told that when the prophets tried to call them to repentance, [p. 83]
There were many of the people who were exceedingly angry because of those who testified of these things; and those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers; yea, all those who were lawyers were angry with those who testified of these things. (3 Ne. 6:21)
So angry were the lawyers and the judges that they took the prophets and put them to death secretly so that the knowledge of their death did not come to the attention of the governor of the land who alone had the power to authorize the death penalty. There was then an attempt made to bring these murderers to justice. However they and their relatives and friends formed a secret combination and murdered the chief judge. This together with the other wickedness of the people, brought down the government. The people then broke up into tribes.
It is interesting to observe that when the people corrupted their laws this time, they sinned knowingly for the record says:
Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them, for it had been taught unto them, therefore they did willfully rebel against their God. (3 Ne. 6:18)
This willful violation of Gods laws brought terrible and swift retribution.
God Will Nor Allow Prophet-murder to Go Unpunished
It was at this point that the Lord virtually exterminated the Nephite nation. After the tempests, earthquakes, fires, whirlwinds and upheavals had ceased, the Lords voice was heard proclaiming the extent of the disaster. He mentioned sixteen prominent cities which had been obliterated. He described the fate of the city of Jacobugath which was the principal city of the Gadianton robbers, in these words:
And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before [p. 84] my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them. (3 Ne. 9:9)
In describing the fate of the sixteen cities He had destroyed, the Lord mentioned six different times that He was avenging the blood of the prophets and saints who had been slain. It also seems significant that in the above quote the Lord describes the wickedness of the Gadianton robbers as being above all the wickedness of the whole earth. Moroni confirms that they are the ultimate in wickedness in the following verse:
And it came to pass that they (the Jaredites) formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God: (Ether 8:18)
In his statement regarding the position of the Church on Communism, President McKay declared that it is the greatest satanical threat . . . on the face of the earth, and that it is diametrically opposed to everything for which the Church stands. Thus we have been warned against Satans organizations by prophets both ancient and modem.
What Lessons Should the Gentiles Learn from the Nephite Experience with Self-Government?
We have now completed our review of the Nephite experience with self-government. What lessons should we learn from all of these stories of war and bloodshed? Do they have an important message for us today? Are political beliefs important in the sight of God? Can we condemn ourselves eternally merely by opposing or failing to support the Lords plan of freedom? We have seen how hundreds of thousands of Nephites and Lamanites perished fighting over opposing political philosophies. The Lord established a government among them subject to the voice of the people. Then He allowed Satan to offer the voters enforced priestcraft and Communism. Has He done the same thing for us today? Is it our failure to heed this message of the Book of Mormon which has placed the whole Church under condemnation as stated in D&C 84:54-59? Is our pride leading us to accept the plan of Satan as it did the former inhabitants of this holy land? In subsequent chapters we shall consider this possibility. [p. 85]