- Gadianton robbers
The Gadianton robbers, according to the
Book of Mormon, were a secret criminal organization in ancient America.
Origins and rise to power
The society was founded around
52 BCor 51 BCby Nephitesupporters of Paanchi, an unsuccessful candidate for the position of chief judge. Paanchi had been executed for treasonwhen he refused to accept the election of his brother Pahoran IIto the judgment seat, and one of his supporters, Kishkumen, assassinated Pahoran in retaliation. Kishkumen and his associates entered into a pact to keep the assassin's identity a secret. [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/hel/1/11#11 Helaman 1:11] ]
A man named
Gadiantonbecame the leader of Kishkumen's secret group. He arranged for Kishkumen to assassinate Chief Judge Helaman II, promising that if he, Gadianton, were made chief judge he would appoint the other members of the band to positions of authority. Kishkumen was apprehended and killed by one of Helaman's servants, and Gadianton and his followers, fearing the same fate, fled into the wilderness.
Within 25 years, Gadianton's band had grown into a large criminal organization known as Gadianton's robbers and murderers, [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/hel/6/18#18 Helaman 6:18] ] with both Nephites and
Lamanitesamong its members. In 26 BCthe Gadianton robbers assassinated Chief Judge Cezoramand his son.
The Lamanites made every effort to eradicate the Gadianton robbers among them. The Nephites, in contrast, began to join the band in larger and larger numbers, until the majority of them were members. Members swore to protect one another and identified each other by means of secret signs and secret words. By
24 BCthe entire Nephite government was under the control of the Gadiantons.
20 BC, Chief Judge Seezoramwas murdered by his brother Seantum, both of whom were members of the Gadianton band. The murder was announced and the culprit identified by Nephithe son of Helaman. Nephi's knowledge of the event was believed by many to be evidence of his prophetic powers. [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/hel/9 Helaman 9] ] When a famine struck the area a few years later, the people believed God was behind it, and they reacted by repenting and cracking down on the Gadiantons. The society was completely eradicated, and their secret plans were buried in the earth.
12 BC, though, a group of disaffected Nephites dug up the secret plans and reestablished the band of Gadianton. This time the group did not infiltrate mainstream Nephite society, but rather established bases in the mountains and wilderness and made periodic raids on Nephite and Lamanite cities using guerrilla warfare. They continued to increase in power, and by AD 13they had caused so much destruction that the Nephites and Lamanites united and declared war on the Gadiantons.
The Gadiantons initially had the upper hand in the war, and in AD 16, the Gadianton leader
Giddianhisent a letter to the Nephite governor Lachoneusdemanding surrender. This letter is reproduced in the Book of Mormon and provides a rare look at the Gadianton robbers as seen by themselves. Giddianhi closes with these words: "I am the governor of this the secret society of Gadianton; which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us". [3 Nephi 3:9] In AD 21, however, the Nephites defeated the Gadiantons, killing both Giddianhi and his successor Zemnarihah, and the society was destroyed for the second time.
Around the year
245, a group of Nephites once again resurrected the old oaths and secrets and reestablished the Gadianton robbers. Over the course of the next 50 years they spread all over the land and became extremely wealthy. [ [http://scriptures.lds.org/4_ne/1/46#46 4 Nephi 1:46] ]
The Gadianton band later united with the Lamanites, and the combined force completely wiped out the Nephites.
It has been suggestedFact|date=May 2007 that Joseph Smith intended the Gadianton Robbers as an allusion to the
Freemasons. [ [http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_anachronisms:Gadianton_masons Book of Mormon anachronisms/Gadianton masons - FAIRMormon ] ] The robbers, who claim to be a secret society whose works are good, but who are actually deeply involved in conspiracy and organized crime, are consistent with anti-Masoniccaricatures prevalent in Smith's time. However, it is also important to note that Smith himself was a Freemason, and chartered a Masonic lodge in Nauvoo. Smith did not join the Freemasonsuntil he had removed to Nauvoo, Illinois many years after initial publication of the Book of Mormon. Some argue it is unlikely that Smith would intentionally include anti-Masonic rhetoric in the Book of Mormon. Indeed, the Gadianton Robber narrative throughout the Book of Mormon is highly complex and can hardly be explained away as solely an allusion to Freemasonary.
Secret combination (Latter Day Saints)
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