The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns secret combinations and how they work to destroy individuals, communities, and nations. With all the intrigue in government circles today, I find myself thinking more and more about secret combinations; I decided to do some research on them and found enough information for several parts. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
Who are the secret combinations of today? I believe that it is safe to say that al Qaida and its supporters could be classified as a secret combination, but Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained there are numerous others. “The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. They have secret signs and code words. They participate in secret rites and initiation ceremonies. Among their purposes are to `murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God’ [Helaman 6:23].
“If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. Do you remember the pattern? The secret combinations began among the `more wicked part’ of society, but eventually `seduced the more part of the righteous’ until the whole society was polluted [Helaman 6:38]. …
“The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the `author of all sin’ and the founder of these secret combinations [Helaman 6:30; see 2 Nephi 26:22]. He uses secret combinations, including gangs, `from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men’ [Helaman 6:30]. His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations [see 2 Nephi 9:9]. To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us as priesthood holders to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe” (Ensign, Nov. 1997, 38).
Good people can help thwart the goals of evil organizations. During the general conference following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) referred to terrorist organizations determined to foster murder, tyranny, fear, and wicked control: “Terrorist organizations … must be ferreted out and brought down.
“We of this Church know something of such groups. The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation.
“We are people of peace. We are followers of the Christ, who was and is the Prince of Peace. But there are times when we must stand up for right and decency, for freedom and civilization, just as Moroni rallied his people in his day to the defense of their wives, their children, and the cause of liberty (see Alma 48:10)” (in Ensign, Nov. 2001, 72).
How do good people “ferret” out and destroy secret combinations? We can learn how to do this from historical accounts. The book of Helaman in the Book of Mormon recounts a period of great wickedness among the Nephites. The Gadianton robbers thrived and the masses endured several cycles of wickedness and destructions followed by repentance only to return to wickedness. Many of these troubles could be attributed to “contention” that began in the first chapter of Helaman. Helaman could have been describing the contention in our nation today. There is division on all levels about what is happening in our nation. While some people might consider “contention” to be a rather innocuous sin, the following General Authorities have commented on the dangers of contention.
President James E. Faust (1920-2007) of the First Presidency stated in forthright terms that the Spirit of the Lord cannot abide contention: “When there is contention, the Spirit of the Lord will depart, regardless of who is at fault” (Ensign, May 1996, 41).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that contention is purposely fostered by Satan to serve his own evil purposes: “The sins of corruption, dishonesty, strife, contention, and other evils in this world are not here by chance. They are evidences of the relentless campaign of Satan and those who follow him. He uses every tool and device available to him to deceive, confuse, and mislead” (in Ensign, Nov. 1994, 76).
In contrast to the destructive impact of contention, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency emphasized the unity of the spirit of peace: “Where people have that Spirit with them, we may expect harmony. The Spirit puts the testimony of truth in our hearts, which unifies those who share that testimony. The Spirit of God never generates contention (see 3 Nephi 11:29). It never generates the feelings of distinctions between people which lead to strife (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 131). It leads to personal peace and a feeling of union with others. It unifies souls. A unified family, a unified Church, and a world at peace depend on unified souls” (in Ensign, May 1998, 67).
The Book of Mormon gives an excellent example of how to destroy secret combinations. The Gadianton robbers became so strong among both the Nephites and the Lamanites that the “people could not over power them.” More and more people flocked to join the wicked band, particularly the rising generation. The Nephites and Lamanites united together to fight against the robbers, but the robbers gained man advantages over them. In fact, the robbers became so bold that their leader Giddianhi sent an epistle to Lachoneus, the governor, demanding that the government be turned over to him.
“ Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers, but he did cause that his people should cry unto the Lord for strength against the time that the robbers should come down against them” (3 Nephi 3:12).
Lachoneus sent a proclamation to his people encouraging them to gather together in one place and to bring their wives, children, horses, flocks, herds, grain and all their substance – everything they owned – except their land. Thousands and tens of thousands of people gathered. Lachoneus then proceeded to build fortifications around the group and placed the army as guards. He told the people, “As the Lord liveth, except ye repent of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers” (3 Nephi 3:15).
The people were obedient to Lachoneus’ counsel: they gathered together, they fortified themselves, and they repented of their sins. Then they petitioned the Lord in prayer for their safety. They were prepared to stay in their fortification for seven years, and they had weapons of war to protect against attacks.
Meanwhile, the robbers came out of their secret places and found that there was nothing to plunder. They knew that they could not live without plunder, robbery, and murder; they kept attacking the fortification but were always beaten back. They tried to lay a siege but “it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites, because of their much provision which they had laid up in store” (3 Nephi 4:18).
Eventually, so many of the robbers, including their leaders, were killed that the Nephites were able to capture the remaining robbers. The people “knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction” (3 Nephi 4:33).
All the prisoners were captured and thrown into prison. There they were taught “the word of God” and “as many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty.
“But as many as there were who did not enter into a covenant, and who did still continue to have those secret murders in their hearts, yea, as many as were found breathing out threatenings against their brethren were condemned and punished according to the law.
“And thus they did put an end to all those wicked and secret, and abominable combinations, in the which there was so much wickedness, and so many murders committed” (3 Nephi 5:4-6).