I chose to write about the following principle: The Americas are a choice land, and the nations that live there must serve God or be swept off when they become ripe in iniquity. The more time that I spend in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that its writers describe our day with the divisions in our nation, the intrigue in the government, and vast amount of wickedness in the world.
The books of Mormon and Ether tell of the destructions of two great civilizations that once thrived and prospered in the Americas – the Nephites and the Jaredites. Each group was led by the Lord to America, a place that is described frequently in the Book of Mormon as being a land that “is choice above all the lands of the earth” (Ether 1:42). Each group prospered as long as the people were righteous and worshipped the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. Each group was swept off the land and destroyed when they reached a fulness of iniquity or became rotten to the core.
The first group – the Jaredites – came to America in the years following the scattering of the people who tried to build a tower to heaven – the tower of Babel. Their history, which is contained in the book of Ether, covers approximately 1500 years. They had years of prospering, and times of wickedness. The last surviving Jaredite was discovered by the Nephites, who left Jerusalem in 600 B.C.
The first leaders of the Jaredites were Jared and his brother – known as the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. The people were righteous because their leaders were righteous. However, some years after the arrival of the Jaredites in America, Jared and his brother became old and realized they would soon die. They asked their people what they should do for them before they died, and the people answered that they wanted a king to rule over them.
Jared and his brother found the idea of a king to be “grievous,” and the brother of Jared told the people: “Surely this thing leadeth into captivity” (Ether 6:23). The people insisted that they wanted a king, so the sons of Jared and his brother were asked if they wanted to be king. All of them refused except one, and he was anointed to be king before Jared and his brother died.
He was a righteous king, and the people prospered under his rule. However, there were many kings who were wicked, and the people were often brought into “captivity” before their destruction. The Jaredite history is filled with changes between righteous kings and wicked kings, prospering and suffering.
The prophet Moroni summarized the Jared history into what is now fifteen chapters in the Book of Mormon. He described the Jaredites during one of their last righteous periods: “Never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands…” (Ether 10:28). What causes a great civilization to progress from being a “blessed” people to total destruction?
We know about the Jaredites because the Nephites found 24 gold plates that contained their record. The history was written by a prophet named Ether, and his book in the Book of Mormon is called the book of Ether. A Nephite prophet/king named Mosiah was a seer who had the ability to translate languages, and he translated the record of Ether. With the history of the Jaredites firmly in his mind, he recognized the problems caused by wicked kings. He convinced his people to change their type of government from a monarchy to a democracy ruled by a system of judges. He hoped that this change of government would save his people from the same destruction of the Jaredites. It did not.
Even though the people had the freedom to choose their leaders, they did not always choose wisely. When the people were righteous enough to choose righteous leaders, their nation prospered. When the people chose wicked leaders, the nation suffered. Obviously, the secret to being a “blessed” people is to be righteous and to choose righteous leaders. When people have righteous leaders – king, judge, or president, he/she leads the people righteously. Wicked leaders lead their people into wickedness, and this is what happened to both the Jaredites and the Nephites. The Jaredites were destroyed by division and war among themselves. The Nephites were destroyed by the Lamanites, part of the original group that came from Jerusalem about 1,000 years earlier. Both groups were warned numerous times to repent or be destroyed. They did not listen to the prophets of their day.
Mormon was a Nephite prophet/military leader/record keeper. He was present when his people were destroyed and was one of twenty-four Nephites who survived the last battle. He greatly mourned the death of his people. Mormon recognized the cause of destruction for both the Jaredites and the Nephites – secret combinations under the control of Satan. While summarizing the record in the book of Helaman, he writes about Gadianton and his robbers.
And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.
Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written [meaning the end of the Book of Mormon] (Helaman 2:13-14).
Mormon’s son Moroni was the last surviving Nephite who lived for 20 plus years after the death of his father. Moroni wandered around and kept himself hidden from the Lamanites in order to live. He completed his father’s record, summarized Ether’s record, and made his own record. Some of Moroni’s last words were these.
Condemn me not because of mine imperfections, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Mormon 9:31).
We can “learn to be more wise” than the Jaredites and Nephites by recognizing that there are secret combinations controlling events in our day. Secret combinations include gangs, terrorist organizations, and secret governments. We can also be "more wise" by listening to the Latter-day prophets and apostles who often warn about secret combinations. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in the October 1997 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and explained the threat of secret combinations that exist in our day.
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 6:3]. 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” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, November 1997).
Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke in the October 2001 General Conference. This is a long quote, but it is spoken by the prophet of the Lord. He begins his talk by announcing that the United States’ missile attack on Afghanistan has started.
I need not remind you that we live in perilous times. I desire to speak concerning these times and our circumstances as members of this Church.
You are acutely aware of the events of September 11, less than a month ago. Out of that vicious and ugly attack we are plunged into a state of war…. For the first time since we became a nation, the United States has been seriously attacked on its mainland soil. But this was not an attack on the United States alone. It was an attack on men and nations of goodwill everywhere. It was well planned, boldly executed, and the results were disastrous….
Now we are at war. Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out….
Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim…. It is terrorist organizations that 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….
Occasions of this kind pull us up sharply to a realization that life is fragile, peace is fragile, civilization itself is fragile. The economy is particularly vulnerable….
Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it “is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). This is the crux of the entire matter – obedience to the commandments of God.
The Constitution under which we live, and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.
I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us….
Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him. He has declared, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Psalms 33:12). Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God. [Emphasis added.]
Let us be prayerful. Let us pray for righteousness. Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. Let us live worthy of the blessings of heaven, reforming our lives where necessary and looking to Him, the Father of us all. He has said, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10).
Are these perilous times? They are. But there is no need to fear. We can have peace in our hearts and peace in our homes. We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us… (“The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, October 2001).
We learn from Elder Ballard and President Hinckley that there are secret combinations in the world. They work under the direction of Satan, whose sole purpose is to destroy civilization and the Church of Jesus Christ. We must defend ourselves against them in every possible way. However, the most effective way is by repenting of our sins, obeying the commandments of God, putting our trust in God, and living the gospel of Jesus Christ as completely and perfectly as we can. God has promised safety and security in this land if we are righteous. There is only one way to destroy the power of the secret combinations of Satan, and that is by righteousness. The Nephites and the Jaredites were destroyed because they became “ripe in iniquity” and were no longer worthy to receive the blessings of God. We can be wiser than they if we will humble ourselves, listen to the prophets, and live righteously.