Strolling through History with Gadianton’s Robbers and Murderers




I got home very late from the opera last night, having not yet read the passages that I was to teach this morning for Gospel Doctrine class.  (I didn’t plan things to be that way, but so they were.)  Unfortunately, confused by a lot of travel and a host of recent deadlines and distractions as well as by recent  interruptions for stake conference and general conference and the dedication of the Brigham City Utah Temple — very good things, all of them — I settled on the wrong lesson.  By quite a distance.  I was supposed to teach 3 Nephi 8-11, and — being told after I had stood up for class that that was the reading assignment for today — I did teach that lesson.  But I had read and marked up . . . well, um, and this is rather embarrassing, Helaman 7-12.


Which got me thinking about my favorite group in the Book of Mormon:  Gadianton’s robbers.


I find them fascinating, and I’ve written and published a fair amount about them.  Including, in chronological order of appearance:


“The Gadianton Robbers as Guerrilla Warriors”


“Notes on ‘Gadianton Masonry’”


“‘Secret Combinations’ Revisited”


(Which should be followed up with Paul Mouritsen, “Secret Combinations and Flaxen Cords: Anti-Masonic Rhetoric and the Book of Mormon.”)


(To which should be appended Nathan Oman, “Secret Combinations: A Legal Analysis.”)


And I returned to the subject relatively recently with this item:


“Exploratory Notes on the Futuwwa and Its Several Incarnations”


But I still have at least one quite substantial article on my to-do list with regard to the Gadianton movement.  Perhaps I can get to it in the next several months.  I hope so; it’s been on my mind for years.


Anyway, the Gadianton robbers are fascinating.  And there’s a lot more to them than the authors of the Book of Mormon wanted their audience to know.  Most of that is lost, of course, which is to say that it was successfully suppressed.  But there are still tantalizing clues.



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  • Believe All Things

    Looking forward to reading your next article about the Gadiantons.

    • danpeterson

      I’m looking forward to writing it!

  • Strategoi

    I really liked the article about the Gadiantons as guerrillas. You have a very good grasp of strategy and interpreting and extrapolating this sort of stuff.

    • danpeterson

      Thanks. I had fun with that article.

  • logitech

    Lysander Spooner, born within 3 years and 100 miles of Joseph Smith, wrote the best expose of the “secret band of robbers and murderers” (his phrase) in his pamphlet “No Treason.”

    A more modern expose is Pro Libertate,

  • Eric Stoddard.

    Were they a Latin Rock Band???

  • John W. Redelfs

    Secret combinations, Gadianton Robbers and modern Gadianton Robbers have always fascinated me. Ezra Taft Benson, W. Cleon Skousen, and other tin foil hat wearing LDS conspiracy theorists seem to have shared my interest in the topic. However, it is a topic that cannot be discussed in any depth at Church because it is beyond controversial. The typical saint seems to prefer just ignoring the relevant passages in the Book of Mormon. And they rarely try to “liken the scriptures unto themselves” on the subject.

  • Believe All Things

    Reading Oman’s article, he mentions that you point out Andrew Jackson accused Henry Clay of a “secret combination” to slander Jackson’s wife. Henry Clay was a proponent of the Second Bank of the United States and sought to recharter the bank during the 1832 election. Reading through my notes about the events that led up to the 1837 panic, Jackson’s use of of the phrase “secrete combinations” may have additional significance.