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Helaman Chapter 2

1 And it came to pass in the forty and second year of the reign of the judges, after Moronihah had established again peace between the Nephites and the Lamanites, behold there was no one to fill the judgment-seat; therefore there began to be a contention again among the people concerning who should fill the judgment-seat.

2 And it came to pass that Helaman, who was the son of Helaman, was appointed to fill the judgment-seat, by the voice of the people.

verse 2 "Helaman, who was the son of Helaman" This Helaman was the keeper of the records and other sacred things which had been given them by his uncle Shiblon, the brother of Helaman (Alma 63:11). Thus, we might regard Helaman as also the chief high priest.

3 But behold, Kishkumen, who had murdered Pahoran, did lay wait to destroy Helaman also; and he was upheld by his band, who had entered into a covenant that no one should know his wickedness.

4 For there was one Gadianton, who was exceedingly expert in many words, and also in his craft, to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery; therefore he became the leader of the band of Kishkumen.

verse 4 The name Gadianton is here used for the first time in the Book of Mormon. It will be used in thirty-two more verses in the book. It is interesting that in the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, this name was spelled "Gaddianton." The printer changed the spelling when he set the type. It is notable that the Hebrew word giddud means robber (see the commentary for 3 Nephi 3:12).

Gadianton was a highly skilled, professional propagandist. Hugh Nibley comments on his strategy:

He worked out a plan which he guaranteed would put Kishkumen and his gang in complete control of the government. All they had to do was murder the chief judge Helaman, as they had already murdered his predecessor Pahoran II, and make Gadianton himself judge-he would take care of the rest. The plan miscarried and the villains had to skip town, and yet before many years "this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi" (Helaman 2:13) (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 8, 359).

In commenting on the takeover of this band of Paanchists by Gadianton, Daniel C. Peterson has pointed out an interesting parallel: "One cannot fail to be reminded of the takeover of an already-existing conspiratorial group in the Weimar Republic-the National Socialist German Workers' Party-by an ambitious young ex-corporal named Adolf Hitler. If any one could be said to be 'exceedingly expert in many words,' it is he. Yet the pattern holds with remarkable consistency wherever such conspiracies arise: Lenin, Mussolini, and Castro also come to mind. All were leaders of revolutionary organizations; all were given to seemingly endless speeches" (Studies in Scripture, Volume Eight, Alma 30 to Moroni, 105).

Commenting on this secret band, Brother Peterson has also pointed out: "Although they would never be successful in Gadianton's lifetime, so complete was his control over them and so completely were they identified with him that ever afterward they were known among the Nephites as 'Gadianton's robbers'" (Ibid.).

Hugh Nibley summarized the characteristics of the secret band that eventually caused the overthrow of the Nephite culture:

Let us summarize the essential nature of what some have called "Gadiantonism":

Objectives: (1) "Power and gain," the two being interactive. Power wins gain, and gain wins power. (2) Control or overthrow of the government; using political office "to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory" (Helaman 7:5).

Methods: (1) Secret agreements between individuals and groups. The Gadiantons are essentially an underground movement. (2) Assassination. These two things, "secret combinations" and "that men should shed blood," have been forbidden by God "in all things . . . from the beginning of man" (Ether 8:19). (3) "Payola." "Akish did offer them money" (Ether 9:11); "letting the guilty . . . go unpunished because of their money" (Helaman 7:5). (4) Skillful propaganda and public relations: "flattering words." (5) The hate campaign: a steady output of charges, accusations, and rumors, in the manner of Amalickiah: Accuse-always accuse. Eagerness to accuse is from the devil, as Brigham Young often taught. (6) Intimidation: "breathing out many threatenings," operating "by the hand of secrecy," wearing fearsome disguises (3 Nephi 4:7). (7) Showmanship, e.g., the picturesque uniforms and romantic appeal to the young (3 Nephi 1:29). (8) Tight control of members-death penalty for betrayal (Ether 8:14; Helaman 1:11).

Attitude: (1) The Gadiantons were totally partisan, the laws and interests of the combination taking priority over all other laws and interests. (2) All were ambitious; hence they labored [diligently] for power and gain. Cain is the type and model. (3) The combinations were highly competitive, feuding fiercely among themselves. (4) They sought to project a noble image, with much talk of rights and wrongs, high courage and upright character (see the letter to Lachoneus in 3 Nephi 2). (5) They professed piety and religion, swearing their forbidden oaths not by the demons but "by the God of heaven" (Ether 8:14), "by their everlasting Maker" (Helaman 1:11). (6) They were paranoid, always attributing their troubles to the wickedness of others; never the aggressors, they are constantly seeking to avenge their wrongs. Vengeance is their watchword.

Ecology [the spacing and interdependence of people and institutions]: (1) They flourish best in an affluent business society, and wither in times of poverty. (2) They crystallize around ambitious individuals. (3) They readily coalesce with king-men, would-be nobility, great families, ambitious local officials, and rapacious Lamanite overlords, i.e., with all who are opposed to popular government among the Nephites. (4) They have destroyed every civilization in the New World in which they have been able to thrive. (5) They cannot thrive or even survive without the acceptance and encouragement of the society in general. Being predatory and non-productive, i.e., parasites, they must have a complacent society to host and support them. Such a society is one which accepts as desirable the Gadianton goals of power and gain. (6) They can become dormant for long periods of time and then, when circumstances are favorable, suddenly appear in full strength and vigor, their plans having been buried and preserved intact against the day of opportunity.

The Gadiantons, terrible as they were, are treated more as a symptom than as a disease. The society that has them is sick, but they are like maggots that prey only on dead tissue. They simply exploit the evil situation that gives them their opportunity (Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, volume 7, 370-72).

5 Therefore he did flatter them, and also Kishkumen, that if they would place him in the judgment-seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority among the people; therefore Kishkumen sought to destroy Helaman.

verse 5 Gadianton wanted to be chief judge, and he promised positions of power and influence to those who would help him acquire that office.

6 And it came to pass as he went forth towards the judgment-seat to destroy Helaman, behold one of the servants of Helaman, having been out by night, and having obtained, through disguise, a knowledge of those plans which had been laid by this band to destroy Helaman-

7 And it came to pass that he met Kishkumen, and he gave unto him a sign; therefore Kishkumen made known unto him the object of his desire, desiring that he would conduct him to the judgment-seat that he might murder Helaman.

8 And when the servant of Helaman had known all the heart of Kishkumen, and how that it was his object to murder, and also that 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) the servant of Helaman said unto Kishkumen: Let us go forth unto the judgment-seat.

9 Now this did please Kishkumen exceedingly, for he did suppose that he should accomplish his design; but behold, the servant of Helaman, as they were going forth unto the judgment-seat, did stab Kishkumen even to the heart, that he fell dead without a groan. And he ran and told Helaman all the things which he had seen, and heard, and done.

verse 9 This "servant of Helaman" appears to have been, in fact, a sort of intelligence specialist employed by Helaman for the express purpose of infiltrating the secret band of Gadianton.

10 And it came to pass that Helaman did send forth to take this band of robbers and secret murderers, that they might be executed according to the law.

11 But behold, when Gadianton had found that Kishkumen did not return he feared lest that he should be destroyed; therefore he caused that his band should follow him. And they took their flight out of the land, by a secret way, into the wilderness; and thus when Helaman sent forth to take them they could nowhere be found.

verse 11 "And they took their flight out of the land, by a secret way, into the wilderness" Ray C. Hillam has pointed out that from here on, the operation of the Gadianton robbers will provide a textbook example of guerrilla warfare conducted from their headquarters in the "wilderness" ("The Gadianton Robbers and Protracted War," BYU Studies, volume 15, number 2, 215).

12 And more of this Gadianton shall be spoken hereafter. And thus ended the forty and second year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.

13 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.

verse 13 This editorial comment was written by Mormon who was certainly in a position to see clearly the destructive influence of the Gadianton robbers over the centuries subsequent to their inception.

14 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.

verse 14 This verse suggests that the entire official Nephite record, the large plates of Nephi Mormon utilized in producing his abridgment, were referred to as the "book of Nephi." Mormon likely organized his abridgment around a series of books to which he gave distinctive names-Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, etc.

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