Gadianton robbers were a band of robbers founded by a wicked Nephite named Gadianton. Their organization was based on secrecy and satanic oaths. Part of these secret oaths was to keep secret the dishonest and murderous acts of others in the band, which is the same sort of oath had by Cain, the son of Adam, and his cohorts -- to murder and get gain and have others guard your secret. Gadianton caused the destruction of the Nephite nation. The devil gave secret oaths and covenants to Gadianton. Secret combinations caused the destruction of the Jaredite nation.
Robbery is a different thing than theft, and the distinction is made in Old Testament law. Theft is taking something that doesn't belong to you, but robbery is more of a military attack with weapons that includes looting and murder. The Gadianton band waxed and waned in strength throughout Book of Mormon times, and resembled organized crime syndicates or rogue nations. How the various Book of Mormon societies handled the robbers varied, and indicated the general strength and righteousness of the societies. Both the Nephites and Lamanites had to deal with them, and the Jaredites, an even more ancient American society, was also destroyed by them. There is a lesson in the record for us in modern times.
Some telling scriptures regarding the Gadianton Robbers include the following:
- Now behold, those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman; but behold, they were put into the heart of Gadianton by that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit — Yea, it is that same being who put it into the heart of Gadianton to still carry on the work of darkness, and of secret murder; and he has brought it forth from the beginning of man even down to this time (Helaman 6:26, 29).
- And there was also a cause of much sorrow among the Lamanites; for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers (3 Nephi 1:25).
- And it came to pass in the thirteenth year there began to be wars and contentions throughout all the land; for the Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them.
- Therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers, yea, and also to maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty (3 Nephi 2:11, 12).
- And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men (Helaman 7:4).
- O Lord, behold this people repenteth; and they have swept away the band of Gadianton from amongst them insomuch that they have become extinct, and they have concealed their secret plans in the earth (Helaman 11:10).
- And thus in time, yea, even in the space of not many years, they became an exceedingly great band of robbers; and they did search out all the secret plans of Gadianton; and thus they became robbers of Gadianton (Helaman 11:26).
- And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites (Helaman 6:27).
- 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 (Helaman 2:13).