Whenever individuals commit wrong, they naturally don't want to be exposed and have to face the consequences of their actions. So they often try to keep their actions secret by hiding, lying, and colluding with other evil-doers; covering for one another, so to speak. What also often happens is that they form secret combinations. Mormon Doctrine says that these began in the days of Cain. “Cain first took upon himself the secret oaths as they were administered by Satan; then he killed Abel” (p. 698). Further, Mormon Doctrine states that what Satan specifically administered included “oaths and vows” (p. 698). They frequently seek to conceal their secret combinations by murder, robbery, and treason. Many earthly governments have been corrupted, undermined, or overthrown by these combinations.
These secret combinations thrive as evil thrives in a society. Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, wrote: “Reliable modern reports describe their existence among gangsters, as part of the government of communist countries, in some labor organizations, and even some religious groups” (p. 698). Mormons are warned that when they see such combinations, to beware. Trouble is at the door, and disaster is upon them.
Mormons are cautioned against secrecy; encouraged to examine things closely to make sure interactions are honest, ethical, legal and moral. While they recognize that some things should be kept sacred and not "cast...before swine," they know that they need to be ever vigilant to avoid deception.
Mormons also believe that the best defense against secret combinations is to foster righteousness and openness and to defend the God-given rights of each individual. This not only makes them enthusiastic missionaries but dependable patriots who are willing to fight for their respective countries as legislators, government officials, and soldiers.
This, however, does not mean that members of the Church are forbidden to join groups sometimes considered 'secret societies,' (such as the Freemasons, of which most of the early leaders of the Church were members) which are not necessarily synonymous with 'secret combinations.'