The book of Helaman practically starts out with Kishkumen’s murder of the chief judge Pahoran (Helaman 1:9). Kishkumen’s fellow conspirators “entered into a covenant, yea, swearing by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran” (Helaman 1:11). Only later, when Kishkumen tries to kill Helaman, does it come to light that a secret combination led by one Gadianton was conspiring “to murder, and to rob, and to gain power” over the people (Helaman 2:4–5, 8). Though this is the first reported incident of a secret combination among the Nephites, Mormon makes the point that, in the end, “this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi” (Helaman 2:13).
Helaman tells us that secret combinations originated with “that same being who did entice our first parents to partake of the forbidden fruit—yea, that same being who did plot with Cain, that if he would murder his brother Abel it should not be known to the world… who led on the people who came from that tower into this land; who spread the works of darkness and abominations over all the face of the land, until he dragged the people down to an entire destruction, and to an everlasting hell. Yea, that same being who put it into the heart of Gadianton to still carry on the works of darkness, and of secret murder” (Helaman 6:26–29).
When abridging the history of the Jaredites, Moroni describes how the fall of that mighty nation came about through those secret combinations and compares their destruction to the subsequent destruction of the Nephites. The Book of Mormon thus not only provides a twofold witness but also a prophetic pattern of how secret combinations lead to the entire destruction of a nation of God’s people, even the most blessed and perhaps most powerful nation in the world.
In fact, Moroni intersperses his abridgment with pointed warnings to the Gentiles who will live in the last days, whom he has seen in vision (Mormon 8:34–35). He says of secret combinations, “They have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.
“Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be. Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you… For it cometh to pass that whosoever buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries” (Ether 8:21–25).
Earlier, Moroni had predicted that the Book of Mormon (including its sealed portion) would come forth “in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness” (Mormon 8:27).
Nephi similarly saw that secret combinations would exist in this land in the last days. He says, “The Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes… And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil” (2 Nephi 26:20–22). Finally, a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith declares that the time would come when those preaching in the east would “teach them that shall be converted to flee to the west, and this in consequence of that which is coming upon the earth, and of secret combinations” (D&C 42:64).
Questions we may ask ourselves could include, Are we reaching that point now? Is the increasing terrorist threat to destroy America and other freedom-loving nations the beginning of what Book of Mormon prophets saw would happen to us? Are we approaching such a state of wickedness so as to be bringing these things upon ourselves? To determine answers to these question, we might compare the Pattern of Secret Combinations the Book of Mormon provides with what is happening today:
In the Book of Mormon, secret combinations gain power at a time when great contentions and dissensions occur among the people (Helaman 1:1–9; 2:1; 3:17–19; 4:1; 11:1; 3 Nephi 7:7; Ether 11:15); when their laws become corrupted and those who choose evil are more than those who choose good (Helaman 5:2–3; 3 Nephi 7:7); when riches and treasures become slippery so that one can’t retain them (Mormon 1:18–19; 2:10); when there are contentions and dissensions in the church and persecutions of the righteous (Helaman 3:33–34; 4:1, 11–12); when miracles occur among the Lamanites that lead to their mass conversion (Helaman 5:23–48); and when the Lamanites become more righteous than the Nephites (Helaman 6:1–3, 20–21, 34–38).
Those who belong to secret combinations enter into secret covenants and make oaths in God’s name (Helaman 1:11; 6:21–30; 11:26; 4 Nephi 1:42; Ether 8:14–20; 10:33); they murder the chief judge or ruler over the land (Helaman 1:9; 6:15; 8:27; Ether 14:9–10); they seek to destroy the lawful government (Helaman 1:9; 6:15, 39; 7:4; 3 Nephi 7:6; Ether 9:1; 10:33; 11:15, 18; 13:18; 14:8–10); they increase in cities and spread over the whole land (Helaman 3:23; 6:18, 38; 11:32; 3 Nephi 1:27, 29; 2:11; 4 Nephi 1:44, 46; Mormon 1:18; 2:8; 8:9; Ether 13:26); they trample the laws of God and of the land under their feet (Helaman 6:31; 7:4–5; 3 Nephi 7:6); they kill the prophets of God (Alma 37:30); they cause havoc and carnage throughout the land (Helaman 11:2, 27; 33; 3 Nephi 2:11; Mormon 2:8); and they give those who resist their power an ultimatum to surrender or be destroyed 3 Nephi 3:1–10).