Helaman 2:3-5

Brant Gardner

In Helaman 2:4, we are introduced to Gadianton, whose name will become the designation used for groups which Mormon considers dangerous to Nephite political life from now to the end of his own book. Even though we first learn of Kishkumen, Mormon has Gadianton supersede him without much more information than that he was able to become the leader of the group that would become known as the Gadianton Robbers.

We learned in Alma 8:7 that “it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them.” That naming convention suggests that we might have expected to see the band of Kishkumen, rather than Gadianton. A possible reason for this shift might come from the possible etymology of the name as found in the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

Originally, the name was spelled with a double “d”: Gaddianton. John W. Welch has suggested that there was, in Hebrew, a gdd- root that had a meaning of bandits. With the addition of the very Jaredite-sounding -ianton ending, it is possible that Mormon intended his readers to understand the name generically rather than as a single person. Mormon’s use of that term from here to the end of his text confirms that he used it as a generic term. Perhaps it was meant to signify “Jaredite bandits/robbers.”

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