“By a Secret Way”

Brant Gardner

The servant’s report to Helaman was sufficient to condemn the entire band, and Helaman promptly sent guards to arrest them. However, the wary group, alerted by Kishkumen’s failure to return, escaped. Gadianton was Kishkumen’s obvious successor. Mormon does not say how he knew Gadianton had organized the escape, but he clearly credits Gadianton as the leader from this point on. There is no information to tell us what the “secret way” was. It is rather doubtful that it referred to a feature of the city itself as it would be highly unusual for the small band to be the only ones aware of it. I suspect that it was a literary “secret way” that existed in the textual explanation as a reason for their escape rather than a physical location.

Variant: The original manuscript spells this name “Gaddianton” the first time it is clearly extant. At the next point, a partial lacuna leaves room for the second “d,” suggesting that it would have been spelled “Gaddianton” there as well, although “Gadianton” also appears at times. The first occurrence of the name is spelled “Gadianton” in the printer’s manuscript, which uses that spelling consistently. Skousen’s analysis suggests that “Gaddianton” was the intended original spelling but that it was lost in the typesetting process.

Translation: Robert F. Smith, a researcher in the Ancient Near East with grants from the Foundation of Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, has suggested a meaning for “Gadianton” based on Hebrew. He suggests that it may mean “my fortune is [in] oppression/affliction/rapine.” Gordon C. Thomasson notes that such a name would be a classic metonymy, or a name that conveys a meaning rather than simply functioning as identification. Of course, this presumes the continuation of both Hebrew language and naming conventions for nearly 550 years in the New World, a supposition I find questionable.

Nevertheless, if the name were a metonym, it could explain why the name reappears after an extended hiatus. It is difficult to see it as a name honoring a founder when the subsequent Gadiantons could not have known the small subversive Nephite group for which Mormon claims they were founded. If the name is a metonym, however, any group that gains its “fortune [in] oppression/affliction/ rapine” would be aptly named Gadianton.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5