“Gadianton’s Robbers and Murderers”

Brant Gardner

Mormon now spells out the role of the Gadianton robbers, assigning to them a symbolism that supersedes their historical context—and perhaps, even, their historical existence. Mormon always portrays the Gadiantons as a cohesive group with the same name. In the text, however, they show up in many places and guises. In this case, the Gadiantons have been absent from the narrative for eighteen years (Hel. 3:23). Previously, they had appeared as a relatively small, internal, Nephite dissension. Here, they are still among the Nephites but have seized power (discussed below). In addition, they are “more numerous among the more wicked part of the Lamanites.”

It is interesting that they are present among the Lamanites at all since, as Mormon presented them earlier, they existed to subvert the Nephite government in the direction of Lamanite forms. Here, they seem to be playing the same role among the Lamanites as among the Nephites. It is no surprise that they have taken root among “the more wicked part of the Lamanites,” as that is where they have the greatest access to power and, hence, power, wealth. Mormon will use righteousness as the Gadianton “antidote” in his narrative.

A second point is that the Lamanites even have a “more wicked part” given a conversion so great only five years earlier that it included “the more part of the Lamanites.” (See commentary accompanying Helaman 5:50.) This passage confirms that many Lamanites remained unconverted—and likewise that Mormon’s historical descriptions serve his editorial purposes rather than following some standard of factually accurate history.

(For “murderers and plunderers,” see the commentary accompanying Alma 17:14, 50:21, and Helaman 6:17.)

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