Hugh Nibley notes that the best treatise you will find on secret societies and their works is this in Helaman 6 and what follows:
1. In the first place there are no "isms"; there are organizations. As Liddell Hard says, war is an individual affair. Religion and nationality are not basic. You can belong to anything you want. It's not the party machine, the politburo or anything like that. It's something else--personal ambition, etc.
2. Secondly, it must have a power base. It must have a market. As a way of robbery, piracy has been official. Then it was bootlegging and things like that. Today it's drugs. It won't be for always. It used to be pearls. It was cattle-stealing and then gambling, as in Vegas. You can build an empire on gambling. You can build an empire on drugs and all of these things. You can build an empire on prohibition of illicit things.
3. A third point is that the object has the broadest appeal. Those four things that both Nephites mention: It is for money and for power, the one that holds the gun has the power. It is for popularity; they must have public support--they always do. And the lusts of the flesh--the glitzy clubs, the high-class dames, the Tony resorts and places like that. These all fit into the same setting that we are all so fond of today, as you know from our television.
4. The fourth point is that it must offer protection. The Book of Mormon goes right into this Gadianton stuff. It breaks it all down. You'll find all these elements are there. You must offer protection.
5. The fifth is, it must seek an air of total respectability. The stretch limo, the overdressing and very expensive dressing, even piety. These people are good church members, like the Mafia--very pious family people, loyal to each other. They strive for an image of ultimate respectability. They have their own mystique. They are entirely independent of state.
[Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, pp. 237-238]