The desire of the Gadianton robbers in the Book of Mormon is for power inspired by greed. They eventually infiltrate the Nephites and obtain complete control of the government (see verses 38–39). We learn by sad experience that through apathy, seduction by flattery, and choosing the easy ways of the world, we become prey to secret combinations—whatever their titles and names might be. Today, the range of the secret combinations—anyone inspired by the devil and anchored in collusion with others who make greed and power their goal with no conscience concerning the means to obtain such—is far reaching. Societies, governments, drug cartels, gangster-type activities, and a host of groups who seek power through unrighteousness qualify as secret combinations. We learn that, indeed, the downfall of the Jaredites and Nephites is caused by the pervasive influence of secret combinations (see Ether 8:21). We learn further that any nation that allows or upholds such groups who work secret combinations shall be destroyed (see Ether 8:22).
President Ezra Taft Benson warns:
But, as so often happens, the people rejected the Lord. Pride became commonplace. Dishonesty and immorality were widespread. Secret combinations flourished because, as Helaman tells us, the Gadianton robbers “had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils.” (Helaman 6:38.) “The people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning.” (3 Nephi 6:12.) And “Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world,” even as today. (3 Nephi 6:15.) (A Witness and a Warning: A Modern-Day Prophet Testifies of the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988], 38)
THE PROPHECY OF NEPHI, THE SON OF HELAMAN—
God threatens the people of Nephi that he will visit them in his anger, to their utter destruction except they repent of their wickedness. God smiteth the people of Nephi with pestilence; they repent and turn unto him. Samuel, a Lamanite, prophesies unto the Nephites. [Note: This preamble was included in the original edition of the Book of Mormon published in 1830.] (Chapters 7 through 16.)
Nephi returns to Zarahemla, having been rejected by the people in the north. He pours out his heart before the Lord in sorrow from his garden tower. Many curious onlookers gather to listen. He prophesies to them that they face certain destruction if they do not repent and return to the pathway of Christ.