“An Epistle from the Leader and the Governor of This Band of Robbers”

Brant Gardner

Culture: The conflict between the Gadiantons and Nephi2 in the land of Zarahemla occurred over thirty-five years earlier. In the thirty-fourth year prior to this letter, we read of the establishment of these particular Gadiantons from a combination of Nephite dissenters and Lamanites (Hel. 11:24–26). Lachoneus is seated as a new chief judge and Mormon gives this letter as his first crisis.

The letter comes from Giddianhi, the “leader and the governor” of the Gadiantons, to Lachoneus, the “governor of the land.” This parallelism of titles suggests that Lachoneus and Giddianhi hold similar positions. This would be true if both headed cities with subsidiary cities in their sphere of influence. This was the case for the land of Zarahemla, and nothing in the text contradicts a similar polity for the Gadiantons. This is the first time we have seen the term “governor” used in the text. I suspect that it is used in its generic meaning of one who governs rather than as a specific title.

Text: Mormon created a chapter break with this quoted correspondence. This letter would have been copied into the Nephite record; because it began as a written document, the probability is high that we have an accurate copy, thus making it one of the rare primary sources in Mormon’s text.

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