There Was No Chance for the Robbers to Obtain Food

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

A little over a year had elapsed since the events recorded in the preceding chapter took place. Almost nineteen years had also passed away since the signs spoken of by Samuel, the Lamanite, concerning Christ's birth, appeared to the Nephites, both worthy and unworthy; they coming as a witness to the inhabitants of the western world that the Savior of mankind had taken up an abode among mortals. Nevertheless, the Gadiantons gave no heed to the words of the prophets, and fearing not that something or other would disrupt their well-laid plans, spent that time preparing for future invasions of Nephite possessions. When all was in readiness, the robbers, confident of success because of their overwhelming numbers, burst forth from their hiding places; they swarmed from their mountain retreats, and various strongholds, and took control of the deserted lands and the desolate villages and cities that had been temporarily abandoned by the Nephites.

However, the Gadianton Robbers neglected to provide for themselves one most important thing-food. In times past they relied upon plundering the possessions of the Nephite farmers and stock raisers, who among the Nephites were in numbers, predominant. As a people, the Nephites were growers of barley and other grains for the use of man and beast; of the latter they had many. A raid upon the Nephite's fields and livestock often produced great stores of food for the invading hosts of robbers. Previously having given no thought to and totally unmindful of this great oversight on their part, they soon discovered that there were no cattle nor beasts of any kind that they could add to their quickly diminishing supply of food. Mormon says there "were no wild beasts nor game in those lands which had been deserted by the Nephites," and that only in the uninhabited parts of the wilderness was food to be obtained. Now only in these regions of wilderness could the robbers find sufficient food to sustain life, let alone not in any abundance, but on the other hand the Nephites had gathered together all their beasts of burden and those used for food and for raiment and had driven them to their place of refuge. "Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food." The Nephites, not to be found wanting for food and other necessary things of life had provided provisions to last them seven years, "in the which they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land."

It was only a short time until game became scarce in the wilderness, and the robbers began to suffer from hunger and the evils of starvation. Weakness from want of food overcame many of the robbers and thus they were unable to fight the battles which only strong men can endure.

The robbers were faced with dilemma after dilemma. In their dire need for food some thought to grow their own crops. This proposal was quickly abandoned for in doing so it would spread them out too thin for defense purposes, and an attack from Nephite sources would surely mean to them, disaster.

Thus pressed for want of food and a growing discontent within the ranks of his followers, Giddianhi, sensing that open warfare had become the robber's only resort, gave command to his armies to attack the Nephites. It was in the sixth month of their year (September, we presume) that this command was carried out. Terrible, we are told, was the appearance of the robber hosts. They wore a lamb-skin dyed in blood about their loins; their heads were shaven, but were covered with armor-headplates as they were called. When the Nephites perceived them coming they bowed to the earth in prayer unto the Lord. The robbers, seeing their actions in doing this, counted it as a sign of fear and set up a horrible shout and rushed upon them. A desperate battle followed; the Nephite armies were commanded by Gidgiddoni who acted on the defensive. The slaughter was more terrific than in any battle between the descendants of Lehi. Ultimately Giddianhi was slain, the robbers repulsed, and driven back into the wilderness.

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 7