“They Formed a Secret Combination”

Alan C. Miner

From the account of Ether, Moroni writes:

it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired. . . . And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old. . . . And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites. (Ether 8:17,18, 20)

According to Bruce Warren, "secret combinations" or secret societies were a part pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Mexican artist and writer Miguel Covarrubias describes the nature of secret societies in Mesoamerica as follows:

"In those days the ancient jaguar cult prevailed throughout southern Mexico and in Central America, superimposed upon the formal, official Indian religion. . . . To quote Sahagun . . ., "People like assassins, daring and accustomed to kill, they carried on their persons pieces of jaguar skin. . . . In ancient times the jaguar was an earth god, symbol of the interior of the earth and of the night, of darkness, because jaguars were believed to swallow the sun and cause eclipses. He was the god of caves, the dark interior of mountains . . . As such he was worshipped throughout southern Mexico and particularly around Tehuantepec."

Because of their secret nature, often very little is known about secret societies. However, that secret societies did exist in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and that they parallel to a certain degree those found in the book of Ether in some respects is nonetheless certain. [Bruce W. Warren, "Secret Combinations, Warfare, and Sacrifice," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, pp. 229-230]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary