Where the State is, the Gadiantons are AlsoThe great 19th century libertarian thinker Lysander Spooner once made a statement about the nature of the organization we know as the State:
"All the great governments of the world--those now existing as well as those that have passed away... have been mere bands of robbers, who have associated for purposes of plunder, conquest, and the enslavement of their fellow man. And their laws, as they have called them, have only been such agreements as they have found it necessary to enter into, in order to maintain their organizations, and act together in plundering and enslaving others, and in securing to each his agreed share of the spoils." (Source)
This is interesting language when one considers the workings of the Gadianton Robbers described in the Book of Mormon. It begs the question: What was God really trying to teach us by including these accounts in the text? Why should we be concerned about Gadianton and his band of merry robbers anyway? What do they have to do with the State?
Turns out a whole lot, in fact. For wherever there is a State, Gadiantons lurk behind the scenes like vultures circling a carcass.
The history of Nephite rule evolved from a monarchy to a system of checks and balances not unlike the American Constitutional system. Mosiah's exposition on higher and lower judges is reminiscent of the federalist view of the Founders, which was that state judiciaries were the final arbiters of constitutional law. Then in 1801 Chief Justice John Marshall decided that the federal government should have the power...to check its own power. The result was the now infamous ruling in Marbury v. Madison.
The point is, constitutional governments don't last very long; there are always hungry robbers scheming to get their grubby hands on the spoils of the productive class. The great paradox of government -and one I think is being presented in the Book of Mormon- is that the State always ends up in the hands of robbers.
The Nature of Power
To firmly grasp this concept we have to delve into a little philosophy and ask: what is the nature of political power? According to Betrand de Jouvenel, "Power in its pure state consists... in command, a command which has an independent existence" (On Power, de Jouvenel, p. 98). This command, which google dictionary defines as "to give an authoritative order" or to "dominate a strategic position from a superior height," is what wise statesmen have attempted to limit. But how do you limit power with power? Ah, this is the paradox. If a lot of something easily corrupts (as Lord Acton has pointed out), how can a little of it, or the separation of it, not also lead to corruption? It seems, then, that attempts to limit power can only result in varying degrees of corruption. It may be true that smaller units of corruption are favorable over larger units, as in American federalism, or Mosiah's judges, but states' rights didn't last long and neither did the incorruptible judges in the Book of Mormon.Furthermore, we are told by Joseph Smith that most men will abuse authority when given the chance (D&C 121), which certainly explains why even those smaller units are corrupted so easily. The problem, then, is not the indefatigable task of chopping power into more tolerable bits; the problem is that a State or government exists at all and offers a seat of power for the taking.
The Gadianton's show up on the scene a mere forty-two years after the Nephites established their judicial system. Gadianton, the leader of the band, is the typical mafia-style gangster with no compunction about killing to gain political advantage. His modus operandi is to use intrigue and assassination to acquire his ends. The goals are power and gain, and any means are justified to obtain them.
Unlike the cartoonish perception of gangsters we entertain today, these Gadiantons were both intelligent and patient, waiting twenty years for the next opportunity to knock off a judge after Kishkumen's failed attempt and demise. When Cezoram and his son were finally eliminated, the record explains that the robbers infiltrated the Nephite government and seduced the population:
The more part of the Nephites... did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings (Hel 6:21).
Now compare the words of Lysander Spooner:
And their laws, as they have called them, have only been such agreements as they have found it necessary to enter into, in order to maintain their organizations, and act together in plundering and enslaving others, and in securing to each his agreed share of the spoils.
Notice the phrase enter into appears in both quotes. Mormon says covenants and oaths and Spooner says agreements. Preserve one another or act together. And both quotes used the word plunder. It is almost like we are reading the same thing. And remember: according to Spooner, this is what all governments do, at least eventually. Spooner speaks of the "organizations" of these schemers. What might he be talking about? These details are left out of the Nephite record but there are copious examples in modern America history.
The Two Founding Fraudsters
Some of America's first plunderers were none other than Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton. Morris, a Philadelphia merchant and Congressmen during the Revolutionary War, was given control of the newly created Finance department by the Continental Congress in 1781. Through his clandestine negotiations with Congress he was able to commandeer the other nascent departments of War and Marine. His main ambition was to establish a central bank patterned after the Bank of England. He recruited a young Alexander Hamilton who had been serving as Washington's aide de camp during the war. Hamilton, ambitious and brilliant, got his hands on a few pamphlets on finance, haphazardly read them, and wrote a "marathon" letter to Morris praising the English economic system known as mercantilism. Outlined in the letter was the nationalist agenda we are so familiar with today: a central bank, a high protective tariff, a powerful central government, and a large public debt. Morris would eventually recommended young Hamilton to Washington for the future position of Secretary of the Treasury.
Morris' first congressionally approved experiment with a national bank was called the Bank of North America. Loans to the bank in specie (gold and silver) would come from private financiers and foreign countries. The quasi-private bank would loan out cheap credit to politically-connected businesses like Morris' and his war contracting buddies. Millions were siphoned off for his private benefit, and more was lent out than was held in reserve, resulting in currency debasement and the bank's relapse into completely private hands in 1783. Colonialists just weren't willing to use inflated bank notes that couldn't buy what gold and silver could.
For the banking scheme to work, Morris and Hamilton needed a restructuring of government. Preferably centralized, and with the power to tax.
Rob From the Poor to Give to the Rich
The Revolutionary War was financed by the individual states, primarily through paper currency creation. Instead of money, war bonds (IOUs) were issued to pay the soldiers. These "military certificates" represented the bulk of the debt held by the states. Because of inflation, the bonds and the paper currencies had lost most of their value, leaving the new nation with two ways to solve the problem: 1, let the individual states raise their taxes to cover the losses, or 2, allow the federal government to assume the debt of the states.
After the Constitution was ratified, Hamilton got his appointment of Secretary of the Treasury, and persuaded Washington to sign a twenty-year charter for the First Bank of the United States, with Morris' former partner, Thomas Willing, appointed bank president. All the old government debt was nationalized, new bonds were issued, and a new federal tariff was enacted into law. The nationalist soup was beginning to simmer.
Hamilton, Morris, and myriad other New York politicians and politically connected businessmen knew that all those old bonds would be redeemed at face value within a few months. Despite the slow movement of news in those days, these insiders hired peddlers to race down the eastern seaboard swindling the poor veterans out of their bonds for pennies on the dollar. Thomas Jefferson recounts the incident as follows:
The base scramble began. Couriers & relay horses by land, and swift sailing pilot boats by sea, were flying in all directions. Active partners and agents were associated & employed in every state, town and country neighborhood, and this paper was bought up to 5 and even 2% in the pound, before the holder knew that Congress had provided for its redemption at par. Immence sums were thus filched from the poor and ignorant. (Quoted in Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Central Banking as an Engine of Corruption.)
The unwitting veterans, the very men who had fought for America's independence, were fleeced by these modern Gadiantons. Indeed, one could say they were plundered. Morris (Hamilton's benefactor) is estimated to have made $18 million on the intrigue, and New York governor George Clinton made $5 million, an enormous fortune for that time. Although this was a one-time gain for these corrupt political entrepreneurs, Hamilton's central banking program would ensure that similar opportunities would arise in the future, and that congressional votes would be cast in favor of new banks when old charters expired.
This banking "engine" of corruption, as Jefferson called it, would be a means for politicians to plunder Americans, buy votes, hand out subsidies to politically-connected businesses (crony capitalism), and engage in war, for centuries to come. The entire nationalist agenda outlined by Hamilton: central banks, high tariffs, corporate welfare, and a large public debt, are no doubt instruments of legal plunder. Hamilton quipped that a large public debt was "to us a national blessing." A blessing indeed to the elites, but a curse to the average American, who would be relegated to nothing but financial collateral for national loans. Check out Tom DiLorenzo's work on this curse.There have been intermittent periods in American history when political figures like Andrew Jackson have smashed the banks and paid off the national debts, but the conspirators never seem to give up. In 1913 the Federal Reserve Act was passed, creating a permanent quasi-public banking establishment that has been mulcting the American people for over one-hundred years: setting arbitrary interest rates, creating booms and busts, and recessions and depressions, causing low and middle-class-destroying inflation, bailing out government-favored businesses, and financing massive genocidal wars.
Who is Really Running Things?
"And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats--having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men; condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills." (Hel 7:4-5, Emphasis added).
Gadiantons have been "at the head of government" in this nation since its inception, validating Spooner's words that all governments are made up of robbers. The nature of the State itself provides the perfect vehicle for theft to be implemented on a large scale. And worse, it provides the tools for central planners to trick the unsuspecting public into believing that the very organizations and programs designed to fleece them have been created for their own good.
The State's main task is to clothe outright plunder, theft, and murder in a cloak of moral legitimacy, otherwise it risks losing its power. Its very existence is dependent on the support of its loyal citizens, who have to believe that the State represents some grandiose ideal, or some elevated part of themselves. To the citizen, the idea of the State has to embody all of their abstractive perceptions of the highest morality of humanity, or it will be left as the emperor who "has no clothes." Men like Spooner have simply removed the veneer of clothing and discovered the State for what it really is: a gang of thieves.
Are We The Government?
The genius of convincing the public that "they" are the government, is that it can hide behind every immoral and evil act it does by projecting the blame onto the hapless citizen. "If the government conscripts a man, or throws him into jail for dissident opinion, then he is 'doing it to himself,'" writes Rothbard, who continues that, "Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered; instead they must have 'committed suicide'" (p.10). Likewise, it was not President Truman who dropped the atom bomb on Japan, it was "we" Americans. It is not the IRS that takes our money, it is me paying money to part of myself. It is not Biden implementing unconstitutional vaccine mandates, it is "us" forcing ourselves to be jabbed, etc. See the utter nonsense? Yet people buy into it, at least subliminally.
But what if we actually believe that it is "us" doing all these things? Well then we become emotionally and morally invested in what the State is doing. We take sides. We give politicians our support. We cheer when statues of Saddam Hussein come crashing down and are dragged though the streets of Baghdad. We rejoice when Obama's health care system is forced on everyone. We beam with satisfaction when our neighbors are forced to take an experimental vaccine so we can be "protected" from them. We feel safe from "terrorists" when the Patriot Act makes pat-down searches at airports and warrantless arrests the norm. In other words, the actions of the State become subconsciously embedded into our moral awareness and we draw ideological lines in the sandbox of government intervention. We rationalize our normative views of what the State should and should not do. When we are aware enough to remove these mental barriers, the lines and the sand disappear, exposing a reprobate and diabolical criminal organization.
Seduced Into Compliance
Another tool the State uses to propagandize the public is nationalism: to promote the love of one's homeland as a high moral ideal. Man's natural affinity to identify with a group makes this tool highly effective at garnering support for the State's actions. Symbolism that is intertwined with religion is carefully inserted into the garb, rituals, and ceremonies of government and its officials: sacraments in the form of parades, ceremonies and uniforms, emblems as flags, badges, medals, coats of arms, and national seals, hymns as national anthems, chants and pledges, Sunday school as fireside chats and patriotic speeches, and sacrifice as military service and conscription. These play upon the emotions of religious people and can lead them to believe that immoral acts are virtuous. War (mass murder) becomes "noble." Paying taxes and obeying unjust laws become "duties." Saluting the flag and pledging allegiance become "sacred oaths," questioning authority becomes a "vice," and tattling on neighbors becomes a "virtue." This may have been what Mormon was talking about when he says that the Gadiantons seduced the Nephites:
And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join them in the secret murders and combinations. (Helaman 6:38)
The Nephites were also seduced by the spoils they offered. Consider our modern day parallels: food stamps, corporate welfare, bank bailouts, free education, pell grants, welfare programs, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment benefits, etc. Not only were they seduced, but they came to believe in these works. They became ideologues, justifying to themselves that they were "entitled" to such spoils. Thus, they built up the Gadiantons by voting for them, utilizing their public goods, supporting their wars, accepting their handouts, and believing their propaganda.
This State-sponsored seduction is accomplished by those whom Rothbard calls the "opinion-molders." Because they are in the minority, the State has a vested interest in hiring intellectuals and demagogues to convince the public of its supposed legitimacy. As Rothbard says, they must be "persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise, and, at least, inevitable, and certainly better than other alternatives" (Anatomy, p20).
Rothbard explains that because the "masses of men do not create their own ideas" they can be easily molded by the intellectuals. In America the State divides these ideas into opposing camps of right and left. Both "wings" belong to the same bird and consequently share the same brain. Thus, the illusion of a choice is given to the public who can choose representatives they think reflect their views. But in the end, no matter which wing is in the majority, the State still achieves it goals and obtains its ends. (See the Hegelian Dialectic).
In the Book of Mormon, after Amalickiah had become king of the Lamanites by murder and conspiracy, he hired propagandists to "speak unto the Lamanites from their towers, against the Nephites" (Alma 48:1). He was using the intellectuals to persuade the Lamanites to go to war against the Nephites. Today the State uses radio, television, and internet towers to speak propaganda to us: which economic policy to support, which foreign wars to rally behind, and lately, which germs to be most afraid of. Notice that it wasn't until after the Nephites were seduced to the point that they believed in and supported State programs, that the Gadiantons "did obtain the sole management of the government." (Hel 6:39)
The Most Abominable Sin
Now there are a lot of things that God abhors, but Gadiantons and Secret Combinations take the cake. Consider the following from the book of Ether:
And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God. (Ether 8:18, Emphasis added)
Moroni goes on to explain that the Lord does not work in secret, and has forbidden murder, ominously warning us that whatever nation upholds these secret combinations will perish. He specifically calls out the American Gentiles, imploring them not to let these "murderous combinations" get above them. How many of us have read these verses time and again and not ever wondered why God loathes Gadiantons above all else?
I can speculate a few reasons. Once the combinations get above us, as our State appointed overlords, they can do much more than just steal and murder. They wage war on your mind. They want to convert you. They want you to think that you couldn't possibly survive without their all-wise oversight over your every choice. They want you to rejoice in your enslavement and trust in them like a child trusts its parent. They want you to believe in them. They want your adulation, reverence, and unfailing obedience. God disdains them because they embody the great Satanic ideal, Satan's very program incarnate. They will save you all, in exchange for your agency and your mind. Just like Satan, they want you to surrender your will to them and worship them. Remember Moses' experience in the wilderness? The jealous Satan ranted and raved up and down the earth, "son of man, worship me... I am the Only Begotten, worship me!" (Moses 1:12, 19)
Satan thinks he is God. He is the ultimate megalomaniac. His narcissistic personality traits trickle down to modern-day Gadiantons and Secret Combinations. Why would they not want to be like their master? Think of every dystopian novel you've ever read: 1984, Brave New World, The Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, Anthem, Divergent, The Alliance, etc. What is the common theme? A State full of sociopaths.
The same story is told over and over again: people living under totalitarian control, stripped of their humanity and ability to choose, most of them comfortable in their slavery. But someone always wakes up. There is always a Winston, a Catniss, or a Montag. There is always someone who has enough of a mind left to realize that something is not right. It is like awakening from a dream. The scriptures are full of such imagery: awake to a sense of your awful situation! (Ether 8:24)
God -the real one- reveals that it was the devil who "put into the heart of Gadianton" those "secret oaths and covenants." Mormon further elaborates:
Yea, it is the same being who put it into the heart of the Gadianton... who is the author of all sin. And behold, he doth carry on his works of darkness and secret murder, and doth hand down their plots, and their oaths, and their covenants, and their plans of awful wickedness, from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men. (Hel 6:29, 30 Emphasis Added)
Did you catch that last part? Satan wants your heart. He knows you are never going to outright give it to him, unless you're some kind of devil worshipper or member of the Skull and Bones. But he already has the hearts of the conspirators, so how could he get yours, the good Christian, the great majority, the multitudinous masses? If he could just create on organization, an institution, an entity that you can put your trust in; an abstraction of your mind that you believe has your best interest and does your bidding. A seemingly inevitable, monolithic, ubiquitous superstructure that protects you from bad guys, feeds you, instructs you, and lulls you into blissful apathy. The beneficent Leviathan, the altruistic Beast. The counterfeit for the image of God. The great deception. The ultimate idolatry. The State.
The sobering truth is those plans that the devil passes down from generation to generation are designed to create tyrannical States. He doesn't care about the Gadiantons; they are just pawns in his game, the real target is you.
The Good News: None of it is Real
God is "no respecter of persons." There are no such things as leaders who are "qualified" to rule. Because "all are alike unto God," it is a logical fallacy to suppose that we need leaders to tell us what to do. According to Christ, the "least among us" (Luke 9:48) are the greatest. The leader is the servant, not the master. There is no hierarchy. Power in heaven is the opposite of what it is on earth, which makes the State the greatest satanic illusion ever contrived. John, on the isle of Patmos, explained it in perhaps the only possible way we can comprehend; the image of the Beast. You can't see the State because it does not exist. You can only see the images it portrays: flags, armies, kings, presidents, courts, statues, fasces, buildings, etc. It hides behind these symbols to deceive you into believing it is real.
But it is none of these things. It is merely an idea, conceived of and summarily rejected in a heavenly council eons age. Government, which literally means mind control, exists primarily as a figment of our imagination. Its only real power comes from the credence we lend it. If everyone stopped believing in it, it would vanish in an instant. The man behind the curtain is merely a man, blinded by his own hubris and perceived greatness. Christ is the only one who has ever "condescended" far below our station as mortals on earth, and because of his great suffering, and lamb-like submission to a tyrannical State, he is the only one qualified to rule this earth.
We began this post with a quote by Spooner, and we will end with one. Perhaps he can explain best why God would consider the State the most abominable institution of all:
But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to "protect" those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you. he does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentlemen to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave. (Spooner, No Treason)
Bibliography and Suggested Reading
Andersen, Verlan H. Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen. Orem, Utah: Andersen, 1967.
Anderson, Verlan H. The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil. Orem, Utah: Andersen, 1972.
DiLorenzo, Thomas J. "A Note on the Machiavellian Origins of Central Banking in America." The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 14, No. 7 (Spring 2011): 78-87.
DiLorenzo, Thomas J. "Central Banking as an Engine of Corruption." Mises Daily Articles, (March 2021). https://mises.org/library/central-banking-engine-corruption
DiLorenzo, Thomas J. Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Arch Enemy Betrayed the American Revolution-And What it Means for Americans Today. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008.
Jouvenel, Bertrand de. On Power: Its Nature and the History of Its Growth. Boston: Beacon Press, 1962.
Rothbard, Murray. Conceived in Liberty. Vol. 4, Chapters 69 & 70. Auburn, Alabama: The Mises Institute, 2011.
Rothbard, Murray. The Anatomy of the State. Auburn, Alabama: The Mises Institute, 2009.
Rothbard, Murray. The Mystery of Banking. Second Edition. Auburn, Alabama: The Mises Institute, 2008.