Author: Hillam, Ray Cole
In latter-day scriptures, secret combinations are groups of conspirators who plot and initiate "works of darkness" for evil and selfish purposes. Secret combinations have existed since the days of Cain (Moses 5:51). Satan is their author (2 Ne. 26:22), power and gain are their motives (Ether 8:15, 25), and conspiracy is their method of operation (Hel. 6:22-24). Secret combinations may be brotherhoods, groups, societies, or governments. They operate in secrecy to perform evil acts for the purpose of gaining power over the minds and actions of people.
As the enemies of honest men and women governed by the rule of law, such secret combinations seek to subvert public virtue and legally constituted authority. They defile, defraud, murder, deceive, and destroy the elements of good government, religious or secular. Their goal is to seize power and to rule over all the people (3 Ne. 6:27-30), which results in the destruction of human freedom and agency and the paralysis of peaceful and just communities.
Secret combinations and their practices have a scriptural and historic tradition that extends from the days of Cain's secret covenant with Satan to modern times. Members of these Satanic combinations are bound by secret oaths and covenants. The devil proclaims, initiates, and sustains these combinations and their conspiratorial practices (Moses 5:29-33, 47-52).
In the Book of Mormon, several secret combinations challenged governments ruled by the "voice of the people" or by righteous kings. They were a continuing threat to the Jaredites, who succumbed eventually to their power. Later, they were a threat to the Nephite and Lamanite nations when the Gadianton combinations, over a period of many years, challenged the constituted authorities and eventually seized power. The concerted effort of the whole populace later defeated the Gadiantons, but others rose in their place. The Book of Mormon details the tactics and strategies of the Gadiantons, mentions a variety of countermeasures, and shows that a secret combination was responsible for the final downfall of the Nephites (Hel. 2:13-14; Ether 8:21; see also Book of Mormon: Book of Helamanand Book of Mormon 3 Nephi).
In the contemporary world, secret combinations take various forms and operate at different levels of society. They are expressed in organized crime and in religious, economic, and political conspiracies. The Lord has warned that secret combinations will be present in modern society (D&C 38:29; Ether 8:20-25). They threaten freedom everywhere. However, Latter-day Saints believe that secret combinations and their practices can be overcome, but only through righteous living and full support of honest government.
Secret combinations are often referred to in latter-day scripture, particularly in the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon. In the Doctrine and Covenants, this term describes those who have conspired against the Saints (D&C 42:64). It does not appear in the Bible, but the equivalent "conspiracy" is used at least ten times.
Hillam, Ray C. "The Gadianton Robbers and Protracted War." BYU Studies 15 (Winter 1975):215-24.
Meservy, Keith H. ""Gadiantionism' and the Destruction of Jerusalem." In The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God, ed. H. D. Peterson and C. Tate, pp. 171-95. Provo, Utah, 1989.
Peterson, Daniel C. "The Gadianton Robbers as Guerrilla Warriors." In Warfare in the Book of Mormon, ed. S. Ricks and W. Hamblin, pp. 146-73. Salt Lake City, 1990.
"Secret Combinations." F.A.R.M.S. Update (Oct. 1989).
RAY C. HILLAM