Mormon 8:35 Behold, I [Moroni] speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
Ether 8:23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
25 For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.
Moroni is quite direct and explicit at the end of the book which his father Mormon has just compiled and edited. Moroni has seen our day, and knows the events of our times (Morm 8:35). With that preamble, he then launches into the book of Ether, another tale of pride, secret combinations, and the downfall of a nation, to mirror and emphasize the points made by his father Mormon (Helaman 2:13-14).
Mormon and Moroni use the phrase “Secret Combinations” repeatedly in their writings, and go to great lengths to explicitly warn us, the recipients of the Book of Mormon, about these “combinations.” For the longest time the word combination struck me as an ethereal, nebulous concept, almost as substantive as nailing a cream pie to a wall. When considering the meaning of the word “combination” as it was used in the early 1800’s however, the meaning becomes quite clear.
Compare the modern, current, meaning of the word “combination,” as taken from the Miram Webster Online with the definition listed in the 1828 edition of the Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language. Current usage implies some kind of team work, secret team work. Which team are you on? In the time of Joseph Smith however the meaning would be a conspiracy, a secret conspiracy.
In our day, conspiracy is not a very popular word. It evokes images of nut jobs from the left or right, compounds in northern Idaho or some other sparsely populated region, weapon caches, and wild unsubstantiated claims on the internet. Paranoia.
Ezra Taft Benson, then an apostle, clearly stated , “There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon —it is a conspiracy fact.” (Ezra Taft Benson. “Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints. LDS General Conference April, 1972)
That almost sounds better, believers of the Book of Mormon are not conspiracy theorists. We believe in facts, the reality of conspiracy. There is not quite the same ring of paranoia with facts – rather there is more a sense of fatalism. Pessimism.
The message of Elder Benson, Mormon, and Moroni was not however one of pessimism, but rather hope, and deep urgency. Deep urgency to “awake to a sense of [our] awful situation,” (Ether 8:24) caused by these secret conspiracies, these facts that are happening right now, and “suffer not that these murderous [conspiracies] get above [us].” (Ether 8:23).
There is great urgency in Mormon’s words as he interrupts his narrative to say, this is important, pay attention. “In the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.” (Helaman 2:13). Following this morality tale of Nephite destruction and tragedy, Moroni then wrote part two, retelling the same sordid story with a different cast of characters, the Jaredites, to make sure we got the message. There is in fact a conspiracy, even now, plotting to overthrow our freedom and country.
“Awake and arise, O ye slumbering nations!
The heavens have opened their portals again.
The last and the greatest of all dispensations
Has burst like a dawn o’er the children of men!”
(“Awake And Arise.” LDS Hymn Book. #8, 1985.)
What are we to do? Awake. Done. What now?
Turn to the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives many examples of what not to do. Sheltering, hiding, joining, and contributing to the conspiracy are all big problems. Fighting the conspiracy, head on confrontation, relying on the weapons of war is spectacularly unsuccessful (3 Nephi 2:11-13).
Three years after 3 Nephi chapter 2 the people of Christ, who have not learned the lesson of chapter 2 ask Gidgiddoni to pray to the Lord for a divine blessing in undertaking a preemptive military offensive against the Gadianton conspiracy. Gidgidoni says “The Lord forbid.” If we preemptively go up against the conspiracy the Lord will deliver us into their hands. Gather together, come to Zion. The Lord will deliver us. (3 Nephi 3:20-21)
This idea of gathering to and establishing Zion is key. Gidgiddoni, who later leads his people to victory against the Gadianton robber conspiracy, also told his people they must repent (3 Nephi 3:15). Repent and establish Zion. The descendants of Lehi later did just that, and there were no more Gadianton robbers, no more conspiracy (4 Nephi 1:15-17) up until 260 years after the coming of Christ (4 Nephi 1:41-42).
Earlier in the narrative Mormon compares and contrasts the Nephite and Lamanite’s approach to dealing with the Gaddianton robber conspiracy. The Nephites did the opposite of establishing Zion, they grew in wickedness, iniquity; and the Spirit of the Lord, which had heretofore prospered and blessed them, was withdrawn. The Nephites built up, and supported the conspiracy; and the great conspiracy took complete control over the government, trampling the poor, the meek, and the humble followers of God.
The Lamanites on the other hand, when they discovered the conspiracy among them, awoke to their awful situation, became sorrowful, and were stirred to action against it. They used every means in their power, and the tool which was of most worth, most efficacious in eliminating the conspiracy, was to preach the word of God. (Helaman 6:20-21, 34-38; Alma 31:5)
Joseph Smith prophesied there would come a day when the constitution of the United States would hang by a thread, and if it were to be saved, it would be by the elders of the church. (Orson Hyde, “Self Government.” Journal of Discourses 6:150) Why are the elders, and the sisters, of the church the ones to save the constitution? They are the ones to whom Moroni has given the divinely mandated injunction. Awake, and do not let this conspiracy rise up over you. (Ether 8:23)
How are the elders, and the sisters, to combat this secret combination, this conspiracy which seeks to place itself over us, and overthrow the constitution? We are to repent of our sins, establish Zion, and preach the gospel. This is the formula for success. Not insurrection, nor reliance on guns and the might of men.
“Yes, there is a conspiracy of evil. The source of it all is Satan and his hosts. He has a great power over men to “lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken” to the voice of the Lord. (Moses 4:4.) His evil influence may be manifest through governments; through false educational, political, economic, religious, and social philosophies; through secret societies and organizations; and through myriads of other forms. His power and influence are so great that, if possible, he would deceive the very elect.” (Ezra Taft Benson. “May the Kingdom of God go Forth.” LDS General Conference April, 1978)
“It is said that brother Joseph in his lifetime declared that the Elders of this Church should step forth at a particular time when the Constitution should be in danger, and rescue it, and save it. This may be so; but I do not recollect that he said exactly so. I believe he said something like this—that the time would come when the Constitution and the country would be in danger of an overthrow; and said he, If the Constitution be saved at all, it will be by the Elders of this Church. I believe this is about the language, as nearly as I can recollect it.” (Orson Hyde, “Self Government.” Journal of Discourses 6:150)
Source: Miram Webster Online – current
1a : a result or product of combining; especially : an alliance of individuals, corporations, or states united to achieve a social, political, or economic end
b : two or more persons working as a team
2: an ordered sequence: as
a : a sequence of letters or numbers chosen in setting a lock; also : the mechanism operating or moved by the sequence
b : a rapid sequence of punches in boxing
c : any subset of a set considered without regard to order within the subset
3: any of various one-piece undergarments for the upper and lower parts of the body —usually used in plural
4: an instrument designed to perform two or more tasks
5a : the act or process of combining; especially : that of uniting to form a chemical compound
b : the quality or state of being combined
Source: Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language – 1828 edition
1. Intimate union, or association of two or more persons or things, by set purpose or agreement, for effecting some object, by joint operation; in a good sense, when the object is laudable; in an ill sense, when it is illegal or iniquitous. It is sometimes equivalent to league, or to conspiracy. We say, a combination of men to overthrow government, or a combination to resist oppression.
2. An assemblage; union of particulars; as a combination of circumstances.
3. Commixture; union of bodies or qualities in a mass or compound; as, to make new compounds by new combinations.
4. Chimical union; union by affinity.
Mix dry acid of tartar with dry carbonate of potash; no combination will ensue, till water is added.
5. In mathematics, the union of numbers or quantities in every possible manner; or the variation or alteration of any number of quantities, letters, sounds, or the like, in all the different manners possible. The number of possible changes or combinations is found by multiplying the terms 126.96.36.199.5 continually into each other. Thus 1×2=2: 2×3=6: 6×4=24: 24×5=120. &c. So the permutations of five quantities amount to 120. The changes that may be rung on twelve bells amount to 479,001,600. And the twenty four letters of the alphabet admit of 62,044,840,173,323,943,936,000 changes or combinations.