Monday, February 19, 2018

Woes hanging over the Gadianton Robbers

In Helaman 22, the prophet Nephi came back to Zarahemla and found the Gadianton Robbers in political power, doing all kinds of injustice to the people, and when he tells them of their iniquities and warns them of the consequences, he says this:

And for this cause wo shall come unto you except ye shall repent. For if ye will not repent, behold, this great city, and also all those great cities which are round about, which are in the land of our possession, shall be taken away that ye shall have no place in them; for behold, the Lord will not grant unto you strength, as he has hitherto done, to withstand against your enemies. (Helaman 7:22)

From the Gadianton’s perspective, they had all the power. They held the judgment seats, the governor positions, control of the armies, etc. Furthermore, the Lamanites, who had previously been enemies of the Nephites, had converted to the Lord and laid down their weapons, and so were enemies no more. To the Gadiantons, Nephi’s prophecy would look crazy, because at that time there were no enemies with enough power to stop them, either in their cities, or among neighboring peoples.

But. What they didn’t know was that the enemies would come from among themselves. In a mere 15 years, they would be pushed out of the land, and in their resentment, they would form a marauding band that in the last crisis would eventually have to convert to the Lord or be killed by Nephite armies.

The story of how Nephi forces Gadianton judges to detect the murder of the chief judge as coming from one of their own also gives a picture of the injustice among the Gadiantons that would prevent them from ever having the peace they anticipated or flattered themselves they would gain. Because they were founded on robber, murder, corruption, and secrecy, and while they would protect each other from public justice and try to subvert it, that also meant they would have no real justice among themselves. They would do what they wanted to each other (who could stop them?) and the victims could have no recourse in public justice because everything they were guilty of would have to be revealed in the inquiry. And inside the combination, there would be no incentive for justice, only for a show of it. With no peaceful, orderly recourse available, the Gadiantons would have no choice but to fight each other, thus splitting into warring factions.

But they couldn’t see this.

There is also subtle irony in Helaman 8:4-6 that shows their inability to see things.
4 And those judges were angry with him because he spake plainly unto them concerning their secret works of darkness; nevertheless, they durst not lay their own hands upon him, for they feared the people lest they should cry out against them.
5 Therefore they did cry unto the people, saying: Why do you suffer this man to revile against us? For behold he doth condemn all this people, even unto destruction; yea, and also that these our great cities shall be taken from us, that we shall have no place in them.
6 And now we know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us.

How fascinating that they say they are so powerful and their cities so great, and yet…. They fear the people and fear angering the people if they take Nephi and condemn him. If they can’t handle the healthy corrective of Nephi’s words, and take appropriate action to change, how can they possibly handle a real crisis situation and the difficult truths that would stare them in the face then?

I think it shows the Lord’s great mercy that even when these people were steeped in such awfulness, the Lord still gave the robbers a chance to repent, sending a prophet to preach and sending signs and wonders to warn that they couldn’t hide their deeds and they were going to destroy themselves.
I also think this story shows that even if the wicked are in power, the Lord can shake things up and dislodge them.


Rozy Lass said...

Sounds so much like today right? The thing that gives me hope in these times of despair is that in the end all the wicked and their wickedness will be made known and justice will prevail; things will be made right. The secret combinations are still alive and well in the world. We have to continue strong in the faith and pursue righteousness.

Michaela Stephens said...

Yes. God is in control. He suffers people to use their agency, but someday all wrongs will be righted.