Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Did Mormon Mean “Giddianhi and the Band of Robbers”? PtII

As stated in the previous post, there is much to learn from the incidental dialogue and events found within the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon. As shown in the last post, the incident of Giddianhi’s letter to Lachoneus (left) has numerous pieces of information. Take, for instance, his statement: “I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government” (3 Nephi 3:10).
    The concept of propaganda came into its own during World War II, as practiced by the German Nazi movement. After the War, it was given a huge shot in the arm by Soviet Communism. Early on, the communists learned that they could confuse issues among countries by their use of their “enemies” language and taking good-sounding, positive words and using them for their nefarious, anti-government schemes and organizations. Take for example:
World Federation of Democratic Youth
International Union of Students
World Federation of Trade Unions
Women’s International Democratic Federation
World Peace Council
American Peace Committee
Abraham Lincoln Brigade
Democratic Cultural League
Association of the Victims of the Nazi Regime
American Council for a Democratic Union
American Patriots
American Peace Crusade
Committee to Abolish Discrimination
People’s Educational Association
Hawaii Civil Liberties Committee
    All of the above, and scores of other such names were those of Communist front organizations within the United States. All used American positive words to form their iniquitous organizations. In fact, in 1955, the Attorney General’s Office issued a list of over 300 communists, Nazi, Japanese and Italian wartime and peacetime organizations that were anti-American, with names that used positive English words to describe them in order to avoid the real intent of the organization and its members.
Hiding one’s real intentions behind one’s back, while presenting a friendly facade
    All of this is based on the age-old concept in war that the aggressor always pretends to be peace-loving because he would like to achieve his conquests without bloodshed. To accomplish this, the aggressors must always be presented as a defensive reaction by the aggressor nation." Nobody ever attacks. You're always just on the defensive.
    After World War I, the German War Office, Kriegsamt, changed its name to Wehrmact, "defense power." The United States changed our War Office to the Department of Defense. Every nation has a Defense department running its military today--there are no war offices.
    All countries are just defensive now, that's all. Both sides in a war claim to be taking the defensive position, whether they are aggressors or not. We see good examples in the Book of Mormon in the case of Giddianhi and Lachoneus. Giddianhi writes to Lachoneus, "We wouldn't bother you except you're infringing on our rights of government, our ancient society, which is old and venerable and you've been the aggressor against us."
    Of course, the point could be argued since the loser must always submit to the winner, each side is always fighting for its freedom. Under the laws of ancient Israel, Bernard S. Jackson, Professor of Law at the University of Kent-Canterbury and editor of Jewish Law Annual, shows how robbers usually acted in organized groups rivaling local governments and attacking towns and how they swore oaths and extorted ransom, a menace worse than outright war. Thieves, however, were a much less serious threat to society.
    According to recent studies, the details of these ancient legal and linguistic distinctions are observable in the Book of Mormon. While there is only a little difference between a thief and a robber in most modern minds, there were considerable differences between the two under ancient Near Eastern Law. A thief (ganab) was usually a local person who stole from his neighbor. He was dealt with judicially, tried and punished civilly, most often by a court composed of his fellow townspeople.
A robber (gazel), on the other hand, was treated as an outsider, as a brigand, or highwayman. He was dealt with militarily, and he could be summarily executed.
    It can also stand as a testament to Joseph Smith’s accurate translation in describing the Gadianton robbers, who he always referred to as robbers (3 Nephi 3:12), though it is very likely that an Anglo-Saxon westerner would have substituted thief or thieves in this sense, since the later western interpretations of the Bible often substituted “thief” for “robber.” In fact, in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith translated the original manuscript had Gaddianton with two “d”s, and the Gadianton band like “gedud” from the original Hebrew. Had Joseph relied on the language of the King James Bible, he likely would have stumbled into error.
    It is also why we find in the Book of Mormon that Laban calls Nephi and his brothers “robbers” and threatens to execute them on the spot without a trial, for that is how a military officer like Laban would have dealt with a robber. It is also why the Lamanites are alays said to “rob” from the Nephites, but never from their own brethren—that would be “theft,” not “robbery.“ And also why the Gadiantan society are always called “robbers” and never “thieves.”
    It also gives us another insight into the statement “Now behold, this Lachoneus, the governor, was a just man, and could not be frightened by the demands and the threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken to the epistle of Giddianhi, the governor of the robbers” (3 Nephi 3:12) since Lachoneus could not be frightened by a “robber.”
This understanding also allows us to better comprehend why Laban was to be killed, since the Spirit of the Lord directed Nephi to slay Laban because he was a robber and, at heart, a murderer. He had robbed the sons of Lehi of the property they had taken to him in their effort to exchange it for the records, and had afterwards sought their lives.
    One last thought on this, when the Gadianton robbers threatened Nephite society, apparently the Nephite governor Lachoneus called upon everyone under his jurisdiction ("all of them that were numbered among the Nephites"--3 Nephi 3:14) to gather together and to take up arms to defend themselves. This included those people of Lamanite lineage. These Lamanites were "all who had become converted unto the Lord and united with the Nephites (3 Nephi 2:12). Thus it seems that the "Lamanite" armies that fought the robbers were Lamanites living within Nephite boundaries, and who considered themselves politically numbered among the Nephites. In 3 Nephi 2:11 it is mentioned that the Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, "and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them." The robbers were made up at least in part of Nephite dissenters (3 Nephi 2:28) and "some Lamanites" who "were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words" (3 Nephi 2:29). It seems clear that the reader should be careful to distinguish whether Mormon is referring to "lineage Lamanites" or "political Lamanites." This concept is brought out clearly after the war when Mormon refers to the robbers who had been defeated by the Nephites. He says that those robbers who desired to "remain Lamanites" were granted "lands according to their numbers" (3 Nephi 6:3).


  1. It has always been my understanding that according to the Law of Moses.. robbery was punishable by death... where by thievery was not. The reason for this.. is that in a robbery.. one life is almost always threaten.. and that is what makes it robbery vs thievery.

    So as an example.. under the Law of Moses.. Laban did indeed commit robbery of Nephi's family possessions by not only taking them.. but also threatening him with death. And since robbery was punishable by death under the Law.. the Lord was the judge and jury of Laban... and Nephi became the executioner. That is why Laban was delivered into the hands of Nephi and Nephi was instructed to take his life. That is what made it right.. as it was under the Law. And Laban knew the law.. and tried to use it by saying first.. that Laman was the robber. And that is why he could kill him... And who would doubt him?

  2. 1828 Noah Webster dictionary:
    THIEF, noun plural thieves.

    1. One who secretly, unlawfully and feloniously takes the goods or personal property of another. The thief takes the property of another privately; the robber by open force.