Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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

I sometimes think how exciting it would be to sit in on a symposium that involved the writers of the plates, such as Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Helaman, Ether, and the Brother of Jared, along with Mormon as the abridger of the record, as that last prophet covered why he chose certain events out of the original thousands written about a subject. As an example, there is an interesting parallel that runs through the 78 years surrounding the birth of Christ (63 B.C. – 15 A.D.) as they unfolded in the Land of Promise that present numerous noteworthy thoughts, each leading into wide avenues of interest.
    At the beginning of that period, Ammoron, the king of the Lamanites, wrote a letter to Moroni (Alma 54), and at the conclusion of that period, Giddianhi, the governor of the Robber Band, wrote one to Lachoneus, governor of the Nephite Nation (3 Nephi 3). While Ammoron’s letter starts out with the intention of exchanging prisoners, the exchange quickly deteriorates into name calling and finger pointing back to when Nephi inherited the land and supposedly stole the government from his older brothers. Ammoron ends by promising the war would end if the Nephites would give back to the Lamanites the right of government else he would “wage a war which shall be eternal, either to the subjecting the Nephites to our authority or to their eternal extinction” (Alma 54:20).
In Giddianhi’s letter, a more peaceful approach to reconciliation is suggested, wherein Lachoneus is invited to turn over the government to the Robbers, join them in the plunder of the Nephite Nation, and subjecting the Nephites to oppression.
    In short, a comparison between the two is informative. In both letters there is a request for the surrender of the Nephites (Alma 54:18; 3 Nephi 3:6-7). And in both cases, the Nephite opponents claim that they have been wronged and that they have been unjustly deprived of their "rights of government" dating back many hundreds of years (Alma 54:17-18; 3 Nephi 3;10.)
    Both letters contain a rejection of God (Alma 54:21-22; 3 Nephi 3:2); and finally, both threaten destruction (Alma 54:20; 3 Nephi 3:3-4). The differences in the letters demonstrate that in the case of the Gadianton robbers, the Nephites were confronted with an enemy far more organized and sophisticated, and much more dangerous than any previous encounters.
    Giddianhi's letter mentions oaths and describes his organization as a "secret society" whose works are of "ancient date." (3 Nephi 3:9). Another difference in the letters is the sophisticated tone of Giddianhi's message. He continually employed the art of flattery and personal concern, claiming to be motivated by a feeling for the welfare of the Nephite leader—suggesting that they were both on the same side, and referring to Lachoneus as "most noble," praising his "firmness" and his "noble spirit in the field of battle."
    Another difference of interest is in the title of each leader—Ammoron was the "king" of the Lamanites, while Giddianhi was the "governor of the secret society of Gadianton,” suggesting the Robbers were a sophisticated and murderous group who were after both political and economic power, including trade since the Nephites were heavily involved in ship building and shipping (Helaman 3:14). For Lachoneus to join him in this nefarious plot, all the Nephite governor had to do was become a traitor to his country and people and give up the Nephite cities, Nephite lands, and Nephite possessions (3 Nephi 3:6).
    Reminds one of the General Benedict Arnold conspiracy—all he had to do to become an officer in the famed British Army, was to give up his military command, his fort, his country and his honor. However, Lachoneus was a far more honorable man than Arnold.
    One of the interesting points this brings to mind is that Nephite and Lamanite military leaders were evidently in the habit of communicating with one another, at least in the notification of a pending battle, as is also shown in Mormon contacting the Lamanite king to arrange a final battle at Cumorah (Mormon 6:2), or the Lamanite king notifying Mormon of preparing to come to battle against the Nephites (Momron 3:4).

    According to Israelite law, it was required to give such warning before attacking an opponent, "When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee." If this offer were rejected, the Israelites could then besiege the city and totally destroy all its males. (Deuteronomy 20:10-13). This also applied in wars of national survival: "According to the Rabbis, the Biblical command that there must be a prior declaration of war, that a sneak attack like a 'Pearl Harbor' was forbidden, applies even to a war of obligation. Even a nation at war must take all possible steps to avoid the shedding of blood. This was also born out in Joseph Smith’s time, as well as ancient and even among the Nephites (D & C 98:28-48).
    It should also be noted that Giddianhi's bold 16 B.C. declaration about his society: “Which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and have been handed down unto us” (3 Nephi 3:9), reminds one of the Jaredite language though about 1800 years earlier: “Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory” (Ether 8:9).
    It seems prudent to keep in mind when considering these ancient civilizations that they had long-term memories of their history—the secret plans and secret combinations dates back to about 1800 B.C. among the Jaredites, and was still understood by the Gadianton Robbers in 16 B.C.
    It should also be noted by the student that the concept of the secret combinations of the Robbers parallels the secret combinations of the Jaredites, though Mormon translated the Nephite record of that group, but it was later that Moroni translated the information about the earlier instance of the Jaredites afterward, certainly after Mormon was dead—which is just another little testimony of the accuracy of the Book of Mormon translation.
We also find that Giddianhi (left) considered the work the Robbers were involved in—murder, government overthrow, military power, so-called “peace-loving” aggression—to be good in his view. Obviously, these are the tactics of Satan, and since Giddianhi views Satan’s tactics of good ones. As he states in his own defense: “which society and the works thereof I know to be good; and they are of ancient date and they have been handed down unto us”(3 Nephi 3:9), that Giddianhi was not only in league with Satan, but also proud of it—so much so, that he uses the old covenant method of stating his views in specific vocabulary where inside the covenant context, certain words had official and legal meanings that sometimes differed from their normal, everyday use. For instance, to "know" means to be loyal to and to recognize the legitimate suzerain (sovereign or lord) with whom the covenant is being made, and to acknowledge the terms of a covenant as binding.
    Thus Giddianhi gives us a cultural clue that he has covenanted with Satan and his servants, he acknowledges Satan as hIS lord, and thus we know that Giddianhi's knowledge comes from the same source. In saying that the works are "good" Giddianhi also acknowledges that he has kept his covenants with the Devil. 
(See the next post, “Meaning of Words and Statements Part XI: The Purpose of Giddianhi and the Band of Robbers Part II,” for more on the interesting sidelights and glimpses of information such events as Giddianhi’s letter elicits in the scriptural record)

1 comment:

  1. You mentioned that the Nephites were well versed in maritime trade because Hagoth had built ships to take the Nephite and Ammonite ex-patriots north to a new land and a new life. If so that is never mentioned anywhere. The ships as far as we can tell were only used to carry the people away and later return for supplies, and more people. With the only exception of King Lamoni and his father using horse-driven chariots, we have no mention that the Nephites ever traveled by horse or chariot, only that they were known to them. If the Nephites had a Navy they could have certainly used it to their advantage in troop and supplies movement in war. It seems to me that all troop movements were on foot as manifested by the fatigue felt by both sides in their vigorous pursuits of one another. I also believe that the width of the narrow neck of land is greatly underestimated by those who can't seem to imagine what kind of great warriors Nephite men were and may have been as fit as the Spartans and could have run the entire distance from sea east to sea west in a day and a half. We know that runners were the main source of communication in ancient times and we underestimate that ability amongst them.