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The following is an excerpt from the book America in the Last Days: The Constitution and the Signs of the Times by Morris Harmon, on sale right now.
We know that there will be great tumult and change before the Second Coming of our Lord. We often think of the wars, and rumors of wars, disease and pestilence, but these are not all we will experience. Other great changes will occur within our government and society.
President Ezra Taft Benson has referred to the Book of Mormon as “that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to [our] whole life.”1 This is a very powerful statement to me: it is the Book of Mormon that allows us to integrate our spiritual principles with all aspects of our physical life, and allows us to have integrity in all that we do in church, in our intellectual pursuits, in our business dealings, and for our political beliefs. Integrity means to integrate your belief system so that it applies in all aspects of your life. President Benson also mentioned that “Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy.”
After explaining how the Book of Mormon is first “the keystone of our religion, . . . our witness of Christ . . . our doctrine [, and our] testimony,” he proceeded to explain the second great purpose of the book:
This suggests that the Book of Helaman and the early chapters of 3 Nephi should be viewed carefully because, just as they illustrate the changes in society immediately prior to the Coming of the Savior to the Nephites, they also illustrate the changes we should expect to see in society immediately prior to His Second Coming. Let’s take a close look at these chapters to see what changes will occur, or have already occurred, immediately prior to the Savior’s return to usher in His millennial reign.
Helaman chapter 1 starts right off telling us about the “serious difficulty among the people” (verse 1) and the “serious contention concerning who should” (verse 2) be running their government, and that this contention created “three divisions among the people” (verse 4). The leader of one of these groups, Paachi, was even “about to flatter away [his] people to rise up in rebellion” (verse 7) for he “sought to destroy the liberty of the people” (verse 8). Although he was tried and sentenced to death for his actions, one of his followers “murdered [the elected] Pahoran as he sat upon the judgement-seat” (verse 9). Now “because of [this] much contention and [this] much difficulty in the government, . . . they had not kept sufficient guards” (verse 18) in their capital city, which was Zarahemla, to guard against their enemies from attacking them.
In Helaman chapter 2, we learn that the secret band of men who protected Kishkumen by killing Pahoran the chief judge “had entered into a covenant that no one should know his wickedness” (verse 3). Gadianton then became the leader of this secret band and promised them “that if they would place him in the judgment-seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority [over] the people” (verse 5).
We are informed that his object was “to murder, and also . . . the object of all those who belonged to his band to murder, and to rob, and to gain power, (and this was their secret plan, and their combination)” (verse 8).
The plan to kill Helaman, who was then the chief judge, was luckily thwarted. We learn of the significance of this band of Gadianton because they “did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people” (Helaman 2:13). It is also significant to learn that after peace was reestablished in the land that this was true except “all save it were the secret combinations which Gadianton the robber had established in the more settled parts of the land” (the urban areas) (Helaman 3:23).
Chapter 4 contains a great warning to us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
11 Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.
12 it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—
13 And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands. (Helaman 4:11–13; emphasis added)
We are also informed “that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people” (Helaman 4:22).
We can liken the “laws of Mosiah, . . . which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people” (verse 22) to our own Constitution which was given to our Founding Fathers, and endorsed by the Lord. Chapter 5 tells us what eventually happened to their government, which was “established by the voice of the people” (Helaman 5:2).
2 For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.
3 Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice. (Helaman 5:2–3)
Helaman chapter 6 tells us more about Gadianton’s robbers and murderers saying, “there were many, even among the Nephites, of Gadianton’s band” (Helaman 6:18) who “began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain” (verse 17), even to the point of murdering two chief judges as they “sat upon the judgement-seat” (verse 15). This was so serious that
21 The more part of the Nephites . . . did unite with those bands of robbers, and did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings.
23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God.
24 And whosoever of those who belonged to their band should reveal unto the world of their wickedness and their abominations, should be tried, not according to the laws of their country, but according to the laws. (Helaman 6:21, 23–24)
During this time, the Lamanites were more righteous than the Nephites, “and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites” (verse 37), but
38 On the other hand, . . . the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.
39 And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.
40 And thus we see that they were in an awful state, and ripening for an everlasting destruction. (Helaman 6:38–40; emphasis added)
When we read these chapters, we must liken them to ourselves. The Nephites are analogous to the American people who have received their written Constitution from the hand of God. The Gadianton robbers are those who have the sole intent of obtaining the absolute management of our national government and promoting a policy of having all our substance in common. As we go on in chapter 7, we see that the
4 Gadianton robbers [were] filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least aright before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;
5 . . . letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills—
6 Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years. (Helaman 7:4–6; emphasis added) Later on in the chapter, we learn why so many supported the Gadianton robbers: “Behold, it is to get gain, to be praised of men, yea, and that ye might get gold and silver. And ye have set your hearts upon the riches and the vain things of this world, for the which ye do murder, and plunder, and steal, and bear false witness against your neighbor, and do all manner of iniquity” (verse 21).
Now, we must remember here that government operates in your name and mine. If we allow these things to happen, or if we vote for individuals who promote policies to have all things in common using the force of government, or work to enact laws which destroy our inalienable, God-given rights to life, liberty, the ownership and control of property, and the ability to protect and defend them, then we are guilty of the murders, legal plunder, theft, and lies which they commit to stay in control of the government.
This is made very clear in Doctrine and Covenants section 134: “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society” (verse 1; emphasis added). This is especially true in our system where the people are sovereign and the government is only meant to protect their rights. In Helaman chapter 7, the Lord declares:
25 Yea, wo be unto you because of that great abomination which has come among you; and ye have united yourselves unto it, yea, to that secret band which was established by Gadianton!
26 Yea, wo shall come unto you because of that pride which ye have suffered to enter your hearts, which has lifted you up beyond that which is good because of your exceedingly great riches! (Helaman 7:25–26)
Nephi adds his testimony, saying, “Behold, I know that these things are true because the Lord God has made them known unto me, therefore I testify that they shall be” (Helaman 7:29).
Are you looking for the works of the Gadiantons in our day? If we believe the Book of Mormon, shouldn’t we be looking? Shouldn’t we be studying the Constitution, as it was given and accepted by the Lord in 1833, to ensure that our political beliefs are compatible with that original document? Helaman chapter 8 gives us a clear picture of how the Gadiantons operate once they have control of the government:
3 For behold, Nephi had spoken unto them concerning the corruptness of their law. . . .
4 And those judges were angry with him because he spake plainly unto them concerning their secret works of darkness. . . .
5 Therefore they did cry unto the people, saying: Why do you suffer this man to revile against us? . . .
6 We know that [the destruction of our people and cities] is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us. . . .
7 Thus they did stir up the people to anger against Nephi, and raised contentions among them. (Helaman 8:3–7)
They feared to lay their hands on Nephi though because of those that believed his prophecies. Then Nephi tells them of the murder of their current chief judge, but the Gadiantons “caused that Nephi should be taken and bound and brought before the multitude, and they began to question him in divers ways that they might cross him, that they might accuse him to death” (Helaman 9:19). This is significant because just as Joseph Smith Jr. and Hyrum were murdered by the government of Illinois, the Gadiantons are trying to use government to “legally” murder Nephi. They even try to bribe him and promise him freedom saying, “Thou art confederate; who is this man that hath done this murder? Now tell us, and acknowledge thy fault; saying, Behold here is money; and also we will grant unto thee thy life if thou wilt tell us, and acknowledge the agreement which thou hast made with him” (verse 20). This sounds to me like our current witness protection system where we allow some felons to live freely and we pay them for their testimony against other felons.
Chapter 10 provides us with the result of all the contention among the people created by the Gadiantons (politicians): “There began to be contentions, insomuch that they were divided against themselves and began to slay one another with the sword” (Helaman 10:18). This sounds like what we are seeing in the news today with individual “special interest” groups who kill the police and the civilians in large cities. Nephi, at this point, asks for a famine to be placed upon the land, and “the earth was smitten that it was dry, and did not yield forth grain in the season of grain” (Helaman 11:6). This caused the people to repent, “and they have swept away the band of Gadianton from amongst them insomuch that they have become extinct” (verse 10) and “the more part of the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, did belong to the church; and they did have exceedingly great peace in the land” (verse 21).
But “in the space of not many years” (verse 26), dissenters arose among the Nephites who caused the Lamanites to “[commence] a war with their brethren” (verse 24) and they “became an exceedingly great band of robbers; and they did search out all the secret plans of Gadianton; and thus they became robbers of Gadianton” (verse 26). Meanwhile, the Nephites “began again to forget the Lord their God. And . . . to wax strong in iniquity. . . . And . . . they did wax stronger and stronger in their pride, and in their wickedness; and thus they were ripening again for destruction” (verse 37). In our terms, we could think in terms of election cycles where we may feel happy with the results of one election but may see a complete turnaround in the next election.
A statement, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson but actually made by John Philpot Curran, applies here: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” This is most commonly quoted as: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
In Helaman chapter 13, Samuel the Lamanite asked the Nephites a question appropriate for us today: “O ye . . . hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?” (Helaman 13:29; emphasis added).
Then, in 3 Nephi 1:3, we find Nephi leaving the land “and whither he went, no man knoweth” and leaving records with his son Nephi. During this time,
4 The prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
5 But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite.
7 And . . . they did make a great uproar throughout the land; . . .
9 [And they caused that] there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet. (3 Nephi 1:4–5, 7, 9)
Now this requires some thought on our part: who were the people who were going to “put to death” the believers? Were they roving gangs of criminals? Were they the neighbors of the believers? Or was it the constituted government that was going to do this in a “legal” manner. In any case, the believers were saved by the sign promised by Samuel, for
19 There was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. And . . . the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given.
21 And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word. (3 Nephi 1:19, 21)
After this, people believed and converted, “save it were for the Gadianton robbers, who dwelt upon the mountains, who did infest the land; for so strong were their holds and their secret places that the people could not overpower them; therefore they did commit many murders, and did do much slaughter among the people” (3 Nephi 1:27). Now to make things worse, “they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years . . . and were led away by . . . [the] lyings and . . . [the] flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers.
And thus were the Lamanites afflicted also, and began to decrease as to their faith and righteousness, because of the wickedness of the rising generation” (verses 29–30; emphasis added). Is it more or less to give eighteen-year-olds the right to vote?
In 3 Nephi chapter 2, we see that within a space of only ten years after the great sign of the Savior’s birth was given, the “people did still remain in wickedness, notwithstanding the much preaching and prophesying which was sent among them” (3 Nephi 2:10).
In the thirteenth year, “the Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, 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. Therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers” (verses 11–12). What was it that they were trying to protect from the Gadiantons? They took up arms to “maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty” (verse 12).
It is interesting see the cause of the Gadiantons’ success: it was “because of the wickedness of the people . . . and their many contentions and dissensions, the Gadianton robbers did gain many advantages over them” (verse 18). Doesn’t this describe well our present situation in society?
In chapter 3 of 3 Nephi, Giddianhi, the leader of the Gadiantons, writes a letter to Lachoneus, the governor of the Nephites, demanding that the Nephites surrender. Lachoneus refuses and appoints Gidgiddoni, “a great prophet among them” (3 Nephi 3:19), to be captain of the army. The people in their righteous indignation then ask Gidgiddoni to “Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands” (verse 20).
Does this sound familiar? We now call it “preemptive war,” instead of the offensive war that it is. Listen to how Gidgiddoni responds to them: “The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; . . . we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands” (verse 21). We see this again when Mormon refuses to lead the Nephites in an offensive war. This relates to our world situation today where we, the citizens of the United States, have somehow allowed our leaders to wage offensive wars in foreign lands, many believing this to be appropriate. Gidgiddoni then prepares the people to fight a very effective defensive war and “[causes] that they should make weapons of war of every kind, and they should be strong with armor, and with shields, and with bucklers, after the manner of his instruction” (verse 26).
Once in battle, Gidgiddoni had no moral difficulty with preventing the retreat of the enemy, or slaying any enemy combatant who refused to be taken prisoner, or hanging the enemy leader up on a tree until he was dead (see 3 Nephi 4:27–28).
I believe these are political lessons we can learn from the Book of Mormon. We can even take a lesson from the way they handled prisoners: “When they had taken all the robbers prisoners, insomuch that none did escape who were not slain, they did cast their prisoners into prison, and did cause the word of God to be preached unto them; and as many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty” (3 Nephi 5:4).
Such an arrangement would certainly be worth a try since a study was released in 2012 reporting that “in 2010 in the forty states that participated [in the study], the annual average taxpayer cost in these states was $31,286 per inmate.”6 Lachoneus and Gidgiddoni established order in the land after the war ended, and we are told that “they had formed their laws according to equity and justice” (3 Nephi 6:4). But once again,
10 There began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;
11 For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.
12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up. (3 Nephi 6:10–12, 14) Mormon goes on to tell us the cause of this iniquity among the people, saying, “Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world” (3 Nephi 6:15; emphasis added).
At this time, we are told,
20 There began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth, standing among the people in all the land, preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people, . . .
21 [but] there were many of the people who were exceedingly angry because of those who testified of these things; and those who were angry were chiefly the chief judges, and they who had been high priests and lawyers; yea, all those who were lawyers were angry with those who testified of these things.
23 [And] there were many of those who testified of the things pertaining to Christ who testified boldly, who were taken and put to death secretly by the judges, . . .
24 [which] was contrary to the laws of the land, that any man should be put to death except they had power from the governor of the land. (3 Nephi 6:20–21, 23–24) These judges were taken and brought before the chief judge “to be judged of the crime which they had done, according to the law which had been given by the people” (3 Nephi 6:26). The efforts to try these judges were thwarted, however, by the judges’ families and friends who
28 Did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was . . . administered by the devil. . . .
29 Therefore they did combine against the people of the Lord, and enter into a covenant to destroy them, and to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law.
30 And they did set at defiance the law and the rights of their country; and they did covenant one with another to destroy the governor, and to establish a king over the land, that the land should no more be at liberty but should be subject unto kings. (3 Nephi 6:28–30)
The Gadiantons were not successful in establishing a king, but they did cause the people to “divide one against another; and . . . separate one from another into tribes” (3 Nephi 7:2). This, of course, resulted in “the regulations of the government [being] destroyed, because of the secret combination . . . [which] did cause a great contention in the land” (verses 6–7). These tribes were “not united as to their laws, and their manner of government, for they were established according to the minds of those who were their chiefs and their leaders. But they did establish very strict laws that one tribe should not trespass against another, insomuch that in some degree they had peace in the land” (verse 14).
President Benson taught, the history of nations shows that the cycle of the body politic slowly but surely undergoes change. It progresses—From bondage to spiritual faith—From spiritual faith to courage—From courage to freedom—From freedom to abundance—From abundance to selfishness—From selfishness to complacency—From complacency to apathy—From apathy to fear—From fear to dependency— From dependency to bondage.
This being the case, where do you see the United States along the path? It seems to me that we have allowed our leaders to cause us to live in fear of terrorists, while they do little to stop terrorists from entering into the country. While our government may not always be ideal or correct, we can learn to not fall into the sinusoidal cycle, and follow President Benson’s guidance instead.
“Obamacare has pushed us over the entitlements tipping point. In 2011 some 49.2 percent of U.S. households received benefits from one or more government programs—about 151 million out of an estimated 306.8 million Americans—according to U.S. Census Bureau data released last October.” And with the ranks of Obamacare growing, “52 percent of U.S. households—more than half—now receive benefits from the government. . . . As Benjamin Franklin reportedly said, ‘When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.’ They learned that from the 2008 election and turned out in big numbers again in 2012.”
A similar principle, attributed to Aristotle, says, “Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.” In 3 Nephi, the Lord Himself explains the reason for the destruction of a great Nephite city, saying,
And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire because of their sins and their wickedness, which was above all the wickedness of the whole earth, because of their secret murders and combinations; for it was they that did destroy the peace of my people and the government of the land; therefore I did cause them to be burned, to destroy them from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints should not come up unto me any more against them. (3 Nephi 9:9; emphasis added)
Moroni makes some final comments directly to us, the Gentiles on the American continent, after describing the utter destruction of the Jaredites in Ether chapter 8; he says,
21 And they [the secret combinations] have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.
22 And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.
23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles [that’s us], 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. . . .
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. (Ether 8:21–25; emphasis added)