See also: 3rd Nephi 1-5
The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. They have secret signs and code words. They participate in secret rites and initiation ceremonies. Among their purposes are to “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” (Hel. 6:23).
If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. Do you remember the pattern? The secret combinations began among the “more wicked part” of society, but eventually “seduced the more part of the righteous until the whole society was polluted” (Hel. 6:39).
Today’s young people, just as those “of the rising generation” (3 Ne. 1:30) in Book of Mormon times, are the most susceptible to the influence of gangs. Our young men and young women see it all around them. There is an entire subculture that celebrates contemporary gangs and their criminal conduct with music, clothing styles, language, attitudes, and behaviors. . . .
The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the “author of all sin” and the founder of these secret combinations (Hel. 6:30; see 2 Ne. 26:22). He uses secret combinations, including gangs, “from generation to generation according as he can get hold upon the hearts of the children of men” (Hel. 6:30). His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations (see 2 Ne. 9:9). To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us as priesthood holders to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe. — Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, November 1997, p. 38
The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation. — President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, November 2001, p. 72
If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. Do you remember the pattern? The secret combinations began among the “more wicked part” of society, but eventually “seduced the more part of the righteous” until the whole society was polluted. — Elder M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, November 1997, p. 38
The Nephite approach to the captured Gadianton members was remarkable in light of many trends in our present society. Modern societies expend millions of dollars trying to psychoanalyze and rehabilitate criminals. Notice the twofold approach of the Nephites, who understood the Gadianton conspiracy posed a real threat to both the government and the Church. The Nephites preached the gospel to the robbers to see if they would be converted. If converted, the Gadiantons were freed – a remarkable bit of jurisprudence in and of itself! If the Gadiantons refused to repent, they “were condemned and punished according to the law.” — Book of Mormon Student Manual, p. 113