Secret Combinations

ArthurMormon 23 Comments

There seems to be a common thread running through the fringe theorists that I’ve talked to, and that is the idea of “secret societies.”  Illuminati, the Freemasons, Skull and Bones.  It’s the stuff of great novels, like The Da Vinci Code, and I’ve been surprised lately by those who even put secret societies behind recent events such as the election of Obama and the crash of the Stock Market.  I’ve found that generally the idea is scoffed at by most “rational” thinkers.

However, the themes of secret societies run through Mormon canon in a very real and concrete way.  This year I considered Secret Combinations as I taught my Gospel Doctrine class.  We’re taught that what is included in the Book of Mormon is information that Mormon included because he knew we’d need it.  It pertains to us, they say.  I’ve always been one of the more skeptical people I know, only believing things after I’ve studied it out or seen it with my own eyes.  I’ve always considered the idea of Secret Combinations to be enough to roll my eyes at, but this year’s study of the Book of Mormon made me reconsider the role of Secret Combinations in our society.  At the risk of men in sunglasses and trenchcoats appearing on my doorstep tomorrow, what do you think Secret Combinations are nowadays?  Is the concept of Secret Combinations irrelevant today?

A quick study online has shown that there have been attempts to identify Secret Combinations before.  Even Wikipedia has an entry for Secret Combinations.  Here is an excerpt:

During the Cold War, LDS Apostle Ezra Taft Benson repeatedly described Communism as a secret combination. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie claimed that “[r]eliable modern reports describe their existence among gangsters, as part of the governments of communist countries, in some labor organizations, and even in some religious groups.” LDS Apostle M. Russell Ballard described secret combinations as including “gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. … 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.'” LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley compared modern terrorists to the “Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction.”

So is Communism, which now causes much less of a stir in this world nowadays, what Mormon warned us against in the Book of Mormon?  Gang warfare?  Or is it modern-day terrorism or Al-Qaeda?  Is it some organization that we don’t know about?  To make things even creepier, have we yet to see the Gadianton Robbers of today?

Comments 23

  1. While the first part of the quote just sounds like Red Scare and conservative church culture blurring with doctrine, I don’t necessarily doubt that sometimes I wonder if the Chinese government and Russian government are doing more than we could ever imagine. But then I realize that paranoia is paranoia.

    The part about describing secret combinations in terms of gangs, drug cartels, etc., sounds more reasonable to me…that’s what I always thought about them. And in that case, it seems very reasonable to stay away from them…but I must admit that the idea of a secret combination has much less magic and wicked allure to it if they are *just* things like gangs. It’s like realizing that in the real world, there’s no such things as supervillains and instead we just have a bunch of regular villains — it’s underwhelming.

    My former member senses tingle when I read the part about secret combinations having “secret signs and code words…secret rites and initiation ceremonies.” But I’ll leave that off my comment, to avoid marginalizing myself. I’ll turn my comment around into a more faith-positive one — I have to say that relating something like Masonry to a secret combination is counterintuitive to the Church…

  2. “Is communism…what Mormon warned us against in the Book of Mormon? Gang warfare? Or is it modern-day terrorism or Al-Qaeda? ”

    What the book of mormon warns us against is ‘Secret Combination’s’ which may change names from time to time but at their core they are all alike. they will kill others for money and gain, like gangs and crime families and like the 21-century Republican Party who were willing to bomb innocent people in their homes, to have a beach head in the muslim world and more control over oil.

    Actually the Republicans would fit the profile of Book of Mormon secret combination better since they were mostly in the very heart of government and capable of killing thousands of people for money ie oil plus the military industrial complex’s cash payments. The GOP has managed to take US military spending to almost 50% of the worlds entire military related spending. Plus they invaded 2 nations and tried to start a war with China before that in the summer of 2001! All so that tax payers could send more cash to that military-industrial complex plus run some Iraqi oil companies -and leave the nation’s finances in a mess now that they are leaving.

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    #1. I think it’s hard to make a case that the Book of Mormon, or M. Russell Ballard, was indicting the modern-day Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day of being a secret combination. Unless you’re just saying the Church is being hypocritical (and I think we can all agree with that to some extent) there’s a bit of a flaw in your thinking perhaps.

    #2. For some crazy reason I never even considered the Republican Party as a secret combination. Interesting.

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  5. Re: 3 Arthur,

    Of course I don’t think that any of them are seriously indicting the modern church as being a secret combination, but with such language as is used, it seems like anything that anyone wants to demonize can be demonized. It’s like a horoscope that says bad things instead of good ones.

    For example, as BillM wrote in post 2

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    I see what you’re saying… I withdraw my observation. Still, we’re apparently looking at the book from different angles. If I am to assume from your post that you are no longer a member, you may not believe that the Book of Mormon is an inspired account with information included that is specifically relevant to our day. I approach it with an attitude of “what is it trying to tell us?” and you see it as, “how are people using this book?” I could probably benefit from seeing it your way… now and then.

  7. My understanding of secret combinations are these things that we sense but that we can’t pin point just because if we could they would not really be secret. So whatever you can name can’t be what I understand as secret combinations just because you know them. You can talk about “discrete” combinations but not “secret”.

    I think it is better for us not to know too much about it because it would really shake the foundation of our society to a point that would be hard to rebuild from.

  8. Arthur not trying to thread jack your post but I never have heard of Gadianton Robbers Masons and Mormons in the same breath before

    Were the Gadianton Robbers only Thinly Disguised References to Freemasons?
    From FAIR, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research

    Many have speculated that the description of the Gadianton robbers is an attempt by Joseph Smith to discredit the Masons during a time when there was widespread criticism of the Masonic organization.

    This use of anti-masonic language in the Book of Mormon, they say, is “proof” of 19th century authorship. The authors of these speculations fail to take into account four critical issues that discredit the association between the Gadiantion robbers of the Book of Mormon and the anti-Masonry of the opening decades of the 19th century [1826 through 1845].

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  10. If memory serves me, the prophet around the time of Woodrow Wilson (Joseph Fielding Smith I think) identified the KKK as a secret organization that swear the oaths of Cain and threatened excommunication to members who joined.

    As for the Communists, well, once the Cold War ended access to KGB files revealed that a lot of the conspiracy theories about their activities had basis in fact. (The main difference being that conspiracy theories vastly overestimated the effectiveness of the Communist conspiracies).

  11. I think “secret combinations” aka conspiracies happen. I’m not sure there is some master Conspiracy (capital C) like an all-powerful Illuminati group running the world. Conspiracies are setup so that a few can benefit greatly from the resources of the many. People allow that willingly, so it has to be done somehow without their direct knowledge.

    I find it hard to call Communism a secret combination. It certainly wasn’t any big secret. We conducted espionage and sabatoge against communist nations. They did the same to us. I suppose that part was secret.

    Organized crime is a secret combination. It would seem there are elements in the world of high finance that are conspiracies. Where there’s money, there’s motive, and there’s a lot of money in the world of banking.

  12. Just out of curiousity, why is everybody willing to dismiss the blatant conspiracy rhetoric laden throughout the The Book of Mormon, particularly Helaman 6, 3 Nephi 3,7, Ether 8; Even Moses 5, etc, and yet insist that it was a book written for our day. This has always been mind boggling to me. I would argue that it is an outgrowth of the contemporary socio-political/pro-republican culture of modern Mormonism, given that the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century Mormonism was much more politically skeptical. We seem to hear a lot less of the the early rhetoric that the Elders of Israel are destined to save the country which was run into the ground by a corrupt government. During the Joseph Smith era, this type of discourse was on high octane.

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    I think that’s what I was getting at, Cowboy. The secret combinations in the Book of Mormon are large-scale secret societies that bring down governments. Organized crime doesn’t really “add up,” if you see the BOM as something we need to directly apply.

  14. Cowboy,

    Yes, if more mormons actually read and studied the BoM, there would probably be a lot less mormon republicans.

    Problem is that people are still living in the Eisenhower years in Utah, and still think the man is in government, when actually Eisenhower was the one who started preaching against that military industrial complex which has overtaken the republican party. Plus when you add the religious right…well enough’s said.

  15. This may be appropriate here:

    along with that final farewell speech by Eisenhower, says it all I believe.

    Pt George W Bush fits the bill of one who was now just a puppet of that complex; expanding expenditure by billions when only some Saudi’s and Egyptians committed criminal acts inside the US. It should have been a response of increasing the budget of the FBI to catch those criminals, nothing more.

  16. Arthur:

    That is somehow a conclusion I missed in your post. Though you are absolutely right:

    “The secret combinations in the Book of Mormon are large-scale secret societies that bring down governments.”

    Moroni specifically warns that they will also be our undoing if don’t awake the state of our awful posistion. I have been somewhat of a follower of conspiracy theories, though I generally find that culture highly problematic, largely because of the unpopular thing’s President Benson testified of (“I Testify” – a very pointed talk given by Pres. Benson), and the overt claims made within The Book of Mormon. It has been said, and I fully believe, that if the primary purpose of The Book of Mormon was to stand as “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”, then the secondary purpose was to stand as a witness to the alleged Modus Operandi of Satan, corruption through “Secret Combinations” (Moses 5).

    I recognize that this is a matter of debate, but it is fairly easy to see how the Gadionton Robbers could have been a hysterical 19th century critique on Freemasonry.

  17. My previous comment seems a bit confusing, it should read:

    I have been somewhat of a follower of conspiracy theories largely because of the unpopular thing’s President Benson testified of (”I Testify” – a very pointed talk given by Pres. Benson) and the overt claims made within The Book of Mormon, , though I generally find that culture highly problematic.

  18. The mormon heirarchy is a secret combination. They know that the book of mormon is not true. It a fact well established by many family members, friends, and aquantances of Solomon Spaulding, from their historical records that the “View of the Hebrews” manuscripts were stolen from a print shop by Sidney Rigdon in 1814 and underwent 16 years of editing by him and later others including Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith. It is an undeniable fact to me. The church leaders know this and are lying to Mormons

  19. “So is Communism, which now causes much less of a stir in this world nowadays, what Mormon warned us against in the Book of Mormon?” – Less of a stir? Um… do you catch the news? I’d say Communism is stirring plenty. Sheesh…

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