This week in the news President Obama has been participating in the “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism,” and the threat of terrorists extremist fighting in the name of Islam. He made a point that “if we are going to effectively isolate terrorists, if we’re going to address the challenge of their efforts to recruit our young people.” Using lies and deceptions, they are seeking out young people and persuading them to their unrighteous cause. If there is a void in their lives, they seek to offer fulfillment by joining their organization.
As I listened to this thought, the Gadianton Robbers of The Book of Mormon came to mind. From The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 1:27-29:
27 And it came to pass that the ninety and third year did also pass away in peace, 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.
28 And it came to pass that in the ninety and fourth year they began to increase in a great degree, because there were many dissenters of the Nephites who did flee unto them, which did cause much sorrow unto those Nephites who did remain in the land.
29 And there was also a cause of much sorrow among the Lamanites; for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers.
The characters, locations, and tools are different, but the story runs parallel. In the next chapter (3 Nephi 2:11-12), we see what happened:
11 And it came to pass in the thirteenth year there began to be wars and contentions throughout all the land; for 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.
12 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, yea, and also to maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty.
The war commenced, and after a couple of years, there was still no successful resolution. Mormon’s explanation was that “because of the wickedness of the people of Nephi, and their many contentions and dissensions, the Gadianton robbers did gain many advantages over them” (3 Nephi 2:18). They could not pull it together as a people and they struggle for quite some time.
I’m not intending to prophesy or declare that this is exactly how history will repeat itself; but I do foresee that the struggle will go on far longer than it should. As a nation today, most people are not paying any attention to this problem while they push for a redefinition of marriage; make wink-and-nod jokes about drug use and pornography; and fill their minds with entertainment glamorizing violence and sexual messages. Like the Nephite people, our nation won’t be able to come to the unity and resolve necessary – and mostly to recognize the need for repentance, and to call upon God for support – to let it happen.
I say that because I’ve read the book and seen how it turned out the first time around.