Origins and rise to power
The society was founded around 52 BC or 51 BC by Nephite supporters of Paanchi, an unsuccessful candidate for the position of chief judge. Paanchi had been executed for treason when he refused to accept the election of his brother Pahoran II to the judgment seat and tried to incite a revolution, and one of his supporters, Kishkumen (//), assassinated Pahoran in retaliation. Kishkumen and his associates entered into a pact to keep the assassin's identity a secret.
A man named Gadianton became the leader of Kishkumen's secret group. He arranged for Kishkumen to assassinate Chief Judge Helaman II, promising that if he, Gadianton, were made chief judge he would appoint the other members of the band to positions of authority. Kishkumen was apprehended and killed by one of Helaman's servants, and Gadianton and his followers, fearing the same fate, fled into the wilderness.
Within 25 years, Gadianton's band had grown into a large criminal organization known as Gadianton's robbers and murderers, with both Nephites and Lamanites among its members. In 26 BC the Gadianton robbers assassinated Chief Judge Cezoram and his son.
The Lamanites made every effort to eradicate the Gadianton robbers among them. The Nephites, in contrast, began to join the band in larger and larger numbers, until the majority of them were members. Members swore to protect one another and identified each other by means of secret signs and secret words. By 24 BC the entire Nephite government was under the control of the Gadiantons.
Around 20 BC, Chief Judge Seezoram was murdered by his brother Seantum, both of whom were members of the Gadianton band. The murder was announced and the culprit identified by Nephi the son of Helaman. Nephi's knowledge of the event was believed by many to be evidence of his prophetic powers. When a famine struck the area a few years later, the people believed God was behind it, and they reacted by repenting and cracking down on the Gadiantons. The society was completely eradicated, and their secret plans were buried in the earth.
In 12 BC, though, a group of disaffected Nephites recovered the secret plans and reestablished the band of Gadianton. This time the group did not infiltrate mainstream Nephite society, but rather established bases in the mountains and wilderness and made periodic raids on Nephite and Lamanite cities using guerrilla warfare. They continued to increase in power, and by 13 AD had caused so much destruction that the Nephites and Lamanites united and declared war on the Gadiantons.
The Gadiantons initially had the upper hand in the war, and in AD 16, the Gadianton leader Giddianhi sent a letter to the Nephite governor Lachoneus demanding surrender. This letter is reproduced in the Book of Mormon and provides a rare look at the Gadianton robbers as seen by themselves. Giddianhi closes with these words: "I am the governor of this the secret society of Gadianton; 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". In AD 21, however, the Nephites defeated the Gadiantons, killing both Giddianhi and his successor Zemnarihah, and the society was destroyed for the second time.
Around the year 245, a group of Nephites once again resurrected the old oaths and secrets and reestablished the Gadianton robbers. Over the course of the next 50 years they spread all over the land and became extremely wealthy.
The Gadianton band later united with the Lamanites, and the combined force completely wiped out the Nephites.
There are folklore accounts of modern day Gadianton robbers. In 1962, an account was given that "The Gadeanton Robbers of the Book of Mormon fame were seen by freighters hauling between St. George and southern Nevada".
- Secret combination (Latter Day Saints)
- Passage to Zarahemla, which is a fictional portrayal of the Gadiantons.
- LDS.org: "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from «găd-ē-ăn´tun»
- LDS.org: "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from «kĭsh-kū´mun»
- Helaman 1:11
- Helaman 6:18
- Helaman 9
- 3 Nephi 3:9
- 4 Nephi 1:46
- #10011, Cannon, Anthon S., Wayland D. Hand, and Jeannine Talley. Popular Beliefs and Superstitions from Utah. Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1984. Print.