3 Nephi 3:1-10 — LeGrand Baker — Gadianton letter
One evidence that Mormon is a superb historian is that he tells us the political, and economic philosophies of the Nephite enemies.
Giddianhi, the governor of Gadianton robbers, wrote to Lachoneus with flattering words that were designed to mask his pernicious intent. Such people remind one of Hamlet’s lament: “O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!… That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (Hamlet act 1, scene 5). Giddianhi threat of aggression even expressed his concern for the safety of the Nephites. He wrote:
3 And it seemeth a pity unto me, most noble Lachoneus, that ye should be so foolish and vain as to suppose that ye can stand against so many brave men who are at my command, who do now at this time stand in their arms, and do await with great anxiety for the word—Go down upon the Nephites and destroy them.
He asserted the legitimacy of the Gadianton cause:
9 And behold, I am Giddianhi; and 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.
10 And I write this epistle unto you, Lachoneus, and I hope that ye will deliver up your lands and your possessions, without the shedding of blood, that this my people may recover their rights and government, who have dissented away from you because of your wickedness in retaining from them their rights of government, and except ye do this, I will avenge their wrongs. I am Giddianhi
Then he focused his arguments on the political and economic philosophies of the Gadianton robbers.
6 Therefore I write unto you, desiring that ye would yield up unto this my people, your cities, your lands, and your possessions, rather than that they should visit you with the sword and that destruction should come upon you.
7 Or in other words, yield yourselves up unto us, and unite with us and become acquainted with our secret works, and become our brethren that ye may be like unto us—not our slaves, but our brethren and partners of all our substance.
His words sounded nice, but they had a hollow ring, because for their part, the robbers had nothing to contribute. They had become a society of parasites. Mormon tells us:
3 And the robbers could not exist save it were in the wilderness, for the want of food; for the Nephites had left their lands desolate, and had gathered their flocks and their herds and all their substance, and they were in one body.
4 Therefore, there was no chance for the robbers to plunder and to obtain food, save it were to come up in open battle against the Nephites; and the Nephites being in one body, and having so great a number, and having reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the sp ace of seven years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land; and thus the eighteenth year did pass away (3 Nephi 4:3-4).
Giddianhi’s proposition to the Nephites can be reduced to a single sentence: “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”
Even if the robbers had defeated the Nephites, their success would have carried with it the seeds of their own destruction. For after they had consumed the crops and herds of the Nephites, they would have had no way to continue to survive as a society because they would have had noone else to steal from. When people accept the proposition that it is their right to live by the labors of others, they forfeit their own ability to sustain themselves and become slaves to the distribution system that feeds them.