I wrote yesterday that responding to guilt appropriately is essential for our eternal happiness. Anything which encourages us to ignore our feelings of guilt is harmful to us in the long run. As Alma warned his son Corianton, “Ye cannot hide your crimes from God; and except ye repent they will stand as a testimony against you at the last day” (Alma 39:8).
One way we might ignore our guilt is by surrounding ourselves with people who tell us what we want to hear. King Noah did this by choosing priests who were skilled at speaking flattering words. When the prophet Abinadi called King Noah and his people to repentance, the priests said, “O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be Mosiah 12:13).of God or judged of this man?” (
Sometimes a group of people enters an agreement to hide one another’s crimes. The Book of Mormon refers to this type of agreement as a “secret combination.” Its purpose is to enable members of the group to commit crimes with impunity (Helaman 6:23).
Elder M. Russell Ballard has pointed out that many groups have this characteristic, including “gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime groups” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” General Conference, October 1997). Regardless of the name, any time a group of people agrees to cover up one another’s misconduct, they have formed a secret combination.
Not only does this type of organization damage the participants, it can also destabilize the society in which it operates. In the Book of Mormon, the most prominent secret combination was known as the Gadianton robbers. In the years leading up to the appearance of Christ, this corrupt organization grew to a scale that the Nephite government collapsed and the people separated into tribes (3 Nephi 7:2-6).
Interestingly, the Lamanite people had recognized the danger posed by this secret combination. They proactively eliminated it. How? By hunting them down and preaching the word of God to them. When the Gadianton robbers were converted to the gospel, the secret combination was “utterly destroyed” without loss of life (Helaman 6:37).
But the Nephites were not so wise:
The Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations (Helaman 6:38).
Moroni, who saw our day (Mormon 8:35), warned us that the Book of Mormon would be published in a time when “the of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret and the works of darkness” (Mormon 8:27). He issued a clear warning to us:
The Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you….
For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people….
Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved (Ether 8:24-26).
Today, I will remember the damaging effect of hidden crimes. I will have the courage to stand up for what is right and to speak up when something seems wrong. I will avoid the complacency of the Nephites, who turned a blind eye to secret combinations which grew among them.