This year’s Book of Mormon curriculum has taken us through the sordid works of the band of Kishkumen, more popularly known as the Gadianton Robbers. They were the bane of Nephite prosperity and peace. It was an entity that was purely predatory, the epitome of selfishness; it contributed nothing positive to Nephite society.
It would be difficult to create a comprehensive list of the attributes of Gadiantonism in a few lines, but the 6th and 7th chapters of Helaman offer some insights on what they were and what made them tick. “Their hearts [were] set upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up above one another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain (Helaman 6:17).” They also sought “to be praised of men, yea, and that they might get gold and silver . . . they set their “hearts upon the riches and vain things of this world (Helaman 7:21).” To facilitate this they “did enter into their covenants and their oaths, that they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed (Helaman 6:21).”
I have often thought about the extent to which Gadiantonism persists in contemporary culture. In the last few weeks, I’ve been confronted by Gadiantonism in a place I never expected to see it: the corrupt underbelly of the professional cycling peloton.
|Lance and Big George as they ‘protect and preserve’|
Though he never tested positive, the cycling world has been flooded with evidence that Lance Armstrong not only cheated to win, but that he was also the mastermind behind the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by most of the members of his teams at US Postal and Discovery Channel. This included use of EPO, testosterone, cortisone, autologous blood doping (and heaven only knows what else). Virtually all of the who’s who of US cycling have been implicated: George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Tom Danielson, etc. In all likelihood, this barely scratches the surface.
The secret combinations of the Gadiantons are remarkably similar to the back room drug deals, code words and network of collaborating conspirators that have enabled the likes of Armstrong and his band. Like the Gadiantons of old, they invoke omertà (the code of silence) on all they lure in, and viciously punish any that try to come clean. Armstrong’s merciless destruction of anyone that opposed him is legendary. Truly, there is no honor among thieves.
It is of little comfort to those of us so disillusioned by his deceit to watch as his charity scrambles to distance itself, and his sponsors flee like rats from his sinking ship. Yet even as his world comes unhinged, Lance Armstrong remains shockingly arrogant, unashamed and unrepentant. His defiance and determination places him in the rarified company of those that can persist in their lies in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.
It is hard for me to look at all the good Lance has done through his foundation and not wonder about the degree to which self-interest motivated him. After all, it gave him everything he could have dreamed of: fame, fantastic wealth and the praise of men. Though some of this may change, I have no doubt that he will still find a way to come out on top—just like he did on the roads of France. He is not one to back down from challenges.
Yet in the end this is much more complicated than whether or not he deserved his Tour de France wins. That everyone around him was cheating would certainly make it hard for Lance not to follow suit. Things get even more complicated when you think of all the cancer survivors that now live because Lance cheated. The occasion still provides an opportunity for everyone to question why we do what we do, and where our own pride and selfishness factor in to the equation. Do we justify the means because of the ends? How often do we do good things to assuage guilt over things we’re ashamed of?
His doping notwithstanding, Lance is still one of the best cyclists of the modern era (we can say pretty confidently that they were all cheating). Though I credit Lance for the good he has done, I find his dishonesty and lack of humility unbecoming. For him to think that he can hide his dark deeds forever is misguided. We are advised to take note ourselves. No secrets remain secret forever. Ultimately they all see the light of day.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. (Luke 12:3)
And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed. (D&C 1:3)
I would love to see Lance come clean. He has the capacity to do so much good—I’m confident he will. But to begin, he must pacify his unconquerable spirit and turn his back on Gadiantonism once and for all. There is still time.