While the phrase "secret combination" usually brings to mind conspiracy theories, the reality is that "secret combinations" and conspiracies have played important roles throughout history--the murder of Julius Caesar, portrayed above, merely being one example--and continue to influence events today. (See, e.g. "The long, slow death of the rule of law in America" for examples under the current Administration). Isaiah warned of such conspiracies when looking forward to the spread of the Gospel in the latter days, writing:
15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
Isaiah 29:15-16. The Book of Mormon speaks at length of the corrosive and insidious nature of secret combinations, while providing the examples of how such compacts lead to the destruction of two nations. So strong is the importance of this message, that Moroni interrupted his history of the Jaredites to warn:
21 And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.
Before going further, I want to explore what is meant by "secret combination." Many people (myself, at one time, included) interpret this as synonymous with the likes of a secret or unknown conspiracy or cabal.
Since "secret" modifies the term "combination," it is best to first define the term "combination." "Combination," in its modern form, denotes "an alliance of persons or parties"; whereas, according to Shaffer's 1828 dictionary, it is an:
Intimate union, or association of two or more persons or things, by set purpose or agreement, for effecting some object, by joint operation; in a good sense, when the object is laudable; in an ill sense, when it is illegal or iniquitous. It is sometimes equivalent to league, or to conspiracy. We say, a combination of men to overthrow government, or a combination to resist oppression.
This seems pretty straightforward, and the definitions are similar, so I will next move to "secret." Dictionary.com defines secret as:
1. done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others: secret negotiations.
1. Properly, separate; hence, hid; concealed from the notice or knowledge of all persons except the individual or individuals concerned.
What sticks out is that that several of the 19th Century meanings denote something private or confidential (i.e., not public or not known to the public at large; not-advertised), and does not necessarily require it to be purposefully made unknown or hidden. A subtle difference, but perhaps important. Many LDS members seem to interpret the term "secret combination" as meaning that the existence of the organization, or its membership, must be unknown or concealed. But this is not necessarily true. I think the proper view of the term "secret combination" is not necessarily that the association or group is secret (although it may be), but that the goals or objectives are private or not widely known.
A modern example might be the Bilderberg Group. Neither the existence of the Group nor the fact that there are meetings is secret because people outside the group are clearly aware of them, but the discussions and comments within the meetings are private and undisclosed. To the extent that attendees come to some agreement (explicit or implicit) to advance certain choices or causes espoused at such meetings, the Bilderberg Group could be considered a type of "secret combination." The recent videos Planned Parenthood videos also suggest that Planned Parenthood be considered a "secret combination" because its private face or real purpose is much different from its public face or professed purpose.
Beyond attempting to analyze the meaning of the term, there is the difficulty of attempting to ascertain what group or groups should be considered "secret combinations" warned about in scripture. Many organizations have been offered up, including, but not limited to, the Mafia, terrorist organizations, the Free Masons, and drug cartels. While these may be "secret combinations," for good or ill, none of them are THE secret combination that "seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries." Moreover, we do not need to guess as to the identity of the secret combination referred to by Moroni because we have been told its identity.
At the October 1979 General Conference, Ezra Taft Benson (then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) gave a talk entitled "A Witness and a Warning," in which he stated:
It is well to ask, what system established secret works of darkness to overthrow nations by violent revolution? Who blasphemously proclaimed the atheistic doctrine that God made us not? Satan works through human agents. We need only look to some of the ignoble characters in human history who were contemporary to the restoration of the gospel to discover fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. I refer to the infamous founders of Communism and others who follow in their tradition.
In the October 1961 General Conference, Benson (then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve) similarly observed:
Where do we stand today? All over the world the light of freedom is being diminished. Across whole continents of the earth freedom is being totally obliterated.
In his 1979 talk, Benson also noted:
President Marion G. Romney, in the First Presidency Message in the September 1979 Ensign, wrote: “Communism is Satan’s counterfeit for the gospel plan, and … it is an avowed enemy of the God of the land. Communism is the greatest anti-Christ power in the world today and therefore the greatest menace not only to our peace but to our preservation as a free people. By the extent to which we tolerate it, accommodate ourselves to it, permit ourselves to be encircled by its tentacles and drawn to it, to that extent we forfeit the protection of the God of this land” (p. 5).
In 1988, Benson (then Prophet), said:
I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. (See D&C 1:14–16; D&C 84:49–53.) It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. (See Ether 8:18–25.)
Some may (and have) argued that Benson's stance was part and parcel of the general attitudes of the Cold War. However, in both talks, Benson noted a 1936 declaration from the First Presidency condemning communism:
On 3 July 1936, the First Presidency published this warning to Church members:
Many members of the Church mistakenly associate Benson's comments with Communism under the Soviet Union and China. Not that he was not talking about that Communism, but by focusing on Communism in the USSR and China, it misses the point that the warning was about communism in America, or, what he referred to in his 1961 talk as "socialistic-communism." Moreover, he observes that this "combination's" public face or representation is to bring about a Utopian society, but its actual goal is to set up "a ruthless criminal dictatorship over the whole land." It is also significant that the method by which this combination seeks to attain its goal is through the overthrow of capitalism and free enterprise, abolition of private property and all classes, elimination of the family as a social unit, and overthrow of our Constitutional form of government.
Communism in the United States (and Western Europe, for that matter), has followed a much different path than it did in the USSR and China. There was no armed revolution to bring it to power; all such attempts had failed. Instead, it has followed a path of conquering the culture--Cultural Marxism.
Scott S. Powell also discusses this topic in his article "The Quiet Revolution: How the New Left Took Over the Democratic Party." He writes:
As Lenin was consolidating power in Russia, Antonio Gramsci was emerging as a leading Marxist theoretician in Italy and would found the Italian Communist Party in 1921. After being imprisoned by Mussolini, the Fascist prime minister of Italy, Gramsci authored what came to be called the Prison Notebooks, partially published in 1947 and in complete form in 1975, a legacy that made him one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century. Gramsci argued that communists’ route to taking power in developed, industrialized societies such as Europe and the United States would be best achieved through a “long march through the institutions.” This would be a gradual process of radicalization of the cultural institutions -- “the superstructure” -- of bourgeois society, a process that would in turn transform the values and morals of society. Gramsci believed that as society’s morals were softened, its political and economic foundation would be more easily smashed and restructured.
Alinsky's tactics had more in common with Gramsci and Marcuse than the revolutionary and violent approaches of Russian Marxists Lenin and Stalin. Alinsky, too, believed in gradualism and subversion of the system through infiltration rather than confrontation and revolution.
Black racism has been encouraged by outside communist agitators, many of them white. Since the turn of the last century, communists have manipulated the civil rights movement, and have been stoking the fires of discontent deliberately. Massie credits lifelong communist and Stalin admirer W.E.B. Du Bois with initiating the international communist movement’s effort to capitalize on black discontent early on. After a visit to the Soviet Union in 1927, Du Bois called it, “the most hopeful vehicle for the world.” Du Bois helped found the NAACP in 1909.
Note well that what is described is and will continue to bring ruin on this nation and all others that participate in it. Benson said that avoiding this fate would require the following:
First, we should become informed about communism, about socialism, and about Americanism. ... We should know why paternalism, collectivism, or unnecessary federal supervision will hold our standard of living down and reduce productivity just as it has in every country where it has been tried. We should also know why the communist leaders consider socialism the highroad to communism.
We have been warned for nearly 100 years to avoid Marxism. How long will the warning go on?
The following is the full text of the 1936 First Presidency Message on Communism: