The Gadianton Robbers were Book of Mormon bad guys who formed "secret combinations" to do harm to the good guys, who had the Holy Ghost on their side.
That plot unfolded last week at the State Republican Convention when one campaign in the fight for the 2nd Congressional District nomination pulled off a classic Book of Mormon Passion Play. It wasn't a musical, but you know the story.
There were 11 candidates vying for the GOP nomination in that district, so delegates had to use paper ballots instead of electronic key pads. They were shuffled to a side room to hear the candidates and then vote.
The last to speak was Milt Hanks, who had not purchased a booth, had no campaign signs and seemingly spent next to nothing compared to the other candidates, who appeared much more committed.
He then blasted four other candidates in a six-minute diatribe, claiming they had attempted to suck him into a conspiracy (secret combination?) to defame the front-runner, Chris Stewart. He produced a letter, written anonymously, that he claimed had been distributed to delegates. The letter alleged that Stewart had embellished his military record, lobbied for and received federal stimulus money for his company, and had worked with his brother, Tim Stewart, to play a dirty trick on U.S. Senate candidate Mike Lee at the 2010 convention.
Few delegates had seen the letter. Most had never heard of it before Hanks, a last-minute candidate, brandished it. Hanks named four candidates in the so-called plot Chuck Williams, Cherilyn Eagar, Howard Wallack and David Clark, who, along with Stewart, was favored to come out of the convention and into the primary. None had a chance to rebut the charges, and when the delegates voted, Hanks came in third behind Stewart and Clark.
The maligned candidates were so shaken by the last-minute allegations they decided to unite behind Clark going into the second ballot because they were sure Hanks would throw his support and delegates to Stewart in order to avoid a primary. But that backfired, and brings us to the rest of the story.
The delegates returned for the second ballot and another round of speeches. When Eagar, Williams and Wallack took the stage to attack Hanks' tactics and unite behind Clark, many delegates were confused by the vitriol. Then a group of delegates wearing Stewart for Congress T-shirts began chanting, "The prophecy is fulfilled, the prophecy is fulfilled!"
That explained Hanks' accusations. He had said there was a conspiracy (secret combination?) against Stewart. And by uniting against Stewart, the other candidates unwittingly had fulfilled his prophecy.
Stewart then arose to defend himself against the outrage at Hanks' tactics. It was brilliant. He denied being in a cabal with Hanks, adding, "The truth will be confirmed to you."
That is, I am told by my devout LDS friends, classic Mormon code: The Holy Ghost is right there with Stewart to confirm the truth because confirming truth is the Holy Ghost's job.
Game, set, match. Stewart got the votes to defeat the Gadianton Robbers and avoid a primary runoff.
The dirty trick against Lee two years ago involving Stewart's brother Tim also was cast in Mormon intrigue. A last-minute mailer portrayed Lee in front of an LDS temple and incumbent Bob Bennett, whom Tim Stewart supported, in front of the U.S. Capitol, then asked which candidate reflected Utah values.
That was seen by many LDS delegates as an unfair attack on Bennett's Mormonism, and it hurt Lee in the convention, though he defeated Bennett anyway.
If nothing else, Republican state conventions are consistent. And entertaining.