The people of the church had great joy at the conversion of the Lamanites. And there was peace in the land until 26 BC—when the chief judge Cezoram was assassinated as he sat on the judgment-seat. He was replaced by his son, but later that year his son was assassinated as well. Their deaths were brought about by the band of murderers and plunderers that had been founded by Kishkumen and Gadianton.
Gadianton's Robbers, as they were called, had become numerous among the Nephites who had become extremely wicked again and rejected the word of God. Satan stirred the hearts of the majority of the Nephites to unite with these robbers and they used secret signs and words, and made oaths so that none were punished by law for their wickedness and abominations.
It was Satan who put it in the heart of Gadianton to form this organization—this secret combination. For Satan is the author of all sin, getting hold of the hearts of mankind to carry out plans of awful wickedness, spreading darkness and abominations all across the land until he drags the entire people down to destruction and to an everlasting hell.
While the Spirit of the Lord was being poured out on the Lamanites, who were becoming extremely knowledgeable of God and faithfully keeping his commandments, the Spirit was withdrawn from the Nephites because of their stubborn wickedness. By 23 BC, the robbers had taken complete control of the Nephite government, and they beat and trampled underfoot the poor and the humble followers of God.
When Helaman the Younger's son Nephi returned home to Zarahemla after many years of preaching throughout the land, he was filled with sorrow to find such an awful state of wickedness among the people. For the Nephites participated in all manner secret works of darkness, theft, and murder.
Nephi went from crowd to crowd declaring the word of God—that unless they repent, Jesus would strike them until they were destroyed—but they would not listen to his words. In 19 BC, Nephi prayed to Jesus, saying, "Oh, Jesus, send a famine upon the land so that these people will remember Jesus their God and perhaps some of them will repent."
When the Nephites had driven out Gadianton's Robbers from among them and buried their secret plans in the earth, Nephi prayed to God on their behalf. "Oh, Jesus," he said, "because these people have humbled themselves, turn your anger away from them. Let your anger be appeased by the destruction of those who have already been destroyed by this famine."
In 16 BC, Jesus turned his anger from the people and caused it to rain. Grain and fruit grew once again, and people across the land rejoiced and glorified God. They recognized Nephi as a great prophet and man of God. Over the next few years there was peace and prosperity, and the people multiplied and spread across all the land.