In the Book of Mormon it mentions in several different places phrases (example Mormon 1:18) where the treasure or physical items became “slippery”. What does slippery mean?
Does it mean the items physically disappeared or did people steal them?
As we consider this verse there are four important elements we need to notice: the Gadianton Robbers, they buried their treasures, their treasure became slippery, and the curse on the land.
In answer to your question, I think it is important to highlight two possible interpretations to the idea of their treasure becoming slippery. The first idea, stolen, definitely would be a possible interpretation of this scripture since the Gadianton Robbers are mentioned at the beginning of this verse. Although people may take extreme measures to bury their treasure, if left unattended and someone happened to see where it was buried, then the items buried could easily have been dug up and stolen.
The second idea may represent items which were buried and forgotten. I can see two possible scenarios regarding items being forgotten. The first represents an individual who buries their treasure near a tree, when they return to the tree, they realize it was the wrong tree. They try again, at another tree, and another and realize the actual burial place has been forgotten and the treasure is beyond their reach.
The other example, in relation to a treasure being forgotten, is shared with me by a friend relating a story he was once told by his uncle. His uncle shared a conversation he once had with my friend’s grandpa. This conversation happened a few years before his grandpa passed away. The grandpa showed his son a pvc capsule, 2 feet in length and 8 inches or so in diameter. The grandpa shared, “every time I’ve settled in a new place I bury these nearby and dig them up before I leave. I have so many of these buried in these woods and no one else knows where they are.” The son inquired, “Pa, don’t you think you should at least tell Ma where they are”? Grandpa responded, “She doesn’t need to know that.” My friend now tells his children that there is silver buried on their family land. If Grandpa passed away without telling anyone where he buried these capsules then this treasure is slippery — beyond the reach — of others (forgotten). Maybe one day, with my friend’s grandpa’s treasure we may hear stories like this buried treasure find.
On a side note, with treasure being slippery, I am reminded of my own family reunions by which a $20, $50, or $100 bill was placed on top of a pole. The pole then was lathered with grease. We then tried endlessly to be the one person that actually climbed the pole and grabbed the bill, although it was always beyond my young reach. One might say, this treasure, truly was “slippery.”