Sunday, April 9, 2017

My Awakening, Part 2 - Dwindling in Unbelief

1. To diminish; to become less; to shrink; to waste or consume away. The body dwindles by pining or consumption; an estate swindles by waste, by want of industry or economy; an object dwindles in size, as it recedes from view; an army dwindles by death or desertion. 
2. To degenerate; to sink; to fall away. (Webster's Dictionary 1828 - Online Edition)
In Helaman chapter 4, we find the Nephites in a precarious position. Dissenters from among them had gone over to the Lamanites and stirred them up to battle. These dissenters and the Lamanites then attacked the cities of the Nephites, even gaining possession of the capital city, Zarahemla. The Nephites were driven back, having lost many of their possessions and strongholds.

Why did this happen? Mormon tells us why.
  11 Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.
 12 And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—
 13 And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands. (Helaman 4:11-13)
Because of their wickedness and abominations, they had ceased to prosper and their enemies had gained power of them. The few godly men left among them preached repentance and told them what would happen if they did not repent. So...
 21 ...they saw that they had been a stiffnecked people, and that they had set at naught the commandments of God;
 22 And that they had altered and trampled under their feet the laws of Mosiah, or that which the Lord commanded him to give unto the people; and they saw that their laws had become corrupted, and that they had become a wicked people, insomuch that they were wicked even like unto the Lamanites.
 23 And because of their iniquity the church had begun to dwindle; and they began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.
 24 And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples
 25 Therefore the Lord did cease to preserve them by his miraculous and matchless power, for they had fallen into a state of unbelief and awful wickedness; and they saw that the Lamanites were exceedingly more numerous than they, and except they should cleave unto the Lord their God they must unavoidably perish.
 26 For behold, they saw that the strength of the Lamanites was as great as their strength, even man for man. And thus had they fallen into this great transgression; yea, thus had they become weak, because of their transgression, in the space of not many years. (Helaman 4:21-26)
Why does Mormon go to the trouble to tell us all of this. In the previous chapter he wrote:
14 But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work. (Helaman 3:14) 
Not even a hundredth part! Yet, he told us that he was writing "the things which have been commanded me" (3 Nephi 26:12) "according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me" (Words of Mormon 1:9) So, is it significant that, after telling us he can't write even one out of a hundred things that happened among his people, that in the very next chapter he goes into great detail about the wickedness of the people and the dwindling of the church? Why would he do that? Who is this book written for anyway?

What is Mormon telling us? Is there iniquity and abomination in our day? What about among those who profess to belong to the church of God? Is there any pride in our hearts? Do we have exceeding riches? Have we oppressed the poor? Withheld food from the hungry? Is there murdering, or plundering, or lying, or stealing, or adultery among us? Do we rise up in great contentions?

Should we boast in our own strength and status before God? Is it really safe to say that "All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well"? Or rather, is it not better to say:

4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
7 O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. (Helaman 12:4-7)
...yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made. (Alma 34:9)
Can there be any doubt that we as a people are dwindling in unbelief? Where are the fruits of conversion? I don't mean the expensive temples and meetinghouses. Any church can build those. I mean the fruits referenced in my first post. Are our lives filled with miracles? Are we seeing frequent healings, revelations, visions, dreams, visitations, new scripture, etc? The scriptures promise all these things to the people of God. They were common in the days of the apostles, until the falling away when they ceased.

Likewise, in Joseph's day these things were common among the Saints. Yet, I see no indication that they have continued to this day. Instead, I see wickedness, abomination, and dwindling in unbelief; just as Mormon saw, even among those who "[profess] to belong to the church of God".
35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?
39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?
40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?
41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.
God is not trifling with us; we who are identified with the Gentiles. Indeed, the Lord has said "Yea, wo be unto the Gentiles except they repent". I don't know about you, but I want to repent and cast off my unbelief.

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