The Book of Mormon is the single greatest written source of truth available to mankind today. It was constructed under the tutelage of the Lord. The various writers of the records, and Mormon who abridged the many records that provided the source information for the book, acted under the direction of the Lord. The fact that the Book of Mormon provides the single greatest written source of truth, presents an interesting element of irony since the book itself puts forth the precept that truth is a slippery commodity that is easily lost by men when once found. This is a precept of the Book of Mormon that latter day saints in general simply don't get insofar as the precept applies to them and the church. They don't understand that the precept is purposely made so prevalent in the Book of Mormon precisely so it can provide a warning for the latter day saints and the latter day church. This is one of those precepts in the Book of Mormon that can easily make latter day saints squirm if it is allowed to apply to the church and not necessarily to "other people."
As a doctrinal concept, the ability for truth to be lost is discussed specifically in the book of Mormon in several different places. Here are just a few of those to consider:
"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell." (Alma 12: 10-11)
"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." (2Nephi 28: 30)
And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things. (Alma 24: 30)
The word "dwindle" appears in the Book of Mormon twenty three times. The word is found only once in the Doctrine and Covenants and is not found at all in any other scripture. "Dwindle" is used almost exclusively in the Book of Mormon to describe the process by which people lose truth and light after having once had it. I have looked at every occurrence of the word "dwindle" in the Book of Mormon. Of the twenty three times "dwindle" appears, it is accompanied by the word "unbelief" twenty three times. Twenty three times the Book of Mormon mentions the peril of "dwindling in unbelief." Do you think the Lord wanted anyone to understand this precept? Have the Latter day saints yet asked themselves, what could this precept have to do with us? Why would the Lord revisit this issue over and over again in the words of the Book of Mormon? Is it so that those who do not believe in the first place may be warned about dwindling in unbelief? Makes reason stare, doesn't it?
Unbelief is the destructive element that causes a loss of light and truth. Unbelief is the antithesis of faith that leads once enlightened people to "dwindle" and lose the truth they once had. A great example of the truth destroying power of unbelief is found in the children of the people of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon.
"1 Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.
2 They did not believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did they believe concerning the coming of Christ.
3 And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened.
4 And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God."(Mosiah 26: 1-4)
In one generation, truth and light was completely lost because of "unbelief." Notice, "because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God." This is where dwindling begins. Unbelief leads to the inability to understand the word of God.
It was just such "unbelief" that led to the condemnation of the church and it's people by the Lord.
“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.” (D&C 84: 54-55)
The unbelief that led to the Lord's condemnation of the latter day saints has everything to do with the Book of Mormon itself.
"And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written"(D&C 84: 56-57)
Does the "unbelief" of latter day saints as to the Book of Mormon mean that there may have been some "dwindling" since the condemnation was pronounced by the Lord in 1832? Remember, the condemnation remains effective upon the church even now according to President Benson and Dalin Oaks. If things had improved respecting the unbelief of the latter day saints, surely the Lord would have lifted the condemnation? Or is the church prevented from dwindling in unbelief? If so, what is it that would prevent latter day saints from "dwindling" in their unbelief? If the Book of Mormon is indeed the “cornerstone” of our religion as Joseph Smith claimed, what are the ramifications of the church being under the Lord’s condemnation for unbelief of the cornerstone?
A few things become clear.
1. The Book of Mormon contains a repeated precept that warns about loss of light and truth. The Lord clearly wants this precept understood for a reason.
2. The Book of Mormon repeats no fewer than twenty three times the perils of "dwindling" when "unbelief" begins and persists. Is the message from the Lord directed to "believers" or "non-believers"? Who is it that is able to "dwindle" from a position of belief and understanding?
3. The Lord has pointed out in clear terms the "unbelief" of the latter day saints. The unbelief of the latter day saints according to the Lord's own words is directly related to the Book of Mormon.
4. The church and the latter day saints have continued under the Lord's condemnation for their unbelief since 1832. The condemnation for unbelief is effective upon the church today.
5. The question must be asked:
Is there any reasoning other than pride and vanity, (which the Lord has also accused the church of), that would lead to the conclusion that the church has not dwindled in unbelief for at least 180 years since section 184 was recorded and the condemnation upon the church was pronounced by the Lord?
All of this gives great pause when one considers that Joseph Smith said about the Book of Mormon, "a man can get nearer to God by abiding it's precepts, than by any other book." If the church is in a condition of unbelief concerning the book itself as the Lord has said, then how near to God can the church and its people be?
"Dwindling in unbelief" is a huge topic and precept from the Book of Mormon. We will discuss more about it in the next installment.