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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Plague of Unbelief

The Plague of Unbelief
For any of you who have read some of my previous blogs, you may soon recognize that this one is not only much more serious in its tone, but also much more important as to the content of its message.  And that’s because I feel prompted to hopefully raise some awareness concerning a PLAGUE of which almost every single person on the planet is suffering.
“A plague?!” you ask.
Yes.  Absolutely.  Now let me explain what kind of plague I am talking about and why it is so important to our welfare both during this mortal journey and throughout the eternities to come after we eventually die.
The definition of the word “Plague” refers to something that is “an epidemic, widespread, something that causes continual trouble or distress to, afflict, torment, trouble,” and so forth.
The plague of which I speak, is the Plague of Unbelief.
They say that the first and most important step in overcoming a problem, is to first recognize and admit that you actually have a problem that needs to be addressed.  And therefore, as part of my own personal attempt to overcome my UNBELIEF, I will be the first one to admit that it afflicts me likely as much as it does anyone else who suffers because of it.
What I am focusing on here DOESN’T have anything to do with science, the philosophies of men, political schemes or secular notions and social programs.  What I am talking about is the epidemic of Unbelief which afflicts all things spiritually in our lives and strips us of the ability to fully receive of God’s promised blessings.
Let me give a few examples of what I am talking about: (and I will preface these examples by saying that they come from my perspective and beliefs as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).  We read and believe in the stories from the Scriptures and accept them as reality, but fail to believe that the same rules apply to us in our own personal lives.
For example, we read the account in 1 Kings 17 of when the prophet Elijah went to the widow during a time of severe famine, and asked her to exert her faith and belief by preparing the last bit of her food, which she was about to prepare for her and her son as their last meal before they died.  He said to her, “Fear not; go and do… and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and thy son.  For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”  We know that the scriptures then tell us the outcome that, ‘and the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah.”
What we see in this example is how the Lord can take something small that in and of itself isn’t very much, and multiply and bless it to become something of far greater and more lasting worth.  We read that story in the scriptures and believe and rejoice in the simple truth of the account, BUT when many are asked by the Lord’s servants to pay our Tithing as commanded in the Scriptures, they struggle to believe that doing so will bless them more than if they selfishly keep the 10% for themselves. The Lord has promised us that if we will pay and honest tithe, he will “open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).  We may struggle to pay tithes because although we have faith in what the scriptures say, we fail to believe that those same promises apply to us personally.

Another example we read and readily believe is the account of Moses (in the book of Numbers), when the Israelites were afflicted and being bitten by fiery serpents, Moses, following the commandment of the Lord, made a brass serpent and fastened it to the end of a pole and instructed the people who were bitten, to look upon the brass serpent on the pole and they would be healed. Yet, “because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17:41).  We read such a story and quickly proclaim how foolish they were to not perform something simple act which could have saved them, BUT when our personal trials and afflictions and life are bringing us down, how often do we quickly turn to internet distractions, secular philosophies and scientific cures rather than the simple act of turning to look to Christ who can heal us from all of our infirmities. “And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto life which is eternal.” (Helaman 8:15).

How often have we heard and readily believed the scriptural account of Noah building his Ark, while also calling upon the people to repent, so that they would not suffer the calamity of the flood which God was about to pour out upon the earth to cleanse it from wickedness.  Yet when our current living Prophet and Apostles have warned us and called upon us to protect the sanctity of the family in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” many struggle to support and sustain those leaders; Instead, trying to justify the worldly views and trends regarding same-sex marriage, transgender behaviors, and are actively engaged in the destructive habits of pornography, are quick to file for divorce when things in their marriages become difficult, etc…  In this discussion I am not wanting to state anything judgmental against those who suffer from these behaviors, but as we see the world descending into chaos around us, with gang violence, teenagers engaging in Knock-out games, civil rights and entitlement protests, mass shootings, and other endless behaviors which demonstrate our societal decay, far too many people tend to look to political solutions, social programs, entitlement programs, etc.. Rather than looking to the cure for the problem, which lies in establishing and sustaining wholesome family values and relationships.  The prophets even warned us in the above listed Proclamation, much like Noah did as he was building the Ark, “WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”
We believe the Lord’s commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” but fail to believe that our personal worldly behaviors on the Sabbath day will have a spiritual detriment to our well-being.

We proclaim and profess faith that the temples are the "House of the Lord", but our Unbelief causes us to think that other worldly activities are more important than attending and worshiping there regularly.
We have faith in God’s commandments to “Love Him and Love thy neighbor as thy self”, but then fail to keep His commandments, and feel justified in holding onto personal grudges against those who have different religious, political or social viewpoints.  We suffer from the Unbelief that those things apply to us in our circumstances and therefore we are justified in our unrepentant behaviors.

We believe that the widow’s mite was of greater worth than the public donations made by the publicans, yet our Unbelief often leads us into behaviors in attempt to gain the praise of men for our actions, instead of simply giving from our heart to those around us in anonymity.  On the flip side of that equation, when we do give the small amount that we can based on our meager circumstances, we often suffer from the Unbelief that such efforts don’t have merit in the eyes of the Lord, who in reality looks upon the intent of our heart, rather than the size of the offerings we give.

We believe and have faith that Christ can forgive the woman taken in adultery, or forgive and make a righteous servant out of someone wicked like Saul/Paul, and that He even has enough love to forgive those who were crucifying Him, saying “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  Yet we are plagued by the Unbelief that He can forgive us of our trespasses if we will but turn to Him and commit to doing His will.

We read of His miraculous healings of blindness, leprosy, crippling infirmities, and even raising people from the dead, yet we often suffer from the Unbelief that such healings can take place in our own lives through His infinite Grace and the authority and power of His priesthood.

We rejoice as He calmed to storm upon the sea, but fail to believe that He can calm to storms of life and the tempests which rage in our own souls.

In a book entitled, “The Triumph of Zion”, John Pontius once wrote:  “Our every act is driven by a belief.  Whether that belief is based upon truth, or upon a misconception, determines whether that act is righteous or evil.  Often, our faith can be profound, while our belief about how that faith applies to us can limit, or even eliminate, our enjoyment of the fruits of our faith.  Such faith opposing belief is called ‘unbelief’ in the scriptures.  It is not necessarily an absence of faith and can coexist with faith quite companionably. But it is nevertheless an effective and often long-lived damnation of our faith…  So it is unbelief, not necessarily a lack of faith, but unbelief that keeps us captive in a state of wickedness.  Does it seem harsh to characterize unbelief as wickedness? What is wickedness if not something that destroys our faith?  False beliefs always send us off in pursuit of some path other than the one that leads to exaltation.  And pursuing a forbidden path is always the result of failure to heed His voice…  Our minds are robbed of the light of our own faith through our inability to believe the truths that surround us.”
49 And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
 50 And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
 51 For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
 52 And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
 53 And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.
 54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
 55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. (D&C 84: 49-55)
In summary, I will confess again that I myself, along with all of humanity, suffer to one degree or another from the Plague of Unbelief.  My only hope is that we might all cling more firmly to the faith which exists in our hearts, rather than in the unbelief which often exists in our minds.
I hope we can all realize that the source of overcoming Unbelief, is the same source of all peace, happiness and joy that is to be found - in our Savior Jesus Christ.  He literally is the Way, the Truth, and the Light which illuminates our path in the darkness!

When we find ourselves faced with the symptoms of this plague of Unbelief, I hope and pray that we might answer as did the hopeful father, who brought his crippled child unto the Lord, as found in Mark 9:23-24, “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.  And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; HELP THOU MINE UNBELIEF.