Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What is Unbelief?

"...for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain." (Moroni 7:37)

If we lack miracles and don't receive angels, we lack faith and cannot be saved. Mormon makes this clear beyond dispute in Moroni 7:35-38. See my last post for more information.

In this post we'll talk about WHY we lack faith and WHAT we must to to solve this problem.

One of the most important steps in starting the process of learning correct information about God is to let go of all the stuff we think we know. 

We Latter-day Saints spend a lot of time teaching and learning. Three hours every Sunday. Four years of seminary. Eighteen or twenty-four months on a mission. Often not only over the course of a lifetime, but for five pioneer generations back. That's a lot of investment in our ideas, and often, a whole lot of certainty that we know what we're talking about.

And yet, we have the voice of Mormon telling us that angels should be coming to teach us, and if they aren't it's because of something called "unbelief."

Now, right away, you may have a definition in your head of unbelief. Something along the lines of, "unbelief means that you don't believe the gospel or a principle of the gospel." That may be the dictionary definition, but it's not the definition that will get you anywhere in your faith.

In all actuality, we all believe. Whether we believe in God or not, whether we believe the scriptures or not, we all believe something.

One man may believe God is a divine force without form that fills the universe. Someone else may believe God is a person with a body of flesh and bones. And yet another may believe God is a monkey. They are not all correct. Anyone who believes what is not true cannot exercise saving faith. Faith is only possible based upon correct principles (Lectures on Faith 3:4)

To the degree any belief is incorrect, it is called unbelief, and it prevents faith.

It doesn't matter how sincerely it is believed. It doesn't matter the source of the idea or who teaches it. It doesn't matter how many people accept or reject the idea. It doesn't even matter if people testify of it over the pulpit with tears on their cheeks. If it is false, it is unbelief, and will bring about damnation, not salvation.

Even ideas which are partially false, or true but incomplete, fall into this category. Undiluted truth has power to save. All else removes this power.

How do you know if you have unbelief? 

Well, Mormon makes it pretty clear. Miracles and angels are the signs of true faith. Lacking these, we can be certain we are suffering from unbelief.

So what is to be done?

This is the hard part, but it doesn't have to be so. It can be quite easy if you want it to be.

Here are the steps to take:

  1. Humble yourself. (Mosiah 3:18-19) This is often the hardest step, and it will take a great degree of mental effort and the help of heaven. You've GOT to consider yourself a fool before God. (2 Ne. 9:42) 
  2. Admit you don't know everything, and parts, even much, of what you do know is likely false. This can be mentally difficult because you'll have to deal with the realization that those who taught you your unbeliefs were wrong. Many of our traditions go back generations, but they are false. Let them go. All of them. Regardless of what you've been taught, or who taught it to you, let it go. Assume it's wrong until proven right.
  3. Decide what sources of truth you will accept as valid. Start with the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon. If anything contradicts what is written in scripture, throw it out. Period. I don't care who teaches it.
  4. Believe what the scriptures actually say. Every word. Read the Book of Mormon without trying to overlay your belief system on it. Rather let it form your belief system. That book is NOT what you've been taught, and has an astonishing message and power. 
  5. Then learn what it means to receive the Holy Ghost so you can receive revelation directly from God. As you study scripture and ask the Lord questions, he will answer you by the power of the Holy Ghost, which can teach you the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5).
OK, that's quite a list, and just an overview. I'll discuss the above items more thoroughly in future posts. 

Remember, the idea here is to stop telling God what and who He is and start seeking to know him. This is life eternal. (John 17:3)


  1. Spot on! I am definitely filled with unbelief, although much less now than a few years ago!!!

  2. What do you mean the Book of Mormon is NOT what we've been taught?

  3. What I mean is that we start with a particular belief system and overlay it upon the Book of Mormon, attempting to force the text to say what we already think it says, rather than allowing the text to speak for itself.

    For example, there's a pervasive belief among us that we're God's chosen people and therefore unavoidably in the right way. So when we read the Book of Mormon giving desperate warnings about the churches in the last days, we automatically assume those warnings apply to all churches but our own; we tend to apply the most important lessons of the book to everyone but ourselves.

    It does seem odd, though, that so much effort was wasted warning those who will never read the book...

    Anyway, that's one example of many. The Book of Mormon was written by those who saw our day from God's perspective, as a warning to us about ourselves, as well as an instruction manual for how to return to the presence of Christ.

    When we forget everything we think we know and simply read what the book says, it is astonishing and powerful. It brings the reader to Christ like nothing else can, if the reader will simply believe what it plainly says.

  4. Thank you for responding. I can definitely see your point about applying it to other churches as I have been guilty of that myself. Thank you for pointing these things out so I can read the book as written to me and allow it to correct my course.

  5. Thank you for the insight and your blog. I had a very interesting experience a couple of months ago. I woke early in the morning with a scripture in my mind. "Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief." As I pondered, I realized that I didn't really know what that meant. What was unbelief? Through study and prayer I came to the same conclusion that you have come to. Exactly the same. My life has changed and the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) have become so much clearer and my eyes are slowly but surely being opened. I have found so many people who have come to understand these same things and it strengthens my testimony of the truth of what I am learning. So, again, thank you!

  6. Great post! I echo the comment made by Jamie above. I've had similar experiences and am loving the process of letting go of my own unbeliefs. It is a rigorous endeavor and requires a lot of focus and humility, but it feels so good! We behave according to our beliefs whether those beliefs are aligned with truth or not! Well said here, good tone and everything. Thank you!

  7. I appreciate your definition of unbelief, and your five steps. I'll add my own story to those comments above, in that I too have worked through those steps, in much the same order, and continue to work on them. I realized a year or two ago that if Joseph Smith could go from "God loves me and this Bible thing is probably worth some of my attention" to "Christ just promised me I'll be saved" without the help of any other earthly guide, I should be able to do the same. I whittled my former belief system down to those (startlingly few) things of which I knew I had received a witness, and whatever else could be implied therefrom. It has changed my life to do it, as those around me to whom I now regularly spout scripture unprovoked can attest.


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