What Does It Mean to “Dwindle in Unbelief?”

dwindle – Diminish gradually in size, amount, or strength (Oxford English Dictionary)

  • Near the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi learns from the Spirit that, without the brass plates containing the scriptures, his family would “dwindle and perish in unbelief” (1 Nephi 4:13). King Benjamin later emphasized this point to his sons: “Were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief” (Mosiah 1:5).
  • Some time later, Nephi sees in a vision that the descendants of his brothers will one day overpower and destroy his descendants. After that, they will “dwindle in unbelief” (1 Nephi 12:22-23, 1 Nephi 13:35, 1 Nephi 15:13).
  • Nephi’s father, Lehi, prophesied that, when his people eventually dwindled in unbelief, they would be “scattered and smitten” by other nations (2 Nephi 1:10-11). Nephi clarified that they would not be forgotten, even then (2 Nephi 26:15). And Samuel the Lamanite later prophesied that God would prolong their days, knowing that they would one day return to Him (Helaman 15:11-16).
  • Immediately after the ministry of Jesus Christ on the American continent, the people lived together in peace and happiness. But eventually, the people began to succumb to pride, and “they did dwindle in unbelief and wickedness, from year to year” (4 Nephi 1:34). Alma had prophesied that this would happen 300 years earlier. (See Alma 45:10-12.)
  • The following year, a group of people consciously rejected the teachings of Jesus. Mormon tells us that “they did not dwindle in unbelief, but they did wilfully rebel against the gospel of Christ” (4 Nephi 1:38). Mormon seems to be distinguishing between a gradual loss of faith, which might happen imperceptibly, through negligence, and an intentional rejection of faith which happens all at once.
  • By the time Moroni wrote the final portions of the Book of Mormon, the people had all dwindled in unbelief. He was therefore commanded to bury their spiritual records, to be unearthed at some future time (Ether 4:3).
  • Moroni also clarified that dwindling in unbelief can prevent us from experiencing God’s miracles in our lives (Mormon 9:20).

If “dwindling in unbelief” is a gradual process, how can we stop it from happening to us? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Study the scriptures regularly. As Nephi learned and King Benjamin testified, having access to the unchanging word of God can help us stay connected to Him and keep us from drifting.
  2. Look for signs of pride and intentionally humble ourselves. After the ministry of the Savior, the people were happy until pride began to creep in. Like a disease, if we can recognize the symptoms early and take action, we can prevent it from growing and becoming more difficult to treat.
  3. Exercise faith in Jesus Christ. God’s will perform miracles in our lives when we have faith and hope, which means trusting Him and believing that positive outcomes are possible with His help.

Today I will avoid dwindling in unbelief by anchoring myself to the word of God, humbling myself, and exercising faith.

2 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to “Dwindle in Unbelief?”

Add yours

  1. For some added insight here’s some other definitions from Definitions from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

    Dwindle: To diminish; become less; shrink; waste or consume away; degenerate; sink; fall away; break; or disperse.

    Belief: “an assent of mind to the truth of a declaration”

    Disbelief: Refusing or denying a belief

    Unbelief: “withholding of belief…disbelief of divine revelation, disbelief of the truth of the gospel, rejection of Christ as the Savior of men, and of the doctrines he taught; distrust of God’s promises and faithfulness.”

    Doubt: To waiver or fluctuate in opinion, to fear, to distrust, to be in suspense or uncertainty of the truth or fact.

    Faith: “4. Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith is the assent of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God’s testimony, accompanied with a cordial assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.”

    I love that at the end of you post you have a commitment you make. I’ve seen some of your posts and I quite like that a lot. It inspires me for my day and encourages me to take the next step in moving forward in faith and devotion to God.

    If you want to dive deeper into this topic here’s a great website I use for scripture study.



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