In the Parable of the Tares, we learn that "the end of the world" refers to the "destruction of the wicked" (Matt. 13:39, JST).
So the question that is naturally on everyone's mind is:
How are the wicked "destroyed?"
This is actually the flip-side of the question we have already addressed, which was "how are the wheat gathered?"
I suppose an easy way to finish this Post would be to just refer you to the example of the city of Ammonihah, whose inhabitants rejected the Lord's servants (Alma and Amulek), and burned the believing women and children on a pyre of scriptures, and cast the believing men out their city.
But who wants to take the easy way?
"He Will Come Out Against You"
Amulek warned the folks in Ammonihah (this was his hometown; these were his friends and family he was talking to):
If ye will cast out the righteous from among you, then [notice the "if/then" structure, and notice the triggering clause] will not the Lord stay his hand; but in his fierce anger he will come out against you.
That's an awfully poetic way for Amulek to put it: "the Lord will come out against you." But what does that actually mean? How does the Lord "come out against" the wicked? Doesn't the Father send rain on the unjust as well as the just?
A couple of interesting events transpired to fulfill Amulek's words. "And the earth shook mightily, and the walls of the prison were rent in twain, so that they fell to the earth; and the chief judge, and the lawyers, and priests, and teachers, who smote upon Alma and Amulek, were slain by the fall thereof" (Alma 14:27).
Stay away from collapsing concrete, just a bit of friendly advice, as the wicked in 3 Nephi 8 learned when "many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate" (3 Nephi 8:14).
But you probably want to skip to the gritty part; okay, okay, there's plenty of carnage to go around, I assure you.
The people of Ammonihah were destroyed; yea, every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed, and also their great city, which they said God could not destroy, because of its greatness.
Well, how specifically was the city destroyed? I mean, it wasn't literally God smiting people, giving them all heart attacks or blasting them with lightning bolts, was it?
So while the scriptures ascribe judgment ultimately to God, someone else is doing the dirty work.
Mormon solves this puzzle for us in a stunning declaration; read this verse twice:
The judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished.
Ah, so we see it was the Lamanites who descended upon Ammonihah and slew the people, not God.
God's judgment in this case was not dished out directly; after all, God has a heart full of blessings; He doesn't delight in destruction at all (see Moses 7).
But the wicked? They love it; they love to play with matches and to behave badly.
Dwindle, Dwindle, Light Star
"But Tim," someone says, "is that all there is to it? The wicked are going to blow each other up? Go full-on-Mad-Max and annihilate civilization like the Jaredites?"
Good question; you see, 9 times out of 10 when we discuss the destruction of the wicked we're thinking of Second-Coming-level-fire-and-brimstone stuff; we're imagining apocalyptic-grade-glory nuking the sorry sons-of-balaam to ash.
But listen, I'm not worried about that; no need to lose sleep over the earth being baptized with fire, because by then it will be too late to do anything about it.
There's nothing we can do to change the coming eschatological exclamation point (!) that will finish this age of the world. What concerns us in the here-and-now are the commas (,) that punctuate our lives and provide a space in which we can repent before the end of all things.
Remember, there are more ways to destroy a people than just natural calamities and pestilence and famine and the sword.
After all, we're all going to give up the ghost soon enough ― we're lucky to get 100 years on this earth. So death is already inevitable for us all. What good is wiping us off the face of the earth when we're already at death's door?
No, no; put your armies and navies away for a moment; forget about blood and horror. Instead, get out your False Priests who oppress.
Very good, now we're seeing the most effective way for the devil to "destroy" a people on both sides of the veil (that's the real prize) is to get them to "dwindle in unbelief."
Just think: isn't it surprising that the Book of Mormon sets up the entire narrative of the Nephite civilization in terms of "dwindling?" There must be an important lesson for us to learn.
The angel said to Nephi:
It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
(1 Nephi 4:13)
What in the world was the angel trying to say here; how does a nation "dwindle" in unbelief?
And more importantly, does "perish" refer to something more than just temporal death, but to a people's eternal condition?
Well, there's lots of "dwindling" in the Book of Mormon:
1. The Jews dwindled in unbelief (1 Nephi 10:11).
2. The Lamanites dwindled in unbelief (2 Nephi 26:15).
3. The Nephites dwindled in unbelief (3 Nephi 21:5).
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has dwindled in unbelief . . . .
Wait. Is that true? Has the Church dwindled; is it dwindling?
Notice that dwindling is always associated with . . . wait for it . . . unbelief.
Is there "unbelief" in the Church? Well, didn't the Lord tell the early Saints that our "minds have been darkened because of unbelief" (D&C 84:54)?
"Where's the Be[li]ef?"
The verb "to dwindle" means to diminish. It could be in size, but it also refers to strength or amount.
In spiritual terms, "dwindling" refers to the gradual dimming of Christ's Spirit.
This is how Mormon described the way it happened among the Nephites in his day:
Because of their unbelief and idolatry . . . [oh, that is interesting, to see how Mormon connects unbelief with idolatry; dowe have a problem with idolatry? Is there a golden calf in our LDS tent today, to wit: the veneration and elevation of the prophet and the temple above all else?] the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.
So that, my friends, is how to destroy a people:
Unbelief + idalotry = Without Christ
But just because a people "dwindle" and are "destroyed" doesn't mean they have to perish for all eternity, not yet!
What is the Solution?
As Clark Burt likes to say, we have to offer people "the remedy." So I can't end the post without providing a solution.
How can we avoid perishing? Nephi tells us:
The words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.
For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground.
(2 Nephi 26:15-16)
See the promise of restoration and redemption? Christ is revealed through "the words of the righteous."
The word of the Lord is truth; Whatsoever is truth is light, Whatsoever is light is spirit, Even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.