Jacob makes a startling promise for those who live when the destruction begins preliminary to the cleansing of the world before the Lord returns. He says “none will he destroy that believe in him. And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, quakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine.” (2 Ne. 6: 14-15.)
This amazing promise is predicated on “believing in Him.” This requires us to understand what the word “believe” means in the parlance of the Book of Mormon. Those who believe in Him know and accept correct doctrine, or the truth about Him. Those who do not know and will not accept correct doctrine or the truth have dwindled in unbelief. They do not believe in Him. They may have religion, may belong to churches, may be active in all their observances, but they are not in possession of belief in Him. Instead they accept for doctrines the commandments of men, and their hearts are far from Him. They teach false and vain things. As a result they neither enter into the kingdom nor suffer those who are entering to go in. This includes those who, though they are humble followers of Christ, are nevertheless led that in many instances they do err in doctrine. (2 Ne. 28: 14.)
There will be many who are destroyed who will be quite surprised by it. They will complain that they have prophesied in Christ’s name, and in His name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works, but they do not know Christ, and therefore never did believe in Him. (See Matt. 7: 22-24.)
If you are one of those who believe in Him, and who will not dwindle in unbelief, will not accept the commandments of men as doctrine, but will take the Spirit for your guide, then Jacob promises that Christ will not destroy you. The rest He will destroy.
Fire will upset the order of things and make societal collapse inevitable. Men’s self-inflicted woes will not be the only sign of Divine disapproval. The earth will quake to signal God’s disapproval. Interruptions of social order and control will be followed by self-inflicted violence. Bloodshed will be widespread among the survivors. Disease and pestilence will be one of the results of the lack of social order. Air and water will be contaminated. Neglected hygiene will lead to the promised pestilence. As the downward spiral continues, food production and distribution will be inadequate to prevent widespread, global famine. It is as if Jacob could see the sequence of events and gave us the list of how it would unfold, step by step, as the unbelieving are wiped from the earth.
Survival during this bleak time depends on the qualification of “believing in Him.” Suddenly, if you think Jacob knew what he was talking about then our doctrines take on terrible significance. What we believe matters. Not just in the distant after-life, but for the preservation of our present lives. Jacob does make a powerful case for studying the Gospel a good deal more carefully than we can accomplish in a 40 minute class-discussion, with an approved “discussion leader,” using Correlated materials, rather than a teacher declaring and testifying of true doctrine.
I’m pretty sure Jacob would be a very marginalized Mormon, if he were among us today.