The Church and its members were at one time in God’s favor.
November 1, 1831
And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually— (D&C 1:30)
It did not take long for them to lose such favor of the Lord.
September 22 and 23, 1832
And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin. And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me. For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin. And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me. And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now. And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (D&C 84:49–57)
It is vanity and unbelief that have us in this state of condemnation.
2. producing no result; useless. having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment.
I would add powerless, i.e. a vain attempt or laboring in vain. I would also add fruitless. i.e. Our efforts were fruitless. Why does the Lord labor in the vineyard? God is looking for fruit!
“Unbelief” means you do not understand and have not accepted true doctrine. We go from unbelief to belief when we learn truth. Not every source, including institutional sources, can be trusted to tell you the truth. Only the light of Christ, followed by the Holy Ghost is a reliable guide to distinguish between unbelief and belief. Alma connects losing knowledge of God’s mysteries directly to being “taken captive by the devil” and being “led by his will down to destruction.” Tradition and community error will not bring you to Christ. We always see the temporary defeat of truth followed by persistent success of error so the Lord can try the souls of men. Truth returns, within a sea of error, and the humble followers of Christ recognize it.
This trend continued.
May 26, 1842
“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state  of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Address Of The Prophet To The Relief Society, May 26, 1842; DHC 5:19-21; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)
April 5, 1986
“Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings, the Lord has stated in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation” … “Watchmen—what of the night? We must respond by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel, beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church.” – Cleansing the Inner Vessel – Ezra Taft Benson
we still lament the lack of power, or vanity.
April 3, 2010
“We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.” – Power of the Priesthood – Elder Boyd K. Packer
I would encourage you to read all of these scripture references because I have not copied them in their entirety.
We have received the lesser portion of the word. (Ether 4:6–19)
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.
15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel
continuing (3 Nephi 26:8–11)
8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
9 And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
10 And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.
11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.
The lesser Priesthood (D&C 84:19–27)
19 And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
22 For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.
23 Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;
24 But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.
25 Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also;
26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
27 Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.
Why settle for lesser?
Why harden your heart?
Why be darkened in your mind?
Why be blinded by darkness?
Why would you hang on to unbelief?
Do you fell a lack of power, or vanity?
9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.
12 And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works.
13 Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned. – (Alma 12:9–11)
How can we overcome our hardness of heart, our blindness of mind, our vanity and rend that veil of unbelief?
43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world. – (D&C 84:43–48)
Come Unto Christ!
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; – (D&C 93:1)
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief. – (Ether 4:13)