Between 1915 and 1926, but especially in 1920, a plague swept the world. They called it “Encephalitis lethargica”, also called “sleepy sickness” or “sleeping sickness”.
Those who contracted the disease would, among other symptoms, become very lethargic, with a severely delayed physical and mental response. Many would eventually simply stop responding to stimuli, and would lie there in a coma-like state.
The cause of this disease is still, to this day, unknown. It disappeared just as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come, although there are random cases that do still occur today.
But today we seem to suffer from a very similar disease, only this one, instead of attacking us physically, is spiritual in nature. This plague, rather than slowing our corporal responses to physical stimulus, results in a severely delayed spiritual reaction to spiritual stimulus.
Those affected become spiritually lethargic, almost as though their spirit were asleep. Confronted with even some of the most shocking moral and spiritual pollutants, elicits almost no spiritual or emotional response. Almost as though they were “past feeling” (Eph 4:19, 1 Nephi 17:45, Moroni 9:20).
Today this plague is sweeping our societies and eroding our spiritual health, resulting in a world-wide increase of sin, corruption, and iniquity. What’s more, it has become a self-feeding cycle. Increased exposure to these things has led to an ongoing cycle of ever-increasing tolerance, as we become more and more accustomed to all new levels of spiritual apathy.
Fortunately, and unlike Encephalitis Lethargica, there is a cure for this spiritual plague – the everlasting atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we embrace him fully, accepting him as our savior, and strive with all diligence to be obedient to His commandments, as we make him a permanent part of our consciousness, and give him an immovable place in our lives, we begin to purge ourselves of this spiritual lethargy. We become more and more tuned to his spirit. We have more empathy and love for our fellow man. We become more forgiving, less judgmental, and more Christ like. We begin to receive his image in our countenance.
What’s more, this self-healing process of individual sanctification through the atonement of Christ is contagious. For as we become true disciples of Christ, we spend more time endeavoring to do his work, to teach his gospel, to help other people, and to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
My we each make a place for the Lord in our lives, and experience the sanctifying nature of the Atonement for ourselves, that we too may become perfect, whole, and one.