In 2020, W&T featured a variety of posts discussing the early LDS response to the pandemic (suspending meetings; closing temples; returning missionaries to their home countries) and the continuing response through the summer. Then the election heated up and the post-election Trump campaign of chaos and disinformation descended upon us. Politics displaced some of the usual blogging topics. But as of January 20th, sane adults are back in charge of the country, so I can get back to Mormon-ish posts. Let’s start with where the Church is at in terms of its ongoing Covid response. Let’s look at some recent Newsroom posts to see what’s new.
April 2021 General Conference Will Be Virtual Only. No surprise here. From the post, quoting an earlier First Presidency statement: “As a worldwide organization, we have an obligation to be good citizens and to act with caution as it relates to such a unique setting as general conference, which traditionally brings thousands of visitors to Salt Lake City from around the globe.”
The First Presidency and Apostles Over Age 70 Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine. I thought that would be all of the apostles, but no. “Eight senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City.” The eight were the First Presidency (Nelson, Oaks, Eyring) and five apostles (Ballard, Holland, Uchtdorf, Cook, Christofferson). The article includes links and lengthy quotes highlighting the pro-vaccine position of the Church. “As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization.”
Here’s How the Church Is Reopening. From the article: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is following the lead of governments and healthcare professionals around the world as it considers a measured return to normal operating procedures disrupted by COVID-19.” A detailed list, with some bullet points at the end telling members to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and wash hands a lot. In view of the current spike in Covid cases in the US and the mismanaged Trump rollout of the initial vaccine doses, I think they’re pushing this “reopening” harder than they should.
“Normal operating procedures” for picking up take out at a restaurant or a five- or ten-minute visit to a retail establishment are probably warranted and will keep some small businesses afloat. But sitting in a chapel for an hour with bad ventilation and singing, surrounded by members in the habit of coming to church even when they’re sick — that’s not a normal operating procedure I want to return to yet. Or sitting in a temple room for 90 minutes with an officiating usher telling me where to sit, with no practical option to exit if the old guy two seats over is coughing his lungs out every two minutes — nope, not interested. All the talk the last ten or fifteen years has been about losing the youngest LDS cohort to inactivity or disaffiliation because of historical and cultural issues. As Covid concerns linger and may well continue even with substantial distribution and administration of the vaccines, we may start talking about losing the oldest LDS cohort because of health risks. I imagine temple operations and attendance could be the hardest hit if this materializes.
Nine Latter-day Saints Are Serving in the 117th US Congress. They are all Republicans, but range all across the Republican spectrum, from wise counselor (see Mitt Romney’s bold speech opposing those who objected to the electoral college results) to complete idiot (likening Donald Trump to Captain Moroni). Which means LDS Republicans are about the same as the larger set of all Republicans, I suppose. I was pleased that, of the 147 Republicans who voted objections to the Electoral College votes on January 6, 2021, no Utah senators and only two of four Utah representatives voted objections. The LDS senator and representative from Idaho did not vote an objection. The LDS representative from Arizona did object.
Conclusions. Readers might weigh in on what’s happening to their local LDS meetings and activities. A lot depends on what measures local and state authorities have put in place. But the initial optimism that followed the public release of several vaccines is now giving way to the suspicion that we might be dealing with serious Covid concerns for years and years. Even if the federal coordination of vaccine distribution and administration gets better under the Biden administration, emerging new strains of the Covid-19 virus might compromise the effectiveness of the various vaccines. Immunity acquired by those who had a case of Covid-19 might fade after a few months or might not be effective against a new and different strain. Some people won’t get the vaccine, either because of legitimate health concerns (pregnant women, nursing mothers, immuno-compromised persons) or because of anti-vax convictions.
So maybe we won’t be moving slowly but surely back to LDS “normal operating procedures.” Maybe there will be significant long-term changes to LDS practices and procedures. None of the posts at LDS.org and the Newsroom raise that possibility or discuss what those long-term changes might be. NFL football is a useful barometer of where we’re at in terms of large events and smaller meetings. There were 17,000 fans in attendance at the AFC championship games two days ago at Kansas City and about 8500 at the NFC championship game at Green Bay. That was two days ago, at outdoor venues. There will be 22,000 fans allowed at the upcoming Super Bowl. That’s between ten and maybe thirty percent of seating capacity. Team travel and team meetings are still limited and curtailed compared to pre-Covid practices. The annual NFL Scouting Combine, which typically brings hundreds of college athletes to a central location for a week of drills, medical exams, and interviews in early March, has been more or less cancelled for 2021. There is no indication NFL football — or other professional sports — will get back to normal operating procedures or normal fan attendance any time soon. The same is likely going to be the case for churches. I think we’re in for a long haul on this one.
One small but important point. Immunocompromised people have no medical reason to avoid vaccination for COVID; in fact they should be prioritized.
I really appreciate the Church’s efforts to clearly communicate support for vaccination. It is so needed and will really make a difference with some church members who trust church leaders and who may otherwise be vulnerable to anti-vaccine disinformation. I think there are many who simply do not have the skills to identify what is reliable versus what is not when consuming media.
In my local ward, my opinion is that leaders have done a good job following safety guidelines. There is no singing in Sacrament meeting and no other indoor in person meetings. However I have seen many instances of other local leaders including at the ward and stake level who are not so careful and even have put some pressure on members to participate in ways that risk spreading virus.
E, thanks for the comment.
My understanding is (1) whether immuno-compromised people are prioritized for getting the vaccine or not is entirely up to local priority schemes, which vary from state to state and county to county; and (2) I’m not sure there is a consensus medically-supported recommendation for such people to get or not get the vaccine. The underlying condition, plus any medications such a person is taking to combat it, might interfere with the development of immunity (which argues against prioritizing them — why get a shot if it may not work?) or arguably might cause a more severe than usual side reaction because of the body’s slower immune response to the vaccine. I’m just saying it’s a complicated medical question and people are apparently getting a range of advice from medical providers. I’m sure the particulars of a given person’s condition and medication regime varies enough that there is no single rule that would apply to all.
Dave generally immunocompromised people do not respond as well to vaccination, or in other words, vaccines may not be as effective. They should avoid live vaccines (i.e. vaccines containing live virus) but other vaccines are recommended to decrease their vulnerability to severe disease. The vaccines in use for COVID contain no virus. You are right there is no government guidance as of yet because these vaccines were not specifically studied in immunocompromised people but the general principle is the same. I certainly recommend my immunocompromised patients get the vaccine as soon as it is available to them and so do all of my partners.
I don’t understand this perspective, but have heard multiple people comment that they were on the fence about the vaccine or didn’t want it until they saw Pres Nelson get it and now they are willing to.
I think that’s nuts (science anyone?) but it is what it is so I am grateful for the Church’s example and encouragement. It will save lives. Perhaps eventually the Church can resolve the larger issue that for whatever reason among some groups it has bred a distrust of secular authority like doctors and science.
My ward is handling Sunday meetings as well as can be expected short of not having them at all. Sacrament is still authorized in homes (I’ve heard of many areas where it is not, which puts undue pressure on folks to attend). So overall fine, although there is still pressure to have “socially distanced youth activities” which is essentially impossible since it’s the dead of winter (so outdoors isn’t usually happening) and the buildings are not available for activities (so who has space indoors to social distance?). So that feels a bit disingenuous (basically claiming to have socially distanced activities but not actually distancing).
That said, teachers and elderly folks in my area are nearly all vaccinated after which I think I will be more comfortable with more activity. My primary concern has been keeping those folks safe. At some point if we believe the vaccine and masks are effective we have to start acting like they are.
“ Perhaps eventually the Church can resolve the larger issue that for whatever reason among some groups it has bred a distrust of secular authority like doctors and science.”
Expecting members to believe that a large Semitic population once existed in the Americas contrary to all existing scientific evidence is the first step along this dysfunctional path.
Dave, you write: “I thought that would be all of the apostles, but no.” I think this is explained a little further down where the article you quote from says: “These leaders qualify for the vaccine in Utah because they are over the age of 70.” The Utah roll-out of the vaccine at that time provided vaccination to those over 70, and only those 8 apostles qualified by being over 70 years old (maybe they had a concern about appearing to “cut in line”?).
Every time I watch fast and testimony meeting via zoom and see all the elderly people get up to share testimonies I am glad I keep my family home. The standard in my Utah ward appears to be: take off mask at pulpit to speak or when leading the music (while standing right behind the bishopric). I can’t see the congregation, but I sure hope THEY keep masks on for singing.
Several of the missionaries from my ward have been returning to their foreign missions as well. I can’t imagine being a missionary or missionary parent right now! One young sister returned to Japan had to quarantine 14 days in a windowless hotel room all by herself. Food left at her door and she couldn’t leave, no sky view or in person interactions for 2 weeks. I honestly hope she watched TV whether it is against the rules or not! I guess I just don’t understand the need / rush to send the kids back to foreign countries right now when it requires so much.
@EJ that’s the funny thing, from what I have seen the elderly are those most eager to get back to in-person church. (And bear testimony about how it’s silly not to do in-person church or sing …). On top of that, of course, the people most likely to be going and not taking things seriously are those who would also go even if they were sick.
My ward seems to be using good common-sense precautions for now; sacrament meeting is socially distanced, masked, no singing, and simultaneously webcasted for members to watch from home. Vulnerable people (elderly, medically fragile) are strongly encouraged to stay home. All superfluous meetings (SS/RS/PH) are done via Zoom. I too am grateful that the top leaders of the Church are setting the right example and getting vaccinated publicly.
But a concerning trend is emerging, wherein members who choose to take the risk of attending in person are seen as the faithful, strong ones, while the cautious members who stay home are considered less faithful or “less active”. It’s completely anecdotal and implicit, but it’s becoming more and more apparent each week. There seems to be an elevated urgency to get people back to in-person meetings, rather than more fully embracing technology as a means to connect. Leadership callings are being increasingly filled by zealous conservative members who don’t take the virus seriously, as level-headed members who prefer to stay home are being released from their callings. I’m also hearing more references to the parable of the wheat and the tares, suggesting that this is the time when the less-righteous are being filtered out. I wonder if this is happening elsewhere in the Church, and whether this attitude will prevail as our society slowly recovers. Have any of you observed such a trend in your respective areas?
My stake, in Utah, has authorized Sunday 2nd hour youth meetings (YW/YM/Sunday School) and I can’t for the life of me figure out why they think this is a good idea health-wise. I haven’t seen any updated guidance from the Area Presidency allowing this. I understand that the young folks are struggling and want to get together, but this just puts more pressure on my kids to attend in-person when I really, really would rather they didn’t.
And I hate that I’m in a position of leadership where I’m supposed to figure out how to make this work when I don’t agree with it.
Jack, I want to offer a different perspective on one sentence you wrote–
“There seems to be an elevated urgency to get people back to in-person meetings, rather than learning how to successfully do home-centered church-supported worship and personal/family growth.”
Jack Hughes –
I am a grad student in Arizona. My local YSA ward has not webcast sacrament meeting, ever. I went to sacrament meeting last fall semester but didn’t feel comfortable because the attendance was well over the covid-spacing limit, so this semester I decided I’m not going back to church until I’ve had both doses of the vaccine. A couple days ago, I was talking on the phone with a friend in Salt Lake County. If I recall correctly, she said that the high councilor who spoke in her family ward this Sunday spoke about the parable of the ten virgins and said that temple recommend renewals are way down. The subtext, of course, is that if you haven’t renewed your temple recommend because of covid (and probably if you aren’t going to church because of covid), then you’re one of the foolish virgins who ran out of oil and let your lamp go out. That goes along with Elder Rasband’s talk from last General Conference about how every member should always have a current temple recommend not just as a symbol of membership and faith (as President Hunter taught) but in order to go “recommended to the Lord” when you die. BTW, that talk struck me as something closer to the Catholic principle of last rites than I’d ever heard before in our church.
Sorry, my last comment should have been addressed to Jack Hughes, not JL.
BTW & apropos of nothing – will someone plz tell me what’s going on w/ BCC and T&S ? – because navel gazing is now the only channel over there. These once lively blogs have become dreary unread digital cloisters. Why?
My observations have been that both the general and local leaders of the church are growing more and more concerned about what I have heard termed “spiritual drift”. For example, I consider myself an active member of the church and have noticed in myself a reduced desire or drive to magnify my callings. It had been so incremental that I didn’t really take notice for several months, but after a few interactions with certain individuals and their examples, I realized I needed to make some adjustments.
I realize that many people’s callings, especially callings involving children and youth, are either completely non-existent or massively reduced right now. I can understand why church leaders are anxious to move past the Covid lifestyle and back to holding Primary classes and Youth activities. Not just for the benefit of the adults with the callings who may be experiencing spiritual drift, but even more for the benefit of the children and youth, some of whom don’t get much gospel teaching in their homes.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
E, thanks, that’s very helpful additional information.
Elisa said, “I am grateful for the Church’s example and encouragement. It will save lives.” Ditto. I was a little surprised to see such straightforward statements by the Church in these articles. They’ve been fairly quiet about a lot of this stuff.
EJ said, “Several of the missionaries from my ward have been returning to their foreign missions as well. I can’t imagine being a missionary or missionary parent right now!” Yes, I would be nervous about returning a missionary to most foreign countries at the moment. Not that the US is doing very well, but it’s tough to navigate foreign medical systems and get treatment. And while the Church claims to look after the health and safety of missionaries who are serving … well, in practice I don’t think that’s how it plays out.
Jack Hughes, wow, I hope that’s not how things play out in most wards. But yeah, I can see that happening. The first commandment of Mormonism: Judge your neighbor.
p, maybe the bloggers at T&S and BCC have just run out of interesting things to say. I’d also add that the first generation of perms at T&S and BCC have pretty much moved on. It’s a different group at each of them than started out ten or fifteen years ago. The important thing is Wheat and Tares is still tackling tough and interesting LDS-related issues, with a bunch of wild and crazy commenters. Who needs those other blogs?
Thanks for your comments, everyone.
A technical note: I published several comments that were caught in the “Pending” filter. They are posted above. This is not a post or platform for posting links to general anti-vax or specific anti-Covid vaccine videos. There are other blogs or platforms for publishing that sort of information. The Covid vaccines approved in the United States have gone through full if expedited FDA approval. Masks are a tested and recommended and low-cost method for reducing (not eliminating) the risk of passing the virus, if you have it, and reducing the risk of getting infected, if you don’t have it. Let me restate the counsel LDS leadership has given, quoted above in the post:
“As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization.”
Soooooo you’re actually claiming Bill Gates is NOT a hideous lizard-monster replicant beamed down by the Overlords of Alpha Centauri for the purpose of the total annihilation of humanity and the establishment of the Zwibot Realm of Eternal Darkness? WELL WE HAPPEN TO KNOW BETTER, DAVE B!
@bwbarnett, I’m sure that’s a concern. I do have to wonder if that should cause us to consider whether what we are asking of people, and what we are offering to them, is actually valuable.
There are a lot of activities that people are *eager* to get back to post-Covid. If Church isn’t one of them, then sure, we could blame spiritual drift / the members, but leaders could also reevaluate what we can do to provide an experience that people actually miss.
FWIW there are components of Church that I do miss, and I agree that sometimes we can get complacent and that’s not a good thing, but I’m generally a bit triggered by the member-blaming that goes on in the Church (I don’t think your comment did this, but I have heard others such as those others described above like “wheat and tares” and “10 virgins” that seem to).
Our ward and stake in my small Mormon town has been incredibly lazy at following COVID protocols. Masks encouraged but not required, most youth activities done without masks, etc. Absolutely a political and cultural thing, and absolutely worse in our small town than in the neighboring city. Bad enough that we no longer frequent local businesses, and instead do our grocery shopping at the neighboring city.
This Sunday, our stake presidency released a letter that stated, in part, “This past week, church leaders asked stake presidencies in the area to review current gathering practices to ensure we are adhering to policies and guidelines given to us by the Area Presidency. As we reviewed these policies we realized we would need to make adjustments to our current stake COVID-19 operational plan.”
In other words, the stake had not been following Area Presidency instructions. The changes? Masks are now required at church and in meetings (although we’ll see how well this is actually followed). Additionally, singing in church will stop.
Our bishopric is starting to take this more seriously; all of the ward Facebook updates on activities since Sunday have referenced the need for participants to wear masks. That wasn’t happening before, and it’s a welcome change. I’m still a bit skeptical that we’ll get compliance, but at least the stake presidency and our bishopric is finally starting to take this seriously.
It seems there is a variety of local responses each ward and stake have had. My items of note:
– I have been pleased with the general leadership’s approach, for the most part. They seem to take the pandemic seriously. I could quibble on some points, but I think they get points for encouraging masks and vaccines and allowing adjustments to church meetings
– locally, our stake restarted meetings quicker than anyone else I’m related to. The stake leadership said they would take their time, but we were back in the pews faster than most.
– our meetings have had congregational singing. Sigh.
– masks were encouraged at first but not required from the beginning.
– in one meeting early on, the counselor announced from the pulpit that masks would not be necessary once the congregation was seated as they were properly distanced. This contradicted by the instructions from the stake. I understand the stake leaders heard about this and sternly corrected the error
– in spite of the ward being spilt into 3 groups to limit numbers, there is a faction that attends every week. They also declined to wear masks until….
– in November when Utah made masks mandatory state wide, the stake leadership emailed all members and invited anyone unable or unwilling to wear masks to participate online from home
So it seems to me that my stake and ward leadership are a bit at odds in how strictly to follow protocols. At least, that was the case until we got a new bishopric that seems more in line with following the guidance from the stake.
I am amazed there are church activities in the USA where one in 10 tests are coming back positive. I am told I sound condescending, not intensional. Just the facts.
I live in Queensland. We have been testing about 7000 a day and had one positive about 3 weeks ago on a thursday. The state government asked us to stay home for the weekend, wear masks if we had to go out, while the health department contact traced, and found out where this 1 woman got infected, and who she had been in contact with. She had returned from UK, been in hotel quarintine for 2 weeks, tested negative and been let out, but then tested positive to the UK variant. She did not infect anyone else. No other positives outside hotel quarintine for 4 months. Population 5 million, total of 6 deaths.
Church was cancelled that week, we have been having one hour meetings, with social distancing, and arrangements for sacrament. Bread delivered by tongs, and water social distanced, and separate tray for empty cups.
This last sunday we had our first 2 hour meeting. The first comment from the elders quorum pres, was there are a lot missing.
Our local temple is fully open but have not gone, and do not know how it operates. Except reduced numbers for social distancing
My wife and I went for a walk on the beach today, on main beach of the gold coast. The Pacific ocean was beautiful, water temperature 26c/ 79f with a 1 meter swell, the sand/beach was beautiful air temp 28c/83f, with a gentle breeze, and a few people on the beach, and in the water.
We both commented that this is as close to heaven as we get. Does this count in a blog about Church?
Agree with Jack Hughes – the judging has started in earnest. Covid has intensified the cultural polarization of the Church, where more zealous, politically conservative members view themselves as more righteous, and more secular, politically liberal members view themselves as more sane. Larry King’s passing this week reminded me that, just *15 years* ago, we lived in a Church whose leader was eager to step onto national TV to discuss our religion, without resorting to magical thinking.
I miss that, and I hope it’s not gone for good. All that awaits beyond our current polarization is a cult of personality around the prophet. I hope we retreat from that.
P: I miss BCC, too.
“Covid has intensified the cultural polarization of the Church, where more zealous, politically conservative members view themselves as more righteous, and more secular, politically liberal members view themselves as more sane.”
I think this varies by location — from ward to ward. There has been no apparent intensification in my ward. Instead, to my perception (ward council member and sometimes organist for in-person meetings), it continues to be as before — that some more zealous, politically conservative members view themselves as more righteous, and some more zealous, politically liberal members view themselves as more sane and more righteous.. I always wonder about the righteousness of my view of others’ self-righteousness. 🙂
One of the interesting things about W&T is the indecipherable nature of thumbs-up/thumbs-down non-comments. It is amusing to ponderize [?] what a thumbs-down might mean as to someone else’s statement of that they think, what they perceive, or what they wonder. It could mean that the thumber thinks she knows better what that someone thinks, perceives or wonders than he does. It could also mean she is a member of his ward and perceives it differently. It could also mean that she didn’t actually read. I’ll bet there are a lot more possible meanings.
Some years ago someone expressed frustration with that thumbs-up/down system because of its incoherence [beyond meaning one liked or disliked some one possible reading or misreading of one statement in the comment]. For me, it’s healthier to be amused and even to participate in the often incomprehensible thumbing.
Thanks for the entertaining and enlightening comments, everyone.
bwbarnett: “My observations have been that both the general and local leaders of the church are growing more and more concerned about what I have heard termed ‘spiritual drift’.” I think it’s the case that all leaders are likely to view our extended absence from auxiliary meetings and online-only sacrament meeting as risky, as putting members at risk to drift away spiritually and in person. It’s just not in the leadership worldview to be able to look out and conclude, “Wow, the members are so much happier when they don’t have to attend all our meetings.”
Tim: “Our ward and stake in my small Mormon town has been incredibly lazy at following COVID protocols.” Yes, it sure sounds like it is just hit or miss across the whole USA. Way too much variation, although the senior leadership may be tightening that up as we move into the new year.
Rockwell: “So it seems to me that my stake and ward leadership are a bit at odds in how strictly to follow protocols.” I wonder to what extent these leadership differences of opinion are correlated to politics. I’ll bet Mormon Trumpers in local leadership have made a lot of stupid decisions. Maybe they should ask every bishop and stake president candidate going forward, “Do you support Donald Trump?” and if they do, then PLEASE don’t call them to leadership. That would solve some of these problems.
Geoff-AUS, there are some advantages to living on a big island. Hawaii has had better success as well.
Wondering, I don’t even notice the thumbs up, thumbs down icons. They mean almost nothing to me. I hope no commenter ever gets upset or declines to comment further because of thumbs down. I hope no commenter takes a bunch of thumbs up as a sign they are brilliant and inerrant. Maybe it’s best to see any response, either up or down, as evidence that other readers have read and engaged with that comment, which is the whole goal of commenting, I think.
I’m interested in the juxtaposition of three comments above:
Slush: “And I hate that I’m in a position of leadership where I’m supposed to figure out how to make this work when I don’t agree with it.” Most of us can relate to that.
Then Ji’s re-wording of a sentence from Jack Hughes that frames it in a way that others can hear and possibly accept more readily.
This models an effective way to deal with a lot of life. Meeting people where they’re at:
Do the research, figure out a way to communicate it, then speak up. Diplomatically.
In my experience, it’s likely to pop up again, and when it does, you’re prepared.
It’s a mistake to think of Australia, which spans four time zones and has 25 million people, as “a big island”.
Dave B. I don’t know of commenters getting upset or declining to comment further because of thumbs up/down, but I did notice someone bragging to another about his thumbs up numbers compared to that other’s thumbs down numbers — in my view, just part of the amusement and human misperception and hubris.
@Billy Possum, I have to laugh thinking about a “cult of personality” being built around someone like RMN or DHO. I hope that’s a remote risk because I don’t think those two have very compelling personalities. But we shall see!
Elisa, the Church’s cult of personality is more like the DPRK’s, and less like Nazi Germany’s, in that it focuses on the organization and office (“Dear Leader” or “Dear Prophet”) rather than anyone’s “personality” in the colloquial sense. We literally talk about how you can feel the prophet’s presence when he enters the room. Actual personality is irrelevant (though it should matter, and has historically, as with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young).
@Billy Possum – got it. Agree.
@Rockwell – You said, “So it seems to me that my stake and ward leadership are a bit at odds in how strictly to follow protocols. At least, that was the case until we got a new bishopric that seems more in line with following the guidance from the stake.” Question: Was your bishopric released because they did not strictly follow protocols, or was their 5ish year term completed? I ask only because I heard of a situation where something like this was suggested. I was just curious if it ever happened somewhere.
A few comments above prompted me to say something about the general leadership (prophets and apostles) of the church. As members of the church, we sustain them among other titles as “seers”. Whether we all actually believe that they can see into the past and the future I suppose may vary from member to member, but if they really are, then it seems reasonable to assume that the suggestions, urgings, encouragements, invitations, etc., that are extended from them to us come from a much broader perspective than what most of us may have. So while it may seem silly to us to wear masks or get a vaccine we don’t believe in, if they are seers, there may be something else going on “behind the scenes”, some ulterior motive, for these requests.
Similarly if we see concern from them regarding our inability as a church to do all the things we did pre-Covid, regardless of whether the “members are so much happier when they don’t have to attend all our meetings.” (@Dave B.), perhaps they see complacency setting in and faith waning in a time where faith in Christ will be needed most. So if they seem anxious to get back to “normal” and we think they need to just calm down and let this thing burn itself out, maybe our narrow view of the future should be put aside and we should trust in their broader view, as seers. Of course, if we don’t believe they are seers, then this is a moot point.
“Similarly if we see concern from them regarding our inability as a church to do all the things we did pre-Covid, regardless of whether the “members are so much happier when they don’t have to attend all our meetings.” (@Dave B.), perhaps they see complacency setting in and faith waning in a time where faith in Christ will be needed most. So if they seem anxious to get back to “normal” and we think they need to just calm down and let this thing burn itself out, maybe our narrow view of the future should be put aside and we should trust in their broader view, as seers. Of course, if we don’t believe they are seers, then this is a moot point.”
bwbarnett–I’m genuinely curious. Why are the members complacent? Just because we don’t go sit in church for 2 hours once a week (plus many more completely unnecessary meetings)? Many of us are home a lot more than we used to be. And many of us are using that time to model and teach our children more, to just spend time with my kids making sure they are ok, to reach out to those affected by the many negative effects of the pandemic, to have the sister missionaries over to take the sacrament in our backyard, etc. Plus literally a million more things. Why is church attendance the litmus test for being committed to God?
@Chadwick Great questions! I believe that there are many, as you said, that have strengthened, or at least remained the same level of commitment to God this past year even though our church activity and attendance has been reduced. Some of this is due in part to the new home-centered, church supported initiative, that helped prepare us for a situation like Covid restrictions. Some is just due to self-motivation and their natural ability to stay committed to God regardless of what’s going on around them. Maybe other reasons??
I don’t claim to know all the reasons why church as we knew it pre-Covid helped some people stay committed to God more than our current state of affairs. One possible reason is that for some people, they may have needed a weekly or bi-weekly responsibility to teach a group of children or youth to keep themselves focused on Christ and His role in their lives. Callings can help us stretch, grow and develop Christlike qualities that we may not otherwise develop when taken away. Maybe congregational singing provided great spiritual strength to people and helped them make it through the upcoming week or provided comfort to help make it through a difficult time. Maybe the social aspect and interaction each week helped people stay committed to God as they saw other members’ commitment to God and shared stories with each other about their week. Perhaps a YM/YW leader’s ability to put their arm around a young man or young woman to provide comfort or counsel can help one or two youth stay committed to God.
Those are a few thoughts that came to me as to possible reasons why church attendance and activity could help some people remain committed to God and grow in their commitment to Him. I’m sure there are others. Granted not all people need “reasons”. But I believe that there is a segment of members who do and this segment is the one that the leaders of the church are concerned about right now.
@bwbarnett in answer to your question, I believe the bishopric did complete their five year term plus several months, and perhaps more as the bishop served quite some time before that prior to creation of our new ward. I don’t think the change in bishopric was remedial.
@bwbarnett interesting thoughts. To me, the speculation that the Brethren, as seers, are privy to something larger going on “behind the scenes” as well as the speculation as to why it’s important to worship in a particular way—it once again underscores just how little the Brethren actually say in terms of prophetic pronouncements.
If, for example, the pre-covid increased focus on home-centered gospel study was a result of foreknowledge of the pandemic, as I’ve heard some members opine, why couldn’t they just say so? If there is more direct “seeing” going on, do you wish they would be more frank about it?
Geoff-AUS, there are some advantages to living on a big island. Hawaii has had better success as well
Sorry but Simplistic, and dismissive.
What was done by our state could have been done just as effectively in Utah.
Our state leadership in early February decided to create a bubble and keep the virus out. Our international border has been closed to all except returning locals, and they have to quarintine in secure accomodation(hotels with guards) for 2 weeks., and are tested each week. If positive to hospital, if negative let out but required to test after another week.
Our health expert, health minister, and premier have had a news conference each morning where they explain our situation and the situation in neighbouring states. If there are cases in neighbouring states they decide whether it is safe to have the border open.
Our state had 6 deaths, but a nearby state had 820 deaths, from a big outbreak. Our border was closed to residents of that state for 3 months.
The difference between Queensland, and Utah is political leadership, community support, and universal healthcare. Any state in america could have made their state an island, but chose not to. Our schools have been open for months, many are working from home, but apart from tourism, most other business is not affected.
@Kirkstall asks: “…why couldn’t they just say so? If there is more direct “seeing” going on, do you wish they would be more frank about it? ” I absolutely wish they would be more frank about it. I wish more of the “why” was included in requests and counsel. Perhaps one of the most difficult types of obedience is the kind where we don’t understand the why (or why’s) behind the request. You know, the kind of obedience where after possibly several years of offering animal sacrifices, an angel shows up and asks you, “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?”. And the only response you have is essentially, “I don’t know why. I’m just obeying the Lord.”
So why would the Brethren, as seers, not just lay it all out for us? Why would they not share with the world all the details, discussions and reasons that went into a particular policy change, or statement from the FP or any other urging, invitation or counsel they provide? Answer: I don’t know. I hope to understand someday. I have my own speculations, but I’ve probably speculated too much already in this post 😉
Regarding “just how little the Brethren actually say in terms of prophetic pronouncements”, what or to whom are you comparing the Brethren’s number of prophetic pronouncements to conclude that it is “little”? Are there other prophets that you think had lots more for their people or are you just saying little because you want or expect more?
@GeoffAus not really. Commerce Clause and Constitution and various other laws make that less legal in the US, even in an emergency. Geography & legal—not just political—landscape make a big difference in pandemic response.
@bwbarnett you’re right that’s the most difficult kind of obedience. And the most dangerous.
@Elisa – Dangerous only if you don’t know who you are obeying 😉 In Adam’s case, it was God so not dangerous at all.
As Eve said, “It is better that we should pass through sorrow that we should know the good from the evil.” Or, in other words, we must act before understanding good and evil. By acting before our knowledge is concrete, we learn good and which ones are evil.
For this reason, I disagree with an assertion earlier in this thread that teenage disobedience is always sinful. I disagree that teenage disobedience is always choosing Satan. Sometimes, it is just growing up.
I like the treatment at https://www.forrestplaster.com/it-is-better-to-pass-through-sorrow/
@ji – I really like a lot of Jordan Peterson’s stuff. The Forrest Plaster article was nicely done. Thanks for sharing. Regarding “teenage disobedience is always sinful”, I would suggest we include the definition of sin in our analysis:
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
If anyone, including teenagers, knows something is good and doesn’t do it, it is considered sinful. I agree with you though Ji, that it is not a sin if the person has no knowledge of it. Knowledge can be gained in more ways that through personal experience. You don’t have to commit the sin to know that it is wrong.
It wasn’t earlier in this thread — it was on the Question Authority thread where you wrote,
“Or said another way, our decisions show that we obey/follow Christ or obey/follow Satan. Sometimes I see people, especially teen-agers, who want to make their own decisions outside of any other influence or authority figure, like parents, teachers, or church leaders. They don’t want to obey/follow anyone. They want to do their own thing. They don’t realize that disobeying or not following Christ means that they are obeying or following Satan.”
I disagree that teenage disobedience is always choosing Satan. Sometimes, it is just growing up or learning.
We have to give others space to grow up and learn. That’s a big part of why we’re supposed to be charitable, compassionate, patient, and so forth.
@ji, ahh gotcha, yes the other thread. I’m not arguing against giving people space to grow up and learn and being charitable, compassionate and patient. I’m stating a truth that if you knowingly do something wrong, it is considered a sin in the eyes of God. If someone of any age knowingly does something wrong, they should follow God’s plan and repent.
We’ll just have to agree to disagree on the idea that if a teenager knowingly does something wrong, it is a sin, or said another way, they are following Satan. Maybe “following” is the wrong word?? Maybe “pleasing Satan” expresses my thoughts better…
@bwbarnett “what or to whom are you comparing the Brethren’s number of prophetic pronouncements to conclude that it is “little”? Are there other prophets that you think had lots more for their people or are you just saying little because you want or expect more?”
I suppose I’m measuring them against Joseph Smith and his more immediate successors. I feel like Joseph, in particular, was much less opaque in regards to the mind of God regarding current events for better or worse.
For those that think life is black and white, I highly encourage watching The Good Place. No choice in our global world is simple. Every choice we make is a difficult one. The pandemic has made this especially true.
Additionally, I think a good example that illustrates a non-black and white view is President Nelson’s “using the term Mormon is a victory for Satan” conference talk. Just think of all the members that participated in an “I am a Mormon” campaign under the direction of two church presidents, only to find their obedience to prophets and god to share the gospel was in fact not correct. So which is it? Were they serving Satan? Or does their ignorance excuse them? And was the Prophet at the time still responsible? Or did God never tell him? One would think, if the term Mormon is that bad, God would have given Joseph Smith a different name for the book to begin with.
I’ve always liked and agreed with Elder Lawrence Corbridge’s comments about life:
“The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. ‘There is an opposition in all things,’ everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?” (The Way, Oct 2008 Conference)
@bwbarnett I think that dualistic view of the world is a big problem in western thought tbh.
And I don’t believe God abandons people. That’s a complete fear-based approach to compelling obedience.
@Elisa – God does not abandon people – people abandon God.
My understanding is that we are not here to do things/getting scored on how many good things v bad things.
We are here to become Christlike. We are here to learn Joy. To automatically understand, and do the moral thing. We will be judged on who we have become. Our culture, or political views, or conspiracy theories, may limit us.
Elisa, Australia is also a federation of states, with interstate trade and travel laws. Early on the state and federal governments started meeting weekly, virtually. I am not aware of an announcement, but they must have decided to ignore counterproductive laws, for the time being, and for the common good.
An example: back to the beach I described, that both my wife and I decided the celestial kingdom would be incomplete without. Joy, thankfullness, appreciation.
We no longer surf because it is too rough for our old bodies, I carry a large umbrella on the beach because I am suceptable to melanomas, the sand is gritty, we got splashed by the waves, and our pants got wet.
But being there brings such joy, and that is why we are here.
My stake had a lady with the yw in the building that claimed she has permission. Turned out she wasn’t told no but asked the wife of member of the stake presidency. She threw a tantrum at leader ask her to leave saying this is why people leave. Later learned she was taking some meds she thinks will protect her from covid.