No time for a well-crafted post this morning: I’m on the run, having unsuccessfully attempted to enter Canada. I am now officially a “foreign national denied entry to Canada” (that’s what the form they gave me says). I jumped through all the hoops, filled out their online application, had my passport (no passport: go home), had the right kind of Covid test (wrong test: go home), but it was three days old without clear time stamps on the results page so technically not within their 72-hour window. So: Go home. At least the guy with the badge and the gun didn’t threaten me with a $5000 fine for attempting to enter Canada with an expired test. That’s what they do to Canadians.
Once upon a time, it was a friendly border. It is still an undefended border, but I’d hardly call it friendly. Once upon a time, you could cross from US to Canada or Canada to US with just a drivers license. In Blaine, the I-5 crossing into Canada, there is a Peace Arch commemorating that tradition of a friendly border. That friendliness started to go away after 9/11, which amped up security and surveillance at every border entry point to the US, but the change was especially jarring at the US-Canada border given how lax things were before.
Then came Covid, which added a new layer of concern to anyone crossing a border. It’s a familiar political strategy to blame any disease on those darn foreigners, and limit or completely bar entry by them. Often that’s just political theater, so easy to put in place as those attempting to cross a border generally have no vote and little or no recourse. Yes, limiting entry to help control the spread of Covid may be a wise precaution, but it’s easily abused because it so politically convenient. Result: the unfriendly border becomes downright nasty. And yes, I know the US border has been closed to Canadians for quite some time. Don’t expect much sympathy from me.
What’s the Mo App?
So what’s the Mormon angle to all this? (I call it the “Mo App,” short for Mormon application, the liken unto us part of the post.) I guess it’s about the fragility of trust. It’s a lot easier to undermine a relationship of trust than to build it. The US-Canada relationship has been about as friendly as international relations can be, but even this special relationship has been strained over the last couple of years. That’s at the upper political level (President to Prime Minister) but also at the personal level. Anyone who goes through the a border, either way, feels at best on edge, at worst they get interrogated, possibly searched, possibly fined or detained. Imagine what African-Americans think of Canada when it turns out the Prime Minister would dress up in blackface for costume parties. Imagine what Canadians think of America for electing Trump. Just not much trust or friendliness to go around at the moment.
Within the Church, there are a variety of trust interfaces that have been stressed during the Trump and Covid era. There are family relationships, maybe wife-husband but also between siblings or parent-adult children. There are family-ward relationships, if a family chooses to be careful with masks and vaccines while other ward members are not or may even be vocally against such measures. There is the family-local leadership trust interface, if say the ward or stake leadership takes a casual response to Covid measures (or even opposes masking or vaccines) when the family supports such measures or has an at-risk family member due to other health conditions. Then there is the family-senior leadership trust relationship, which gets stressed if, for example, a family opposes masks and vaccines, then the First Presidency puts out a letter strongly encouraging vaccines and masks. (I’m trying to be fair and look at this from both sides.)
The bottom line: Trust at all levels in the Church suddenly seems to be at an all-time low. And not just by habitually cynical types like you and me. There are a lot of rank-and-file members who never said a bad word about the Church but who suddenly find themselves frustrated or even downright angry with local leaders or fellow ward members over Covid-related issues or Trump-related issues. The trust at all these levels, built up over generations, has taken a significant hit.
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
Imagine a Sunday School lesson on the first chapters of Genesis. In years past, if the teacher used a paragraph from the manual asking if we were supposed to be our brother’s keeper, the responses would have been “yes, certainly,” with examples like home teaching or the baptismal promise to support those in need of uplift and encouragement or the parable of the Good Samaritan. I think if this question is asked in January 2022 when the Old Testament comes up in the LDS curriculum for Gospel Doctrine class, some of the answers will be, “Hell no, I’m not my #*!@$ brother’s keeper!” Won’t that be a fun class to attend.
So it seems like that’s where we’re at as we head into the last months of 2021 — which, as I recall, was supposed to be better than 2020. Trust within the Church is at an all-time low. We might get over Covid (and Trump) in a year or two or three, but it might take decades to rebuild trust within the Church that has been lost. Tell me what you think.
My post was partly inspired by this post:
I’m sorry you were denied entry to my beautiful home (but not native land). If you’re familiar with our anthem you’ll get that. We feel the pain. We have two families in Utah that we haven’t seen in two years. The crazy thing is – we could fly down there but not cross the land boarder. We’re hesitant to do that anyway with the covid figures far worse in Utah than here, and our Alberta province has the highest numbers in the country.
My husband and I are still not attending church in person and can continue to watch online. There’s a mask mandate again for inside public spaces but I was told there were at least a few not wearing them on Sunday and of those one is a nurse and another a dental assistant 🤔
I don’t think you are allowed to attend if you are not vaccinated. I know a number of people in our ward are not vaccinated for reasons of their own, despite one having had family members in the US who were close to dying from covid. Why are so many of our members not vaccinating? I just don’t get it and find myself looking at them differently than before and making judgments.
So in answer to your question – I think it’s going to take a long time to heal and rebuild trust with some folk in the church. Kind of glad to be just staying home.
I mean, here’s the problem:
I want to be mad at my ward and think they don’t care about keeping me and my family safe. (My experience is pretty similar to the post that inspired yours.).
But that’s really not the issue. The issue is that people in my ward fundamentally do not believe that Covid is a problem, do not believe the vaccine is helpful, and believe masks are harmful. They truly think they are being their brother’s keeper by acting as they are acting. Or at the very least, they don’t think they’re doing anyone else any harm and that it’s an issue of personal freedom.
I absolutely, totally disagree with them on the facts there. But I also believe their intent is largely good and genuine. And that is something I have a very hard time knowing how to respond to.
I have had multiple friends comment that the Covid response has done more to alienate them from their wards & the Church than *anything* in the past – including prop 8, POX, Trump election. And I’d have to agree (and I’m someone who cares VERY MUCH about prop 8 & POX and who was incredibly frustrated and upset by those things). We really do seem broken but I think it’s less about our desire to be brothers’ keepers and more about a huge, huge division in how people perceive reality.
Good stuff from Roger Terry on that link, my experience has been very similar where I live, 33 miles north of Roger. It makes me wonder if the Utah area presidency is basically saying damn the COVID torpedoes, full speed ahead (i.e. full block in-person meetings).
Heard of a recent rare mission call to Europe but this young man is starting home MTC in February which means he gets to the foreign land in April. So there’s a modicum of caution in some areas…
Amen to your comment.
Denying reality that goes against our core beliefs is all too common. There is a fundamental human need to “hate the other” in all of this, too, I believe.
One of my favorite quotes is a poem from A. E. Housman:
To think that two and two is four,
And neither five nor three,
The heart of man has long been sore,
And like ‘tis long to be.
In the meantime, we try, however poorly, to love as Christ wants us to love, even when the so-and-so ‘s only make things worse.
Elisa’s comment about the differences in the perceiving of reality is spot on. That’s actually what makes me realize we’re more broken than ever. If religious ideology is actually designed to warp our sense of reality instead of helping us to understand it more deeply, then I really don’t have any hope about any kind of communal coming together or healing. The problem isn’t just that there are differences of opinion concerning the exact application of this or that doctrine; the problem is that both the Trump and COVID phenomena have revealed that even people in “the one true church” are unable to tell the difference between extremely harmful and untrue statements and basic, scientifically established facts. THAT’s the problem; and I am less charitable than Elisa because I don’t believe that people whose willful delusions result in demonstrable harm to others can be described as good and genuine.
I’ve never felt this alienated in a church setting and that’s coming from someone who’s spent his entire life in the Mormon Church never feeling like he really belonged. And I suppose that’s actually the issue here. The Trump/COVID rhetoric and beliefs of a lot of the members in my area simply confirms what I always suspected: That most people, regardless of ideology, only embrace the gospel principles/practices that don’t contradict their political ideology. And that’s staggeringly depressing, not because I didn’t already know it, but because, a long time ago, I believed that we as a church were better than that, that we could come together despite those differences. And that is clearly not the case.
@Brother Sky, your comment about religion warping reality instead of helping us to truly see and understand one another is spot-on and really depressing. A well-known LDS judge, Tom Griffith, has been making the rounds giving a speech to the effect of “America is broken because we are so polarized, and LDS congregations are the only hope at healing us since we are organized along geographic lines and so don’t get to choose who we go to Church with and we have to love each other anyway. ” I might have believed him a few years ago but for some of the reasons you mentioned, I really don’t know.
And I definitely have uncharitable thoughts about my neighbors. It’s just bizarre because some of them I know to be absolutely, incredibly generous, but at the same time total anti-maskers / anti-vaxxers. I really can’t make sense of it. In a recent uncharitable moment, I threw pretty much a massive (private) tantrum two weeks ago when we received an email from our RS that included, as one of many announcements, the following message:
“One last thing, the stake has asked us to pass on some information about a drive-thru vaccine clinic as part of the day of service today. All details are included in an attached flyer. Please note this is simply information being passed on. We respect everyone’s wishes for their bodies.”
I could not believe it. I could not believe that after the First Presidency statement encouraging vaccinations, and during a time when Covid is absolutely raging in my community and our ICU’s are over capacity, my RS *still* felt it needed to cater to the anti-vaxxers and speak as though the vaccine is somehow “controversial” and undermine the vaccine clinic announcement the stake asked it to send. As tempted as I was to write a snarky response inviting them all to protest the Texas abortion law with me given that they believe we should respect everyone’s wishes for their bodies, instead I full-on cried in the shower about it. So incredibly frustrating. I felt exactly as you described @Brother Sky – I’ve not fit in the LDS community for my entire life. If I still can’t fit in even when I actually agree with the Prophet on this particular issue and if I cannot trust my neighbors’ judgment on critical issues, well, it’s a total lost cause and I don’t know that it’s worth engaging anymore instead of looking for another community.
Elisa, I hear you. I don’t mean to be such a downer, but this is just my experience lately. I think what gets to me the most is the fact that church has become less relevant to me precisely because the world is burning. The church has always sold itself as a refuge and as a place that has different (higher and better) ideals and offers a better life, but I don’t see that; I just see and hear a lot of rhetoric that expresses the same tired platitudes that don’t offer any solutions. Fortunately, I have my work community and several close friends who aren’t Mormon, so I’ve at least got a few people to talk to, but I’ve just become increasingly disenfranchised over the last four years and have really checked out. I wish everyone in my ward the best, but I just cannot sit through the same rote lessons and hear the same cliches about how the Book of Mormon has all of the answers when it clearly doesn’t. I feel like my ward is ignoring the fact that the world is on fire rather than confronting that fact and offering some solutions. It’s deeply disappointing to have given more than three decades to the church and to feel like this at the end of it.
For the first 50 years of my life I was a very dependable TBM and reliable Republican. Life was pretty simple for me. Then a few things happened:
1. I took a deep dive into Church history
2. The Republican Party nominated Trump
3. Mormons went after gays
4. Jan 6
So excuse me if I’m a little hesitant to trust others. I’ve had a trust crisis, not a faith crisis.
How thankful I am that my nearly 95 year old mother-in-law died at the end of May and not at the end of last month! My husband, his older sister and older brother plus our own family and the older brother’s family are the only ones who aren’t Uber Trumpers and Covid deniers. If the memorial service were to be held tomorrow instead of back then I’m as sure as I can be that instead of being a joyous send off for a marvelous woman who was a ray of sunshine wherever she went the service would’ve looked more like a rumble between the Sharks and the Jets in “West Side Story”. To suddenly be at odds with a brother-in law and his wife plus nieces and nephews who I’ve known for 35 years hurts so much. Up until Trump and Covid my husband’s family was was one of the most loving and accepting families that I’ve ever been privileged to know and be a part of. Fortunately, some of our nieces and nephews’ children have not drunk the Flavor Aid and we keep in close contact with them in order to not only love and support them but to give them a place to freely and safely talk about the crazy, scary things that they hear not only at home and school but, most worryingly of all and in seminary.
The church missed an opportunity to take a stand at the beginning of Trump’s campaign and presidency and to call out his hateful and egregious behavior. They didn’t. The Ezra Taft Benson notion that the R beside a candidate’s name on a ballot anywhere in the USA somehow or other equals God’s holy stamp of approval kept them from speaking up. The inability or outright desire to not to speak up has caused no end of problems for church members and leaders before this time but not to this magnitude or degree of seriousness. The same thing applies to the Covid situation.
I sometimes wonder if the FP and Q12 are afraid of the ultra right wing monster that they’ve encouraged and allowed to grow since the 1950’s. The monster is now out of their control and they have no idea what kind of mayhem and damage it will do to the church both internally and externally. For all of my life I have heard the Q15 rail against the doubters, the intellectuals and those who choose to think for themselves. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the church were to be done in by the people that it has specifically nurtured and encouraged the very most and has to be rescued by the people who it has anathematized year after year? It’s just a thought.
@brother sky, your point about the church not being a refuge during a time where the world really is burning hit hard. During covid it was the opposite of a refuge. And not only are its solutions ineffective at putting out the flames, but it has a completely different definition of burning than I do and is aiming its hose at all the wrong things. Again, oof.
Oops, the darn spellcheck deleted the word “church” before “ and seminary”.
The reality split that Elisa described is key to the loss of trust. How can you trust someone who lives in a different reality than you? You’re not reacting to the same information and facts. Some people feel oppressed by wearing masks and getting a vaccine. I feel oppressed at the insistence that gay rights and reproductive rights will lead to the destruction of the family. Both of us think the other side’s beliefs and behavior will lead to the downfall of civilization – either death from a pandemic or the total breakdown of the family due to gay rights and abortion. Anti-maskers think the pandemic risk is overblown; leftists think the family risk is overblown. That much I can mostly understand, even while I vehemently disagree with the other side.
I remember a Gen Conf talk from Elder Eyring once that praised unity, and spoke of unity as an ideal to strive for. He’s right, of course, unity is a wonderful goal. But he didn’t give ways to build unity other than to agree with the Brethren. I used to think unity and trust could be built on mutual respect for different ideas and values. But at this point, I think the conversation needs to back up and start with facts (Step 1). What constitutes a fact? Where do you learn your facts? Facts have to come first. Then, you move on to values (Step 2). Do you value obedience? Do you value individual autonomy? Do you value health, life and safety? Then you can start talking about decisions about behavior (Step 3). The vast chasm created at Step 3 just illustrates how far apart we are at Step 1.
Oops! The darn spellcheck got rid “in church” just before “and in seminary”.🥴
@melinda love those steps. Totally agree we talk about unity but we do not teach actual skills.
@brother sky in a bit of divine synchronicity today I started listening to Brian McLaren’s “Learning How to See” podcast which is *exactly* what we are talking about here.
Elisa, Brother Sky, and Josh h:
I relate 100%.
During 2020, I was a firestorm, calling people out for being unkind with respect to the queer community or the anti-BLM movement, and encouraging people to listen to scientists and not politicians on how to successfully navigate a pandemic.
But something changed in me a few weeks ago when Elder Holland spoke to the BYU faculty. I just can’t engage any more. It’s just too much. I can’t take feeling alone as the only person who cares more about the marginalized (be it the queer community, people of color, of those with compromised immune systems) over our privileged white male leaders and their wealthy organization.
I’m finding that I get anxiety on Saturday nights and Tuesday nights and can’t sleep Sunday nights and Wednesday nights (ie leading up to and after attending church and attending YM activities) and I finally told my Bishop on Sunday that he shouldn’t expect to see us around much. I promised him we are doing the best we can but we just need space. But three months of this horrible sleeping pattern have made it clear that this organization not only isn’t helping me, it’s actively harming me.
But like the song says, breaking up is hard to do.
@Chadwick, I get it. The Holland thing (among others) certainly suggests that the issues some of us are identifying are intended features, not bugs. In which case – why bother?
I’m sorry that it’s been so stressful and for the anxiety. Sounds like you need some spiritual (and physical) rest & I hope you are able to get it!
Newsflash – “Wear masks in temples at all times, LDS First Presidency” – see current page at sltrib.com
I have a hard time trusting someone who is willing to spread a deadly disease, not matter how pure their heart may be.
The pandemic has given me a little breathing room, an excuse to not attend church in person, but it’s also given me time to think. I can honestly say I no longer desire to go back, which is a sad realization.
“I think if this question is asked in January 2022 when the Old Testament comes up in the LDS curriculum for Gospel Doctrine class, some of the answers will be, “Hell no, I’m not my #*!@$ brother’s keeper!””
I think the answer would be, “Hell yes! This is what other people are doing wrong, and we’ve got to stop them!!!”
The political divide in the USA has made us all experts at finding fault with the other side of the aisle and has caused whatever muscle is responsible for self-reflection to atrophy. I’m guilty of it too.
I just don’t know how to continue to fight for a space in my once spiritual community.
For instance, I honestly don’t know how I can sustain someone as a bishop when I’ve seen their toxic political views splayed out all over social media. The “vaccine has a microchip” guy is my family’s judge in Israel? The lady parroting Trump’s violent rhetoric against people that hold my political views is my RSP? How do you deal with that? It less of an issue with human imperfections preventing us from attaining an ideal and more of an issue with diametrically opposed viewpoints on what represents the ideal.
I keep hearing complaints of Trumpism and anti-mask sentiment in the wards. In the Spanish ward, these fortunately are not an issue. More than 90% of attendees wear masks. I am friends on Facebook with dozens of ward members. Not once have I seen anyone with a pro-Trump post. In fact if anyone gets political, they have all been moderate or liberal posts, with the exception of anti-abortion posts. Generally the sense I get among members of my ward is that they all know that politics is a fraught issue that is best not mentioned at church or among church members on social media. There is a very different sense in my sister’s ward in Utah County where members seem quite confident in expressing their pro-Trump politics and anti-mask nonsense. Suffice it to say, I simply would call it quits entirely in church if I were in my sister’s ward.
I am observing something similar to John W here on the East coast. Our ward probably has a few right wing anti-vax anti-mask types but they are not vocal about it, maybe even a little sheepish and I would like to think struggling with their conscience about it. There is hardly any political content in the conversations and comments I hear at church. I do think there is significant regional variation in mormon culture.
*similar to John W’s description of the Spanish ward, that is
I bought a couple of boxes of rainbow face masks – not to make a political statement or to indicate what others should think/do. I wear them so that the LGBTQ+ folks I come across may feel a bit better when they see them.
Today I flew from Utah to Texas. I got thinking that I might get some negative stuff – but rainbow was all I had.
Not so! Rather than the cool stares I get in Utah County, I’ve had at least a dozen people compliment by mask. Who’ve thought . . .
Chet: I wonder what this means for youth baptisms? Since wearing a mask in water doesn’t seem appropriate, I wonder if they will re-close baptistries.
My county in California has the same population as Utah. Today we had 300 new Covid cases. Utah had 1,700. Like Lily said, it’s hard to simply overlook this and attempt to focus on their remaining qualities.
I know I’ve said similar things on other posts, but there is a lot of misunderstanding of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. I really do feel the majority are trying to do what’s right. I’ll admit there is a selfish minority out there.|
I looked at multiple studies on masks. It seemed for every one I saw paraded through mainstream media on their effectiveness, I’d find two from equally reputable groups that found the use statistically insignificant or worse. So I started looking beyond epidemiology. I discovered that statistically, my kids were more likely to go missing or be abducted (the union of those two, not either separately) than they were to die of Covid. Under certain settings, a mask hugely reduces the ability to identify both the abductor and abductee. Child abductions have gone up since lockdowns went into place, and I made the decision my kids would not wear them unless either parent had eyes on them. I didn’t want to take on the appearance of potential abductor either. Does that seem like a ridiculous worry? Probably, but it also puts child Covid into perspective.
When people started wearing masks, I also realized how much I relied on reading the faces of people. I’m a middle-aged white male, bearded, slightly taller than average. My favorite time to go walking is on cooler days, wearing sunglasses and a beanie or hoodie. I can tell there are times when females walking in the opposite direction get nervous at my approach (when my dog is with me it’s amazing how much of that is alleviated). Personally, I get nervous too seeing someone like me. Early in the pandemic, although kind of hard to put my finger on, I found masks did something similar. The more I learned about Covid, and the more masks affected human interaction, I decided for my own sake and others, I’d avoid them except where asked. I haven’t really regretted that decision.
I watched the suicide numbers rise during Covid. They scared me. You don’t recover from that. Your family members might not as well. I watched hunger deaths rise in third world countries so most of us could avoid a sore throat and losing our sense of smell (all the while many of these third world countries experienced lower Covid deaths per capita as sunlight/Vitamin D was increasingly seen as an effective Covid prevention and early treatment). Lockdowns started feeling more and more unethical by the day. Some of the most compelling arguments I saw stated that once we knew who were most at risk, we could work to protect them, their primary care-givers, and anyone else who desired it, while the rest of us let the virus quickly burn through the more resilient populations. By drawing it out, we may very well be killing more people in the long run. While still being cautious around at risk family and friends, I was willing to be part of that “burn.” I finally did get Covid a few weeks ago.
Those are just a few of many examples of sciences beyond epidemiology that have affected how I chose to be my neighbor’s keeper.
I don’t blame you in the least for questioning my intelligence, as I may admittedly question yours, or at least your methodology. I do not at all question your good intentions. I’ll admit I sometimes wish family and friends made more attempts to understand my intentions. I do think a lot of it comes down to emotional intelligence. The fact that someone thinks differently than we do makes us mad, and we look to blame. That’s a problem I’d like to see go away just as much as Covid.
So today the FP asked members worldwide to be sure to wear masks in the temple. Why just in the temple? Why not have mandatory mask wearing in ALL wards and branches, buildings used for church services and activities, seminary etc. As I stated above I truly feel that the FP are thoroughly terrified of the antimasker/ultra conservative members. If these three men are supposed to set and be the top examples in the church in doing and teaching the will of the Father and the Son to the membership worldwide one would think that they would be eager to do the Christlike thing and insist that for the welfare and benefit of ALL members mask wearing would IMMEDIATELY become mandatory in all church meetings and activities inside and out of church buildings. However, the anti maskers would most likely resign their membership, call the FP false or fallen prophets and take their tithing money with them. It would be the largest exodus from the church in its history.
One of my favorite hymns is “Do What is Right” which states “Do what is right let the consequence follow.” Are our highest leaders so deathly afraid to do what is right in order to accommodate and retain those church members who display selfish and ethically challenged behavior with regard to the whole Covid pandemic situation as well as in areas of political ideology (and its attendant behaviors and personal conduct) that they would actually rather choose to put the rest of the members who are trying their best to live Christ’s gospel in very dangerous and possibly lethal situations? Not everyone can watch church on Zoom. If this is really the case, our church has truly lost its way, and that thought makes my heart ache. For all that I have felt lost and on the outside of my own ward for some time, I do love the gospel of Jesus Christ as He preached it vs. the endless and often senseless rules or cultural oddities that have been added and that are often mistaken to be the gospel. How I wish that we as a church could return to that simple, glorious gospel that Christ actually taught!
Eli, given that you’ve written, “I decided for my own sake and others, I’d avoid them except where asked. I haven’t really regretted that decision,” it seems safe to assume you’re wearing masks at church, yes?
@eli I’m mostly with you on lockdowns (harm outweighs benefits) but not masks. Masks work and there is a ton of credible data on that point.
My under-12 kids, who made it through all last year attending school and traveling and activities where masks were required and didn’t get covid despite being around people who did, are currently sitting at home instead of in school because they got covid at their now-maskless schools. Tons of other friends in the same boat, and teachers getting (mild) cases (since they are vaccinated) is rampant now as well in a way it never was last year. The evidence there is really compelling and it’s a simple thing that kept my kids healthy up until this school year.
So yeah, I don’t have a ton of patience for people who won’t take a really simple step to protect others. I don’t care if people “think differently” but this isn’t a thought or opinion – it’s a behavior. And it’s a behavior that puts others and did put my family at risk. Just like I’m OK of people “think differently” about the second amendment but not if they bring a loaded gun into a school because they personally don’t feel that is dangerous. Thoughts vs behaviors.
On Eli’s comment. Classic missing the forest for the trees. And what forest is he missing? Well, none other than the fact that if we did nothing to intervene (no masks, no lockdowns, no vaccines) it would doom tens of millions of people to death and terminal illness around the world. It would usher in a collapse of healthcare systems around the world because of being overwhelmed with patients. In his long comment there is no mention of that or the ethics of allowing that to happen. He complains of masks and vaccines as if those are what are really keeping us from enjoying full freedom. Uh, no. It is Eli and his ilk with their persistent and willfully uninformed denial about the reality of COVID and the obvious solutions to it through vaccination that are paradoxically the impediments to freedom. We have the capability to vaccinate every person in the US. Imagine if that has happened. Would we be wearing masks now? No. Would we be worried about the spread of the delta variant in the US? No. He thinks that the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are trying to do the right thing. No they’re not. The misinformation they spread and subscribe to is the second virus plaguing humanity and contributes to slowing its progress even more than the coronavirus itself.
Eli also brings up how he has read a lot on coronavirus (“done his own research” I guess). Well, so have I. But ultimately, the issue isn’t reading about coronavirus. For very few of us have the time and resources to do the reading and research necessary to have an actual good understanding of the virus and overall public health. A lot of it comes down to trusting experts, researchers, and the overall system around us. And Eli wants us to be open-minded about all this alternative information he has found and yet paradoxically is paranoically closed-minded about mainstream knowledge. A classic conspiracist fallacy. We must be always entertain alternative explanations, (for failure to do so is closed-minded and you don’t want to be closed-minded, do you?) all while regarding mainstream explanations to be inherently wrong and fallacious. Conspiratorial logic is really some of the most closed-minded drivel out there and its peddlers are often some of the most incorrigible, arrogant people I have ever met. What makes it dangerous is how it masquerades as open-mindedness and dupes countless droves into its clutches on that premise.
I’m tired of traffic lights. They interfere with my freedom. When I want to go somewhere, I should be able to drive as fast as I want and shouldn’t have to stop for other people. They are being paranoid. Besides, I will be fine. . . . Do you see how dumb that sounds?
Up until a few weeks ago, I was one of the very last ones in Sacrament Meeting wearing a mask, only because they asked the unvaccinated to do so. I’m sure there were a few unvaccinated who didn’t wear them. After having a Covid a few weeks ago, I started taking it off when I wasn’t singing or in close proximity to others. I was about to remove it for the entirety of the block when the Church made its most recent statement regarding regular meetinghouses and mask use. Most of the vaccinated and unvaccinated started wearing them again. I noticed those with natural immunity were not. Due to work requirements, I also finally got vaccinated. At this point, I don’t think I can be any less of a threat to anyone around me for some time regardless of how the majority read the science, so I don’t plan on wearing unless asked again. A good chunk of the ward is aware of my health situation with regards to Covid (as well as that of rest of the ward). I don’t think I’m going to rub anyone the wrong way, nor has anyone in our ward been rubbed the wrong way on Sunday or any other given day of the week by anyone else that I’m aware of. Most realize others are just doing what they think is best. Pretty awesome ward actually.
Thoughts/behaviors. I was basically lumping them. We could probably trade a half-dozen studies and not have our minds changed. I’m largely trying to do what’s best for my kids, as are you. I’ll admit the problem is much less of a hassle for me since we homeschool. I sincerely wish your kids a speedy recovery. I’ve had far worse illnesses than Covid, but it was far from fun.
I’m not anti-vax, I just had some concerns about these particular injections. But as you read above, bigger concerns made them the most expedient choice for me at the moment.
With all the respect I can muster John, the absolute best thing you can do right now for the cause of masks and vaccines is to just remove yourself from the conversation entirely. I watch as you frequently talk down to and name call other commenters here on any variety of subjects, justify the behavior to mods with the number of up votes you have, then repeat. You seem far less concerned with traversing right and wrong in a quest to learn and more just about being right. It’s no wonder you so frequently side with a majority since you often use it to fuel your ego. I read your talk of mandates, your high disregard for anyone just trying to do their best, and I end up thinking “This is a man who seems capable of doing some truly terrible things to people in the name good.” I truly pray you don’t get any political power now or in the future. When it comes down to it, for a lot of people, the masks and vaccines aren’t the main object of fear. They look at politicians with minds resembling yours, on both sides of the aisle, and see people willing to use these objects not for their own sake, but as political weapons, and it makes them wonder what else they’re capable of, as I do you. It’s rhetoric like yours that actually removes some of the spotlight from masks and vaccines and causes people to plant feet in realization freedom might be the bigger fight. And before you give me another freakin’ lecture on how the I’m so shortsighted and won’t experience true freedom until the pandemic is over, I’ll just say you’re wrong. I’d rather die and face multiple strains of Covid before I see people like you in power, promising to “benevolently hand power back” to the people when you see fit. And frankly, the more I look at worldwide case studies regarding the chaos, danger, and uncertainty of freedom in times of crisis, the more convinced I am that liberal freedom is ultimately the best (if slightly unwieldy) weapon to combat that chaos, danger, and uncertainty. I’m honestly not seeking freedom just for its own sake (though that would be enough). I do think much of it is grounded in science right now. None of that precludes being responsible wherever possible. So, please, for your sake, unless there’s a side of you I don’t know, your best bet for the cause is to keep your fingers still.
Not sure if your words were directed at me. I didn’t actually bring up freedom this time until John did. Yes, I see how dumb that sounds. It doesn’t, however, sound any dumber than comparing the simplicity of a traffic light with the complexity of law (or lack thereof) and science in times of a pandemic. I’ll admit it would so nice if it was that simple.
@eli, you probably won’t believe me because I come across as such a raging liberal in many comments, but I’ve changed my opinion several times on masks. I opposed mandates at first when I didn’t see compelling research. I changed my mind after favorable research came in. This summer I thought that since vaccinations were widely available we should stop requiring them and was looking forward to kids attending school without masks. Then with delta and so many infections in kids, I thought schools should go back to masking to protect kids but should make exceptions for younger & special needs kids (where masks interfere with communication more).
One of our biggest problems right now is our inability to change our minds once we’ve decided on something – and then we filter everything through confirmation (and a host of other biases). I fully admit that I do this as well, although I really have tried to be flexible and middle-of-the-road on this one as data and circumstances changed.
I’m glad covid was not terrible for you and my kids (as most kids) are fine so far. But 1 in 500 in the US dead is nothing to sneeze at. Some of those 1 in 500 were in my family and some of them got Covid *at church.*
“I’d rather die and face multiple strains of Covid before I see people like you in power,”
Wow. I don’t know what to say. You OK? It might do you well to take a break from this blog for a while.
I read this post last night after I had spent two hours in my stake president’s office talking about this EXACT issue—that I could no longer trust that my faith community was a safe, supportive place. When he asked if there was anything he could do to help, I told him I had no clue how to heal the rupture. I shared that I felt that the Q15 waited too long to speak up. I thought(and think) the church’s response to Delta’s spread was gutless, and my perception was that their weak sauce approach was due, in part, to not wanting to “offend” people.
While I understand the intent of deferring to individual agency, not enough emphasis is being placed on the consequences or obligations of exercising that agency. I am exhausted by those who want unlimited freedom to follow whatever belief, inclination, whim, or “inspiration” that strikes them, without restraint. I have heard a version of “we won’t be ruled by fear” or “if you don’t like it, stay home and hide” weekly for 18 months. My under 12 grandchildren, my immunocompromised daughter, and my RN in training daughter have all had to deal with the consequences the “free” folk won’t acknowledge exist.
I have had too many conversations with active, recommend holding members that resent Covid limitations. Their reactions range from annoyance at the inconvenience, to conspiracy to lie, or hide test results in an effort to avoid quarantine. When a couple of moms told me their strategy to keep their children playing sports at any cost, I realized that they would have no problem having their Covid positive son passing the sacrament to otherwise avoid detection. I don’t know how you sit shoulder to shoulder in a classroom or an endowment session with those individuals after that. When my daughter comes home after a clinical shift, battered by hearing a dad, hospitalized with covid, blaming his 17 year old daughter for killing her mother with the Covid she brought home from Girl’s camp, what do you tell a stake president about how to get past this?
As another responder said, the world is burning down and I am left with an indifferent faith community. They carry on with their missionary farewells and RS salad socials as if it is Sept 2019. They embody the acronym I heard for denial yesterday: don’t even ‘k’now that I am lying. Most of them aren’t malicious. And to be honest, my frustration is less with the idiots and more with our leaders who, by saying little or nothing, cede the moral high ground. Elder Anderson can go on a 20 minute tirade about abortion and Elder Holland can attack a gay valedictorian—but when thousands of people are dying a day, mostly due to willful ignorance, and they say NOTHING, they lose their moral authority with me. The warm-fuzzy-soft touch social media stuff isn’t cutting it. I’m done with goal setting for theoretical post-mortality aspirations. I need guidance to help me cope with the brutality and depraved indifference of the now.
I am looking to Jesus and doing all I can to be his disciple so I can build the faith necessary to keep going. The rest of it—programs, policies, organizational charts, committees, good intentions—is sound and fury amounting to nothing. I imagine them sitting around in committees trying to come up with policies on how to put the fire out (blame the gays, fight for religious freedom, save the family) when really the only thing to do is put the damn fire out. Being our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper would be the best place to start. But I think it is on us to do that individually at this point.
I really am open to changing my mind. It’s one of the only ways to learn. I bounced back and forth early on as well when it came to masks. Not so much anymore. There’s a lot data out there. My cousin is a dentist. He researched them like his life depended on it just as the pandemic started, because it initially seemed that way. He eventually came to the conclusion that for this particular family of viruses, they do nothing. I don’t think that necessarily means they wouldn’t be useful in other situations. If they do nothing for this particular virus, wearing them basically then becomes a matter of weighing the other costs of wearing them against a desire to make others feel at ease. I think it ultimately depends on the situation. If my kids are in a relatively safe place and I have a handle on the situation, I have no problem wearing them for the benefit of others. I would have a problem with the government forcing people to wear them.
I’m pretty sure those who are unwilling to face any of the risks for the 1 in 500 are still utilizing Zoom church right now, at least in my ward, but yes, no death is a sneezing matter.
Assuming or pretending your question is genuine, yes, I’m fine. Thanks for asking. Yes, seeing only what I’ve seen of you here at this blog, I do not think a life under your exclusive jurisdiction would be bearable. Any glimmer of hope in changing that and it would be.
Look John, I’m not nearly as eloquent as you are, but please allow me another try getting across what I can with respect to freedom (since you brought it up first this time). There are a lot of things I’d like to see society adopt. There are a lot of things I think humanity could benefit from having me in charge. I’d love to see everyone own a gun and learn how to properly use it. I’d love to see everyone learn at least two additional languages, and spend some time in a foreign country. I’d love to see the general population dive deeper into the STEM subjects while placing no less emphasis on the arts. A required reading list might be nice. I’d love to see everyone spend a few weeks on a farm, and so, so much more. Here’s the thing though. As confident as I am in those things, I’m humble enough to realize that
1. I could actually be wrong on some of these things (as I’m sure you’d inhumanly quickly agree), and there might be disastrous consequences for a small (or large) group of people who are just as deserving of happiness as I am.
2. Given the power I have to implement those things means I probably also have the power (if only in a round-about form) to implement things that are truly terrible, even if I’ve convinced myself it’s right or for the greater good. That could lead to disastrous consequences.
3. Even if the power I have benefits everyone and I use it as benevolently as humanly possible, someone else could very well take it from me, and use it for less benevolent intentions.
John, I fear every single one of those disastrous consequences far more than I fear any natural disaster and the limitations inherent to them. I’m not advocating for anarchy. I’m not suggesting we abandon personal responsibility or care for our neighbor. I’m just saying that ultimately, I think a broad definition of freedom is going to be the fairest treatment for each and every individual, and one of the best tools for fighting disasters, since there is a freedom to cooperate. All the downsides of having stupid people like me around at these times are worth the price. Maybe that doesn’t feel fair right now, but the roles can easily be reversed, leaving freedom the best option still.
You know, I’ve been trying to wean myself from this blog for months now. It’s hard. Every few days I do learn something completely new, and I like that. I also learn a thing or two about how I can handle myself around less active or unorthodox members better, or where I can better focus my empathy. I even share some of these things with other active/orthodox members outside the bloggernacle from time to time.
But sometimes I read things here (yes, sometimes from you on occasion) that I’ll ponder for minutes, a day, or even weeks, and finally come to the conclusion that only one with his or her cynicism genetically enhanced (or maybe Satan raging in their hearts) could believe what it is they’re saying. It sounds arrogant and self-righteous, but disagreeing from time to time just feels like a moral responsibility at times. I try to refrain from doing it even more often, and I’d be more than willing to do it far less often if others spoke up more often, even if they differed from me slightly.
I once informally listed a dozen or so reasons for coming here and how it affected me and others. There has been a lot of good. But after six years, I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that W&T might be doing me and humanity more harm than good. I suppose that fact that it exists for the audience that needs it is enough to justify its existence. I can always focus my energies elsewhere.
But it really is hard to give up any amount good that comes from it.
Whoah @wheat&tares, don’t worry, I don’t think this blog is harming humanity. Would that you had that kind of power!
@eli, what’s was so discouraging about the pandemic (and TRUMP) is that it showed me just how many people can’t be counted on to be good neighbors. You’re right that a benevolent dictatorship is still a dictatorship but temporary health and safety measures based on evidence (yup, not going with your dentist cousin on this one, dentists are not epidemiologists) aren’t totalitarianism. And refusing to wear masks to protect other people isn’t being a good neighbor. It’s not. It’s just not.
Actually, you know what looks a little like a dictatorship? My state legislature actually forbidding my local schools from requiring masks even if local schools / health departments deem that to be appropriate for the school. So when a friend from my kid’s school (the school where my kid got covid) gets literally *five* exposure notices for one class in a one week (so clearly covid is raging through that class), the school is still not empowered to ask students to wear masks because the legislature said they weren’t allowed to. Who’s the dictator in this situation?
Eli, I must say that even after I’ve read over what you have written multiple times, I still have no idea what you mean by ‘freedom’ other than something very close to anarchy. But before you stop reading and write me off as some crazy, stay with me for a few minutes. First, I’ll go with the assumption that you lean heavily (or are) libertarian and that you ideas of freedom are based on theoretical ideals of non-force and almost no government as best. I can appreciate that. But those ideals (as naive as anything you might complain about on the other side) come with their own very, very dangerous outcomes (which I don’t want to elaborate on here because it would take much more writing that I have time for and a condensed version would look very much like the convoluted arguments you’re attempting to make above, though I do believe them to be in good will. A forum like this simply isn’t the place for very meaningful discussion or listening).
But, just so you know, not everyone advocating for a community coming together to decide on laws designed for the common welfare are commies or dictatorial or advocating for Satan’s plan or deceived or trying to or advocating for taking away or limiting individual freedom or agency. (Though you certainly disagree. Then again, we’d quickly run into the problems of judging others theoretical motives and on definitions of ‘freedom’ and ‘ agency’, not to mention their intelligence.) Bottom line, however, I think it’s very difficult to argue that, theoretically, either more laws or fewer laws are a mark of ‘better’ or ‘more righteous’ society. There are way too many other factors to consider (not the least of which is who controls power, etc.) Regardless, in the Christian sense, how we individually and collectively take care of and love others (the second great commandment) is what matters most–despite Benson’s arguments, (which were very often sloppy (treating government and economic systems without nuance or even, at times, as the same) and which were much resisted by Church leaders at the time).
I’ll wager that you disagree with me, which is fine, (especially with the idea of ‘collective’ responsibility, etc.), but your comments read on an objective level as embodying the moral that self-interestedness is not only an economic imperative, but also a governmental one, and, consequently, too often a moral one. Just so you know how what you are saying looks; that selfishness should trump everything. Now, I don’t believe you would actually argue that in every case, but I would suggest that it appears that you would do so in many more cases than what follows what is commonly understand as traditional Judeo-Christian values–and this because of the strong pull of the political environment of the past eighty years or so (which is quite short in the history of human communities). And, I fully understand that you would argue the same back to people on the left. The difference as they would see it, is that they would be focusing on ‘love,’ and you would be focusing on, as they see it, an abstract notion of ‘freedom’ that is suspect because of the inherent selfish interests that are so extremely difficult, if not impossible, to separate from that notion among contemporary conservatives (including libertarians).
Anyway, that’s too much already. Hopefully there’s something in there of worth. All the best. Time to go rake some leaves.
Eli, my brother who is the head of the emergency room at his hospital would be more than happy for you to come and spend an hour or two witnessing what he does day in and day out 12 hours on 12 hours off duty. You might be asked to work with the National Guard members who were called in to help in the hospitals because there aren’t enough hospital staff to take care of all of the patients right now. This would be an excellent way for you to see the effects of Covid up close and personally. You seem sincere in wanting to make an informed decision. And while you’re at it please don’t forget to talk to some Covid Longhaulers-people who got Covid but who never got well and who now deal with a variety of health challenges ranges ranging from extreme chronic fatigue, continued fever, chills and insomnia to serious brain disorders, decreased lung capacity and various heart ailments. I’m a Longhauler going on 16 months and would be happy to share my story with you. Armed with your new first hand knowledge I’m sure that you would be better prepared to make the best and safest decisions regarding masks, social distancing and vaccines for yourself and for your family.
The church has several internal challenges that limit its possibilities. Maybe that will always be true. Right now, though, I’m convinced that none of its problems is more hazardous than the ideology that Eli describes here. This ideology puts severe limits on our ability to bring souls to Christ. We can’t get to Zion on the road that people like Eli want us to travel. Theirs is a political ideology of radical, libertarian individualism that some people in the church have turned into religious dogma. The problem is not unique to Mormonism, but it has become a basic part of religion for a lot of Latter-day Saints. I know many people who are so deep in the rabbit hole that they can’t see the difference between these political beliefs and Mormon teachings.
For these people, any kind of collective action is suspect—it must always be tested against the unquestionable standard of radical individual “freedom.” Should we build a road? Should we organize a school? Should we create a force of firefighters? Okay, maybe, but they’ll be suspicious about it to the extent that it doesn’t ideally suit their needs. And they’ll complain about it not just on the basis of practical considerations, which are always part of the give-and-take in a community. Instead, they’ll complain on principle—their “freedom” is being infringed. Or, trying to be subtle, they will make the bizarre argument that Eli makes above: collective action hinders our “freedom to cooperate.” They reject even the possibility of countering or controlling the abuse of political power. That is an extremism that will shut a community down.
For these people, the foundational concept of the gospel is “freedom,” in their religio-political sense of the word. In church they’ll talk about “agency” more than “freedom,” but to them “agency” means the same thing. Their religion begins—before even the life and atonement of Jesus—with agency. Again, collective action in the church is suspect, always subject to the test of individual freedom. Where responsibility was once a concept primarily about our duty to others, for the Mormon libertarians it becomes mostly about maintaining one’s private integrity. What matters is resisting temptation, having a personal testimony, and demonstrating your spiritual resilience. The value of love and service is primarily in the way those virtues enhance one’s spiritual strength, secondarily in their inherent goodness, and only incidentally in the way they benefit the community.
The church will wither under this political ideology. The gospel is about transcending our individuality, not exalting it. As we change through the love of Christ, we become defined by our relationships with others rather than our individuality. The restored gospel is meant to join people together in transformative, eternal bonds of friendship, family, and community. Compared to other Christian movements, that is what distinguishes the Mormon faith in Jesus Christ. In an unbalanced obsession with personal agency and freedom, some of us are losing the thread that ties us to the hope of Zion.
Your comment conveys words I didn’t even know I needed to hear. Thank you times one million.
If we aren’t willing to endure a few minor inconveniences for our fellow man like wearing a mask and getting a vaccine, both of which are highly recommended by both our religious and medical leaders, what are we willing to do in order to build Zion? Zion will not be built in a libertarian bubble. Zion requires sacrifice. Zion requires putting others before me. What a beautiful sentiment, if we are willing to hear it.
Since the government’s number one role is to protect the rights of the individual, I’d say it’s the one looking less dictatorial right now, but I’d agree schools are an entirely messy situation (I’ll admit I’m as happy as ever not to be in that setting right now).
Brian (And Loursat to an extent, since the same point applies),
I have a lot of libertarian leanings, but they lose me at a few things. I generally don’t associate the title with myself exclusively, although I have identified as a “libertarian-leaning” conservative at times.
I genuinely appreciate your response. There are many people out there framing this as individual rights vs. personal and/or social responsibility. That’s way too binary for me, and seems dismissive of the idea that for many of us, advocating for individual rights is seen as the ultimate social responsibility and a Christ-like attribute. I don’t like seeing other individuals marginalized. I don’t like seeing other individuals restricted to accommodate other groups. I don’t want my children to experience any of that. And yes, I wouldn’t care to experience it either. The Savior went after the one. You can argue something is for the greater good, but will it always be that obvious? Will you consistently be able to rely on authority to make that call? Hasn’t history shown us entire institutions can be wrong? Can you be certain once it takes power in a crisis it will relinquish it when over? Is it better to take each crisis case by case and hope for the best when the crisis subsides, or just keep a broad definition of liberty to avoid having to tackle all those questions in real time or when it’s too late. For me, I think history makes the latter the better choice.
A Poor Wayfaring Stranger (and still Brian and Loursat to an extent),
I don’t think I’ve denied that Covid is a terrible thing prior to this point. I have immediate family in healthcare as well. I have one acquaintance in the hospital right now and she’s had her heart restarted multiple times because of this disease. I’m not denying any of that. I just feel there are things out there worse than Covid and even more things with the potential to be worse, depending on what the government is allowed to do.
I imagine there are just a few things you might fear worse than death. As a Christ-like individual, you might be willing to experience those fears if both majority and authority asked you to, and you knew it was right. But what if after doing all your best efforts to inform yourself, you sincerely felt they were mistaken in what they were asking, to the detriment of themselves. Would you still feel comfortable experiencing those fears for majority and authority?
Suppose the Fauci-equivalent of a psychologist came out tomorrow in front of the press and said that recent studies show masks and social distancing have reduced the human connections to such a state that depression and suicide have run rampant, and are having far more devastating effects than Covid. Additionally, the Fauci-equivalent of a criminologist comes out and reports studies showing greater crime rates and an inability to identify criminals is occurring, not to mention a rise in child abductions. An announcement is then made that all public mask-wearing will be criminalized. Would you just dive in with both feet, accept them for their word, and assume there must be no better way to love your neighbor, or would you want the freedom to tailor the situation to yourself and those around you?
Personally, I would wear masks religiously if I felt the net positives outweighed the negatives after learning all I can about the situation (I would hope the information flows smoothly, but admittedly, that means misinformation does as well, which will be a risk). I would not want the government telling me not to. I might be wrong, you might be wrong, the majority might be wrong, the minority might be wrong, but on the chance that authority is wrong, everyone suffers. Whatever the risks, dangers, and inconveniences there are inherent to individual liberty, where being wrong can still cause a lot of damage, I ultimately see it as the most impartial platform for which Christ-like love can ultimately flourish to its fullest extent.
I’m not just trying to stick it to the man for its own sake, although I’ll admit I admire some who do. I’m just trying to do what I think is right. I’d like the freedom to do that, even if it means I’m wrong on occasion. I’d like you to have the freedom to do that, even if I think you’re wrong on occasion (or even if I think you’re wrong most of the time). I don’t want government institutions deciding that for either of us.
On freedom, the folks beating the drum most loudly about freedom nowadays appear to be conservatives and libertarians. And it just strikes me as odd.
I was a teenager in the 90s and a college student in the 2000s. Back then, it seemed the folks pushing the boundaries on freedom were liberals and that the conservative-minded folks feared the freedoms they wanted. Freedom of women to get an abortion, freedom to criticize the government (particularly the Bush administration’s actions), freedom of LGBTQ+s to be open and express themselves. Freedom from involvement in war. Freedom for immigrants and minorities. Freedom to use explicit language in songs and in jokes. To me conservatives seemed wary of freedom. And liberals were more embracing of it.
As a conservative youth, these freedoms that liberals called for seemed wild and daring, and as such had a sort of sex appeal that lured me in. It was a painful and fraught transition from conservatism to liberalism, but once I made it 13 years ago, I never looked back. The idea of freedom led me on that journey.
And so when I hear conservatives claiming to be the true defenders of freedom, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel like I fought that battle (well, within myself) for years and came to embrace freedom as a sort of rejection of what I perceived to be rigid, freedom-suppressing conservative culture. To this day, in my mind the ideology I associate with freedom and have long associated with freedom is US liberalism/progressivism. To hear conservatives claiming that they are the party/ideology of freedom is like water being poured on the oils of my brain, which allow zero seepage of such a concept. Unfortunately, freedom is no longer sloganeered in liberal circles. That needs to be changed.
“To me conservatives seemed wary of freedom.”
Classic misconception of most conservatives I know, although there is a minority who would like to see their conservative views legislated (Utah is guilty of this way too often). From a freedom standpoint, I can get behind everything you listed but the abortion (a conversations for another time and place). Conservatives just also want the freedom to preach against aspects of those things they might find harmful. I may not think masks are a net positive, but I don’t think that means you have any less of a right to tell me why I’m wrong, nor would I expect the government to limit your ability to do that. In some ways, losing that ability is what many conservatives fear as much or more as the dangers they see inherent to liberalism itself.
President Nelson encouraged us all to make a list of lessons we have learned during this pandemic. He also encouraged us to share it with others. My list is ever evolving. Here are a few, some of which have to do with being our brother’s keeper:
1- We need to remember the purpose of our existence is to show who we are. We show that by our choices and attitudes. To this end, God has given us a ton of freedom, and then waits to see what we will do with it. Will we choose him (1st great commandment) even when we have no memory of our relationship? Will we choose to sacrifice for others (2nd great commandment) even when doing so causes us discomfort or inconvenience? Ironically, this freedom given by God is temporary. We are told that if we use this freedom well, then we get to keep it. If not, that freedom is probably taken away in the next life. Only those who prove their worthiness get to progress with that freedom to become like God. Why? Because they have shown that they are willing to do things His way, and use their power to bless others at all costs to themselves (also His way). Our freedom only matters if we use it for good. If we use it for evil, it is for nothing.
2- I’ve heard people talk about how others are being deceived. I think that deception is usually a choice. Obviously, God is the final judge of this, but think about the fact that God judges us all on whether we are deceived by Satan and act on that deception. We are told that we have all been given the way to judge good from evil. That means that when we are “deceived”, we are usually choosing that narrative because it allows us to feel better about doing the things we wanted to do. Think about Korihor in Alma 30. Classic example.
3- In the Choose the Right song, there is a line that says there “is a right and wrong to every question.” I’ve heard plenty of talk from church members of “you do you, and I’ll do me and that’s ok. We shouldn’t judge each other.” It is a Satanic doctrine that there is no right and wrong. He takes partial truths and combines them with untruths. God has said that anything more or less than the truth cometh from Satan. We need to be very careful not to fall prey to these twisted truths. Every line we hear should be compared back to the scriptural records and the living prophets. Is it more or less than the truth?
4- I have also heard a lot about unity. I decided to study about unity and why God wants it and what it truly looks like. Here is what I’ve found so far. The kind of unity that God wants s is for us to be unified in keeping the commandments, doing His will, and caring for others more than ourselves. That is unity. I found a great quote that says that the enemies of unity are disobedience and selfishness. Think about that! Those are the two great commandments right there. We cannot be unified with unrighteousness and selfishness. That is not God’s plan, that is Satan’s unifying plan. Zion is one heart and one mind – everyone has the heart and mind of God, not themselves. That is why they are unified.
5 – People keep talking about not judging others. This is a hard one. I think that Christ is the ultimate judge because he has the most knowledge and doesn’t have earthly biases and sins clouding his view. Think about a court judge – they wouldn’t dream of deciding on a case before the evidence and testimony is presented. Also, they shouldn’t judge a case if they are biased in any way. They even reject potential jurors for this. So, we should remember that we make lousy judges of others because we don’t understand all the facts or see clearly. However, we are told that we should judge right from wrong, and to judge righteous judgement. How do we balance these two sides of this question? I think we need to continually repent so we can try to see clearly. We are told to first remove the beam from our own eyes, after all. We need to gather facts by reading our scriptures so we aren’t biased. And then, we need to use our judgement of right and wrong to try to save others, not condemn them. That is judgement used for a righteous purpose. An example – lets say I judge that my neighbor doesn’t have enough food. A righteous judgement would be that I use that knowledge to help them. An unrighteous judgement would mean I condemn them and look away without helping. During Covid we can see where others are being deceived or choosing wrongly. How can we try to save them? How can we use our knowledge in a righteous way?
6- In D&C 64:36 it says the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim and will be plucked out. This verse really struck me, and I’ve started studying about what it means to rebel against God. It means we don’t want to “Hear Him” or “Let God Prevail.” It means that we fighting against His servants and what they say. It means we know what the commandments are, and choose to turn away from them. I feel like Covid is part of this plucking process. I have seen people are both sides get plucked out already, and my heart breaks. I heard a podcaster talk about sifting, like you would sift flour or sugar – you move it back and forth, maybe even bang it against something. People on both sides are being sifted out. Safety might just lie in the middle, sticking close to Christ and his teachings, not on the extremes. Maybe our path to protection is to quench any rebellion on our part, and to be patient with God and His servants during this. Stay away from extreme views that contort our hearts in a rebellious way.