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.