A lot has happened over the last three years that overshadows the normal Mormon blogging topics, events and developments that just demand to be addressed in a blog. There was Covid-19 in early 2020 and Trump’s bungled response to it. There was the mess that was the Election of 2020, Trump’s coup-like response to losing that election, and the subsequent Big Lie that still troubles the body politic. And now there is Putin’s War in Ukraine, the consequences of which, like Covid and Trump, are going to be with us for years and years. There have been many posts on all of these events and topics here at W&T and on other LDS blogs. So here’s the issue: If Real World Events have been so potent and so intrusive as to force there way into so many posts of what is otherwise a blog focused primarily on LDS issues, has the same thing happened in the life of our readers and of most other Mormons? Has our Time of Troubles decade, the 2020s, produced such jarring events that, by comparison, the day-to-day Church stuff and the usual set of repeated gospel discussions in church and in classes seem just not that important anymore?
The Church has tried to sidestep most of this noise. I’d give the Church a B+ for its overall Covid response. It waited a few weeks before taking action (so it’s not an A) but then it took the almost unimaginable steps of (1) bringing most overseas missionaries back to their home countries, and (2) cancelling in-person church for units all over the world. Since then, the leadership has just sort of muddled through, eventually cautiously reopening temples and visitors centers and in-person church services. At this point, March of 2022, we’re at a “let’s pretend everything is back to normal” phase, at least until the next variant emerges and sweeps across the globe.
I’d give the Church a C- for its overall Trump response. The fact that members of the Church in the United States are overwhelmingly Republican obviously complicated the Church’s response, but the leadership still performed poorly. First, they delayed the standard congratulatory letter or news release to the winning candidate Joe Biden for weeks and weeks, strengthening (in the minds of Republican-leaning members) the idea that Trump didn’t really lose and there was something wrong with the US election. It also gave credence to the idea that most LDS leaders were quietly Trump supporters. Then the LDS leadership was largely silent as most of those LDS Republicans got sucked into believing Trump’s Big Lie and running with it. And here we are in March of 2022 with a highly politicized Church (the leadership never really countered the malicious influence of Ezra Taft Benson, and is now paying for it) and highly politicized cadre of Trump followers within the Church. It’s not much of an overstatement to say that politics has ruined the Church. The political disease is not fatal, but it is definitely afflicting the Church at all levels.
How about Putin’s War in Ukraine? I’d give the Church an A- for its early response. This is just the kind of humanitarian crisis that the Church is equipped to respond to. Of course, the Church doesn’t have a military response and tries to play the peace card. That’s what all churches do. It’s governments and armies that handle the military, diplomatic, and political side of the war. Churches and a variety of other organizations attempt to provide humanitarian assistance to the millions of refugees who have taken flight and civilians trapped in war zones.
What else is coming at us as we slog through this troubled decade? More of the same, for one. More Covid variants, particularly those that evade current vaccines. More US elections with Trump doing his best to throw a wrench in the election process for the November 2022 election and a hundred million Americans seeming to hang on his every word. And whatever happens in Russia and Europe in coming weeks as Russia goes into economic meltdown, Ukraine becomes a pile of rubble, and a desperate Mr. Putin fights to retain power. What else could happen? A big volcanic eruption disrupts global weather? India and Pakistan start their own little war? China decides the time is right to recapture Taiwan?
So back to the issue raised in the first paragraph: Have all of these Real World Events changed the way average Church members go about their church life, their day-to-day LDS activities? Has Trumpish politics in church affected your attendance or your interest in associating with other Mormons? Has Covid and the suspension of in-person church for many months, or possibly anti-vax rhetoric from some LDS folks in your area, affected your attendance or your interest in associating with other Mormons? Has the spectre of an expanded Ukraine War (Moldova? Poland? Romania? Estonia and Lithuania?) and non-zero possibility of nuclear strikes affected your Mormon life? Anyone considered upgrading their 72-hour kit to a 2-month kit? I have bought batteries and extra water, keep a lot of cash around, and keep my gas tanks full, but I’m sure there are LDS preppers out there who are sitting on barrels of wheat, surrounded by canned goods and generators and ammo, gleefully anticipating Armageddon.
Let’s hope Armageddon remains a vague concept pushed off to the distant future. Let’s hope the Killer Variant never emerges. Let’s hope Trump fades into political obscurity. But we’re not there yet and we have to get through life one day at a time. We get through church one week at a time. How life going? How’s church going?