I have come to sense that God’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic if he were in my place would be to stay home and make as little physical contact with others as possible.
You might wonder how one could come to that conclusion. I’ll explain.
A Divine Influence
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A fundamental teaching of the church is that God is our Father, the father of our spirits which lived with him before birth. And like any healthy father, God wants for us to grow to our full potential and measure, and if we desire, to grow to be fathers and mothers ourselves someday. In that respect we would be like him.
But God, in his perfected and holy state, would ovewhelm us if we were to see him as we currently are in our imperfect mortal state. It’s difficult to become something one has never seen and knows nothing about. So God has provided a teacher, who is not seen but felt, and is so subtle and quiet that he does not impose himself upon us, but rather lets us choose if we want to attend class in a sense, and learn more about who and what God is. That teacher is called the Holy Ghost.
Through the Holy Ghost, God can reveal his will, and expose who and what he is.
The Making of Prophet
There are many who practice carefully the steps to hear the Holy Ghost. And because God feels his life is the life of greatest joy and happiness, through the Holy Ghost he inspires those who listen to share his message, and to encourage others to learn and follow as well.
The President of our Church, Russell M. Nelson, has spent decades working very hard to hear the Holy Ghost, and trying to become like God. I’ve spoken with him twice, and have felt that very clearly in both interactions.
But President Nelson is not a life-long leader in our church. He is an example that one can be like you and me–having jobs, raising a family, taking care of a home, all the typical things most of us do–while still striving to hear the voice of God through the Holy Ghost and trying to become like him.
Professionally, he is well qualified through decades of preparation to provide leadership about health. Here is an excerpt of his official biography on the church website:
An internationally renowned surgeon and medical researcher, Dr. Nelson received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Utah (1945, 47). Honorary scholastic societies include Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha. He served his residency in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at the University of Minnesota, where he was awarded his Ph.D. Degree in 1954….
His professional work included the positions of research professor of surgery and director of the Thoracic Surgery Residency at the University of Utah and chairman of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Author of numerous publications and chapters in medical textbooks, Elder Nelson lectured and visited professionally throughout the United States and in many other nations…
Dr. Nelson has served as president of the Society for Vascular Surgery, a director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, chairman of the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery for the American Heart Association, and president of the Utah State Medical Association.“Leader Biography: President Russell M. Nelson” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website.
I have thought how wonderful for God to have prepared for this moment by having him in a position to show leadership.
The Prophet’s Guidance
This week President Nelson, and his counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced suspending all church services in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
This was quite unexpected, and it seemed quite a sweeping response to the issue, as many areas of the world do not have significant numbers of cases, and the church is a global institution. For example, there are still relatively few cases in Africa and in some countries in South America that have many members.
As I have read news media reports in recent days, it has become clear to me that many of our political leaders are fearful of taking the kinds of actions President Nelson has taken; that reducing interactions among people is the most important thing to reducing the wave of initial sickness experienced, which can potentially overwhelm medical care; delaying that wave allows for greater preparation and more understand in how to respond to and control the virus.
This is not a permanent condition; this is buying time to prepare, understand, and effectively respond to this new disease.
Yesterday I went to the grocery store fairly early in the morning. It was pretty well stocked, and there were a lot of workers attempting to refill the shelves.
In the canned goods aisle I thanked one of them for their work on my behalf. I said I sensed she was having to work hard. She said trucks are coming in and delivering, but because of so many patrons and needing to man the front registers, it was difficult to get the goods out to the shelves.
She was cheerful though, and offered if there was something I needed to help me with it. The cashier was similarly cheerful as I thanked him for his service. The bag boy, somewhat disabled it seemed to me, was clearly very tired from his work. It felt good to bag my own groceries, to give him a bit of a break.
I posted on Facebook afterwards:
If someone’s work is slowing down due to the virus, you might consider volunteering at a grocery store. Those people are working hard and are tied. #GroceryStoreHeros.
It is clear to me that God loves the work these people are doing in behalf of others. It exposes them to serious illness; like healthcare workers, they are on the front lines of this battle, and like those on the front lines in war, the possibility of ending up in a hospital is greater for them. But by the nature of their jobs, it is the work they should be doing now.
That is not my work. My work allows me to work remotely, from home. Although I have traveled consistently for work for years (decades really), that’s not what I have done most recently, and I can be even more active in my work, more focused if I choose to be in what I need to accomplish, if I choose to be.
So given my situation, I sense deeply God wants me to stay home. Limiting my physical interactions to the greatest degree possible is the best thing I can do.
My dear wife prepared basic foods in my pantry a decade an a half ago that has brought peace to me the last two weeks, knowing I would have enough to simply stay put if needed.
And I had an impression a year ago, I think through that quiet influence of the Holy Ghost in my life, that I should improve my food storage closet. It was a strange thought, and yet it was very clear. I have acted on it a bit in the year, and yesterday took additional steps to make my stored food more accessible.
Wheat and Tares
A few years ago I was impressed by the parable of the Wheat and Tares. In it, the master of a field is surprised to find his newly planted field of wheat full of weeds, put there by his enemy. Rather than tearing it all up, he decides to let them grow together until the day of harvest when he would divide them out.
So while the tares are getting worse, just like this new disease, the wheat is also getting stronger. There is a balance in them. The evil never overwhelms the good. It is like the ancient Asian wisdom expressed in the symbol of yin and yang.
There will be great things that come of this new challenge. I can see the hand of the Lord in this. I share the testimony of President Nelson, as he shared last night.
Thanks for reading, and have a blessed sabbath.