Guest Post: Stoning the anti-vaxxers

This is guest post by Eric Hachenberger, who says he was born and raised in the Church in Austria, served his mission in Spain, studied Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution at BYU-Hawaii, and lives with his wife and daughter in Berlin. He works as Account Manager and a Conflict Coach on the side.

After the First Presidency’s message urging us to get vaccinated, a close relative of mine refused to do so and got Covid-19 a mere few weeks later. 

Me, the obedient member, who decided to be vaccinated after this prophetic counsel, felt like the world was in order now. ‘See, you should have been vaccinated,’ I thought, ‘then you wouldn’t have to suffer now.’ 

I am deeply ashamed of the thoughts I had at the time. Sadly though, I wasn’t the only one to think along these lines. In fact, I saw these tendencies spring up all around me. Similar patterns run outside the church as well.

Using the Gospel as a Hammer

Many of us, who were aligned with the First Presidency’s message’s content, immediately used it as a hammer to say, “See, I was right. Now go, think like me, and get vaccinated.” 

This is not how we are supposed to use the gospel. But it is sometimes how we would like to use the gospel, and sadly also do use it, but it really defeats its purpose. 

We don’t know exactly how Lucifer wanted to execute his plan of saving all of mankind. Only that it boiled down to the extermination of agency. There is, however, one prevalent theory among members of the church, namely, that Lucifer just wanted to force us to always do what is right. (The second theory, also quite compelling (pun intended), was to simply eradicate all the bad consequences of mistakes and sins). 

This tendency to force our ‘truth’ on someone else is easily observable in our natural, human state. ‘To be right’ just feels so good. To know (or at least deceive ourselves to think) that we chose and acted right holds tremendous satisfaction. And in its worst form, it becomes equal to the absolution of judging and condemning others. 

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More lessons from the election in Virginia

This article in the American Conservative is the best analysis I have seen on the 2021 elections in Virginia, in which traditional conservative candidates won big in a very blue state. Glenn Youngkin, a conservative Christian, won in an environment in which all kinds of forces claim conservative Christians are no longer electable.

Here are key excerpts from the article:

Youngkin, at least on the campaign trail, was able to unite disparate voters in a way no other Republican has for quite some time. After a late dinner in Old Town Alexandria, I ran into a brigade of moms passing out pink “I voted for Youngkin” wristbands on King Street. Once, pulling over to a farmers market west of the Shenandoah, I bought fresh apples from a lady in a “Farmers for Youngkin” hat. Youngkin signs adorned yards, medians, businesses, and cars everywhere I went in Virginia over the past few months. Next to Beto O’ Rourke’s campaign for Texas Senate in 2018, it was the rawest grassroots energy I have ever seen. 

Youngkin’s election will be over-analyzed until rendered meaningless like some bizarre racialist poem a Virginia high school assigns to its students. The Republican establishment, never ones to let good deeds go unpunished, have already attempted to worm their way into credit. I’m sure Frank Luntz will have an incomprehensible assortment of data sent to the RNC by the end of the week. Before history is rewritten, however, I’d like to highlight a few encouraging factors for the conservatives who made Youngkin’s victory possible. 

Youngkin campaigned heavily on the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education, a potent message in the aftermath of the drama in Loudoun County, Terry McAuliffe’s gaffes, and the rise of critical race theory. Education was a mobilizer and a winner. 

Democrats have concluded that education was a code for white supremacy. They’re a party that finds white supremacy in food products, children’s toys, and sporting events. Hysteria will blind them to the obvious lessons. Education, however, was indeed a code. In an era where Black Lives Matter has declared the nuclear family to be a white supremacist relic, Youngkin’s campaign addressed families as citizen stakeholders.

The principle at stake in the election was not Virginia’s K-12 curriculum but family as an institution itself. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t believe in family; he believes in the state. Placing education decisions in the hands of public-sector unions rather than parents is only an outgrowth of that fundamental belief. Typical Youngkin stumps mentioned CRT once or twice but addressed families and parents dozens of times. CRT was a potent message, but only when linked to the left’s broader war on the family unit. 

Due to the work of the aforementioned genius Frank Luntz and other consultants over the years, Republicans have long believed that capitulation on critical social issues is the only path to victory in blueing regions of the country. Youngkin’s campaign built on the seemingly counterintuitive gains of the Trump years and proved these narratives wrong. Youngkin stood firm on traditional social issues. He opposed same-sex marriage, supported the pro-life movement, and fought against gender ideology run amuck in Loudoun County.

He didn’t make same-sex marriage or abortion the focus of his campaign, but he also didn’t betray his conservative base in a desperate gambit for liberal votes. As a result, he was rewarded with sky-high turnout among evangelicals and overwhelming margins of support. Exit polls indicate that 88 percent of white evangelicals supported Youngkin, securing his tight victory. Rather than follow the disappointing model of other Republicans and depress this critical voting mass via compromise with progressive social narratives, Youngkin stood firm and turned them out to vote. In addition to family-first messaging, these same factors likely contributed to his consolidation of the rapidly realigning and socially conservative Hispanic vote as well. 

Finally, voters in Virginia soundly rejected the cultural implications of the progressive racialization of politics. It turns out that Americans support police and will not tolerate a party that actively degrades safety and quality of life. Youngkin leaned into the issue, boldly declaring his support for law enforcement and promising to sack the Virginia Parole Board on his first day in office. Amid a historic crime wave, the message struck a chord with voters. The election of Virginia’s first black woman to a statewide office, Lt. Governor-Elect Winsome Sears, further broke the absurd Black Lives Matter racial narrative.

Is there still hope for traditional conservatives? Yes, it appears there is.

Doing Our Own Due Diligence as Parents on the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children

Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D.

Have we learned enough as parents to trust the Pfizer vaccine as effective and safe for young children over the long-term? In my own review, there are at least three important concerns that still need to be resolved.  

Originally published on Meridian Magazine, November 5, 2021

After the data submitted by Pfizer for its COVID-19 vaccine for children received a thumbs up by the FDA panel last week, the anticipated nudging of parents began.

  • Anthony Fauci said, “Even though the chances of (a child) getting sick and seriously ill are small, why do you want to take a chance of that with your child, when you can essentially protect the child by an intervention that is proven to be both highly effective and very safe?”
  • Andrew Pavia from University of Utah Health likewise stated potential risks of the child vaccine are “dwarfed by the benefits of getting the vaccine.”
  • Dean Blumberg, an associate professor of pediatric infection diseases at UC Davis concluded, “it’s clear the benefits outweigh the risks for this age group.”
  • And Pfizer itself declared their vaccine offered children “a high degree of protective efficacy against COVID-19 during a period when the Delta variant of concern predominates in the US.”

Finally, after their own committee approved the shot’s distribution on Tuesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky suggested that “Parents should feel comforted not just that their children will be protected but that this vaccine has gone through the necessary and rigorous evaluation that ensures the vaccine is safe and highly effective.”

What more needs to be said? Seems like time to lay aside any further questions, and move on to getting shots in those trembling arms, right? (while anticipating additional data coming soon about children 5 and under).

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Reviewing the New LDS History Results

From the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, writing and collecting history has been considered a sacred duty. The founding document of scripture, The Book of Mormon, claims to be an historical document of the ancient Americas. Letters and revelations very early on formed foundational material for spreading the Gospel of the Restoration. Soon after the organization of the LDS Church the position of Church Historian was given as a formal calling. General Authorities were assigned the calling for over a hundred years. Two of the most well known Church Historians would be the prolific B.H. Roberts of the Seventy and Joseph Fielding Smith who would serve for over 40 years in the position before becoming Prophet. These two among others spent years collecting, protecting, and writing historical and doctrinal documents. Some of their works have become classics of great importance, although falling out of favor among academics.

Decades ago a new approach to history was introduced to the LDS Church, but with at best questionable results. For an unknown reason a professional historian, Leonard J. Arrington, was assigned as LDS Church Historian instead of the usual General Authority. There is even a question if he was called or hired, or both. Either way, his approach was far less about defending the LDS Church and spreading the Gospel than conforming to worldly standards. Along with those worldly standards of historical academics came a de-emphasis on miracles and truth claims. Instead it was about economic and social forces, with “objective” consideration of source documents. Almost ten years after the appointment, he was quietly fired and placed as a BYU teacher. Unfortunately the damage was already done and continued with acceleration in the halls of the school. Academia entrenched itself into LDS Church culture, publications, and manuals.

Perhaps the academic and the spiritual narratives of history could co-exist, but the differences became too stark. The academic side wanted desperately to take over. They sought, and in many ways succeeded after a thirty year program, to banish the traditional historians. Among those who were once respected for their work, but now hardly mentioned include B.H. Roberts, George Q. Cannon, Preston Nibley, Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, Hugh Nibley, and Gordon B. Hinkley. Replacing them is a large group of academics seeking to “re-educate” the members of the LDS Church by purging the traditional understanding of historical events and doctrines. Those who challenge the new history and doctrine gatekeepers are denounced as without “mature faith,” simple minded ignoramuses, and stuck in the past.

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What Mitt Romney could learn from VA gov-elect Glenn Youngkin

Glenn Youngkin, the governor-elect in Virginia who won a surprising victory Tuesday night, is, in many ways, a younger version of Mitt Romney. They both got Harvard MBAs and they both made fortunes in the financial world. They both have older male model good looks. They both are happily married with lots of kids. On policy, they probably agree on 98 percent of the issues. Youngkin is not, of course, LDS, but he is very open about his Christian religion.

But Glenn Youngkin is a much better politician. He understands that to be elected you need to build a large base of supporters, but you never should virtue signal to the left. The left will always hate you and other non-woke politicians. The left will happily use you (as they have used Mitt Romney for several years now, apparently without his ever catching on), but they will always hate you.

Mitt Romney allowed himself to be used viciously by the left during the Trump years. His naivete was obscene to watch, and it ended up with him getting booed at the state Republican convention in Utah.

Here is the thing that Mitt Romney never realized: he has absolutely nothing to gain by endlessly criticizing Trump. Trump acts like a petulant child, but he is beloved by 40-plus percent of the electorate. There are thousands of people in my semi-rural area of Colorado who STILL have Trump flags and signs on their houses today, a year after the 2020 election. Why would you trigger these people if you want to create a political coalition?

And, let’s be frank: the WORST way to deal with a petulant child is to become petulant and self-righteous, which is Mitt Romney’s default position.

Mitt begs Trump for a job in his administration after criticizing Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Youngkin, by contrast, was endorsed by Trump but turned down Trump campaigning in Virginia. He was able to increase turnout in the conservative, rural areas of Virginia (areas filled with Trump supporters) and also to increase turnout in the suburban areas where Trump was unpopular. Youngkin successfully walked the Trump tightrope by not embracing the former president but also not criticizing him.

Note to Mitt: this is called building a POLITICAL BIG TENT. Ronald Reagan used to say that the 11th commandment was for a Republican never to criticize a fellow Republican. Focus your criticism on the real enemy, ie the other large political party and specifically the evil leftists in that political party.

Let’s remember that Mitt Romney lost the presidency in part because he was considered an unprincipled flip-flopper. And here is where Romney has stood historically on Trump: Mitt Romney sought Trump’s endorsement in 2012, and bragged about it when he got an endorsement. Then Mitt came out against Trump in 2016, and then went begging for a Cabinet position in 2017 (see photo above), then sought Trump’s endorsement when he ran for the Senate in 2018 (which Trump graciously gave), and then Mitt repudiated Trump in 2019 and ultimately voted for impeachment in 2020 and 2021. No reasonable person can look at this record and see a consistent policy of integrity on Mitt’s part. Unprincipled flip-flopper? Yes indeed.

I am sincere when I say that Mitt should look at how Youngkin handled the Trump issue and learn from it. Whether Mitt decides to run for reelection or not, people should always take in new knowledge. Youngkin’s success may help Mitt understand better why he lost in 2008 and 2012. A bit of humility is always a good thing.