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.
Using the Gospel as a Mirror
When the scribes and the Pharisees came to Christ, hauling a woman taken (!) in adultery, they wanted him to justify this sort of gospel use (see John 8:1-11). “In the law …” it says we are right and she is wrong. We follow the prophet and they don’t. Now we are justified in stoning her. Now we are justified in condemning them on social media, in our ward’s Whatsapp chat, in defaming them when gossiping in our own ward clique, …
Jesus then does something we have mostly forgotten in our 21st-century society: He ponders before he speaks. This pause calms the energy of the mob and gives him time to think. What then comes out of his mouth is one of the greatest lessons on the use of ‘the law.’ “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
He turns the law into our faces! The commandments are for me. They are no hammer to ram other people’s opinions or behaviors into the place where we’d like them to be. Never has a commandment or a direction of a prophet been the free ticket for us to condemn someone who disobeyed.
A Guideline for the Latter-days
“It is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39).
We sometimes think of this verse applying only to people given official authority, like our overbearing Elder’s Quorum President or an overly motivated ministering brother or sister. But we have authority the moment we exercise our agency to influence someone else. And this happens all the time, every day.
God must have known that our age would be a contentious one. So he didn’t leave us without instruction. No matter if we are on official priesthood business or just typing away on a social media comment, he cautioned that “our influence can … be maintained … only by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, pure knowledge, …” (V 41,42).
God is telling us that if we want to help someone else keep the commandments (have positive and useful influence on them), it will backfire if we try to stone them (use force). The only way to do it, is by really caring about the other person and being wise in the way we communicate our help.
We won’t win anybody over by hauling stones at them. But we might by following Elder Renlund’s counsel to become stone catchers. That way, the other person will know that our “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death,” (V44) and that we love them no matter their decisions.
Christ was never impressed by people convinced of their own righteousness. Instead, he was pleased by people acknowledging their imperfection before him without being immobilized by this. He was pleased by people who lifted the arms that hang down. And gladly, we don’t need stones for that.
Thank your Eric. Great and wise words.
Great article. Thank you. What makes this situation even more tricky is that fear is involved. Nothing feeds mobocracy and stoning more than fear. Remember the scene “Kill the beast” in The Beauty and the Beast?” We have been made to erroneously think that the unvaxxed pose a threat to everyone .This fear feeds judgment and stoning. Perfect love casts out all fear.
This quote by KISS rockstar, Gene Simmons shows the kind of fear and judgment involved. Getting an experimental shot is not the same as overlying traffic laws. Anything that has death pr injury as a possible side effect should not be forced.
“I don’t want to catch your disease,” Simmons continued. “I don’t want to risk my life just because you want to go through a red light. This whole idea – this delusional, evil idea – that you get to do whatever you want and the rest of the world be damned is really terrible. We’ve got to identify those people and bring them out into the open so you know who they are. Know who your friends are by how much they care for you. And that includes Covid. If you’re willing to walk among us unvaccinated, you are an enemy.”
I recently watched a short interview with Jordan Peterson. I said something to the effect of, “don’t lie. I’d say always tell the truth, but sometimes the “truth” is rather complex and subject to the experience and point of view of the observer. There ARE universal truths, and we need to know and preferably understand them, but in most cases, there can be multiple truths”. I think this applies very well in this circumstance. I am of the opinion that individual agency and sovereignty are of the greatest importance. I also believe that is God’s position, but I know others who believe that God’s position is that what is best for the greatest number.
Anne, the hatred of people with vaccine hesitancy is completely out of control. Noam Chomsky, the one-time civil libertarian, is now calling on unvaccinated people to be separated from other people, and he does not care if they are able to find food.
Keep in mind that Chomsky has spent most of his adult life trying to defend the marginal people in society, and then keep in mind that the vast majority of the unvaccinated are poor and people of color. You begin to see that the covidian cult is using fear to take over the minds of people, who now justify implied genocide because of somebody’s medical status. So, yes, it is a brave new world where Satan is reigning with blood and horror.
It might be worth mentioning that the scientific evidence indicates that 1)the available vaccines and boosters do not prevent you from getting COVID and 2)the available vaccines and boosters do not prevent you from transmitting COVID. The vaccines and boosters improve anti-bodies so that you are more likely to survive getting COVID, but they do nothing to prevent you from getting it or transmitting it. And of course natural immunity is much better than vaccines and boosters for fighting off the disease. So, it might be worth mentioning that the covidian cult has proposed measures that will do nothing at all to protect society as a whole.