The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cult, precisely because it doesn’t ask obedience “no matter what.” From the beginning of people’s entrance into the waters of baptism, new members are encouraged by missionaries along the lines of “don’t just believe me – ask God!” That’s as true with vaccination encouragement as it is invitations to baptism, although this is a precious lesson easy to miss (and important to reinforce) in these days of do-whatever-it-takes to persuade people to get their shots. If we overlook that, we may well lean on someone so much that they do something just because they feel pressured, rather than because they feel right about it. Even if that increases the total vaccination numbers, do we really honestly think that’s a good thing?
In graduate school, some of my classmates were weirded out that I willingly sought to obey individuals I sustained, yes, as true prophets. After sensing some reservations that I was participating in a cult that demanded obedience “no matter what,” I reassured them: “No, you see, the difference is we’re freely encouraged to confirm anything and everything we’re being taught (by prophets or missionaries or scriptures) in our own prayers and direct seeking with God.”
That second layer of personal assurance and accountability has always seemed, to me, part of the beauty of our message. It’s what we used to tell investigators we taught in Brazil: “Don’t just believe us. You can go find out for yourself!” I continue to see that as one of the most important (of many) differentiators between the high-demand Church of Christ and a high-demand (but controlling, and mindless) cult. Not incidentally, this is also what our detractors try to ignore when they pretend to capture the spirit of our trust in presiding leadership through demeaning sound bites like, “when the prophets speak, the thinking stops.”
That’s neither fair nor true, of course. But some of the commentary from fellow brothers and sisters in the wake of continued vaccination encouragement by presiding leaders might well get people thinking otherwise.
Believe it or not, many people actually did go to God, and many people did receive direct revelation for them and their families. I did. Personally, when I’ve gone to and asked God about this topic, I’ve been told, by Him, not to tamper with this specific drug for me and my children.
In response, another Latter-day Saint man I equally respect quoted President Harold B. Lee’s statement – seemingly in an attempt to chasten the first brother:
“You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life … Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow … Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.”
After reading this exchange, I told my wife “I think we’re confusing something here” – with two different important truths being confounded:
(1) Being willing to move forward contrary to one’s own cherished ideas. It’s absolutely true that prophetic teaching will challenge our own preferences and ideas. That’s a big difference between a true prophet, and the other kind that gives “itching ears” just what they need to enjoy another carefree day. The most courageous missionary of all time, Samuel the Lamanite, said it best in his stirring contrast of old:
If a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.
Given all that, the first brother is right that we shouldn’t be surprised when our preferred socio-political or cultural views (including perhaps about health) are challenged by prophetic counsel.
That’s happened for many Saints, including me, over recent months – especially with this recent reiteration of counsel. And as someone who dearly loves and sustains these men, my wife and I have made a new commitment last week to praying more over this additional counsel from the First Presidency.
Okay, so does God really want me to do this? Let’s seriously consider this, even though it goes against so much of what we’ve come to believe about health and healing – and asks me to trust something we’ve come to see as so unworthy of trust.
That’s essentially the question my wife and I have been praying over more earnestly in the wake of this counsel. It’s unclear and very challenging. But I know what clarity feels like – and I know what the sweetness of revelation feels like.
Although it’s not likely we will walk away from all our views of health, we understand God sometimes asks His children – all the way back to Adam – to do things we simply don’t understand. And we’ve been praying about everything with as much sincerity of heart and openness to being surprised as we can.
That’s what I understand God asks of those of us with concerns about prevailing medical orthodoxy around COVID-19, but who earnestly want to sustain our prophets: Staying open, soft, and willing to have their guidance ratified in our heart in a way that, yes, may supersede and even contradict our own preferred philosophies. And that’s what I hope all Saints in a similar position as me will continue to do in the days and weeks ahead.
That has felt good, and right to do. But there’s a second thing I do not understand God (or his prophets) to be asking us to do.
(2) Being willing to move forward contrary to one’s own conscience and sense of peace, or what is right. When someone has sought humbly and sincerely to hear out counsel and push back enough on their own views to openly consider it…what if, for whatever reason, they still cannot feel right about following that guidance, on the level of their own heart, spirit and communion with God (and others they trust, including medical professionals)?
We’re not talking here about a mere philosophical conflict anymore, mind you. This is about tensions in a place deeper than thought, or feeling – right there in our guts, where our own awareness and Spirit hears most directly God’s nudges for our lives and families. In that case – an instance where we can’t find that deeper peace – does God ask us to “just go along with it” and “obey no matter what?”
Of course not. Once again, that would be, in effect, what a cult does. Not us.
Come listen to a prophet’s voice. Make no mistake – we are grateful as Saints to understand that obedience is important as the “first law of heaven” – something we see modeled in our own prophet’s example and resolve to follow an earlier prophet’s council to learn Chinese. (“President Nelson desired to follow the counsel of the prophet, so he immediately began studying Mandarin”).
In a world of such conflicting messages and spiritual danger, the willingness to heed and hearken to the voice of living prophets is life-changing and life-saving. It cannot be overstated in its overarching importance.
But it can be overstated in another way: by giving so much rightful, understandable, legitimate attention to the importance of hearing and seeking to follow prophetic counsel, that we sideline, minimize, or ignore entirely the invaluable opportunity to seek-and-feel God’s confirming assurance and witness.
That is a problem. Is it not?
When Jesus came to the Nephites, he lay precious counsel before them. But rather than leaving the people to ‘just go do it’ (which no one would question when the Lord Himself is in your presence), I’ve find it interesting how much emphasis He gives right at the beginning to teach that the Holy Ghost and Father would bear witness of Him as well. Isn’t that the part we usually skip over in 3 Nephi 11? Maybe we shouldn’t.
Over and over, subsequent prophetic teaching affirms our individual ability and right to confirm for ourselves teaching and counsel given.
Turning prophetic counsel into enormous pressure. Given this clear emphasis in our doctrine, it has surprised and saddened me in recent days to see how much pressure and guilting some fellow Latter-day Saints have voiced about “not showing faith” and “not following the prophet” towards many who insist they simply haven’t been able to feel right (aka, peaceful) about getting vaccinated.
Here are three more quotes I’ve seen leveled at the vaccine hesitant Saints in recent days:
- “Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency.” – Elder Neil Maxwell
- “Then, brethren, look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming, and who will be able to stand?” -Heber C. Kimball
- “Just like when Moses brought the bronze serpent staff and people only needed to look upon it to be saved. You have two options, follow the prophet or suffer in your own ignorance because you feel you know better than God’s prophet.”
Wow – that’s some serious pressure! Get the vaccine OR turn from the bronze serpent, fail the preeminent test of the last days, and show yourself as one of the tares ready to be sifted.
Is that what the Prophet hopes we will feel? Not according to Elder Christofferson. Based on the first-hand accounts of multiple attendees at an area leadership meeting in Utah on Saturday, August 14, Elder Christofferson was asked a question about what to do or say to someone who is upset with the First Presidency letter and specifically feeling like their agency is being taken away. The summary below is taken from two people who participated directly in the meeting.
He responded with a smile to tell them not to be upset because they still have their free agency. And that people are in line with this advice if they talk to their doctor and their revelation leads them to not getting the vaccine. The most important thing, he noted, is not to get upset or upset at the Prophet should you choose not to get vaccinated (one person noted, “it seemed that was way more important to him that the vaccine and he said it a few different times”).
Elder Christofferson went on to suggest a primary purpose of the letter was to keep the temples open as long as possible – and how dearly leaders want temples to stay open. He commented that the pandemic is a distraction from the eternal matters the Church needs to stay focused on.
Bringing a little more generosity of spirit to the whole conversation, like Elder Christofferson embodies here, would go a long way to reducing the collective tension among us.
And preserve the very space members grappling over this, or other issues, need to seek God’s confirming reassurance of prophetic guidance (which is so easy to get distracted from in fear or frustration!)
A sore trial of faith. I don’t know if many appreciate how excruciating this is, and has been, for many faithful members who absolutely love the brethren. One of my own dear family members acknowledged “many tears shed” over the last several days, in profound confusion. I’ve met with other members who have been rocked by this too – grappling like they’ve never grappled before. One woman told me, “I’ve always felt in line with what the prophets say…until now.” Another said, “the last thing I want to do is go against our prophet.”
These are not people seeking a reason to dissent or disobey. They are some of the most faithful and pure-hearted people I’ve ever known.
And what’s being asked of them is not easy. Essentially, someone they deeply trust is asking them repeatedly to trust people, institutions and practices they have come to deeply distrust (and not for no reason; remember, that thing called the opioid epidemic – started by something with similarly impressive short-term effects and similarly take-for-granted assurance of something being “safe and effective”?)
For people harboring sincere questions like this, can you see how the “just get the dumb shot” attitude isn’t all that helpful? And can you see how much it’s complicated matters to have all the many legitimate questions and alternative views of health written off, ignored and actively suppressed – supplanted by easy sound bites like “can’t people just care about others” or “your freedom is fine until it impacts my own” [each of which sidesteps competing narratives of health and well-being entirely].
These dismissive attitudes leave fellow brothers and sisters on the defensive – more focused on reacting to external pressure rather than keeping attention on God and, yes, the prophet’s own words. The sacred space in which we all must discern the Lord’s will thus gets crowded over and confused – to the point that it’s almost impossible to “hear Him” for ourselves.
“But he’s spoken, duh! Through His prophets” misses the point entirely. It’s not a plea to trust medical orthodoxy that President Nelson has been reiterating over the last several years of teaching – nor even is it simply “trust me, I will lead you right.” As we all know, this good and inspired man has been pleading with us to learn to receive revelation for ourselves.
Isn’t that what this comes down to? That if and when we are asked to do something hard, we should be able to feel confirmation from God? In polygamy terms, however contra sensibilities and perspectives such a command was for so many, I don’t for a minute believe they were asked to do that without some kind of real, personal reassurance.
I’ve been asked to so some excruciating, terrifying and heartbreaking things in my life. Things that went against my own perspective and desires. But not without peace. The peace was always there.
In whatever circumstances, then, shouldn’t the pursuit of that reassurance be encouraged?
Not according to some.
The real danger of pressure overriding a deeper sense of right or wrong. As we see all around us, the growing response of many to the hesitant is to simply ramp up the pressure. When someone needs a little nudge to re-examine their perspective, I get that. But what of the second situation above?
In that case, I have to wonder whether inadvertent harm might arise from people who are over-pressured or bribed to take a step that never felt right?
If it does feel right, that’s one thing. But if it doesn’t, and people take the vaccine “just because the prophet asked me,” what happens – God forbid – if a serious side-effect emerges? What could this mean for someone’s own relationship to family members or the Church itself?
One woman writes, “I have lupus and Lyme .. my lupus doctor says not to get the vaccine, then this [Church statement] comes out and now family is telling me I’m not following the Church if I don’t get it.” Wouldn’t it be sadly ironic if our zeal to help encourage prophetic council pushed people farther away from the Church they lead?
Compared to those who find peace to follow counsel like we’ve heard recently, what I’m suggesting here it may be damaging to persuade someone to go against their deeper sense of what feels right to them. I’ll never forget the time my mother and father agreed to a medical procedure they had not felt good about, at their well-intentioned doctor’s urging. When it almost killed my mother prematurely, my parents came away affirmed in the trustworthiness of their own deepest sense.
Of course, that deeper sense can lead people astray on other occasions, which reflects the value of outside people around us, including those with sacred stewardship and authority. Once again, this is the beauty of the “checks and balances” in the spiritual economy of heaven. Just as there is protection in being able to reach inward for a second confirmation, there is protection in being able to reach outward for the same. We’re never left with only one witness.
Rather than seeing choice of vaccination alone as the critical sifting and test, I wish we focus more collective attention to the state of our hearts towards each other – and the prophets themselves. Surely then, whatever our perspectives on vaccination, faithful Saints could unite in mourning the many who are rising up in anger against the Church over this – and reaching conclusions like this:
“This is the last straw…We’ve given into the globalists. I’m leaving the church.”
“YOU have the authority to receive counsel for your family and your life. Just because a man in ‘authority’ tells you to do something doesn’t mean you should!!!! When the leaders are going to the world and are not looking at the spiritual, then it is time to MOVE ON to a place where Jesus is Lord!!! Sorry, but they have been moving to the New World Order/One World for years….”
“Run as fast as you can they have sold out to the flesh.”
“Thinking about it, the antichrists will sit in the temple… makes sense now.”
These make me so sad. And the anger they reflect is not the way (as Jesus Himself made so clear in his initial comments to the Nephites). Whatever decisions are made about the vaccination, that can’t be what God wants.
Space and empathy as a remedy to frustration. I believe the best answer to some of this anger is to make space where we can share our hearts and seek to understand and love each other, across our different decisions. Everything I’ve written publicly about the matter has been to promote more space where people might be able to grapple with these questions, and seek their own confirmation of truth. I maintain that it’s the imbalanced conversation itself that has been the biggest problem of all; despite the intentions of all the noble “misinformation-fighters,” the coordinated campaign has left virtually everyone with concerns more concerned than they would have been.
Rather than witnessing free inquiry and open engagement, with truth claims unafraid of scrutiny and competing ideas competing in the marketplace of ideas, people with questions have had to go to the “black market” for any alternative views, like dissident voices in Russia or China secretly tapping into back-channel information. This is no exaggeration of how many of us have experienced this last year.
And into this emotional ferment comes the encouragement to essentially not worry and trust the wisdom of the dictates of government and medical leaders. “How can they say that?” so many people have asked. Another man noted the evidence of inadvertent side-effects and even people dying after vaccination, before saying “Why would they say ‘available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective”?
These are honest questions that remain for many of us. At the very least, this might give you a little more empathy regarding what this has been like for many of us. No matter how many eloquent and impassioned op-eds keep saying it, this is not a simple choice between “responsibility” and “selfishness,” or between “science” and “ignorance” or even whether to “trust the prophet or not.”
And let’s stop pretending it is.
Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D., writes about the implications of competing socio-political and health narratives – and what it takes to preserve public conversation where open exploration of truth in these matters is still possible. To see more, check out my personal blog (http://unthinkable.cc) or my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUPXFAn5kAlSdr48uQzazzw).
 It’s true this is the kind of thing we all like to tell our kids sometimes. “Just do it!” ‘Why?” “Because I said so.”
That’s a ninja move all good parents have to pull out once in a while. And yet, the Lord cautions “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood”- in other words, we shouldn’t try to exert pressure on children, or adults “Just because I’ve got the priesthood.”
Doesn’t it always feel wrong after we’ve leaned on our children this way – or gotten “what we want” due to yelling or getting angry? It sure does for me. And I’m grateful to be slowly changing this pattern – moving more in the direction of a God who “without compulsory means” has all goodness and power flowing unto Him forever and ever.
God bless you, Jacob Hess.
Jacob, good post. I can tell readers that a lot of faithful Latter-day Saints I know are struggling with the guidance on masks and vaccines. But the good news is that most of the people I know are taking it to the Lord in prayer, and some of them, including some people close to me, have already received personal revelation on this matter. In many cases, these people have gone from “I will never get that experimental vaccine” to “I was comforted and told to get the vaccine in the coming months, and everything will be OK.” It has been heart-warming and faith-promoting to hear their testimonies on this issue.
It has of course been disheartening to hear from the two groups of people who are so wrong on this issue. One group says, “I won’t go to Church while the Brethren promote masks and vaccines” and the other says, “if you don’t immediately vaccinate and support masks you are an apostate.” Jacob’s post helps explain why these two groups are getting it wrong.
Jacob, I don’t have it handy, but Brigham Young has a famous quote about wanting the saints to get confirming revelation for all First Presidency teachings and directions. He actively feared the day when members would stop getting personal confirming revelation, and follow blindly.
Also, what I’m not seeing in these M* posts is anyone else claiming to have “taken the question to the Lord” and received a personalized answer.
Have you done so? Did you get an answer? I won’t ask what it was. Because even if you are not an exception to the Prophet’s general counsel, there are others who may be.
Not only has seeking personal revelation been largely ignored in the recent discussions, but also ignored is the ability of the Lord to give dfferent answers to different people, based on His knowledge of each individual’s conditions and needs.
I would also encourage all couples and parents of minors to make it a matter of asking for each individual in the family, not the family as a whole.
Book, my family and I have definitely taken it to the Lord, and the answer was surprising. I will be writing about that in the future, so I won’t tell you what the answer was yet so I can create some suspense. 🙂
Jacob, great post. My concern is many saints I know who are against the vaccine have not prayed about it. When I’ve asked why not, I get the following responses:
I already decided.
God doesn’t speak to me.
It’s about my freedom.
I don’t trust the government or Fauci or the expert medical people.
I didn’t think about praying about it.
I appreciate Geoff and others who have prayed about it, and were told to wait. I received my answer, as I was concerned about my Guillain Barre Syndrome (the mRNA vaccines are safe).
Much of the problem is many aren’t taking it to the Lord with real intent. They don’t ask, don’t get God’s answer for themselves, or don’t seek God’s will.
I know there are exceptions to Pres Nelson’s urging us to be vaccinated. However, I’ve found over 45 years as a member that rarely has the Lord given me an exception to the prophet’s urging or warnings.
I wanted to add on to Geoff’s statement about staying with the church even when you are frustrated. If answers are not fourthcoming, be sure to keep doing those things you have testimony of. A common first step away, like stopping church attendence, is stopping payment of tithing. Keep your sure foundations in place and wait upon the Lord. Put yourself in a place to receive the wisdom you seek.
Personal story, maybe tmi, but I guess since the comments are moderated…
Years ago I received the loud and clear admonition to avoid birth-control. For several years I couldn’t understand. Why me? The church wasn’t saying that. BYU doctors and teachers encouraged birth-control. I often felt very isolated.
It took years to come to terms with being an exception. I have a large beautiful family. I am so blessed.
What made me think of this was Rameumpton’s list, “I’ve already decided” etc. Fair enough, God wants us to be close to him, but not neurotic. It’s okay to have wrestled with God over a question, and then stick to your guns.
Admittedly, I am slightly neurotic, so I did repetition God many times over the span of giving birth 8 more times, more than the number I was personally comfortable with. And frankly sometimes I disobeyed…and repented. I know it is possible to irritate God with repeated, “are you sure?” questions.
I look forward to the day when these conversations don’t need to be had. My ward is full of people who were excited to be vaccinated and who happily mask — I am not one of those people. I just keep my thoughts to myself though. Just do your thing people, and let me do mine. One of the sisters in our ward was mad at my husband because he wouldn’t “force” the Deacon’s Quorum to wear masks. He finally just told her, he wasn’t the mask police, and only encourages the boys to do as their parents have directed them. Because to be honest, 12 year old boys have much more important things to worry about than wearing a mask — all of us do.
I don’t think I would have dared schedule a temple session if I’d known what would happen this week, but we made the appointment 2 weeks ago. What a great experience! And the prayer was so symbolic, with people so obviously divided yet standing with each other without malice, praying to God for our prophet and the people. It was moving.
Bro. Hess, you really encapsulated this issue perfectly when you said, “it goes against so much of what we’ve come to believe about health and healing – and asks me to trust something we’ve come to see as so unworthy of trust.”
We are told so often in our culture to shut up and listen to your doctors and nurses because they know more than you do and have your best interest in mind. Ha. Every time I have been a good little girl and took the advice of medical professionals against my better judgment, I have lived to regret it.
It’s a long list of total carnage – botched surgeries for my special-needs daughter, miscarriages, years of GI issues due to an unnecessary antibiotic prescription. And my oldest daughter’s disastrous neonatal care is the reason why I birthed my youngest 3 kids out of hospital (cheaper AND I got better care).
I am tired of being scolded, manipulated, and treated with disdain by everyone from my aunt to the Governor. I have had it up to HERE with shutting up and blindly following doctors. You want people to trust the Establishment? First you have to create a trustworthy Establishment.
All that aside, if I can’t trust President Nelson, then who can I trust? After an intense spiritual struggle, I’ve come to be at peace with it, though I’d prefer not to share my conclusion and reasoning with the faceless mob that is the internet.
Good article, thank you
Lucinda: any mother (or father) of that many children has a pretty good excuse to be neurotic.
(I realize that’s only 6 children, but it’s the best I could find in a pinch.)
@Jared, Here’s a 2014 M-Star article about the Brigham Young quote. J Max Wilson found the correct original, which is not the same as the “popular” quote, but the original still fits the topic. I think.
quoting from the PDF of Deseret News:
The money-quote (the correct one) seems to be this passage:
— begin quote —
What a pity it would be it we were lead by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are lead by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually.
— end quote —
Ach. There’s a preceding paragraph that I left out of the above BY quote from the February 12th, 1862 source. The “What a pity… ” line is to be taken sarcastically, according to the context. Anyways, see the whole thing at the M-Star post by J Max. Sorry for the poor choice of where to snip.
A decision flowchart has always been the easiest way to highlight this issue.
We can use the vaccinations as a good example. The prophet says yes but I think no. (The question only arises when the prophet and my reason disagree).
I take the matter to the Lord. There are three possible results.
1. The Lord says “Yes.” Then the answer is clearly yes.
2. The Lord says “No.” Then the answer, for me, is no. The Lord has not deputized me to evangelize my personal no, so I keep the no to myself, but has informed me that at least insofar as it applies to me the answer is no.
3. The Lord is silent. This is where the rubber meets the road and sustaining the leaders (and trying our faith) takes place. In this set of circumstances, the answer for me is yes — absent direction from a Higher Source, we are to follow the prophet.
Following this simple flowchart, all of the problems we currently face disappear — whether it is the vaccines or gay marriage or any other subject, we follow the Lord, the prophet if the Lord is silent, and we never evangelize our different revelation (which is not within our stewardship).
You may say, ‘but freedom matters’ or ‘vaccine side effects’ or any number of other real and important issues. These things may be a surprise to the Brethren (though I doubt it) but was can be certain that they aren’t a surprise to the Lord. If He really, really needs you to avoid being vaccinated, He will tell you. Otherwise, you follow the prophet. Maybe the balance of priorities is such that you are right about everything you think that is wrong about the vaccine — yet the Lord is ready to allow all of that to happen to you because getting the temples reopened is more important — note that President Nelson’s General Conference address tied getting a vaccinated public together with the temples reopening. Being a disciple means doing what is asked to move the work forward — whether standing where you are and lifting or sitting in the chair and getting poked. If the only thing standing between one of your brothers or sisters getting saving ordinances is you taking the hit of a vaccine (even with horrific side effects), I reckon the cost/benefit analysis probably comes down on the side of getting the shot. If that’s wrong, the Lord will doubtless let you know.
It applies both ways, of course, but it is disturbing online to see the same reasoning being used on Twitter to attack vaccinations as is being used to attack Elder Holland’s talk at BYU. While it is entirely possible that the prophet might be wrong and it is entirely possible that everyone in the Church who prays about an issue might get different revelation than what the prophet says that should not be something we read about online — that decreases the likelihood that it is of God because He is not giving revelation to anyone to publicly contradict His Church.
Jonathan, in general I agree with your comment, but I would take slightly different spin on it, and this has to do with the whole “exceptions” situation.
Should 15-year-olds be vaccinated for COVID? Definitely not. Even the WHO says so, and if you read the guidance on some of the vaccines, even the pharmaceutical companies say vaccinations are unnecessary for people under 18. I don’t care if the prophet has encouraged vaccinations for all members — there are always exceptions to every prophetic guidance, and this counts as one. There are also some medical exceptions out there. But should most adults take this to the Lord and ask for revelation? Yes. As I said in another post, I was generally vaccine hesitant, but when I took it to the Lord I got a clear revelation that the J&J vaccine would be healthy for me. But I am in my late-50s, and that testimony was for me, not for my teenage sons.
“When someone has sought humbly and sincerely to hear out counsel and push back enough on their own views to openly consider it…what if, for whatever reason, they still cannot feel right about following that guidance, on the level of their own heart, spirit and communion with God (and others they trust, including medical professionals)?”
If that’s the way they honestly feel then who am I to judge them? I would only hope that they’d keep the matter to themselves. Personal revelation should, as a general rule, remain with the person who receives it.