The most underreported story of 2021? Horrific COVID policies that are hurting young people

From the Epoch Times:

The nation’s recent lockdown policies and mask mandates will create a generation of children who exhibit lower IQs and signs of social brain damage, according to Dr. Mark McDonald, a clinical psychiatrist for children and adolescents, in an interview with host Cindy Drukier of a Dec. 25 episode of NTD’s The Nation Speaks.

McDonald cited an Aug. 11 study by Browns University (pdf) which found that “children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic.”

The masks, “zoom schools,” and lockdown mandates lead to “deprivation overall, of social contact, [of] not being able to see faces, being stuck at home all day long, has actually caused brain damage to the youngsters,” said McDonald.

In another interview in the episode, the director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Professor Carl Heneghan, cited evidence that pandemic restrictions and the “fear we instill into children” has led to “worsening” of “psychological problems.”

Heneghan cited his Oct. 2 study which concluded that “eight out of ten children and adolescents report worsening of behavior or any psychological symptoms or an increase in negative feelings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“School closures contributed to increased anxiety, loneliness and stress; negative feelings due to COVID-19 increased with the duration of school closures,” the study reported. “Deteriorating mental health was found to be worse in females and older adolescents.”

Adolescents above the age of 12 also did worse than children under the age of 12, as adolescents face increasing peer pressure, social pressure, and are more aware of messages being delivered globally, according to Heneghan.

“The first thing is to de-escalate any fear and anxiety around COVID for children,” Heneghan said, adding that “for children, [COVID] is actually a very safe disease” and that children should not be worried about the impact of COVID “on themselves, or their future health.”

He also added that “shutting areas like schools was a mistake,” as keeping them open is good for education, “social connectedness, and well-being.”

“We should really prioritize education and those interventions that are in children’s best interest,” Heneghan stated.

According to a Dec. 20 study, data from the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) also showed that mental health-related visits in 2020, when pandemic restrictions were first imposed, increased by 24 percent in ages 5–11 and by 31 percent in ages 12–17 in comparison to 2019 data.

‘Tis the Season to Spread Enmity?

Some responses to Jeff T. Green and his thoughtfully timed Christmas gift to the world. Along with ‘Tis the Season to Spread Enmity? and ‘Tis the Season: Good Will to Men published in Public Square this week, I can’t resist holding up this thoughtful response from Brother Michael Peterson posted in the Salt Lake Tribune public comments to the article in question. Despite all this accusation and acrimony, I say with Ebebezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred, ” have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round…as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle…I say, God bless it!”

Not only is this Tribune article highly biased and one-sided—a disappointment—it lacks breadth and depth. It fails to tell the full story, but it does manage in its effect to denigrate The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders. 

What you [at the Tribune] have merely done is give a loud audience to a group who wish to speak out against the Church—with no fair response or full context whatsoever.

1. The mere fact that someone wealthy and “successful” by societal standards leaves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is meaningless—carries zero weight. If it did, then we could and would immediately point to the opposite—reports like one I read recently about ten of the most wealthy Latter-day Saints in business, all of whom are faithful, with strong testimonies, and have not left the faith. (J. Willard Marriott, Jr., David Neeleman, the late Jon Huntsman, Joel Peterson, Mitt Romney, Alan Ashton, Nolan D. Archibald, the late Larry H. Miller, and the list goes on and on. …)

2. Mr. Green clearly set this up to be a “splash” intended to bash and denigrate the Church and its leaders— coordinating with family members for a single announcement, along with interviews with the Tribune designed for effect—leading to subsequent immediate disbursement to the wire services and presumptuously writing to President Nelson and then releasing the language, etc. When in reality, by his own admission, Mr. Green himself has for all intents and purposes been out of and divorced from the faith for a decade. So other than his obvious ax to grind, what does he really have to say at this point? Not much…

3. Mr. Green criticizes The Church of Jesus Christ in familiar ways— “bearing down against the Church” (Alma 1:3) —apparently objecting to the degree to which it is self-reliant and independent, walking its own talk. I for one am profoundly grateful that our church has significant reserve funds to maintain its independence now and in the future, enabling it to provide for the maintenance and support of a growing global faith and its mission. And considering future uncertainties—witness COVID and its variants and other global financial insecurities staring us in the face—the wisdom of the Lord in inspiring our leaders to prepare for future difficulties is more evident than ever. It’s encouraging. And if the Church simply let all reserve funds sit and did not invest them, that would be irresponsible money stewardship by any professional standard—can this be denied? Witness the wise management of resources of the best of many other large organizations. And the Church’s prudent use of its resources to help the needy are legendary—except among critics in our midst who have a demonstrable angst against the Church to begin with and seem to be on the lookout for things to criticize.

4. One underlying theme among some cited in this article is that they began “scrutinizing” Church history and subsequently fell into doubts. This belies the ultimate true reality for most active members of this Church. I for one, among many, have not only “scrutinized” this history, but I’ve also been studying Church history for thirty years and my faith and testimony have only increased. I love it. Historian Richard Bushman said that the closer you are to the original documents and first-hand sources, the greater the Prophet Joseph appears. How true. Issues of the First Vision, Plural Marriage, etc. are not only explainable in common sense terms (to those willing to listen), but the doctrines surrounding such issues hold up under scrutiny and need not damage the faith of anyone. There is nothing in real, genuine Church history that would compel or necessitate a person in good conscience to leave the faith.

(And if that last statement impels a critic to throw out a “Gish gallop” (a long list of Church history items designed to deceive and distort and denigrate) every item can be easily knocked down, so don’t bother. I have found, after much interaction, that the critics lack logic, reason, facts, science, and true history in their attempts to persuade against the faith. Their claims against the Church and its leaders don’t hold water, don’t add up, and fall apart under fair examination, every time.)

5. The Church’s wise and caring approach, outreach, teachings, and love toward the LGBT+ issues and community is not explainable in a soundbite—yet biting soundbite criticism is the norm for those who attack the faith on these issues. It’s not fair or right. Our Church believes in the eternal family and laws of virtue and chastity—sexual purity before marriage and fidelity afterward. That came from God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, not in response to a social or cultural situation. And we believe in loving all of God’s children—including those in the LGBT+ community. Those who claim that the Church—or BYU for that matter—has marginalized them or demonstrated a lack of charity, we would ask to re-evaluate—as many are either mistaken, misled, or are placing their own bias and interpretation upon the Church’s doctrines and practices and interactions with those with same-gender attraction. If some have been offended, the offense has not been intended. Instead, love and peace—along with faithfulness to God’s loving commandments—are the desired guiding principles.

6. By the admission of more than one person in the article about Mr. Green, they left the faith after drifting away. That’s what happens when we allow ourselves to drift. Our hearts go out to them. Many have come back and continue to do so—because the gospel of Christ and the Church are in fact true, the true Church of Jesus Christ. All are invited and welcome to return who have stepped away.

So you can do better than the latest “announcement” du jour critical of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You would think the Salt Lake Tribune would take a more balanced approach rather than allow itself to become a house-organ-for-a-day to those who wish to attack our faith. 

Remembering Helmuth Hubener, the teenage LDS rebel who spoke out against the Nazi regime

The story of Helmuth Hubener is one of heroic opposition to an evil regime. This much is clear. But it also should raise questions for all of us regarding our own stances on moral issues. In short: when must we speak out against tyranny in our own lives?

Hubener lived in Hamburg, Germany and belonged to an LDS branch in that city. He was a loyal German who wrote a paper when he was young praising Hitler, and he was a member of the Hitler Youth. But over time Hubener became disillusioned with the German regime. The key turning point appeared to be the time when his branch president, a Nazi party activist, put a sign on the church door saying no Jews were allowed in church. The branch had one young Jewish member who was excluded, and Hubener was upset.

Hubener’s older brother, who was a soldier, gave Hubener a shortwave radio, and Hubener began to listen to the BBC in German. This was illegal. Hubener began writing pamphlets against the Nazis and passing them out in Hamburg. One pamphlet called Hitler a murderer. Hubener, then only 16, recruited two of his teenage friends from church to help him pass out the pamphlets. Hubener seemed obsessed with telling the people of Hamburg the truthful things he had learned via shortwave radio, things that contradicted the propaganda from the media in Germany.

Hubener was eventually caught by the Gestapo, tortured and sentenced to death. His two friends were sentenced to years of hard labor. Hubener’s family was killed in the war, but his story was later discovered by Germans and publicized in the 1960s and 1970s. Hubener is now recognized as a hero in Germany.

Here is a very well done documentary about Hubener that I highly recommend watching:

Hubener’s case raises hundreds of moral questions for future generations to consider. Hubener broke the law, yet he is seen as a hero today. How do we know when laws are immoral and can be broken? President Heber J. Grant came to Germany in 1937 and did not tell Church members to rise up against the Nazi regime, and in fact the evidence indicates he encouraged them not to rebel. Did Hubener violate prophetic counsel? Hubener’s branch president was a supporter of the Nazis. How was it possible that an apparently good Christian like this man could support such an evil group? Was Hubener justified in acting in a way that his branch president condemned? Remember, he went against the wishes of his local priesthood leader. After the war, tens of millions of Germans regretted not speaking out against the Nazis. What can we learn from that regarding our own behavior during difficult times?

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Why Scholarly Consensus is Not Enough

We’ve often been reminded that the medical, research and scholarly community are more or less agreed on the rightfulness and truthfulness of a certain course of action. Most recently in the pandemic, that’s been underscored and highlighted repeatedly in mass media outlets.

Should not this kind of scholarly consensus be enough to embrace something we are hearing as trustworthy and obviously “valid”?

That’s certainly what we keep being told. But consider, for a moment, the list of consensus conclusions popular among academics and scholars right now:

1.      The world was created by a singularly potent “bang.”

2.      Human beings were created by gradual, iterative, interspecies evolution – with the story of Adam and Eve revered by believers for ages being entirely metaphoric and fictional. 

3.      Noah and the world-wide flood is metaphoric – and didn’t actually happen.

4.      The celebrated prophet Daniel in the Bible isn’t “actually a historical figure” – and more of a “cryptic allusion” to another ancient king.

5.      Jesus Christ, if he lived, was certainly not divine – and did not rise from the dead. 

6.      Biological transition for transgender-identifying adults and youth is the most ethical and healthiest course of action to recommend.   

7.      At the same time, any kind of therapeutic encouragement to explore an expansion, adjustment or evolution in how people relate to sexual orientation is not only not healthy, but ought to be illegal and criminal. 

8.      The vast majority of scholars agree that it should be legal for a mother to abort any fetus growing inside her – at any stage of development.    

9.      They also largely agree there is nothing special about the union of man and woman – with any committed union between two human beings who love each other rightly considered equally valuable.    

10.   The proper response to mental illness is to medically manage it – including for children. Thus, anyone facing symptoms of serious depression ought to be encouraged to consider antidepressant medication as a first line treatment. 

11.   It is taken for granted among modern scholars that children with difficulty paying attention ought to be diagnosed and prescribed stimulant medication to ensure their mind is not moving too fast and that their academic future is not compromised. 

12.   And [up to five years ago], the scholarly community was in agreement that pain is another vital sign – and ought to be medically managed proactively with opioids and other kinds of medical management.

We could go on. But you get the point. Especially if you’re a Christian or believer in the Judeo-Christian tradition broadly, this list ought to give you pause. Clearly, the domains of knowledge represented above – ranging from biblical scholarship to sexuality to medical research – are not the same, with limitations inherent in the comparison. Whatever the differences, however, there is one obvious commonality across all these consensus conclusions: they represent the dominant agreements of many Smart People in the world around us – or what scriptures call the “wisdom of the world.”

None of this, of course, is to suggest scholars and scientists are always wrong. Clearly, there is so much light and knowledge that has emerged from good scholarship – and sometimes the “wisdom of the world” does line up with the wisdom of God (and the prophets of God).

But for me, this list poses at least the following questions:  How are we to discern between scholarly consensus that lines up with absolute truth, versus scholarly consensus that reflects the mere popular bias of academics today? How is it that majorities of scholars are – and continue to be – so wrong about so many things? If they are wrong about all of this, why would we trust them to be right about so many other things that matters​, yes, including with the pandemic? At the very least, shouldn’t we be thinking more critically about what “all the experts” say to be the case (about anything)?

Take all of this as honest questions. I’d love to hear what others think?

At the very least, it seems fair to say there are some systemic biases in how scholarship is oriented, designed and set up – biases that don’t always lead towards the full truth, and which receive little to no critical attention in our public discourse today. As a result, these scholarly conclusions (across domains) get presented as “reality” and “obvious truth” – in a way that shapes lives, impacts faith, and determined life and death decisions for all of us.

That’s a problem. And it might be among the biggest problems we’re facing right now. Because a public that takes all this for granted – thinking nothing more than “well, this is what the Biblical/psychological/medical experts say” is flying blind – and, at the risk of mixing too many metaphors, being led in so many cases “like a lamb to the slaughter.” ​

After the prophetic verse we love to talk about from Isaiah (“I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder”), Latter-day Saints would do well to remember in our arrogant world today the verse that immediately follows: “For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”

What does that mean for all the Wise Men Pronouncements of our day? Sooner or later, I have a feeling we’re all going to find out.

Giving the gift of forgiveness for Christmas

During our ward Christmas party, our bishop suggested a great gift for others — and for yourself — this holiday season: forgiveness.

I really try hard not to hold grudges, so I usually tell myself I don’t need to forgive anybody, but when the bishop said this a few names came to mind. One of my gifts this Christmas will be to try to forgive these people.

Of course forgiving others can also be a gift to yourself. I will never forget a friend of mine who held a grudge against a family member, and I was inspired to say: “do you honestly think you are hurting this person by not forgiving him? You are hurting yourself more than you are hurting him. That guy is in your head. You are allowing that person to have power over you by holding that grudge. Just forgive him and let it go, and you will benefit most of all.”

We can repair family relationships and friendships by forgiving, but we can also heal our own wounds. Of course there is this important scripture: “Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–10).

But it is also true that practicing forgiveness helps us become better and less bitter people. President James E. Faust said the following in 2007:

“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being. Another of these studies concludes “that forgiveness … is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.”

So, a suggested present for Christmas: think of somebody to forgive and do your best to truly let go of that grudge.