The Social Dilemma

This past month my family endured something of an emergency. My autistic daughter had decided to send inappropriate video links to various family members. In response, my husband decided that my daughter would have to give up her phone for 4 days.

Now, my daughter already suffers from a lack of understanding of the universe, due to her autism. Plus she has Graves Disease, which at times makes her highly emotional, irrational, and paranoid. For example, my daughter will start screaming at us that we are not her real parents, that we kidnapped her a birth. When I remind her (often calmly) that I know she is my child because I was there when she entered mortality, she will wail, “Are you sure?!?!?!?! How do you know!?!?!?!”

For the first two days of phone restrictions, my daughter was rabidly angry and paranoid. Which prompted numerous efforts to correct the errors in her thinking. By the weekend, the oppositional paranoia increased to fever pitch, then gave way to waves of non-specific anxiety. By the last day of the phone restrictions, my daughter was in a constant state of panic: weeping, hyperventilating, afraid my husband was going to die.

Then she got the phone back, and it was like she’d received a calming drug. Now she’s back to only frequent paranoid behavior.

It was in light of this recent experience that I watched /the social dilemma, a documentary mixed with drama that rings a warning bell (if rather faint) regarding how social media companies benefit from algorithms that maximize our screen time, no matter what the consequence.

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The Joys of Growing Old

In recent months, I have increasingly savored the resonance I have with people and places familiar to me.

Not all the resonance is pleasant. Walking into work, I sometimes remember the mass shooting that killed 12 of my co-workers. When I take the Van Dorn exit off the Beltway, I see the hotel where a Soviet GRU agent was apprehended in the 1980s as a result of a friend’s willingness to be a counter-intelligence asset. When I drive past a certain park, I remember the suicide of a Woodson student whose disappearance I followed for the many days before their body was discovered.

But other times the resonance grounds me, reminding me that I am among people I know and cherish.

This past conference, I was reminded time and again that I know these people. Because of the use of recorded music, I was able to see Clay Christiansen at the organ, bringing to mind memories of singing at the National Basilica to a concert he gave, then sitting around the table at lunch with him in the Basilica cafeteria as he talked about the organ he’s installed at his house. Several friends were in the Tabernacle Choir for the performances broadcast this past weekend, including one man I remember dancing with at Youth Conference dances, whose sister was a cherished friend.

Several of those who spoke in the conference or during specials airing that weekend are individuals I have met in real life, including a former member of my ward and another who I have met at family gatherings.

No life is the same, so the experiences that have shaped my soul are different from the experiences that have shaped your soul. But I wish for you that the difficulties of this life can become for you pearls of wisdom and that the friendships of this life can become for you gossamer threads tying you to the best hopes God holds for your future.

Ye Shall Not Fear (part 2)

Texas opened up its society nearly a month ago, ending mask mandates and other lockdown measures. This was the scene for the Texas Rangers’ opening day:

Rangers’ opening day.

More than 40,000 people enjoying a beautiful day of baseball, with very few masks in sight.

So, everybody in Texas is going to die from the virus, right? Well, so far, definitely not.

Texas COVID cases as of April 1, 2021

Hospitalizations and deaths must be shooting up, right? Nope.

Texas statistics as of April 2, 2021

In fact, Texas and Mississippi, which are mostly open, are doing much better than the continually locked down states of New York, New Jersey and Michigan.

Source: Financial Times

Meanwhile, there is the strange case of the country of Nicaragua (where I lived in the 1980s). The socialist government there never locked down or mandated masks and told people to stay at home or wear masks if they wanted to. No mandates. Meanwhile, all of the other countries in Central America (all of which I have visited multiple times since the 1980s) instituted mandates of one kind or another. How is that going?

Source: Financial Times

Yes, you are reading that graph correctly. Nicaragua, with no lockdowns and no mask mandates, has had almost no deaths at all from COVID.

I know what you are thinking. Nicaragua is probably not reporting COVID correctly, right? Actually, as this story points out, even the government’s opposition political party count of cases shows Nicaragua was more successful than its neighbors in Central America. This story explains the strange history of Nicaragua’s success against COVID (with no lockdowns) compared to its neighbors (with lockdowns). Read the whole thing.

We end today with Sweden, which never locked down. Sweden is somewhere in the middle of European countries, better than many Eastern European countries, the UK, Spain, Belgium and Italy, but with results below Norway and Denmark.

I want to emphasize this point: the press assured us in April 2020 that Sweden would be a COVID killing field. None of the horrific predictions came true. Meanwhile, most other countries in Europe have tyrannical lockdowns that are getting more tyrannical every week. Where would you rather live, the free country where you can make your own choices and stay at home and wear a mask if you wish, or the one that will not let you travel and is constantly planning new ways to reduce your freedom?

The evidence is clear, folks: lockdowns and mandates don’t work. This has been known for decades, and this is why there were no lockdowns or mask mandates in earlier worldwide pandemics. Viruses are very unpredictable and are affected by a variety of things, but the things that don’t affect them are mask mandates and lockdowns.

Stop being fearful. The results clearly show that freedom works!

Doctrine and Covenants Song

A few years ago, my husband told us he was planning to write a mneumonic song, to help folks remember the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants.

“How’s it going to go?” I laughed. Then I sang the following to the tune used for the New Testament song: ‘1, 2, 3, and 4, and 5, 6, and 7?'”

In response, Bryan sang the first part to us, to the tune “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton” (as in the youtube video above):

“The Doctrine and Covenants has more of God’s word:
Section 1’s the Lord’s Preface; the 4th calls to serve.
18, souls are worth much; 19, please repent.
The Church formed in 20; 27, sacrament.

This past year, Bryan fleshed out the entire text, refining a word or two here and there as we began our 2021 study of the Doctrine and Covenants. On Easter, Bryan finished the video and posted in to Youtube.

For my part, I tried to argue for some of my favorites (the Elect Lady revelation in D&C 25, the discussion of Church governance in D&C 28). But I am pleased to share a song we’ve enjoyed in our family over the years, which helps us remember some of our favorite sections.

The Gospel presses forward while it seems we are stuck in ‘Groundhog Day’

One of my favorite movies is “Groundhog Day,” which I have written about on this blog. As many readers will know, it is about a cynical weatherman (played by Bill Murray) who is forced to relive the same day over and over again until he becomes a better person.

The lockdowns have turned the world into “Groundhog Day” for many of us, but of course there is hope, and that hope was made very clear in the words of the prophets over the weekend.

I am still trying to wrap my head around 20 new temples being announced in places like Grand Junction, Colorado and Elko, Nevada. Before the pandemic I went to the temple at least twice a month, and it was usually the highlight of my week. Stuck in these lockdowns, I find it difficult to imagine ever going again, but clearly we will go again, and the thought brings tears to my eyes.

President Nelson’s talk Saturday night during Priesthood Session penetrated my stony heart. It seemed to be aimed right at me. The prophet’s optimism and his accentuation of the positive during the lockdowns gave me hope and reminded me that the suffering of this time will be a blip in the eternities. In terms of the Gospel, things will return to normal soon.

President Oaks’ inspired defense of the US Constitution was a much-needed reminder at a time when so many people seem to think the government should control the actions of others. President Oaks reminded us that the Constitution is about individual rights protecting us from government tyranny.

The international flavor of the Sunday morning session was uplifting and a reminder that we are a growing and worldwide Church.

As the prophets reminded us, we have much to look forward to in the days ahead. This uplifting message was perfectly timed and well-received by so many people. My testimony of the inspiration of Church leadership has never been stronger.