Softening Our Hearts: To Each Other, to the Prophet, to God

Even while hoping this note finds many of you anticipating a restorative and rejuvenating weekend, I know the reality. So many of us – including in our own faith community – are angry. And weary. And fearful. And suspicious.

I felt a prompting this last weekend to interview several neighbors who, like me, have harbored some serious questions about prevailing pandemic policies, and sincere wonderings at why the Church has been so willing to adopt and encourage them. Each of them went through an experience lately of feeling softened by their own communion with God over the matter. I was so touched by the conversations that I decided to write it up in a piece that ran Thursday in Public Square and Meridian Magazines: COVID-19 Vaccination as an Abrahamic Test.

As one woman, Jocelyn, said about her experience: “I felt layers upon layers of hardness on my heart peel off. I could just feel it come off my heart. I didn’t even know that hardness had been there.”

I’ve felt the same just in witnessing their experiences. I can’t deny that peace these brothers and sisters have felt from God in doing something that felt terrifying. They speak of arriving at the vaccination clinic, for instance, fully conscious of the possibility that their life could be harmed – but wanting more than any other consideration to trust the peace they had felt from God.

Who cannot be touched by such faith?

At the end of the essay, I brought attention to the experience of others who have exercised their own faith and felt different guidance in their own individual situation. Then I asked: “Do you have faith to take the vaccine, even if your bias is against it, if the Spirit gives you peace to proceed? And do you have faith to not take the vaccine if you feel so guided by the same Spirit, even if you are going to get some push-back from those around you?”

These have been good questions for me to ask. And I’m grateful for the greater peace that has come as I’ve allowed my heart to soften and trust a little more.

Perhaps this whole struggle can even soften us on other issues that we’re clenching our hearts against each other about. For instance, Mandi, a staunch conservative said, “This whole experience has given me a lot of compassion for people who have struggled with LGBT+ stuff.”

As I said at the end of the essay, I repeat here:

As a final note, if you find yourself fixated on this issue and grappling in your heart with frustration towards brothers and sisters, or even the prophets themselves, please take a moment to remember the full range of things Latter-day prophets have been sharing with the world  (here’s one summary we put together, Prophets on Pandemic). It’s a beautiful message—and I’m confident, the most hopeful message anywhere in the world. Don’t let that gloominess or hardness ruin this upcoming conference weekend! Heaven (literally) knows we all need some uplift and rejuvenation!  So, please don’t let yourself go into the weekend looking for more reasons to be frustrated. God wants more for you, and all of us. 

Happy conference, everyone. If God has something to place on your heart and mind this weekend – including peace, comfort, love or knowledge – my prayer is that NOTHING will stand in the way of that happening.

Hurrah for Israel!

3 thoughts on “Softening Our Hearts: To Each Other, to the Prophet, to God

  1. Jacob, we are always tested, even when we don’t know we are being tested. At this time, we are 1)tested to follow the prophets but we are also tested in 2)how we treat other people whom we don’t believe are following the prophets. I think these tests are both important, but somehow we always forget about the second test.

  2. Thanks for this post. It says a lot I’ve been thinking lately, and provided new perspective I’m grateful for.

    I broke the cardinal rule of healthy internetting and read the comments under the post about the first conference session, and saw more than a few negative COVID-themed comments. I was deeply moved by the session particularly the focus on Christ. I was sad for those who couldn’t get past the masks and vaccines, because there was a feast to be had.

    I had two thoughts that don’t seem at all incompatible. The urge to return to church and grow as a community, to love and accept all…and the reiteration that there is a standard, that the Lord invites us to come as we are but that we shouldn’t expect Him to leave us where we are.

    Our relationship with God is personal. We stand with Him alone at the veil. He can guide us perfectly back to Him, even in navigating health crises and political mine fields. But we are also part of a community. Unless specifically called to serve as a judge in Israel, our prime directive is to love and foster belonging with one another, whatever their status – visitor, investigator, those with and without an active recommend, those with membership limited or withdrawn. Sick and wounded, felons and homeless. All are – or should be – welcome.

    My niece came out last year, and I’ve had to revisit my own beliefs about LGBT issues. They’re still…complicated. I’m leaning more toward the position above: I’m not a bishop, so judging their status with the church or with God is not my place. Mine is to love them, welcome them, mourn with them. I can share my beliefs if asked, but my challenge is to do more listening. (There’s a podcast, “Listen Learn Love” that feels like an honest attempt by a former YSA bishop to thread the needle of faithful compassion – so far it feels safer than what Mormon Stories turned into.

    Same with the COVID issue. I know those who prayed mightily for the vaccine to arrive and took it the second it was available; I also know those who consider a vaccine passport the very Mark of the Beast. And every view in between. Masks, likewise. If someone says they have personal revelation that the vaccine isn’t a good fit for them, I choose to take them at their word. One cousin felt prompted to wait for a more traditional vaccine than the mRNA variants, and got hers when it became available.

  3. On average the vaccine is safer than getting covid. That’s the only context for the covid vaccine being “safe”.

    On average, less people die when they get covid after failing to be immunized from their covid vaccine. That’s the only context for a vaccine that doesn’t create immunity to be described as “effecive”.

    That’s the nuance behind the vaccine being described as safe and effective.

    But in absolute terms, something which causes hospitalization, more deaths than average vaccines, and doesn’t have the intended result is the definition of not safe and not effective.

    So I can argue both sides of the situation. It’s obvious a healthy immune system is more effective than the vaccine. Diet and exercise is safe and effective. Get started. We’re 18 months or so late… a largely obese person can lose 300 lbs in that time. Its a shame we’ve spent it arguing about vaccines, masks, shutdowns, and other politics.

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