About a quarter of the people in our ward in Colorado wore masks today, which is more than usual for the last four months or so. Our bishop got up and gave the most common sense talk on this subject that I have seen a long time. He basically told people that the Church believes in free agency, and the Church is urging people to wear masks when they cannot social distance and the Church is urging people to be vaccinated. He asks people to be kind and not make judgements of the people who decide to wear masks and get vaccinated, but he also asked members not to be judgmental of those who decided NOT to wear masks or get vaccinated.
Basically, he was asking people to be charitable and mind their own business when it comes to other peoples’ personal choices. I was very pleased to hear him say this, because the secret to getting along in a pluralistic society is minding your own business. And this is what I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic.
Regular readers will know that I am against all government mandates regarding the pandemic, and this includes masks and vaccines. And the Church’s statement on Thursday partly supports my position. The Church does not ask for government mandates on masks and vaccines but asks for people to voluntarily wear masks when they cannot social distance and voluntarily decide to get vaccinated.
I want to make it clear that my position on this issue has not changed. I support the Brethren and I support my local leadership. And I believe the science that overwhelmingly shows that masks are nearly useless against viruses, and I have many questions about the vaccines. The more I study the issue, the more I am sure of my position on this issue.
However, there is another argument that all Latter-day Saints need to consider. And that is simply this: we are supposed to follow the prophet even when it doesn’t make sense to our logical brains. So, if we are going to “Steel Man” the prophets’ statement, we must come around to this position, and we simply cannot avoid it. (Steel Manning an argument means presenting the best case of an argument — it is the opposite of Straw Manning an argument, which is to oppose an argument based on nit-picking and not really addressing the central point of the argument).
The prophet has asked us to do something. We should do it. We need to think about Naaman, who was told by a prophet to wash in the Jordan River seven times so his leprosy would be cured, but he at first was angry with this advice because his logical brain told him the advice was ridiculous. But he was told that if God had asked him to do a great thing, he would have done it, so God is asking him to do an easy thing, why not do it? And Naaman took the advice, and he was healed. (Here is a really thorough explanation of Naaman’s story, which you can read about in 2 Kings 5:1-19).
So, comparing our situation to that of Naaman, if we were asked to move to Salt Lake City to take some new Church calling, we would probably do it. But we are asked to do something relatively simple, which is to wear a mask and get a vaccine (I understand these are not simple things for many people, but I am just trying to make the best argument possible for the Church’s position).
My bishop said today that the whole situation reminded him of Lehi and Nephi being told to leave Jerusalem, which of course was a huge hardship for Lehi’s family. But Nephi was blessed for “going and doing” what the Lord asked, and the rebellious members of the family were ultimately not blessed.
I would also like to link a thoughtful post from last year by a mask skeptic who has decided to change his tune because of the Church’s guidance. I don’t agree with some of the points in this post, but I think he makes a very good argument in favor of changing behavior to align with the Brethren. On that same blog, there is a thoughtful post regarding vaccines. Reading these two posts over the next half-hour or so, and considering the arguments I made about Naaman and Nephi provides, I think, the best possible argument in favor of the Church’s position. I would urge all people to consider these ideas.