It has been amusing to watch progressive members of the Church cheer when they perceive Church policy is in their favor. I refer to recent cheering related to promoting mask wearing as the most recent example.
Here at M*, we have always supported Church policy. So, when the Church came out against same-sex marriage, we added our voice in favor of the Church’s position. Most progressives didn’t like that at all. And when the Church came out in favor of a compassionate immigration policy, we were in favor. Many traditional conservatives didn’t like that either. And when the Church came out against drug legalization, we supported the Church position, and of course many libertarians were upset.
As a blog, we always support Church policy, and this includes mask wearing. So, as one of the founding members of this blog, I would like to re-emphasize that I personally support Church policy on mask wearing. People should wear masks at Church and they should wear masks at the temple, and they should wear masks in other common sense situations.
We are also in favor of the Church policy against fear. In fact, if you search on lds.org, you will find dozens of talks urging Church members to have faith and not fear the world around us. I have never seen a talk that says that you should not fear, except when there is a virus with a 99.5 percent survival rate if you are under 70 years old.
Fear is one of the greatest motivators. I think we can safely argue that one of the reasons President Trump won the presidency in 2016 is that he used fear against Hillary Clinton and fear against many other groups to motivate people to vote for him. Joe Biden also presumably won in 2020 by ginning up fear against President Trump and against the virus. Fear is the basis of many successful marketing campaigns.
But ginning up fear is primarily about manipulation, and manipulation usually means emphasizing certain details while ignoring others. So, we hear about some studies, but others, which are better in quality, are conveniently ignored because they don’t stir up enough fear. Many of us are smart enough to know when we are being manipulated, but many others are not. Of course, the primary source of evil here are the people doing the manipulating, but we also have some responsibility for controlling our own fears.
If your fear is causing you to lash out at others who are doing nothing more than disagreeing with you, then you are at fault, not the people expressing an opinion you don’t like. If your fear is prompting you to accost people and insist they behave in certain ways (such as telling other people to wear a mask), you are a victim of manipulation and fear. You need to realize this and learn to control yourself. There is no heroism in being a busy-body who feels a need to tell others how to behave. Mind your own business. If you cannot mind your own business, you are 100 percent responsible for the contention that takes place. (There are, of course, exceptions for cases when people are causing DIRECT, DELIBERATE HARM to other people, in which case intervention is often justified. A person not wearing a mask is not causing direct, deliberate harm to people, and you should just ignore him or her. If you feel a need to get in this person’s face and tell him to wear a mask, you are either stupid (because you may catch the virus from this person) or you are a hypocrite because you don’t really believe the person is a threat, but you want to control another person’s behavior.)
I have lost dozens of friends, perhaps as many as 100, over the last year or so simply because I expressed opinions these other people did not like. Most of these people were social media friends, but some of them were friends in real life. And the thing that I did wrong was write or say something they didn’t like.
Here on this blog, I wrote something that one long-time friend did not like a few months ago, and he called me out publicly in a way that showed that he actually did not understand what I wrote. He later clarified his position and apologized, and we are still friends. Another person on this blog did the same thing more recently, and he accused me publicly and in private of going against Church policy. When I asked him to name an example, he had none. I want to repeat this: this person accused me, a temple recommend-holding proud member of this Church of opposing Church policy, something I have never done since being baptized. And he did it publicly and in private. But he has no evidence and no examples.
What could be motivating such strange behavior? I don’t know for sure, but it seems fear has something to do with it.
Just in case I was somehow in the wrong on this issue, I had long discussions last night with my bishop and my wife. These are the people I trust most on personal worthiness issues. I laid out the facts of what I believe and what I have written, and both my bishop and my wife told me that they had no questions about my personal worthiness. In fact, both of them told me to continue speaking out against man-made policies (lockdowns and other government mandates) that are harming so many people during this pandemic.
One of my goals this year has been to decrease fear of the virus. Of course we should take it seriously and take common sense measures to avoid harming the most vulnerable. But we should live our lives and allow others to live their lives. Life is inherently about taking some risk. We will all die eventually. There is no reason to live if we are stuck in our homes for years on end, afraid to venture out into the world because we may catch a virus with a very high survival rate. If you are at high risk, then of course you should stay at home. But if you are not, you should live your life.
That is my primary message: do not let yourself be controlled by fear. Live your life. And I am happy to report that the most respected epidemiologists and health policy experts agree with me. They have put together something called the Great Barrington Declaration, which says, in part:
Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice. Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
You may have noticed that this statement has not gotten as much publicity as is warranted given the number of scientists (more than 12,000) and medical practioners (more than 38,000) who have signed the declaration. Again, we live in a society motivated by fear, and some people prefer to live in fear and attempt to censor those who disagree with them rather than move away from fear.
I want to share with you the incredibly sad story of the latest victim of the lockdowns. This is the story of high school freshman Spencer Smith who killed himself because of the COVID-19 restrictions on high school football and because he was continually locked in the house because of the irrational fear of people in his school district. As I have pointed out in other posts, suicide is skyrocketing because of the lockdowns, and school children are among the most tragic victims.
I share with you a 2004 talk from Elder Packer, that is relevant to what we are living through today:
When I was a boy, childhood diseases appeared regularly in every community. When someone had chicken pox or measles or mumps, the health officer would visit the home and place a quarantine sign on the porch or in the window to warn everyone to stay away. In a large family like ours, those diseases would visit by relay, one child getting it from another, so the sign might stay up for weeks.
We could not blockade ourselves inside our homes or stay hidden away to avoid those terrible contagions. We had to go to school, to employment, to church—to life!….
…Encourage our young people. They need not live in fear (see D&C 6:36). Fear is the opposite of faith.
While we cannot erase wickedness, we can produce young Latter-day Saints who, spiritually nourished, are immunized against evil influences.
Unfortunately, too many people today do not heed the counsel of modern-day prophets. They appear addicted to fear. One of the results is the lockdowns and mandates that are destroying our freedom. Another result is the contention that is hurting personal relationships and ending friendships. The true message of the Gospel is that of Elder Packer — do not live in fear!