LDS Discussions Blog
Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign (April 2, 2020)
We wrote last week about how apologists will often look for parallels to deflect problems away, and in doing so we also cited a post that had been making the rounds on social media that tried to use parallels to prove that the coronavirus outbreak actually is a testimony builder of the truthfulness of the church.
Today I wanted to do a quick follow-up to another social media post making the rounds, because in a lot of ways it's more of the same, but it also shows how far we will go to confirm our biases in order to avoid the cold reality of the evidence at hand. I'll keep it short, because the writer clearly explains the problems with their post without even realizing it.
To the post:
Repost: I cannot tell you what a testimony builder this COVID 19 experience has been. Everything our governments are doing is reactive. They are trying to handle the situation as it develops, in varying stages of success.
However, almost everything our church has done has been proactive. Today, the church closed all the temples completely. On the outside, it seemed reactive. However, I see now that the Lord prepared us for this.
This is revisionist history at its best. The church did not suspend Sunday meetings until the evening of March 12th, did not start pulling any of their missionaries out of troubled countries until after that, and did not close down all temples until March 26th. Keep in mind that the church did not close temples until a member from Utah died from coronavirus and had visited the temple just days earlier. If that is not the very definition of reactive, I do not know what is.
On the other hand, many of what the author cites as "reactive" governments and businesses had already begun making changes before the "proactive" church did. First a quick look at governments:
January 8: First CDC warning on coronavirus
January 21: First US case of coronavirus
January 30: The W.H.O. declares a global emergency
January 31: The USA restricts travel to and from China
February 24: Congress begins the first aid package for coronavirus
February 29: The USA announces further travel restrictions
March 4: California declares state of emergency
March 11: The USA blocks most flights from Europe
March 11: Washington, California block any large gatherings
March 11: Chicago, other cities cancel St Patrick's Day events
March 12: New York, Illinois, blocks any large gatherings
Now let's take a quick look at other big cancellations prior to the church:
March 6: SXSW in Austin canceled
March 6: Seattle Comic Com canceled
March 9: Pearl Jam postponed entire USA tour
March 11: NBA suspends its season after Utah Jazz player tests positive
March 12: MLB suspends all operations
March 12: NCAA tournament canceled
March 12: NHL suspends its season
We could fill in a ton of other state measures of closing schools, businesses, gatherings, etc, but the point is that by the time the church suspended Sunday meetings, many big states had already forced their hand. The church did not announce that meetings would be suspended until the night of March 12th, after some states had already announced bans on large gatherings, and after many businesses, sports, and events had already taken a more "proactive" stance. Put another way, the church did not suspend meetings until after some states were issuing bans on large gatherings (such as church meetings), almost every sport had suspended their seasons, and many large businesses had canceled all travel, meetings, and events.
While this member strains to create something out of nothing, the reality is that this is no different than the church declaring the ban on blacks lifted decades after the civil rights movement or the reversal of the November 2015 revelation from God just 3.5 years later because they were reacting to the bad public relations following such a harmful and ill advised revelation 'from God.'
I don't know how to make this more clear, but this is a reactionary church. It always has been, and it always will be. That is definitely something that members will do just about anything to avoid talking about, but facts are facts and they are almost always behind others in making any changes whether it's recognizing civil rights for blacks, being (slightly) less aggressive towards the LGBT community, or in ending polygamy only as the government was about to take their assets.
Less than one year ago, the church announced that couples no longer have to wait a year to get sealed if they have been married civilly. I just shrugged at the time and thought it was a great policy. However, today I see that the Lord knew the temple closures were coming and He took away the waiting period for couples who had no choice but to get married civilly while the temples were closed.
It solidified my testimony to know that Lord, through our Prophet, is not being reactive. He is being proactive.
Again, this would make sense if the church used a situation such as a pandemic as the rationale, but instead they focused on not cutting out family members who were not temple recommend holders to help with family relations. You can read their releases for yourself, this was a reaction to members who had to choose between having a wedding with their family or with just the portions of the family who were still paying enough tithing money to keep a temple recommend.
Oh wait- there was one other reason they made the change, and it was a 100% reactive reason. Don't believe me? Take it directly from the church's website: "Local laws in more than half the countries where the Church is established dictate a couple marry civilly before being sealed in the temple, making the scenario common outside of the United States."
Nowhere in the unveiling of this policy does it discuss a situation like coronavirus - it is about reacting to the laws of "more than half the countries" and trying to make it easier for families that are not all in the church. This author's argument is not just nonsensical, it is deeply dishonest. And if you want to say 'Well Nelson knew it was coming but didn't want to scare us,' then ask yourself why there were no mentions last October to stock up on masks, sanitizer, toilet paper, or even food storage.
*Come Follow Me - giving us time to become familiar with it (even if we are not perfect).
This is the same issue as the temple marriage one above. They had manuals before Come Follow Me for the third hour, and they have manuals now. The lowering of church from 3 hours to 2 hours had nothing to do with impending disasters and everyone who is not trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole can see that. The only way to connect this as revelatory is if you are feeding your own confirmation bias. Again, read the releases about this change and let me know where pandemics are referenced in any way. This is grasping at straws.
*General Conference - going to be different (even if it wasn't in any way close to our speculations)
The reason the author notes "even if it wasn't in any was close to our speculation" is because Russell M. Nelson made clear the uniqueness would be due to the First Vision anniversary. It would be like if I said "Next year's family trip is going to be different so get your Utah Jazz gear ready" and you were thinking we were going to a basketball game, and then six months later I told you that we'd be discussing backgammon in an empty arena.
If you're struggling to make sense of how Russell Nelson got it wrong, it makes sense why you would distort and leave out things Nelson actually said to make it true, but it doesn't change the fact that Nelson never warned anyone last October about this pandemic and absolutely tied the uniqueness of this conference to the First Vision.
*Closing all Temples - but already having a policy in place for couples whose lives are held in limbo!
We covered this earlier, so no reason to do it again. I would just note the temples were not all closed until March 26th, which was after a member DIED who went through the temple as we mentioned above. That just screams being proactive as this author claims, doesn't it?
*Age of witnesses being lowered - baptisms can be witnessed by non-priesthood holders so with 1 priesthood and 2 women, the baptism can still happen.
I'm not sure what this really changes. I guess this is assuming there are widespread situations where no other priesthood holders are around, but the pandemic isn't really altering that at all - it is simply an issue of meetings being suspended which would likely slow down (if not stop) baptisms until it's clear to return. I feel like this is filler to try and beef up the case that there is actually revelation in the church.
*Ministering - no longer focusing on visiting people in their homes but, just a general, personal caring connection.
Ministering is home teaching by a different name, and again was a change to take the burden off members who weren't doing their home teaching anyway. Even members joked about this when the change was made, so while I know it makes the argument look more rounded, it's just not substantive in a way that makes any sense by the church's own descriptions of it. It's like saying 'They changed home teaching to ministering to allow members to be more lazy in their callings without feeling so guilty, so now that they can't leave the house, it's even easier.'
*Online Seminary classes - An amazing tool to have that allow High School kids to continue to learn without having to physically attend class.
A low of states now have remote learning. My local school district is doing it and many states have passed rules just this year to allow for remote learning days. Are they prophets too? This is, again, grasping at straws to make a case while ignoring the massive problems that coronavirus is exposing for the church's truth claims.
*Youth Changes in age - Young Men who were turning 12 this year have already received the priesthood at the beginning of the year instead of after the pandemic (hopefully) ends making them able to pass the sacrament in their homes under the direction of their bishops.
So they restructured the youth classes and organization so that for the brief time that meetings are suspended, the almost 12 year olds can distribute the sacrament? As mentioned above, this doesn't really change anything unless you believe this pandemic will last for a very prolonged period (longer than many months), which almost no experts believe.
*Also, so grateful for Personal Revelation, Emergency Preparedness and Food Storage always taught by the Church.
Food storage has not been emphasized by the church in a meaningful way since at least 2014. That's six years ago, and there was not a single mention of it at the last General Conference, which would be a perfect time for a self proclaimed prophet to actually tell us something that would come to pass. And yet, in General Conference there have been no talks about food storage since 2007. In fact, this 2013 post from a faithful website addresses the fact that the church no longer emphasizes food storage with the heading "Why isn’t food storage mentioned in General Conference anymore?"
If the church really wanted to show they were prophetic, they should have told members to stock up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and masks. Food is not hard to find in any consistent manner right now, but those key supplies are very difficult to find.
We've discussed personal revelation on this site before, but the problems with personal revelation are too numerous to count. My personal revelation is that the evidence shows the church is not true, which means my personal revelation is not respected by the church. My favorite video to illustrate this even has personal revelation that polygamy is still of God from an LDS offshoot sect, which the church of course would declare is not legitimate personal revelation. Personal revelation means 'anything you feel during prayer that confirms the teachings of church leaders," which brings us to the author's last point (emphasis added):
IF YOU'RE LOOKING, THE SIGNS ARE EVERYWHERE!!!
And here's the grand finale. If you're looking, the signs are everywhere. Well this is true - that's why flat-earthers believe the Earth is flat, why 9/11 truthers believe the signs show that the government was behind the 9/11 attacks, or why every religion believes theirs is the one true religion.
If you're willing to ignore all of the evidence, you can find signs to make *anything* true whether it's Bigfoot, Elvis still being alive, or the moon landing being a hoax. It's why apologists write articles claiming that Joseph Smith actually translated the Book of Abraham facsimiles correct even though every Egyptian scholar can show exactly how and why they are verifiably wrong, why they ignore the irreconcilable problems with the Book of Mormon and focus on the things that mirror the Bible (that Joseph Smith used to write the Book of Mormon), or why Joseph Smith incorrectly claimed Native Americans were Lamanite descendants both through the Book of Mormon and revelations from God.
What we need to focus on is what is true through evidence and facts, but what the church has really pivoted to since the internet is what makes you feel good. And while comfort is valuable in times like this, it does not make the church any more true nor does it change the evidence that proves it false.
The problem is that we are all relying on scientists and medical experts to get us through this pandemic, but the church also tells us these "so-called" scientists got it wrong on who Native Americans are, on how people are born gay, or why the Word of Wisdom is actually a really misguided law of health. As we mentioned in our last post about parallels, if God really put a doctor in as prophet, then perhaps Nelson could actually lead in the recovery instead of constantly being behind everyone else, including the very scientists and experts the church minimizes when it conflicts with their truth claims.
I guess the best way I could respond to this author is by working from their last line and noting that if you're truly open to new information, the evidence that the church is not true is everywhere. We detail it by using the church's own sources whether it's Book of Mormon translation, Book of Abraham, polygamy/polyandry, or changes to the First Vision or priesthood restoration.
If you value evidence, research, and facts, then the church is not true. However, if your main concern is confirming your own bias, then not only can you make anything true no matter how impossible, but you will also never progress as a person because you're too busy trying to defend the indefensible.
You have to give yourself the permission to look at this information with an open mind before you can even begin to understand that it simply does not add up. It took me almost a decade from when I knew it wasn't true until I was willing to actually dive in, so I get why so many feel so uncomfortable looking at information that shows the church isn't true.
But at the end of the day, those uncomfortable feelings are not "the adversary" or some force trying to lead you away, it's your own brain trying to protect you by literally making you feel pain and discomfort. That's not just me saying that - it's the very scientists and medical experts we are all relying on today to help us through this pandemic who have proven it with research, facts, and studies. If you trust them to find a vaccine or at least find ways to slow down its spread, I hope you trust them when their conclusions when they force us to reevaluate the things we've been taught in the church.
I know this is a difficult process and I how crushing it is to learn a religion you were raised with or converted to is not true. But if the church is true, then you should be able to read through our materials without any fear. As Apostle James Talmage said, "The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding."
As we look at this social media post, you can see how with every point brought up, it exposes more problems with the idea that this is a church led by a living prophet. We have twelve men ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators, and yet not only were members in no way warned, but the church was behind the experts and many large businesses in sounding the alarm and making necessary changes. Not only does that show that the leaders had no idea it was coming, but that they know that priesthood power or blessings provide no protection, cure, or ability to make it go away.