Anti-vaxxers have long been a very vocal, very annoying minority within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but with any luck they'll all apostatize soon and start their own church of walking plague bombs.
President Russell M. Nelson, whom most members regard as a prophet, seer and revelator, posted the following on his Facebook page on January 19:
"With approval from our physician, my wife, Wendy, and I were vaccinated today against COVID-19. We are very grateful. This was the first week either of us was eligible to receive the vaccine. We are thankful for the countless doctors, scientists, researchers, manufacturers, government leaders, and others who have performed the grueling work required to make this vaccine available. We have prayed often for this literal godsend.
"As a former surgeon and medical researcher, I know something of the effort needed to accomplish such a remarkable feat. Producing a safe, effective vaccine in less than a year is nothing short of miraculous. I was a young surgeon when, in 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had developed a vaccine against the cruel and crippling disease of polio. I then watched the dramatic impact that vaccine had on eradicating polio as most people around the world were vaccinated.
For generations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has donated considerable resources to making vaccinations available for people in developing countries. Vaccinations have helped to eliminate diseases such as diphtheria and smallpox. My professional and ecclesiastical experiences convince me that vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.
"Receiving the vaccine today was part of our personal efforts to be good global citizens in helping to eliminate COVID-19 from the world."
President Nelson's medical background doesn't make him an automatic expert on every field of medicine or the latest developments, but it does say a lot about his worldview, one that sees faith and reason as harmonious while many try to put them in opposition to each other. It's a real breath of fresh air. So he's not the foremost expert on COVID-19, but I trust his judgment on it more than that of some young mom in Provo who sells essential oils.
Seven other Apostles, including both of President Nelson's counselors in the First Presidency, also received the vaccine. This prompted a couple of equally stupid suggestions from opposite directions. Some Salt Lakers whose lives revolve around whining about everything the Church or any leader ever says or does complained that these men, in getting the vaccine, were being treated with favoritism because of their status in Utah's dominant religion. And some anti-vaxxers within the Church surmised that the unvaccinated Apostles don't share the vaccinated Apostles' approval of vaccinations. To these bipartisan idiots I would like to point out the very simple observation that the vaccinated Apostles are eligible for the vaccine in Utah because they're over seventy, while the unvaccinated Apostles aren't because they're not. As an afterthought I would like to add, duh.
Just to cause even more cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics for anti-vaxxers, the First Presidency followed up the same day with a statement that carries a bit more weight than President Nelson's Facebook page:
"In word and deed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported vaccinations for generations. As a prominent component of our humanitarian efforts, the Church has funded, distributed and administered life-saving vaccines throughout the world. Vaccinations have helped curb or eliminate devastating communicable diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, smallpox and measles. Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.
"As this pandemic spread across the world, the Church immediately canceled meetings, closed temples, and restricted other activities because of our desire to be good global citizens and do our part to fight the pandemic.
"Now, COVID-19 vaccines that many have worked, prayed, and fasted for are being developed, and some are being provided. Under the guidelines issued by local health officials, vaccinations were first offered to health care workers, first responders, and other high-priority recipients. Because of their age, Senior Church leaders over 70 now welcome the opportunity to be vaccinated.
"As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs."
Anti-vaxxers have, of course, fixated on the idea of free agency and the fact that "Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination" as a way of ignoring the fact that the highest governing body of the Church unambigously rejected their entire worldview, praised vaccines, and encouraged everyone to get them. Yes, members may choose for themselves. That doesn't in any way nullify the rest of the statement's contents. I said something in a Facebook comment somewhere about these mental gymnastics. An anti-vaxxer replied to prove me wrong by explaining that if the prophet says he likes fishing but he, the anti-vaxxer, doesn't like fishing, that's not a big deal. So I retracted my premature statement. No mental gymnastics there, no sirree.
The Church Newsroom reported on the apostolic vaccinations and the First Presidency statement and added:
"The Church of Jesus Christ has recognized the importance of vaccinations and immunization for decades. 'We urge members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protect their own children through immunization,” the First Presidency said in 1978.
"Since 2002, through its humanitarian organization Latter-day Saint Charities, the Church has helped fund 168 projects in 46 countries to bless some 116,819,870 people. Latter-day Saint Charities gives monetary support to prominent global immunization partners to procure and deliver vaccinations, monitor diseases, respond to outbreaks, train health care workers, and develop elimination and eradication programming. The results include more immunized children and fewer lives lost to measles, rubella, maternal and neonatal tetanus, polio, diarrhea, pneumonia, and yellow fever.
"Notable success stories of late include the elimination of diseases throughout Africa. In 2019, Latter-day Saint Charities and partners such as UNICEF USA and Kiwanis International helped eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Late last year, thanks to UNICEF and partners such as Latter-day Saint Charities, Africa eradicated wild poliovirus. And in response to a measles epidemic in Chad in 2019, UNICEF and its partners helped vaccinate 653,535 children between the ages of six months and nine years over a one-week period.
'I’m glad our turn has come to have this vaccination,' President Oaks said Tuesday morning. 'We’re very hopeful that the general vaccination of the population will help us get ahead of this awful pandemic. It’s hopeful, like the light at the end of the tunnel. There is relief and appreciation involved for those who have invented the vaccine and for those who have caused it to be generally available on a sensible priority system.'
Of course, most of these people have been struggling with their faith for a while now. They might have felt a few pangs years ago when the Church endorsed the radical notion of not being dicks to undocumented immigrants and refugees from war-torn nations. But certainly within the last year, they were troubled when the Church acknowledged that racism still exists and needs to be eliminated. They were upset when the Church congratulated Biden on winning the US presidential election instead of regurgitating their lies about election fraud, some of them so much so that they tore up their temple recommends. And they've had to crawl over, under, around and anywhere but through basic principles of logic to ignore the fact that the Church has treated this pandemic as a serious threat and taken precautions from the beginning. It's very obvious that nobody in the church hierarchy believes that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu or that individuals' "right" to not wear masks in public trumps (no pun intended) their obligation to the people and society around them. But sure, keep deluding yourself that "the government" is the reason they canceled every church meeting and closed every temple in the world.
Left-leaning members have struggled with and/or rejected various aspects of church teaching and policy for a very long time, while "faithful" right-leaning members have belittled them for doing so. It's nice to see the opposite becoming so common these days. A true Christ-following religion should have something to offend everybody. I guess I should be sympathetic, but these are such stupid, stupid reasons to struggle with your faith. And also I'm actively rooting for them all to leave the Church and stop embarrassing those of us with functioning brains. So there's that.
I suspect this person is a member - they could be Catholic, since the Pope also got vaccinated, but he's famous enough that I think they would have just mentioned him by name if that were the case.
But do you know what? As much as I hope they all apostatize and stop polluting Deseret News comments sections, I actually agree with the anti-vaxxers on one very important point. I don't think President Nelson's enthusiasm for vaccines or the First Presidency statement encouraging everyone to get vaccinated are inspired. That is to say, I don't think that at any time any of them bothered to ask God whether vaccines are a good thing or not. I don't know that for a fact. But I strongly suspect that they declared it on their own initiative because they're not complete imbeciles.
I have to wait until anywhere from March to July to get vaccinated, or probably longer if the government doesn't get its crap together. Until then all I have to do is constantly avoid the 70% more contagious strain that's about to raise hell in the US like it did in the UK, in a state where people throw literal temper tantrums about their children having to wear masks to school. Easy peasy.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.