There is little room for misunderstanding as the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clarifies their position on receiving the COVID Vaccine.
I took a ‘wait and see’ approach when it came it getting the COVID Vaccine. It was created quickly, not monitored for long-term effects, and the facts of COVID were constantly influx with a high shading of political filtering.
Then on January 19th, 2021, The Church released a statement on the COVID Vaccine. They shared that the eligible Apostles were getting the COVID Vaccine. The statement that really stood out to me was “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.” It was about as strong language as they could have used short of “thou shalt”.
Many read this statement and pulled out another phrase, “Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination”. They read that as a reverse of the previous statement. That the Church wasn’t urging members to be vaccinated. But the next sentence goes on to say, “In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs.”
We have often sought out a doctor’s advice when it comes to medical needs. I even called my doctor because I have just gotten over COVID myself back in January. Additionally, prayer is essential when making medical decisions. I do not doubt that some might have legitimate reasons to wait that were confirmed by prayers.
What astounded me most was the logical leaps people took after this statement. Things as far as President Nelson is a fallen prophet, the Church is only doing this for PR reasons and liability avoidance, it isn’t a vaccine it’s an mRNA so it doesn’t count, and even that they aren’t actually encouraging members to get the COVID Vaccine. I felt like I was being gaslighted by some of my conservative friends. Were we even reading the same statement?
Teachings or statements from the leaders of the Church are not always in alignment with our political party. I am a pretty conservative Republican. The Church has made statements about the separation of immigrant families at the border, protection for refugees seeking asylum, and environmental stewardship. When they did, I had to check my politics and follow the prophet.
Similarly, many liberals might have had that moment in 2015 when Handbook changes were made concerning same-sex marriages. I even had to take a moment to ponder how I felt about parts of the statement. The response by some more extreme conservatives made statements like, “If you don’t like it, leave”. Now here we are again on the other side of the political spectrum. Does the same obtuse response apply?
Additional clarity for Latter-day Saints on COVID Vaccine
Luckily, further clarity was soon given on many occasions. In February of 2021, The Church partnered with UNICEF to help with COVID vaccine distribution including getting vaccines to Belize and helping India during their surge in April of that year. The Church also began requiring full-time missionaries to get the COVID vaccine to serve outside their home country. About this time, the General Handbook for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added a section on vaccinations to are encouraged Latter-day Saints “to safeguard themselves, their children, and their communities through vaccination“.
A new statement was released in August of 2021, this time by the First Presidency directly. They say in the statement, “We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population… we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective”. When a world-renown heart surgeon signs his medical opinion and attaches an admonition as a prophet, we should be paying extra close attention.
For me, the intent of the Lord’s chosen representatives has been clear. When the opportunity arose, I chose to get vaccinated. I don’t judge others who were like me and are taking a ‘wait and see approach. I totally get it. Now, there is an abundance of opportunities in my area of the United States to get the COVID Vaccine. The COVID vaccine is even available at Walmart! We are even shipping our overstock to India. There it will assist the people there as well as make sure our stock does not expire unused.
50% of the United States has been vaccinated. Everyone who has desired to get the COVID Vaccine has gotten it. The people remaining are those who think Bill Gates wants to inject them with nanobots and those taking that ‘wait and see’ approach. States with high percentages of Latter-day Saints are on the lower spectrum of the curve. Utah and Arizona are at 46% and Idaho is in 46th place at 38%.
For those of you in the first group, nothing I have said or shared will probably convince you to look past your confirmation bias. I am surprised you even made it this far. But for those of you in the second group, I would just encourage you to take it to the Lord and ask for his confirmation. I get that things are cloudy. Changing standards, conflicting reports, questionable intentions, are all very real things. But so are deaths in our circles of friends and family. This isn’t about mask mandates, required vaccines, business closures, or government payments. (those can have their own debate) This is about following the will of the Lord as revealed by His prophets.
I promise you in the name of the Lord that if you will listen not just with your ears but also with your heart, the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth unto you of the messages delivered by [the President of The Church], his counselors, the Apostles, and other leaders of the Church. The Spirit will prompt you to know what you should do as individuals and as families in order to follow our counsel, that your testimonies might be strengthened and that you might have peace and joy.
This morning I read a talk by Elder Ballard from 2001 called “Follow the Prophet“. He uses examples of the leprous Naaman commanded to wash in the stream. A young woman who chose to follow President Hinckley’s recommendation to only wear one pair of earrings. At the end of the day, this situation is no different. So, do your research, talk to trusted medical professionals, make a determination, and then pray and ask if it is His will for you.
I’d love to hear from you. What was your experience taking the decision to get (or not get) the COVID Vaccination to the Lord in prayer?