The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than many people assumed, and looks like it will continue much longer. People everywhere wonder what the future holds. Many of the speakers at General Conference discussed the pandemic.
One theme was the way to Zion.
Another was the lessons we can learn by going through the pandemic.
Professor Andrew Latham, who teaches "Plagues, Pandemics and Politics" at Macalester College, offers "some clues about the way COVID-19 might bend the arc of history."
He points out that Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire as a result of the Antonine and Cyprian plagues.
On the eve of the Antonine plague, the empire was pagan. The vast majority of the population worshipped multiple gods and spirits and believed that rivers, trees, fields and buildings each had their own spirit.
Christianity, a monotheistic religion that had little in common with paganism, had only 40,000 adherents, no more than 0.07% of the empire’s population.
Yet within a generation of the end of the Cyprian plague, Christianity had become the dominant religion in the empire.
I've been thinking about the pandemic in terms of the fulfillment of the prophecies about taking the Gospel to the world. Professor Latham suggests the pandemics "made Christianity a much more attractive belief system" than the prevailing paganism.
Could that happen in our day?
One result of the current pandemic is that Christians, and adherents of other religions, are coming to realize they have been overly dependent on their religious leaders. A church or religion that relies on a professional clergy has an inherent weakness that the pandemic exposed.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not dependent on a professional clergy. We have been able to participate fully in the Sacrament and worship in our homes. We serve one another and watch over one another just as carefully as we did before the pandemic. Maybe more so.
Christian friends of mine have observed over the years that they admire the LDS system of home teaching (ministering). They admire the youth programs, the welfare system, the location-based ward organization, etc. But now, they see the importance of the "lay" Priesthood.
Years ago, Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave an address titled "Only an Elder." You can read it here:
He pointed out "Only an elder! Every elder in the Church holds as much priesthood as the President of the Church. No apostle can or will rise higher in eternity than the faithful elder who lives the fullness of the gospel law."
This is one of the most revolutionary religious principles that, if people understood, would cause them to reflect on their own religious traditions.
That's just one example, but it's the type of opportunity the pandemic presents to us today.
But then there is the ongoing problem with M2C, SITH, etc.
What sense does it make to tell the world we have prophets, only to mutter under our breath that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery misled the Church on such basic topics?
These are not the biggest issues, for sure, but they are fundamental. They have arisen in plenty of missionary and reactivation situations I've been involved with. They are an ongoing source of confusion for new, young, and even seasoned members of the Church.
They're an unforced error, easy to correct.
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