In March of 1839, Joseph Smith and other leading brethren were suffering in Liberty Jail in deplorable circumstances. During that time the Lord said to Joseph, “know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” (D&C 122:7).
I am not saying that our current circumstances are as terrible as was theirs, nor am I trying to lessen anything about those events in 1838-1839. However, if I liken all scriptures to ourselves, I can hear the Lord saying, “know thou, my [children], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good”?
So, how can the COVID-19 pandemic be for our good? May I suggest five lessons we can learn
1. Never take things for granted: I miss church. Which is a statement I thought I would never say because I every Sunday I went to church in a church building (except for those times in England when it was a rented room). We shook hands and said hello before the meeting, we prayed together, we sang together, we sustained people together, we renewed the covenant of the sacrament together. We sat together and learn the Gospel. We walked through crowded halls trying to find family members at the end. It was our Sunday routine.
Within a week our church routine was upended. Now we have sacrament meeting in our living room. My wife and I sing, but we miss the good singers that always sat behind us and made us sound better. Don’t get me wrong, our home bound sacrament services have been spiritual and unifying, but they are not the same. I miss seeing my young, handsome bishop sitting on the stand. I miss the warm smile of Brother Hawkins or walking by and hearing the primary children sing. Someday it will all come back and I hope for me and you our actions won’t be a routine but times to behold and wonder. The lesson is don’t take anything for granted.
2. The power of human touch: I am not a hugger, or should I say I wasn’t a hugger. Recently a friend said to me, “A simple hug for some people, makes the world of difference.” Before COVID-19, I would roll my eyes and say to myself, “For some people.” But now I would say, “for all of us.” I miss feeling the openness of an outstretched hand. I miss a hand on the shoulder or even the warmth of a hug. For me, isolation has changed me. While we waited for my COVID-19 test, my wife and I didn’t touch. No more goodnight kiss or any kissing for that matter. No more holding hands while we prayed. No more hugs in the kitchen or quick squeeze of her hand as we attached TV. It was horrible. When the results came back negative (A blessing from heaven for sure), we hugged like newlyweds. The lesson for me and maybe others is that once we can, we need touch our loved ones, our friends, and members of our ward family, always respecting their comfort zone.
3. Focus on the that which matters most: For most of us, in the pre-pandemic era, life was rushing along. Life was filling our lives with stuff. Stuff that at the time, we perceived as important. As we run along our life’s path, we often missed the gold nuggets along the way. However, now that our run has turned into a walk, we are taking time to see the golden nuggets. Golden nuggets of teaching your son to cook hamburgers or teaching your daughter to make peanut butter cookies or helping them with schoolwork or sitting with your spouse watching spring burst forth. This is a time to clean out the “Twinkie” stuff (stuff that feels good at the moment, but has little or no lasting value) and focus on what is eternally important. The lesson for us all is to continue to focus on what matters most after the pandemic.
4. The Lord prepares his people: For over a year, we’ve heard the message, “Home centered, Church supported” and now we are living in a home centered world. Like the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of old (think Lehi and Sarai, Adam & Eve, or Abraham and Sarah) we are bringing our families together and teaching them the Gospel, whether within the walls of our home or with the use of technology. With the new Children and Youth Initiative, we work as a family to help a child or youth achieve a goal they have made. We are learning to minister in a variety of ways rather than the last day of the month visit. I can continue to live the law of tithing because I can pay online rather than having to give it to the bishop. I think there are two lessons here. The first is that the Lord prepares us and the second is we will be prepared if we listen and obey.
These are some of the lessons I think we can learn from the pandemic. What are some of the lessons, you think we can learn?
I look forward to your comments.