Institutional Bullying and the Question of Religious Exemption from Vaccine Mandates

I received a call this week from a father with two children facing intimidation and bullying from the universities they are attending. As is common these days, those who have concerns about the COVID vaccine and are hesitant to be vaccinated are treated as second-class citizens, with corporations, universities, and other institutions treating them as second-class citizens if not pariahs to be ousted. At the two universities in question, the vaccine hesitant are easily identified and are pressured or bullied by other students and intimidated by the university. Sincere religious concerns do not count for much. 

Religious exemption requests are based on the idea enshrined in the Constitution that American citizens should have freedom to practice their religion. Of course, where the boundaries of those freedoms are is a complex and thorny issue. But an important aspect of that liberty is codified into law in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination of employees on the basis of religion. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for the sincere religious beliefs of workers unless that would cause undue hardship. Similar principles have been put into state laws and are part of the official policies of many universities. See, for example, the Religious Accommodations Policy of the University of North Carolina

But what does this have to do with COVID? No major religious organization, as far as I know, has come out against COVID vaccination. The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have encouraged us to protect ourselves and others by being vaccinated. (For the record, my wife and I are vaccinated and we think it’s a good idea to get vaccinated, especially if they do not already have natural immunity and are in a high-risk category or closely associate with those at high risk.) So how can there be a sincere religious objection to the COVID vaccine? 

Two Possible Grounds for Religious Objections

The two university students in question have concerns about the use of fetal cells in the R&D and development that led to these new vaccines. The vaccines do not contain fetal cells, but fetal cells were used in the development and commercialization of the vaccines that are available in the US. Many people who share an opposition to unnecessary abortion and strongly believe in the sanctity of human life do not necessarily object to the use of modern fetal cell lines that have been cultured from fetal cells taken in the 1970s, especially when those fetal cells are not physically part of the product. But there are arguments both ways. I think we need to understand that a person can have a sincere concern about any new medical product that was invented or developed through the use of abortion, even if the abortion occurred long ago.  If aborted cells were an integral part of the development and introduction of a new product, I can see why it might be viewed as tainted and objectionable to use, or especially repugnant to take into one’s body. 

As reported by the State of Michigan in their fact sheet on fetal cells and COVID vaccines (PDF), the “Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine used a fetal cell line to produce and manufacture their vaccine.” While the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine did not use a fetal cell line to manufacture their vaccine, “a fetal cell line was used in a very early phase to confirm efficacy prior to production and manufacturing.” All three vaccines are thus subject to potential religious concerns about the use of fetal cells for the development of a new drug.  

But fetal cell use is not the only reason a religious person might have a sincere religious concern about the COVID vaccines or any experimental drug or drug that has not had the normal years of long-term safety testing. As I discussed in my Sept. 10, 2021 post on the Emmy Award-winning singer, Victory Boyd, whose contract with the NFL was terminated when she refused vaccination on religious grounds, Ms. Boyd based her request for a religious exemption on the biblical concept of the sanctity of her body and the desire to not take potentially harmful (or not completely tested) substances into her body. Here is her statement:

“The Bible admonishes Christians to appreciate their bodies as being sacred and a temple of the Holy Spirit and to not participate in things that can defile the body or render the body dysfunctional.

“I am in prayer to make sure that the Lord guides me into the right decision concerning receiving an unproven injection with artificial properties that can potentially have a long-term effect on my reproductive health.

“If I want to take the vaccine, the decision will be between myself, my doctor, and my God. At this point, the Spirit of God is leading me to take a stand for freedom of choice.”

Sadly, the “my body, my choice” argument only seems to work if it’s being used to justify destroying someone else’s very vulnerable prenatal body. When it comes to actually protecting your own body from unwanted substances, many institutions insist that compliance is the only option with no effort at all to make reasonable accommodations for one’s sincere concerns. But that doesn’t mean a person with those concerns should be silenced, shamed, or booted from the company or university. Even if we disagree with the religious concerns, I think we need to stand with those who are asking for their religious views and rights to be respected.

As Latter-day Saints with our own health code, we are taught to have concerns about taking harmful substances into our body. Tobacco, alcohol, and harmful drugs are on the list. But what about drugs where the safety status has not been fully resolved due to the lack of long-term studies on such issues as reproductive health or cancer? The two students in question both wish to be parents one day and have sincere concerns about the long-term impact of the vaccines on reproductive health. What is the impact on pregnancy or on fetal development or mutations? What we know so far from extensive safety testing in the past 18 months is that the vaccines are safe. But no matter how awesome your short-term testing is, no matter how close your rats and mice are to humans, there are some human health issues that cannot be fully settled with one or two years of testing. Most vaccines go through 10 to 15 years of development and testing before being rolled out for widespread use. There is a sincere reason why someone might feel short-term testing is not enough time to take a substance that could affect them for the rest of their life. It’s a reasonable basis for a religious exemption and a reasonable basis for a scientific objection. I’m not saying we have to agree with it or that the argument is compelling, but it is a position that a reasonable person can take. 

There may be further grounds for religious exemption requests besides the two considered here, but please understand that those having religious objections may have more than one basis for their concerns. 

As healthy young people with very little risk to COVID, both of these students wonder why they should be compelled to take a substance into their bodies that may bring genuine risk (though risk that at the moment seems quite rare) yet offers very little benefit for them while in their youth. Given their health and age, having COVID is very unlikely to send them to the hospital to use up limited resources for others. Their vaccinated peers have very little to fear from them if the vaccines are effective. Compelling them to take a medication that may bring risk but offers little benefit seems unfair. Giving them time to wait for long-term safety results doesn’t seem unreasonable. 

Aspirin, Tylenol, Ex-Lax and the Hypocrisy Test

One of the children of the father who called me had already expressed the desire for a religious exemption to the university, which apparently claims that it will make reasonable accommodations to sincere religious belief. In response, the university provided an intimidating form to “test” the sincerity of that belief by giving a long list of popular over-the-counter products that allegedly also have used fetal cells. The form requires students seeking a religious exemption to vow that they do not and will not use such products.

The hypocrisy test apparently was developed at the healthcare company, Conway Medical, per Tristates Public Radio, WIUM. Here’s their form (click to enlarge):

The same list is now being used in many parts of the country, including at some universities. This hypocrisy test, in my opinion, might not really be based on a good-faith desire to confirm the sincerity of a student’s religious views, for it feels like it is intended to intimidate students and mock their belief. It’s a little like saying, “Oh, you refuse to drink alcohol due to religious beliefs? According to science, you’re a hypocrite.  We’ve seen you drinking orange juice and eating bananas, both of which can contain around 0.2% ethanol. We’ve seen you eating hamburgers with baked buns known to have over 1% ethanol. It’s amazing you can even walk straight right now. You obviously don’t have a sincere religious belief against alcohol. Now drink up!” 

This alcohol-related mocking is only a little like the mockery of the university’s hypocrisy test, because my alcohol hypocrisy test is actually much more logical. Alcohol occurs naturally in many foods, enough so that parents perhaps really should be cautious about giving young children lots of fruit juice. See Eva Gorgus, Maike Hittinger, and Dieter Schrenk, “Estimates of Ethanol Exposure in Children from Food not Labeled as Alcohol-Containing,” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, vol. 40, no. 7 (Sept. 2016): 537–542. But there’s still a significant difference between most alcohol-rich foods and the alcohol content of beer, wine, or liquor. 

Importantly, whether my religious acceptance of the Word of Wisdom’s prohibition of alcohol is logical or scientific does not determine the sincerity of my religious belief. My religious beliefs related to what I eat or drink is based on revelation and to some degree religious tradition in interpreting that revelation. I personally avoid low-alcohol beer, even if its alcohol content might actually be less than that of my favorite fresh-baked bread. Our response to the Word of Wisdom may seem illogical or contradictory when explored by secular observers. But guess what? It’s religion. It’s a matter of faith and sometimes a matter of tradition. It’s not supposed to make perfect sense to outside secular observers. Religion of all kinds abounds with elements that require faith and may seem contradictory, superstitious, or unreasonable to outsiders, especially those looking for reasons to criticize. Whether it’s the nature of the Trinity or the refusal to eat cheeseburgers based on an interpretation of a verse in the Torah, there are things that are puzzling to those outside the believer’s faith. Whether a student has taken Tylenol is not a fair gauge of the sincerity of religious belief.

Further, the university’s hypocrisy test is actually deceptive and unreasonable. It is deceptive because nearly all of the products on the list were developed and marketed without the use of fetal cells, often long before fetal cells were even available for testing. Aspirin, which was first marketed by Bayer in 1899 but has a history that goes much further back in time. Ex-Lax was first produced in 1906. Tums was introduced to the market in 1928 but employs compounds known to be safe long before that. Preparation H dates to around 1935. Ibuprofen was discovered in 1961. Now that aspirin is on the market, if some lab or manufacturer decides to test it with fetal cells, I don’t need to reject aspirin if my religious belief and conscience leads me to reject products that relied on abortion for their development and commercialization. Products that were developed and commercialized independent of an aborted child are what some people object to. Taking an existing product that did not rely on the cells of an aborted fetus for its development and commercialization and then later testing it with fetal cells may be unfortunate, but need not require the believer to reject that product.

If some lab decides to test the safety of lettuce using fetal cells, that would be unfortunate, but it does not turn pro-lifers objecting to fetal cell use in vaccines into hypocrites if they are caught eating salad. Lettuce salad, like most of the products on the hypocrisy test list, was an established product long before fetal cells were available for testing.

A Better Sincerity Test

If the universities really want to know if these students have sincere objections to the vaccines based on pro-life views or the Word of Wisdom or some other matter of faith and conscience, the right gauge is not whether or not they have ever used aspirin, Tylenol, Ex-Lax, etc., or consumed fresh-baked bread or orange juice. The hypocrisy test is great as a secular tool to belittle the beliefs of others, but if you want to know how sincere those students are, a better tool might be to simply observe what they have been doing already. In spite of being publicly shamed as vaccine hesitant rebels, facing sustained harassment from fellow students motivated by statements and policies from the university without respect for the medical privacy and personal beliefs of the students, these students continue to maintain their position and to implore the university for the right to control what is taken into their bodies and to avoid an injection of a substance that, unlike aspirin or Tylenol, relied on the cells of an aborted fetus for its very existence (i.e., its development and commercialization). Being willing to face that kind of pressure and discrimination and now to risk being expelled from the university for their beliefs seems like an indicator of sincerity, even if we don’t share or agree with the position they take. 

The “Scientific Exemption”: It’s Not Just Religion We Need to Respect

For the two university students in question, the objection to the vaccine is not just based on religious concerns, though I think they should be respected in spite of my not fully agreeing with them. Besides the religious concerns, there is also a scientific or health-based objection, and they may be including a request for a “scientific exemption” in their requests to the university. 

 

Their concern is that they are young, healthy people with almost zero risk from COVID. The decision to receive the vaccination makes a long-lasting change in their bodies and while the evidence so far points to a high level of safety, there are significant unanswered questions. A particular concern is about long-term impact on their reproductive health. These concerns are swiftly dismissed by advocated of vaccine mandates based on “extensive” testing in the past 18 months or so. But have we really had enough time to understand the effect on the human reproductive system and on children born to those who have received the vaccine? Do we understand the long-term effect on cancer? How can we have solid answers in such a short time?

 

If concerns about reproductive issues have been fully assessed already, why did the NIH just award five institutions grants “to explore potential links between COVID-19 vaccination and menstrual change”? See the NIH post, “COVID-19 Vaccines and the Menstrual CycleNIH encourages researchers to investigate reported changes in menstruation after COVID-19 vaccination.” Here there are enough concerns that have been raised for the NIH to launch a study related to reproductive health.  Note that these grants in no way suggest there are any reasons to believe that the vaccine might have any adverse impact on fertility or on children born to vaccinated parents, and I personally don’t know of any data suggesting the least real concern so far. But if understanding the effect on menstruation requires more time and money, could their be other aspects of reproductive health that will require even more time? Ditto for the long-term effect on cancer or other ailments.  It is not unscientific to ask questions about such effects and to seek more data before taking injections that can impact my body for decades to come with effects that are not yet clear.  I may not agree, but a person can have sound scientific reasons for at least wanting more data before committing to vaccination. There is a reasonable basis for a good-faith request for a “scientific exemption” from the vaccine mandate based on the principle of stewardship over one’s body, back to “my body, my choice.”

Finally, Let’s Not Forget Natural Immunity

One of the most puzzling things about the vaccine mandates sweeping this country is the uniform neglect of natural immunity. Why should those who have already had COVID need to be vaccinated as a condition of employment or continuing at a university?

While I am vaccinated and think it’s a good idea for most people, I also recognize the scientifically demonstrated principle of natural immunity and feel that those who have already lived through COVID should be given recognition for their natural antibodies. There should also be recognition that adverse reactions, though typically mild, are more likely for those that have already had COVID and is something that might reasonably be weighed in a person’s personal decision about vaccination.

A few days ago, I met a young mom who was required by her employer to get the vaccine in spite of having had COVID. She objected and asked for an exemption based on already having antibodies. Request denied. So she buckled. For her, the adverse reaction to the vaccine was much worse than COVID. COVID was like having a cold for her, but the vaccine caused intense pain and fatigue that kept her ill for about a week. Unfortunately, even after a month she said feels she’s only 75% back to normal. 

Meanwhile, a close friend of that woman had COVID and struggled with the complication of myocarditis. Now he’s been forced by his employer to receive the vaccination, even though it is known that young men like him may be at some risk of myocarditis from the vaccine (again, the vaccines are generally safe and I still encourage vaccination, but also encourage respect for individual concerns). He’s asked for an exemption based on medical risk and the fact that he already has natural antibodies. Request denied, even though his doctor is on his side (so I was told, but maybe she had the story wrong). He’s deeply worried about his health and does not want the vaccination, but may have to leave his high-paying job in the financial industry. Shouldn’t there be respect for people’s health and for their concerns? Shouldn’t there be reasonable accommodations for reasonable health-based and scientific objections, as well as religious objections? Concerns about myocarditis, especially in males, are not based on mere rumors and fake news, but are leading Europe to take significant steps. See the Oct. 8, 2021 CNBC report, “Nordic countries are restricting the use of Moderna’s Covid vaccine. Here’s why,” and the earlier July 9, 2021 Reuters story, “EU finds potential link between heart inflammation and mRNA COVID shots.” These concerns are generally minor and don’t affect everyone, but they can affect some. The CDC is also aware of some reports of myocarditis, but still encourages vaccination. But we must not forget that there are always risks with any drug, and these need to be weighed against the benefits.

There are plenty of good reasons to be vaccinated, and I’m glad (so far, anyway) that I’ve been vaccinated. But may we have enough compassion and respect for others to recognize that there are genuine religious and scientific concerns that some may have. Today there is popular pressure to shame such individuals, some of whom are likely in our own wards or branches, families, workplaces, or schools. 

May we express our humanity and our tolerance of diversity by standing for their freedom to choose, for their rights to have their religious views reasonably accommodated and their scientific objections to be considered. May we stand against the unreasonable and hateful condemnation of the unvaccinated and sweeping one-size-fits-all vaccine mandates that may be genuinely unnecessary for many. May we resist the manipulative paranoia and fear that is causing some of us vaccinated people to dread and despise those who have sincere reasons for not wanting the vaccination at this time. And may we help keep them from being fired or expelled from universities, especially those who are in critical areas related to health care, law enforcement, manufacturing, and numerous other fields already suffering from a shortage of talent. Reasonable accommodation and kindness is surely the most reasonable thing we can be doing with those who have sincere concerns about these new vaccines.

UPDATE, Oct. 21, 2021: The social argument for vaccine mandates needs more discussion and more science. It’s repeated without question as an article of faith, often without consideration of data and the existence of other means of mitigating risks. Those wishing to not be pressured into letting others make decisions about one’s body and one’s health care may be on even stronger grounds in light of the latest relevant scientific report:  S. V. Subramanian and Akhil Kumar, “Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States,” European Journal of Epidemiology (Sept. 30, 2021), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-021-00808-7. Analysis of extensive data suggests that high levels of vaccination aren’t effective in slowing the spread of the virus. The benefit is the reduced risk to the vaccinated. This seems to greatly weaken the “social good” argument that requires people to “give up their ‘precious’ freedoms” and let some corporate or political bureaucrat dictate what medical treatment they receive instead of making their own decision. I’m pro-vaccine, but also pro-freedom. There are cases where the social good argument may be compelling, but the data does not seem to come close to supporting that in this case. If vaccination does not greatly reduce the spread of the infection, what’s the basis for vaccine mandates and shaming the unvaccinated? It’s time we engage in conversation on this topic.

 

Author: Jeff Lindsay

78 thoughts on “Institutional Bullying and the Question of Religious Exemption from Vaccine Mandates

  1. A comment at https://www.tspr.org/post/getting-religious-exemption-vaccine-mandate-may-not-be-easy-heres-why gives some further dates on Conway's list of products that have had testing with fetal cells:

    Tylenol, also knows as Paracetamol or acetaminophen, was discovered in the 1870s and first marketed in the US in 1950.

    Ibuprofen’s discovery was the result of research during the 1950s and 1960s to find a safer alternative to aspirin, with a patent application filed in 1961.

    Pseudoephedrine was first characterized by German scientists in 1889.

    Diphenhydramine was discovered in 1943 and first marketed in 1946.

    Dextromethorphan was successfully tested in 1954 and marketed in 1958.

    Guaifenesin was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1952.

    Tums entered production in 1930.

    Maalox was first marketed in 1949.

    Sodium docusate was patented in 1937.
    Its use for the treatment of constipation was first proposed in 1955.

    Senna Glycoside is an over-the-counter medication available whose origins go back centuries – Kayam churna is a traditional Indian laxative that contains senna leaves.

    PeptoBismol – bismuth salts were in use in Europe by the late 1700s. At first sold directly to physicians, it was first marketed as Bismosal in 1918.

    Phenylephrine was patented in 1927 and came into medical use in 1938.

    Might not all be accurate, but the dates are probably pretty close.

  2. Being required to be vaccinated is not bullying. I was required to get vaccinated for my mission to Nicaragua for the LDS church to measles, mumps, rubella, yellow fever, typhoid, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis, and typhoid. My daughter four years ago was required to show proof of vaccination to a list of diseases to attend university and live in the dorms. Making this vaccine and disease somehow totally different than requirements for other reasonable public health vaccination requirements is absurd.

  3. Plus when your religious leaders urge members to get vaccinated you don’t have grounds for a religious exemption.

  4. Don't you wonder sometimes how some Americans with their fragile and convenient sense of "freedom" and "dominion" manage to spend their lives standing in lines, stopping at red lights, not pushing through crowds, not breaking into song in libraries or yelling "FIRE" needlessly in public places, not staring at people with disabilities or differences without railing at those of us who do?

    Chances are they've been vaccinated a number of times in their lives. But I guess there are folks who pay taxes as an investment in the country and the comfort and security of our daily communal lives and others who won't but feel free to break into the public buildings they've contributed nothing to and then wrap themselves in righteousness for doing it.

  5. Nobody needs to live differently or take any gene therapy shot for a disease with a 99.9% recovery rate and an average death age of 78.
    Trust in the Priesthood and have Faith in God's power.

  6. Moroni is talking about those of you who no longer have faith and have instead follow shots and masks and social distancing and the will of governments instead of God. He comes down extremely hard on LDS members going so far to say you are no longer even members at all, and that there is no redemption for you.

    "36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
    37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
    38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.
    39 But behold, my beloved brethren, I judge better things of you, for I judge that ye have faith in Christ because of your meekness; for if ye have not faith in him then ye are not fit to be numbered among the people of his church."
    Moroni 7

  7. @Unknown. That is the funniest use of scripture ever. Outer darkness here I come I guess. Still laughing. Thanks for making my day.

    1. Outer Darkness is the name Alma for what we often call "Spirit Prison". And, yes, anyone who fears a flu bug with a 99.9% recovery rate is going there.

      "But the FEARFUL, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death"
      Revelations 21:8

  8. @unknown. Happy to go with the other people that care about public health and believe in science. Again you are quoting scripture in the silliest way possible.

  9. Brian, yes, a requirement is not bullying. But what these students are experiencing seems like it, at least to them. Shaming, being treated as a second-class citizen, etc. They feel the university is encouraging discrimination and hostility from others to pressure them to comply.

    And yes, as I explained at the beginning, the Church encourages vaccination. It is improper for someone to ask for a religious exemption based on their membership in the Church. The Church has even issued a statement instructing bishops and branch presidents that it would be improper for them to declare that a person should be exempt by virtue of being a Latter-day Saint. But matters of faith and conscience are not always determined by the official declarations of an organization. They can be based on the personal religious beliefs of an individual. Individuals might have strong personal beliefs on a variety of issues that don't completely align with official teachings of the organized religion they currently affiliate with.

    Concerns about fetal cells or the potential long-term harms of a new drug may be sincere beliefs grounded in conscience and religious belief, regardless of an institution's policies. I may disagree with those positions, but I feel the right thing for me is to respect those beliefs. Whether it's about fetal cells, health risks, concerns about cheeseburgers or alcohol content in a beverage, the beliefs may be assailable on various logical grounds by non-believers, but should still deserve basic respect.

  10. Anonymous, I agree that it seems many Americans are overly concerned about the vaccines. For example, yes, one can sincerely worry about the short development time of these vaccines and the lack of long-term studies regarding issues such as reproductive issues and cancer. But those concerns might well be balanced by recognizing that the novel corona virus can also bring long-term effects for those who survive it, and much remains unknown about what those effects are.

    But weighing these risks seems like it should be the responsibility of individuals. This is a disease that is not an existential threat, but has a very high survival rate except for the elderly and those with significant co-morbidities. Let's focus on protecting them, but to demand vaccinations for everyone based on the alleged need to stop the spread seems unjustified in light of science. What is the latest science on the primary justification used for the mandates, namely, that we need to be vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID? We've recently been told that vaccinated people still need to wear masks because they can spread the virus and can have a high viral load. But doesn't vaccination still significantly reduce the spread of the disease? We know it reduces the health risk to the vaccinated, but surely it reduces the overall spread, right? Shockingly, the science doesn't seem to support that pillar of faith for vaccine mandates.

    Here's the latest: S. V. Subramanian and Akhil Kumar, "Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States," European Journal of Epidemiology (Sept. 30, 2021), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-021-00808-7. Analysis of extensive data suggests that high levels of vaccination aren't effective in slowing the spread of the virus. The benefit is the reduced risk to the vaccinated. This seems to greatly weaken the "social good" argument that requires people to "give up their 'precious' freedoms" and let some corporate or political bureaucrat dictate what medical treatment they receive instead of making their own decision. I'm pro-vaccine, but also pro-freedom. There are cases where the social good argument may be compelling, but the data does not seem to come close to supporting that in this case. If vaccination does not greatly reduce the spread of the infection, what's the basis for vaccine mandates and shaming the unvaccinated?

    It's time for tolerance and respect for those who see things differently than we vaccinated do.

  11. Jeffrey you give no specifics besides hinting that the university doesn't accept their religious objections. Then your post gives paragraphs of defense of those objections. The university doesn't have to accept those reasons.

    I still see no evidence of this as bullying. It is their policy. Students can choose to comply or leave.

    On the other side of this debate your other commenters basically tried to use scriptures to tell me to go to hell. Which is funny, but also more bullying behavior than stating the policy to students and expecting them to comply. I have tried to comply with your policy of leaving civil, intelligent comments, but see no evidence to support your assertion.

  12. All they had to do was look at the brass serpent and live. All we have to do is get a free vaccine available nearly everywhere and live.
    Visit reddit.com/r/hermancainaward for those who refuse to follow this simple scriptural injunction. Or keep tripping over your words in an attempt to strain at even more gnats, which is what we've come to expect of this blog, Jeff. Congrats on being last out the door of the blogernacle, I guess.

  13. The narrative has been pushed to the effect that a person unvaccinated will most likely end up causing themselves and all others including both vaccinated and unvaccinated to be hospitalized or die. Absolutely no discussion whatsoever is allowed for natural immunity as a means of safety. People have played right into the fear narrative.

    Recently, an elderly lady in our ward needed a blessing having a just catching a suspected case of Covid-19. It was brought up in our bishopric and ward council meeting she needed this blessing. I immediately said I would go (I am unvaccinated BTW). No one else volunteered and most of them are vaccinated. That is the sorry state that we are in. No longer do we believe in the Lord's protection while on His holy errands. I was able to be guided by the spirit and find another person to assist giving the blessing. This pandemic with the way the narrative is preached by leaders and scientists is destroying our faith. People don't believe in the PH power anymore, don't believe in true miracles anymore. We are spiritually blind to a large degree. No longer do we believe it is the Spirit that can guide us in safety in all things. We adhere instead to government and scientific authorities for our every move. We believe prayers and PH blessings are just for comfort now and have no true, miraculous healing power.

  14. Interesting that your President and Apostles believe in getting vaccinated. And they've urged the membership to be vaccinated too.

    I guess they just don't believe in the holy priesthood and true miracles anymore. Or maybe they don't believe they could get priesthood blessing if they needed one. It couldn't be that the Spirit is guiding them in a false direction, could it?

    Ben, I think they need your inspired guidance.

  15. The vaccine guidance by the church was a PR move. Nothing in the letter of them urging us to get the shot stated that it came from the Lord or that they received the guidance through fasting and prayer. I would hope that my own church doesn't use it as a type of religious pressure to shame members into getting it.
    We have become very lazy, spiritually speaking, to having sufficient faith. And it bothers me that church leadership hasn't come out and said anything to the fact that God could make this disappear as fast as it appeared if we just repent and turn back to God.

  16. The Provident Living manual also urges members to wear seat belts when on Church sponsored activities. I didn't see a caveat that this recommendation came as a result of fasting and prayer.

    D&C 58:26

    For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    Steve

  17. Alma 46:40 "And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land- but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate-"

    If the Nephites can trust in the plants and roots prepared by God, I have no trouble trusting in the vaccines that President Nelson called a "literal Godsend" for which he and other members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 had prayed.

    https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/4/29/22407953/president-nelson-on-covid-19-vaccine-comments-speeches-actions-prayers-shot-church-news

  18. And here we are folks! Proves the point. God can't save us, prayers won't save us, blessings do not heal, only the vaccine and strict compliance to the CDC will save us. If that's what you believe then that's what you get.

  19. First Presidency recommendations don't need to declare that they came by revelation or by fasting and prayer. I think we should assume they are sincerely given statements made prayerfully and in good faith. We aren't commanded to be vaccinated. It's not a requirement. But for most of us, it seems to be a wise recommendation that can reasonable be urged as a general rule. But each of us needs to consider our own situation, including the risks we face, our personal conscience, etc., to make our own choice. For most of us, I believe the right choice will be to get vaccinated. For those who choose otherwise, let's be accepting and also stand for their rights to make the choice themselves, just as many of us freely chose to accept the vaccines.

  20. And here goes Rob, putting words in my mouth. I didn't say prayers won't save us. I said the Nephites were able to trust in something God given (plants and roots), and so can we. This is not to the exclusion of blessings, prayers, etc. But just as we shouldn't pray for the missionaries to find people to teach without then being willing to HELP them find people to teach, we shouldn't pray for protection from a virus (or whatever) and then refuse the protection when God sends it. THAT'S a lack of faith in the principle of agency.

  21. But then, I should know better. Why would I trust the words of the Prophet over some random guy named Rob? I mean, if the Prophet is saying something that coincides with science, he must just not have sufficient faith like Rob has. I guess I should vote to oppose President Nelson next conference, and we can have Rob installed instead.

  22. If we believe that this pestilence came from God, which I believe it did, then God cal heal us according to our faith and repentance and turning back to God so he can heal us. We can't just continue to live in sin with passive faith and believe a vaccine made by man is God's way of healing us.

  23. Why not? Even assuming you're right that it's a God-sent affliction to chasten us, how do you know how He might choose to heal it? You seem to claim to speak for God. Sounds a lot like what a prophet is supposed to do. I wonder what the prophet has said about it?

  24. I wonder if there are any scriptural examples where God had people actually do things to get out of problems they were in?

    Mosiah 22 comes to mind.
    The brass serpent comes to mind.
    Nephi slaying Laban comes to mind.
    David gathering and using stones rather than just praying that Goliath would drop dead comes to mind.

    I think acting in faith with the tools available to you is actually the rule more than the exception in scriptural accounts.

  25. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;
    14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

  26. And yet, God did not give Nephi tools with which to build a ship. Nephi had to go get them. The Brother of Jared had to figure out how to light up the boats- he wasn't just given light bulbs. Moses made a freaking idol with which to heal the people at God's command. Jesus anointed a blind man's eyes with clay to help him see. Naaman had to wash in Jordan. The fish didn't just jump in Peter's boat, he had to cast his net in. Noah had to build an ark (a man-made ark! Can you believe that? How could something man-made save them?!)

    Faith requires action. So I ask again, what has the prophet said about it?

  27. I believe that Scripture applies to all people at all times and in all places. In the last 5 years we have seen locusts eating the land, fires and drought ravage the world and a pandemic (pestilence) among us. Who are we turning to?
    When we fast what are we fasting for? Are we fasting for forgiveness? Are we turning away from our worldly idols and seeking God? Why is there so much hate in the world? All things