Can Anything Good Come Out of the COVID-19 Crisis?
By Ken K. Gourdin
A fellow poster at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion [sic] asks that question. Though this is written from the perspective of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of the themes it addresses are universal, making it more broadly applicable even to those of varying faith traditions (and even to those of no faith tradition at all. I responded:
Can anything good come out of this crisis? Believe me, though I understand the urge and know that it is all too easy to succumb to despair in circumstances such as this, as each of us responds to the nudges of our “better angels” much good can come even out of the most dire circumstances:
- We can be reminded of the indominability, as a God-given gift, of the human spirit (or perhaps better said, the Divine Spirit within us)
- We can be reminded of our adaptability even amid less-than-ideal circumstances, that emanates from the same source
- This crisis can be a opportunity to learn to depend less on others or to live on borrowed light, and to go more directly, more urgently to The Source and to acquire His Light (see Matthew 5:48)
- Our heel is definitely being bruised here, but perhaps circumstances such as this serve to remind us that, still, we retain the power to crush the Adversary’s head
- Reaching out to our brothers and sisters has become less, simply, a “nice thing to do” and more of a necessity
- Reaching out to our Creator has become less, simply, a “nice thing to do” and more of a necessity
- This being, perhaps, an invitation to cast out the dross within us and to refine the gold within us? (See “How Firm a Foundation,” No. 85, Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vs. 5)
- This being, perhaps, the opportunity to lighten our load by discarding the baggage in which, too often, we carry trivial things and to recognize, instead, what is more and most important
- This crisis can serve as a reminder that “though skin worms may destroy this body, in [our] flesh shall we see God” (see Job 19:26)
- To be reminded that though we may be “troubled on every side,” we need not be “distressed”; though we may be “perplexed,” we need not be “in despair”; though we may be “persecuted,” we are not “forsaken”; though we may be “cast down,” we will not be “destroyed” (see 1 Corinthians 4:8-9
- Crises often force even people who are least prone to do such things to focus less inwardly and more outwardly
- Political differences, social differences, economic differences racial differences, gender differences, and a multitude of other differences fade far into the background, and we focus much more on our common humanity and (in the case of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and even many of those who are not) on our common spiritual heritage as Children of God
As for adverse impacts on the work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are assured that, whatever our individual and collective circumstances, as President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “God is at the helm.” And, as Joseph Smith said, regardless of any temporary setbacks (no matter how severe in the short term):
No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing. Persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, and calumny may defame. [And we might add, “disease may ravage.”] But the work of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, ’til it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, ’til the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say, “The work is done.”
Perhaps I’m simply “spiritually tone deaf” to things like this, but I don’t think the current crisis is an instance of God visiting a plague on humanity for our collective (or anyone’s individual) sins, no matter how heinous. As serious as the current crisis may be, I think, nonetheless, that it simply falls under the heading of “crap happening.” We live in a fallen world, and in a fallen world crap happens. Often, we’re subject to disease. And many of us who are subject to disease may die. But death is not the worst thing that can befall a person, no matter how tragic it might be. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Hope this helps. I wish you and yours well. Be safe.
As I did my fellow poster, I wish my readers, if any readers there be, well also, and pray that you, too, might be safe. Godspeed, everyone.
Later, I added:
I’m not a pie-in-the-sky optimist, prone to discount or to downplay the deleterious effects something like this might have on the work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but nor am I one to say, “Geez, I’ll bet Heavenly Father was blindsided by this one!” I fully expect that any deleterious effects the virus has on the work will be temporary. And as others have pointed out, there’s another side to the “what-[harm?]-will-this-virus-do-to-the-work?” coin: will this crisis help people to engage in reflection, to reorient their priorities, to ponder what might be missing in their lives?
Will baptisms decrease? Perhaps. On the other hand, the kind of processes I mention above might cause people who wouldn’t give the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ a second thought otherwise to do just that, and perhaps even to come unto Christ in the waters of baptism. Think of The Book of Mormon: The Musical. Have a lot of people had a cheap laugh at the expense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of it? Yes. But has it brought some people into the Church of Jesus Christ who would not have been interested otherwise? Yes.
I believe Romans 8:28: “All things”—not just the “good” things, and not just the things we understand, but all things—”work together for the good of them that love God.” Did the events of 9/11/01 spring from great evil? No doubt. On the other hand, great good resulted as it also brought people together in unexpected ways, as well. And I believe Joseph Smith meant what he said when he said that “No unhallowed hand will stop this work from progressing.” While, as I also stated above, I think the COVID-19 crisis is simply another example of “crap happening” from living in a fallen world, I think the Lord is really good at making lemonade from lemons.