I am going to go out on a flimsy limb here and say that, contrary to most evidence, the novel Coronavirus will soon cease to be an issue in our lives. I am not suggesting that we do not take every precaution to slow the relentless progress of the virus. I believe the organizational church is making the right calls as they respond to the pandemic.
To understand my reasons we need to look back to events in the Church beginning in 1862. It is often falsely believed that Wilford Woodruff ceased the practice of polygamy in order for Utah to gain statehood. The true reason for the cessation of polygamy has everything to do with gathering Israel on the other side of the veil.
Before 1862, the Republican Party of the day had labeled polygamy, along with slavery, as the “twin relics of barbarism.” Katie Lambert, writing for LDS Living, details the history:
In 1862, the U.S. government enacted the Morrill Act, making bigamy illegal and punishable by a fine and five years in prison. When the constitutionality of such a law and the freedom of religion came into question, the Supreme Court upheld the law in 1879 with the Reynolds V. United States case, distinguishing plural marriage as a religious practice and not a belief.
Though it was now punishable by law to practice plural marriage, many Saints continued to do so. While some Saints settled in Mexico and Canada where they continued the practice of plural marriage without the fear of legal retaliation, many stayed in the U.S.
In 1882, the U.S. passed another antipolygamy law, the Edmunds Act, making bigamous cohabitation a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine and six months in prison. Under this law, more than 1,300 Saints were imprisoned in the 1880s and many men with plural wives went into hiding.
Despite the persecution and threat of imprisonment, many Saints were firm in their practice of plural marriage. By the time the Edmunds Act was passed, plural marriage had been practiced for nearly 40 years and was viewed as a way to “raise up” a righteous posterity unto the Lord.
But in 1887, a third law prohibiting plural marriage was passed, the Edmunds-Tucker Act. Under this law, the U.S. government would have the right to seize church property valued at $50,000 or more if the practice of plural marriage persisted and dissolve both the Church and Perpetual Emigration Fund.
The Church contested the constitutionality of the law with The Late Corporation of the Mormon Church V. United States, but the Supreme Court upheld the law in 1890.
The Saints, believing that polygamy was the will of God, were ready to continue the practice no matter the consequences. In the face of so much opposition, President Wilford Woodruff fervently prayed to the Lord to know what to do. In answer to his prayer, he was shown a vision that he later explained to the Saints in General Conference.
“The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for. . . any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice” (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.).
The gathering of Israel, as explained in Alma 26:5-6, is when the sheaves are gathered into the garners.
Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted. Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.
Elders Maxwell and Bednar have said that the sheaves are converts and the garners are temples. If there are no temples, there is no gathering of Israel. With the exception of baptism, salvific work on both sides of the veil ceases. There is also less sanctification among endowed members and there is no prayer roll. Add to that the severe reduction in missionary work and even baptism is affected.
This cannot be tolerated for long in the last dispensation. It may be that the Lord sees fit to let the virus run its natural course, but I feel an urgency from a prophet of God that Israel must be gathered.
The most recent prediction from United States President Donald Trump and the US Center for Disease Control is that the social distancing and group meeting reductions will last through August. Based on that prediction, we are months away from even considering opening temples and returning to normal missionary activity. Even then, with the number of seniors working in temples, we may be months out from that before temples can return to normal.
I don’t think temples and missionary work (The Gathering) can wait that long. Here are some potential solutions:
- A vaccine is developed and widely distributed. God can certainly work through chemists and epidemiologists to find the right vaccine
- The virus mutates in a way that is no longer harmful to humans
- Test kits are widely distributed so that everyone knows who is infected, and those who do not carry the virus can resume normal interactions and gatherings
- The virus miraculously dies out
I am probably wrong on all and any of these specific possibilities. The solution will probably come from something uncontemplated.
My next two fasts and all of my prayers will be dedicated to a quick return to The Gathering of Israel.