Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Friday, May 28, 2021

A Plea for Toleration and Kindness for Those Who Don't Wear Masks

As some units of the Church return to more normalcy, including in-person meetings where muffled singing through masks is finally allowed, a challenge some will face is discomfort with those who don't mask. There are some who say that even those who have been vaccinated or already have had COVID still need to keep wearing facemasks. There are those who feel that even small children need to wear masks. I think we need a reminder about the needs of others and the physical realities of life.

Wearing a mask can be more than annoying and uncomfortable. While evidence suggests that oxygen levels don't drop as a result of wearing a mask, it can certainly make it harder to breathe. I recently gave a 90-minute presentation for the University of Utah's Executive MBA program, and was surprised to find that even though I would be much more than 6 feet away from the nearest person in the audience, I was still required to wear a mask the entire time. I like to walk around, be somewhat animated, and talk fast and loud. I exercise a lot, but doing my presentation with a mask on was physically challenging (unlike just walking briskly through Walmart). I had to pause a moment to catch my breath a few times, occasionally pulling the mask slightly away from my face to take an unimpeded deep breath of air. My oxygen level was probably fine, but I wasn't. Perhaps it was a low-permeability mask, I'm not sure.

The increased difficulty of breathing can be quite challenging for some people, including pregnant women, those with respiratory or heart problems, the elderly, and small children. If you have not been vaccinated for some reason and you see someone comes to church without wearing a mask, you may wish to maintain reasonable social distance, but please don't be judgemental and angry. Don't give them a lecture about their failure to think of the needs of others. Instead, assume that they may have needs that you don't understand and be kind. Don't order them to put on a mask. Don't treat them as deplorables in need of shaming. If you suspect they may have forgotten their mask or just don't have one for some reason, you could say, "By the way, if anybody wants a mask, there are some over there by the door to the chapel" (assuming your unit has wisely provided masks for those who need them). 

Of course, if you have been vaccinated or have already had the disease, there is very little to worry about, so don't fret over those who aren't wearing a mask. Let others live their own lives, and if you still feel that your vaccination isn't going to help, feel free to social distance and wear a mask, but don't demand it of others.  By the way, I have been vaccinated with no apparent adverse effects from the Pfizer vaccine, but I won't judge you if you have not yet been vaccinated or don't wish to take vaccine. I also won't blame you if you share the skepticism expressed by Kamala Harris in her VP debate toward vaccines pushed by leaders you don't trust: "if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it." But perhaps over time you may see that adverse effects are low and efficacy is high, which might lead you to reconsider. Your choice. This is an area where one old slogan may really apply: "my body, my choice." Here it really is your body, not someone else's young and vulnerable body with a separate brain, heart, circulatory system, unique DNA, etc. People should be able to choose what medications and what vaccines are injected into their system.

I know some very good people who are not coming back to our church meetings until the requirement to wear a mask is dropped. Some of these people have been vaccinated or have already had the disease and have no need to wear a mask, and some are physically challenged when wearing one. Should we not be considerate of their needs and welcome them back? Should we not welcome those who struggle with breathing, or, like many of the little children among us, can't stand the discomfort of masks? Or have we rewritten a verse of scripture to "Make the children suffer before they come unto Me"?

Speaking of inviting all to come unto Christ, the insistence so far on mask wearing, coupled with the ban on singing that was just lifted last week in our ward, may be a particular burden for the many African Saints and investigators from the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi in our wonderfully diverse community. My wife and I have the most enjoyable calling ever now that we've been asked to focus on helping the many immigrants from Africa in our midst. We've been so impressed with them for many reasons, including their ability to speak what strikes me as the hardest language I've studied, Swahili. Easy to read and pronounce, yes, but such complex grammar. Amazing to see a short verb stem blow up into a word two or three times as long after adding all the prefixes and suffixes that might be needed for a particular nuanced situation. How so many people master it as a second or third language is just a wonder to me.  It seems that at least some of them are used to vibrant singing and warm social interactions, and without that, I think it's been far more difficult adjusting to Latter-day Saint worship than it should be. They are doing a great job complying with masking requirements, though some children tend to come without them.

May we be able to be warmer in our greetings and more joyous in song soon.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Apple Itunes Features the Witnesses Movie Trailer on the Front Page of their Movie Trailer Site

I just heard that the trailer for the new Witnesses film about the Three Witnesses is being featured on the front page of Apple's iTunes Movie Trailers site. That's pretty amazing, but is certainly appropriate given the quality and the drama of this movie. This may not last long, but I'm quite happy about it. Here's my screenshot from 5:44 PM Central Time, May 5, 2021:

The trailer can be viewed directly at the iTunes site at https://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/witnesses/. Get your cinema tickets in advance at https://witnessesfilm.com/.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Witnesses, the Dramatic Movie About Some of the Book of Mormon Witnesses, Premiers on June 2

The powerful drama about the Three Witnesses of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon has now been captured in a movie, Witnesses, that is coming to some theaters on June 2. You can see the trailer at https://witnessesfilm.com/.

Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate, ABC4, made a five-minute interview interview with Paul Wuthrich, who stars as “Joseph Smith” in Interpreter’s Witnesses film – yesterday morning. See it at https://www.abc4.com/gtu/portrayal-of-joseph-smith-in-witnesses-shows-humanity/

The story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is rooted in tangible details, not the imagination of a mystic. In the course of obtaining the revelation of the Book of Mormon, dirt would be dug, a stone moved, and a stone box opened, and then a set of gold plates with specific dimensions and weight wold be retrieved. They would be carefully protected with equally tangible means from others who wanted to steal them. As Anthony Sweat writes, "The Book of Mormon didn’t just pass through Joseph’s trance-induced revelatory mind: its palpable relics passed through a clothing frock, hollowed log, cooper’s shop, linen napkin, wooden chest, fireplace hearth, and barrel of beans." (Anthony Sweat, “Hefted and Handled: Tangible Interactions with Book of Mormon Objects,” in Largey, et al., The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University and Deseret Book, 2015], 44; see Daniel Peterson, "Many Witnesses to a Marvelous Work," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 20 [2016]: 247-260 for a more complete discussion of some of the tangible aspects of the story.) 

The plates would be hefted and touched by multiple people. Men and women would provide compelling witness to the physical reality of the Book of Mormon. But three of the many witnesses played a unique role, for they were witnesses not just to the tangible reality of the plates, but also to the divine power behind the Book of Mormon. In a majestic experience, they would see an angel and hear the voice of God, and know that this work was divine. They, like all other witnesses of the Book of Mormon, wold never deny what they had seen and experienced, though some would leave the Church in the difficult times ahead. But differences with Joseph Smith did not lead to a departure from reality, from the truth that they had experienced.

This movie seeks to stay very close to the historical record while capturing the drama of the events and lives involved. Based on the preview I saw, I'm extremely impressed with the production quality and the acting. Most impressive of all, of course, is the true story behind it. 

From an announcement at the Interpreter Foundation's website:

The film’s production team – Director Mark Goodman, Producer Russell Richins, and Executive Producers Daniel and Deborah Peterson from The Interpreter Foundation – partnered to bring this amazing story of early LDS and American history to the big screen. The film is just one prong of the broader Witnesses Project created by The Interpreter Foundation. The Witnesses Project includes the feature film WITNESSES, a documentary, UNDAUNTED, featuring scholars, skeptics and experts on all the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and a series of “snippets” or short films about the many witnesses.

Kudos to the many people who made this important movie possible. If a theater in your community is offering it, please go see this. On the movie's website, WitnessesFilm.com, click on "Get Tickets" to buy tickets now for theaters in several states (Utah, California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Idaho).