March 24, 2020 - Letter From the First Presidency
Feedback from Brother Patience’s letter to the saints of March 19th suggests many found it uplifting and helpful in a difficult time. We say difficult time because lives are being endangered, the economy is at risk, and churches are closed as a result of COVID-19. Some of our people are directly affected. Like 9-11, the unfolding of this pandemic came with little or no warning, and it feels like the ultimate nightmare. Today the Center Place goes under a month-long stay-at-home order, and similar restrictions may have been, or may be, put in place in the areas of the other branches. While this is much more than an inconvenience, it pales in comparison to those who are experiencing the virus. At times like this, Romans 8:28, which may strain our faith to understand or believe but should be believed by all saints, is pertinent: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Beyond the fact that this virus is causing many people to pray who haven’t prayed for a while, or as fervently, how the present situation works for our good we do not know. However, it does, we believe, inasmuch as we are among those that truly love God. Similarly, the apostle Paul showed great spiritual maturity when he wrote, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Even so, as our cabin fever mounts, we can remember how Paul was imprisoned for two years for doing no more than preaching the gospel. As the days drag on within the four walls of our domiciles, this thought may remind us of how much worse it could be (and for some it is, unfortunately).
It is hard at times like this to remember how good the Lord is to us. For example, he created the human body with the power to heal itself in most cases; we get colds but get over them. Well did the psalmist write, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). However, there are times when intervention is required to restore us to health. In addition to the miracle the Lord has provided us through modern medicine, administration is an ordinance we rely on many times as well. When administration is not possible (such as when someone is in isolation), the prayers of the saints can prevail with the Lord to provide healing. For example, when Peter was in prison, “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). When Peter showed up at the house of John’s mother where the saints were praying, none of the saints believed Rhoda, who went to the gate to see who was knocking, when she said Peter was at the gate. This is a lesson on how we should expect our prayers will be answered.
As far as health is concerned, out spiritual health is also vulnerable in the current situation. Last week, President Patience offered a number of suggestions on how to maintain that health. Adding one thought to his list centers in the Lord’s Prayer. We begin that prayer, “Our Father,” not my Father. Our concern extends beyond me and mine. Also, in that prayer, one phrase is, “Give us this day, our daily bread” (Matthew 6:12). “This day” obviously suggests we take one day at a time, and “our daily bread” includes our recurring need for food, shelter, clothing, and health, both physical and spiritual. We are to pray for these regularly, and we may underestimate how often regularly is.
J. R. Dummelow, in his, The One Volume Bible Commentary, interprets Luke 11:1 to say the disciples were to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and include it at the end of their ordinary prayers. He refers to an ancient manuscript titled, “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles,” purportedly written by the original apostles, which states that the Lord’s Prayer should be prayed three times per day. I suggest we memorize this prayer as found in Matthew 6:10-15 and add it to our petitions. As we pray, we should mentally expand the meaning of each phrase. For example, when we utter the words, “Give us this day, our daily bread,” we are not just praying for our own health, but for the health of each person, and the development of a cure to this awful plague.
The restriction of having 10 people or less in a gathering, which is causing us to have to cancel in-person church services, reminds us of other times when worship has been restricted. Granted, our situation is due to a health crisis and not a political restriction, but these come to mind nevertheless. For example, Daniel prayed in spite of the decree against prayer and was thrown into the den of lions as a result. Regardless of that, he came out alive. Consider the people of Alma who were not even allowed to pray while under captivity to the Lamanites. They resorted to silent prayer: “And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts” (Mosiah 11:59). We can still pray vocally, just not together, and we have this consolation: The Lord hears us as though we are together, and because of modern communications, we effectively are.
Website and Budget
You will notice that with the restrictions on meetings, we are turning our attention to our website. You will see some updates to it already, with more to come. Included on the website is a link to online giving (See top menu tabs), which is an alternative to having to mail in your contributions each week. If you prefer to mail in your contributions, the address is 700 West Lexington, Independence, Missouri 64050. Even though the church is not meeting for several more weeks to come, the expenses for the church continue. For example, headquarters is still open, there are utility costs at multiple buildings, and there are insurance costs for the church, to name a few. We realize that there are those who may not think to contribute without actually being at church, so it is very important that those of us who do remember, to be faithful in our giving.
Finally, it was anticipated that we would be having conference in a week, and thus approving the 2020 budget. With the delay of the conference until July 29th, we feel that we need to begin to follow the proposed budget with the expectation of approval when we do finally meet. The good news is that the 2020 budget is much smaller than the 2019 budget, as you can see by referring to the Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr 2020 of The Hastening Times.
Hope to see you soon,
David Van Fleet
For the First Presidency