Who would have thought we wouldn’t go to church for Resurrection Sunday/Easter this year? For Kay and me, not only have we gone to church every Resurrection Sunday as have you, but we also attended a sunrise service several times, such as a well-known resurrection drama held at a cemetery in Kansas City or other outdoor worship. Sometimes we have ended our day back home with a religious movie such as “The Robe” or “The Ten Commandments,” if one of them were on (not so much anymore). (We watched “Ben Hur” on the DVR last night.) One reason this absence is especially disappointing is that we miss the fellowship – this is cutting into our socializing, and we sing hymns like “Angels Roll the Rock Away!” then and only then. However, thankfully we have Livestream, and sure enough, Southern Indiana had that hymn sung Sunday! Also, there are some that come to church only for Christmas and Easter. However, the true meaning of Resurrection Sunday is that God is to be worshipped every week, and even every day in our hearts. This will happen in the days to come; we just don’t know when this virus threat will end.
Monday morning I saw that my flowering trees were scarred by the freeze that hit Sunday night. Spring is here, rebirth is happening, but nature is rejecting that fact. Jesus Christ was crucified, arose from the dead, but he did so from the rejection of mankind. I know that Arthur Oakman preached about Christ many times, and in one of the sermons he talked about something that has stuck with me through the years. He talked about how we normally think of the resurrected body as being free of blemishes. However, in that sermon he talked about how in the resurrection Jesus kept the scars of his crucifixion and retains them to this day – a sign of his love for us.
I have found the Lord watches out for us in our trials, even though we still have trials. One time our family drove to Michigan to attend my grandmother’s 95th birthday party. As we crossed into Michigan on a Saturday morning, a warning light came on in our car just before we reached an exit. I immediately took the exit and a short distance down the road found a repair garage and stopped. It turned out the owner was there but his shop wasn’t really open. However, he checked out our car anyway and determined our alternator was bad. He charged our battery as much as he could since he didn’t have an alternator that would fit, and we continued on our way. We barely made it to a larger town where we rented a car to complete our journey (and got our car repaired on Monday). There were multiple coincidences that day that convinced me they weren’t coincidences. Most importantly, we avoided being stranded on the side of the highway – a most disagreeable situation for which we were grateful for dodging.
COVID-19 has killed 119,000 people worldwide so far, and more will inevitably die from it. There are countless families that have heartrending stories of suffering and loss, and our sympathies go out to them. However, I am sure there are also many testimonies that could be shared of unexpected recoveries, of medications becoming available, or even of a heavenly being intervening. (I attend prayer service, read autobiographies, and have read Guideposts, so I know these things happen.) Perhaps there have been multiple “coincidences” in their lives as well as that time there were in ours. As it stands now, 443,000 people are listed as having recovered, and there are many that are still in that process but will eventually recover. The Lord watches out for us in our trials. In that regard, here is a promise of protection that we lean upon: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust…Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness” (Ps. 91:4-6).
We also keep in mind that all of us have a limited amount of time here on earth with limited opportunities. In a previous letter, President Patience mentioned how our sheltering-in-place fulfills the warning of losing freedoms (R-157:6d). Another warning that seems to be partially fulfilled in this situation is found in 142:5b and R-145:6a: “It is yet day when all can work. The night will come when for many of my people opportunity to assist will have passed.” Yes, we are still carrying on the work on a limited basis, but this lockdown is limiting our ability to labor in the Lord’s cause. This may either be a taste of or a fulfillment of that warning. Let us use the boredom of inactivity as motivation for greater effort when the virus eases.
There is good news that we are glad to point out that keeps getting better. In many places the curve of COVID-19 infections is peaking and, in some places, declining. Projections of the death toll on this country continue to be decreased. Let’s hope and pray that this trend continues as we expect it will.
A Time of Study
Even as Passion Week has concluded, it should remind us of our need to know and appreciate the Christ to a greater extent than we already do. I have found that in studying his life, I have gained a greater admiration for him. Arthur Oakman, many years ago, put together a reading list for studying the life of Jesus. In thinking about this list, I thought it would be good to include it in this letter, but I had no idea where I would find it in my files. A few days later I opened a Bible commentary that came into my possession in the last couple of years, and guess what was stuck in the middle of the book? Yep, it was the reading list. I am including it at the end of this letter for any who might to want to take on this comprehensive but valuable study (inserted at bottom of this page). To find these books, try rldsbooks.blogspot.com or Amazon.com, or a Bible bookstore.
We will see you soon!
David Van Fleet
For the First Presidency