April 21, 2020 - Letter from the First Presidency
The First Presidency of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sends greetings to church members and friends. Just as each of you are trying to determine how best to serve God and how best to serve and feed His sheep, we also look for ways to safely provide ministry during this time. We continue to wonder how long it will be until we can safely return to our individual worship settings and once again meet for preaching services, prayer and testimony services and fellowship. As more and more of the people of the world become infected with the Covid-19 virus, we become even more aware of the wisdom to suspend services for a time, and worship through broadcasts and phone links, Zoom, and Team video approaches. Early in the process, some questioned the need to cease having meetings, but it is felt that early suspension of services has assisted in keeping us safe. At the same time, each of us yearn for the time when we will be able to return to our buildings, and continue to worship our God in the manner that we enjoyed prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Around the first week of April, I had a dream, in which we were all, once again, able to meet in corporate worship. In my dream, I was readily able to recognize individuals that I normally worshipped with prior to the outbreak. I was able to approach and greet my friends, and how great it was to do so. The absence had made getting together again so pleasant. The individuals at church were as happy to see me, as I was to see them. I do know that before too long, this dream will become a reality. The dream reminded me of some of the scriptures, such as those found in Genesis, Chapter 7, verses 69-72. “And great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve; and righteousness will I send down out of heaven, and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men. And righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine own elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare; an holy city, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion; a New Jerusalem. And the Lord said unto Enoch, Then shall thou and all thy city meet them there; and we will receive them into our bosom; and they shall see us, and we will fall upon their necks and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other; And there shall be mine abode, and it shall be Zion, which shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made; and for the space of a thousand years shall the earth rest.”
Again, in my dream, fellow church members and I were able to approach and greet one another. As the scripture said, we saw each other. We were able to receive each other into our bosom; we were able to fall upon each other’s necks and were able to kiss each other. Even though this was such a warm and pleasant occurrence in my dream, we do wonder about the timing of being able to greet each other so openly and so heartily. Of course, in the future, when we are able to once again meet together, we need to use wisdom in ways to keep each other healthy, and not take chances of bringing illness to fellow members.
As I read the few verses from Chapter 7 of the book of Genesis, I found the phrase interesting concerning those great tribulations (plural) which shall be among the children of men, but MY people (the Lord’s people) will I preserve; Of course, we need to be certain at all times, that indeed we are the Lord’s people. We need to be certain we are keeping the faith, that we are keeping the commandments, that we are enduring the hardships in a Christlike manner.
We as humans place considerable hope and trust in our medical profession, and also in our government. Health experts are working around the clock to contain the coronavirus and find a vaccine. Things do look promising. But we have many variables we are dealing with, which include weakening of the economy, hospitals overflowing with the ill, streets filled with the hungry and homeless. Government is doing what it can but in the face of such odds, it is a challenge. At times like the present, we are reminded that our only true source of hope is in God. God, in His all-wise providence has allowed this moment to serve His purposes, one of which is to remind us of our vulnerabilities and desperate need of Him. Yes, God may allow trouble to send a message, to make us reflect, to cause us to be introspective, to change our direction, and reshape our lives. How we respond to Him can make the difference. In Jeremiah Chapter 18, verses 1-11, we read that the prophet Jeremiah observed a potter working at his wheel. Jeremiah said he saw that people are like clay in God’s hands. If God sees their lives marred by rebellion towards Him, He reserves the right to break the vessel down and rework it. Jeremiah said if the Lord declares judgment on a nation and that nation turns from its evil, the Lord can avert the disaster heading their way. People have the freedom to respond to God’s plans, and God has the freedom to change His plans in the context of their timely response.
I am not convinced that God brought this coronavirus as a curse upon the world, but God can use any adversity to encourage the human race to return to him and to seek the return to His fold. It is generally when man is feeling the weakest and most vulnerable, that man tends to see the need to become one with God after a period of absence. When a man has lost a job, or wonders where the next meal is coming from; when a man wonders if his family will soon be out on the street, he tends to return to God if there has been a separation. I have read that with our present circumstances, with almost one out of ten American workers, out of a job, people are buying more scriptures, and good books than ever before. God is perhaps allowing the devastating effects of the coronavirus to motivate people to see the need to return to Him.
As the days stretch into weeks, and weeks stretch into months of separation from normal church activities, President Patience devised the plan for more active contacting of members by priesthood, to maintain contact and verify conditions in the homes. Initially, the First Presidency believed that our worship together would only be interrupted for 2-3 short weeks. Now we can see that the interval will be longer than expected. All members, not only priesthood members, are encouraged to write emails, letters, make phone calls to one another. There are also some who are not able to get out of their home to buy supplies and groceries, who could use assistance. I am reminded of a familiar scripture from Doctrine and Covenants, Section 58:6, that states “ It is not meet that I should command in all things, for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good, they shall in nowise lose their reward.” So, there is considerable good that can be accomplished now with so many that are hurting and experiencing difficulty. We need to be actively engaged in the good cause of providing relief both of a physical and of a spiritual nature for God’s creation. May God bless us as we serve Him.
Michael B. Hogan
For the First Presidency