"Because of the simpleness of the way..."

"...there were many who perished."

July 15, 2020

This happened earlier today in my community. I'm struggling to understand how or why common-sense public health practices became politicized in the midst of a global pandemic.

I think of wearing a mask sort of like obeying traffic signals. If I do it consistently, everyone is safer. Failing to do it consistently increases everyone's risk. I'm not sure why many equate it to giving up their rights.

Maybe they don't really think COVID-19 is a big deal? Maybe they don't understand that COVID spreads even when people are presymptomatic or asymptomatic. Or is it that they just don't believe a face covering will lower their risk of catching the disease? Maybe there's a lack of understanding of the consequences of an overwhelmed healthcare system?

There's a story in the Old Testament that, to me, feels relevant. Thoughts?

Numbers 21:4-9

4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.
5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.
6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

The children of Israel had a dangerous pest control problem. (But maybe, like today, there were individuals then that didn't see it that way?) All they had to do to survive a poisonous serpent bite was to look at the brass serpent Moses put on a pole. Simple, right? Easy, right? Not for some.

1 Nephi 17:41

41 ...He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.

Alma 33:19-21

19 Behold, [Christ] was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
20 But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.
21 O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?

Sound familiar? In their case they had to take action after becoming bitten. In our situation its a preventative measure that's needed. Wearing a face covering greatly reduces the chances of spreading infectious particles to others. Recently, the Utah Area Presidency asked members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to "be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public":

We are in the midst of a global pandemic unlike any the world has experienced in more than a century... The effects of this escalating health crisis are being felt everywhere, with incidents of COVID-19 infection rising dramatically especially in the United States, including in Utah. Latter-day Saints are not immune...the simple wearing of a face covering when in public and when social distancing is not possible will significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Alma 37:46

46 ...do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.