Home church (part 1/x). Pandemics for kids

Based on comments delivered today in my living room after administering the sacrament for the first time in many years, with the Youngest Deacon assisting, and before the lesson taught by the Vaulting Cellist, with Everyone’s Best Friend on the organ; the World’s Leading K-Drama Expert also in attendance.

They say novel Coronavirus disease is easier on kids, but I’m not sure that’s the case. Two days ago, life was going on normally for my children. Then in the space of a few hours, everything was canceled. A senior-year track season, a school play, an all-state choir performance, a weekly D&D club and the Youngest Deacon’s first temple trip have all been suspended. It’s likely there will be more cancellations before any of these activities return from hiatus. Hanging out with friends and pep talks from church youth leaders are out as well. (Early morning seminary is back on, though, brought to you by the folks at Zoom.) It’s hard to work toward your goals when you’re not supposed to leave the house.

For a lot of teenagers, everything they’ve worked at for months or years is falling apart as they watch. These are real losses. It’s okay to be sad and worried and upset. Ignore the people who say Quit whining; don’t you realize people are dying? Especially for high school and college students, opportunities lost will not come back. You only get one senior (or freshman) year, one senior season, one senior prom. The months lost from a mission cut short by pandemic will not be returned.

The hardest part for the teenagers I know is confronting uncertainty. How many cases are there? Sorry, not enough testing has been done to answer that question. The disease has a high mortality rate among old people, and to my children, all adults are old, and they’re struggling to imagine a world without parents and grandparents and teachers and who knows what else.

It’s easier for me. I’ve been working in a socially distanced environment for a few years already. I’ve had a lot longer to contemplate mortality than they have. I still dislike uncertainty, but I’ve had more opportunity to learn to live with it. The events I’ve had to postpone for 2020 are much like the things I did in 2019 and will do again in 2021.

It helps to pause for a moment and think about the advantages we have. The middle of nowhere offers low-density housing, good civic infrastructure, and no lack of water. We have food in our cupboards. We’ve benefited from instincts built by generations of food storage and home food production.

We have local church members who are concerned for our welfare, and there are resources to work with if needed. (Setting aside funds in advance of potential disaster seems more prudent and less scandalous every day.) Work on the ward emergency preparedness plan was finished in February. The combined emergency preparedness meeting for all ward members was two weeks ago.

We have a living prophet. Russell M. Nelson gave us 15 months advance warning to get our home church meetings figured out, and we’ve had a half-dozen dress rehearsals since then when regular Sunday meetings have been canceled. Our governor may still be dithering, but our church leaders have given us clear and timely direction. We have the scriptures and the gift of the Holy Ghost and the priesthood in our home (although how to share that with people who need it without meetings, and without increasing risk of infection, is still something people are still trying to figure out). We have family relationships whose duration is beyond the reach of any virus. Or as Sam Brown said, we have Jesus and the Relief Society.

So wash your hands thoroughly, but don’t panic. Although there are no guarantees, things will probably turn out okay. To quote Gordon B. Hinckley: “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out.”