Isaiah emphasized to his people that the Lord had communicated very clearly what they needed to know. “I have not spoken in secret,” he said; “from the beginning, from the time that it was declared have I spoken; and the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isaiah 48:16, 1 Nephi 20:16).
Nephi added his own testimony:
I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness….
He doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness.2 Nephi 26:23, 33
I thought about these passages when I read a letter written yesterday by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the letter, they asked everyone to wear masks in temples, and they renewed their call for members of the Church to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Why did they need to renew this call? I must admit, my first reaction was to ask: Are there any members of the Church at this point who are unaware:
- That President Russell M. Nelson received the vaccine on January 19?
- That the First Presidency released a statement the same day urging members to get vaccinated?
- That the Church Handbook was subsequently updated with a statement encouraging Church members “to safeguard themselves, their children, and their communities through vaccination.”
- That the First Presidency sent an email to all church members on August 12, urging “individuals to be vaccinated,” and stating, “Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.”
If church members who are able to be vaccinated haven’t done so yet, what difference could one more plea make? Haven’t they already made up their minds?
But then I remembered several stories from the Book of Mormon:
- After calling King Noah and his people to repentance, the prophet Abinadi had to flee for his life. But two years later, he came back to deliver the same warning. (See Mosiah 11:20-29, Mosiah 12:1.)
- When Alma was violently ejected from the city of Ammonihah, an angel told him to return to the city and preach to them again. (See Alma 8:13-16.)
- After Samuel the Lamanite was rejected by the people of Zarahemla, the Lord commanded him to try again. (See Helaman 13:2-3.)
Why did God send these prophets to redeliver messages to unreceptive people? Because some of those people were persuadable. Alma organized the church after hearing Abinadi, Amulek and Zeezrom were converted by Alma’s preaching in Ammonihah, and many Nephites believed the words of Samuel the Lamanite as he stood on the wall of their city. They may not have been receptive the first time they heard the message, but the message eventually resonated with them.
In my career, I’ve had many opportunities to introduce new technologies and business processes to groups of people. I’ve learned that E.M. Rogers, who developed the theory of Diffusion of Innovation, was right: People adapt to change at different rates. Some people are “early adopters,” eager to enjoy the benefits of a new technology and willing to take some risks. The majority of people adopt later, after taking some time to understand the risks and benefits and review the evidence. And some people (the “laggards”) will take substantially longer to convince, and may not adopt the new technology until long after everyone else.
I may not be vaccine-hesitant, but I am certainly resistant to change in other areas of my life. How grateful I am for a God who is long-suffering, who recognizes that I may need longer than other people to process a message and act on it. How grateful I am that He doesn’t speak in secret, that He doesn’t work in darkness, that He sends messages in plainness, so that I have plenty of opportunity to understand what is expected of me. How grateful I am for leaders who continue to urge me to do what is right, even when I may not have been responsive in the past.
Today, I will strive to be an “early adopter” of the Lord’s guidance, but I will also be grateful that when I’m slower to respond, He continues to reach out, giving me multiple opportunities to change.