It sure seems like we are living in the last days. A short time ago I had not heard of the coronavirus or COVID-19 as it is now called. We weren’t thinking of global pandemics. We were thinking about what to do for our 25th anniversary. A cruise? A trip whale watching? A getaway to Victoria, Canada? Those are all currently not a possibility because of the world conditions in which we now live. I think what has many people on edge is that we don’t know what life will be like tomorrow, next week, or next month. Almost every day this week I’ve woke up to some new restriction, more deaths, and more confirmed cases. As of this writing, there are 329,935 confirmed cases and 14,386 deaths worldwide. (Source: Johns Hopkins)
China was the first to see the outbreak but Italy has surpassed China in deaths. It’s frightening. Italy at the time of this writing has 5,476 deaths. That is huge for any nation, but for a country the size of Italy, it’s shocking and devastating. We have a missionary in Italy from our ward. He’s been quarantined in his apartment for several weeks. Now with the new travel restrictions announced this week by the U.S. government, it sounds like all native U.S. missionaries will be returning home. They will be self-quarantined for 2 weeks, then be reassigned somewhere in the USA. The missionaries here in Washington cannot have in-person contact with members or investigators. We are being asked to not congregate in groups larger than 10. So church gatherings worldwide have been cancelled. Today was the second week of having church in our living room. Gavin, who is 14 and holds the Aaronic priesthood, prepared and passed the sacrament. I knelt in our living room and blessed it. Both Sundays have been special and spiritual. Last Sunday we had a testimony meeting. This Sunday my daughter Emma gave a talk on Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the Restoration. I gave a talk and spoke about September 11th and how important having a prophet was to me back then and how it reminded me of what we were going through now. I miss the social interaction with those other members of our congregation (ward). The worst part is that we have no idea how long this will continue. April? May? longer?
Wednesday I woke up and my phone was going crazy with messages. There had been a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Salt Lake City, Utah. My daughter Julienne lives south of Salt Lake in Provo, and my daughter Maggie lives north of Salt Lake in Logan. So on top of all the panic buying from the COVID-19 virus, now people were really going to stock up.
Yesterday was Saturday, and we went grocery shopping here in Port Angeles, WA. We usually shop for our household and for my wife’s parents who are elderly. We’ve done this for a while, but now, it is dangerous for them to be in the public. The elderly, especially with underlying health problems, cannot fight this infection and are more likely to die from the coronavirus. Many of the shelves were bare. Bread was mostly gone. Cleaning supplies, especially disinfectants, were gone. Hand sanitizer was all gone and has been for a long time. There are limits on how many soft soap and canned goods you can buy. Toilet paper and paper towel shortages have been common. The soup isle was mostly empty except for cream of mushroom. I found a few cans of chicken noodle which I picked up. The hamburger was out. It definitely wouldn’t be easy to find the ingredients you wanted to follow a recipe. Something would be out. Luckily I found some Diet Coke.
This week I was thinking of how crazy it all was and literally wondered if maybe I was dreaming. It all seemed so strange. The kids are all being home schooled now because all the schools are closed. They can’t play with other children for the fear of spreading the coronavirus. We can’t let them visit their grandparents for fear of getting them sick. These are really scary and difficult times. We’ve had to have a lot of talks with our children to answer their questions and calm their fears. We are living in the last days. “And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people” (D&C 88:89–91).
A few weeks ago before all of the shortages, both my wife and I both felt prompted that we needed to stock up a bit on our food storage. We’ve always been counseled by the Church to have a food storage for times of need. We got rid of a lot of it in Utah before moving and haven’t ever really stocked up like we should have here in Washington. After stocking up a bit, I felt at peace. We didn’t go crazy, but just enough to cover us if we couldn’t get food for a month. Where we live out on the peninsula, if the highway 101 were blocked for some reason, like an earthquake or landslide, there would be no easy way to truck in food. It has always worried me. The Lord has said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
President Nelson sent this video which was very reassuring.
My poor daughter Julienne lost her job because they’ve pretty much closed down the mall where she worked due to the COVID-19 virus. BYU has shut down and told the students to go home and finish their classes online. The government has said to stay indoors and practice social distancing. Church has been cancelled. Pretty much all of her social life is on pause. So she is making the best of it and made this video:
The economy is not looking good. People are losing their jobs. Restaurants have closed. Theaters are closed. Disneyland and Disney World have closed. The NBA has stopped playing. March madness was cancelled. Concerts everywhere are cancelled. Trade shows and conferences are cancelled. Hotels are empty. Nobody is flying. The airlines are in trouble. The strip in Las Vegas is shut down. We are heading into a massive recession. My business was affected early on because the factories in China were ordered to remain closed after Chinese New Year. We couldn’t get any product. We still haven’t received any of the product that was ordered back in December. Now they’ve closed Universities and all of the University stores have closed. That is where we sell a lot of our cables and charging cords. For our other customers which are not college stores, in some states they have actually ordered people to stay at home. So if our customers’ doors are closed, that will further slow down our sales. Already this year our business is way down. It makes me nervous, but I know that the Lord is in charge. There are things out of my control and I can’t change those things. I can be close to my family. I can trust in God. I can pray. I can be kind to others who are in difficult circumstances. It is hard for everyone in different ways. There are those who have lost loved ones. There will likely be many more. We have no idea where this is going.
In troubled times like these, I’m so grateful for a prophet. President Nelson’s words have comforted me: “I know the great and marvelous blessings that God has in store for those who love Him and serve Him.”
The only thing to which I can compare what we are going through currently, is after 9/11. After the tragedy of September 11th, I was nervous about the world we were living in. I was 31 years old. I had a wife and two small children. I had a home mortgage and a car payment. I wasn’t sure what was ahead. Was the next world war coming? Were we to be fearful of terrorists everywhere? Would we ever fly again? Would we ever congregate in large numbers? I so looked forward to hearing from the prophet at the next general conference. We really didn’t have the means for the prophet to send out videos to the members of the Church like we do now. So we waited for general conference. His words reassured me that things would be OK. He quoted Joseph Smith and said, “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done”
I’m thankful to live in a time where technology allows me to make a video call to my mother back in Utah and speak to her for over an hour. She too is lonely and gets bored. She is in the age group that needs to be extra cautious with the social distancing. In the click of a button I can see and talk with both of my daughters in Logan and Provo, Utah. I’m thankful to be able to have the Come Follow Me program which makes having church at home easier. We have the lesson plans. We know what to study. The Lord has prepared us for the last days. God will do His work. Let us turn to Him in prayer. Let us Hear Him and what He wants to speak to our hearts.