Elder Ronald A. Rasband on COVID-19 vaccines
This is a transcript of an excerpt from a Facebook Live Event for Youth and Single Adults in the Africa South Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, held on November 16th, 2021. The full video of the event can be viewed here or here.
Moderator: So, many of our young people really have been profoundly affected by COVID-19, and our first question is one that's been echoed probably across many continents and it's around the COVID-19 vaccine. This is what our young person wrote, they said:
Many high-profile leaders in Africa have spoken out against being vaccinated. This leaves us in a confusing space. What is your advice to those who wonder if they should be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Elder Rasband: Thank you. You started right off with a soft question, didn't you?
Elder Rasband: Well let me say, before I specifically answer your question, that we know that within this audience we have tonight there are those that have lost loved ones, friends, associates, and this is a very traumatic pandemic that affects not only South Africa, but worldwide in the church. And for many, many months now we've been praying and imploring the Lord to bless us with a solution. That we can once again return to some degree of normalcy, not only in our lives, which you all request – which was at the heart of your question – but also for the church. To be able to let missionaries go out and do their work again as normal, to be able to open the temples fully throughout the church as normal, to be able to have Sunday meetings as normal.
And in the presence of the prophet we have prayed that we would have a vaccine – not just for the sake of making us healthy and resilient to this COVID-19, but also to allow the church to gather Israel on both sides of the veil. I mean, we all know through this prophet, President Nelson, that that's the mission of our era: to gather Israel. He has said to the youth before, the most important work that we're involved with is to gather Israel.
And so, when you put that as the overlying need for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can understand that with the prophet and others who have prayerfully considered this, that a vaccine is actually a godsend from heaven. And we view it that way. We view it as a miracle. The time that it took to develop it, the speed at which it was made available – in record time compared to other world-wide pandemics.
And so, where we have these conflicts – now to the heart of your question. Where we have these conflicts, I would just remind our audience – the youth and the young single adults – that we have the added benefit to have a prophet of God on the earth. And the prophet of God is candidly authorized to speak for the Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing that COVID would be one of your questions tonight, I actually brought President Nelson's comment that he made about the vaccine. May I just share it?
Moderator: We'd love that.
Elder Rasband: This was an announcement made by the First Presidency, August 12th, 2021. And I like this: “to church members all around the world.” This was not made for the church in Utah, or the church in the United States. This announcement by the First Presidency was for the world church including the 32 countries that we have tuning in tonight. So let me just read what was said.
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic. We want to do all we can to limit the spread of these viruses. We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population.
To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.
Since I am also in communications like you, Thelia, I was involved as the First Presidency wrote this to be given to the members of the church throughout the world. And the word I reemphasize is the president's use of the word “urge”. We urge you to mask up when you need to and we urge you to get vaccinated.
And I suppose the very direct answer to your question is, if I had to choose freely with my own agency between a leader of some other persuasion, or official, or the prophet of God, I would recommend to our audience: choose to follow God's holy prophet. In fact, if any of our audience – and I hope they did – listened to my conference talk just last October Conference, I gave “things of my soul” points one through seven, do you remember?
Moderator: I do.
Elder Rasband: Okay. And my point seven was: follow God's living prophet. And as I've met with youth and young single adults all over the world, if they cause me to narrow down to one thing of my soul that they'd like me to comment, my one thing – kind of first and foremost in my mind – is follow God's living prophet.
And so that's what I ask our audience. That's what I ask the wonderful youth and young single adults, is that to the degree that they're able to, that there's a vaccine available, I invite them – I urge them, as the president's own words – to get vaccinated. And to me, the prophet's words supersede the words of those others that were included in your question.