Countless theories have been thrown out the window in the wake of the novel coronavirus while a great deal of new knowledge has been revealed. One of the most powerful, but unexpected, discoveries is that the scientific and the spiritual, reason and faith are not only compatible, they are completely complementary. 

Presenting false choices to already fractured groups and frightened citizens is clearly the shortest path to chaos and the slowest path to solutions. The novel coronavirus is no different than any other contentious national or international issue in that it has become fodder for fomenting anxiety and angst, frustration and fear.

One New York Times opinion writer went so far as to blame the entirety of the virus’s devastation at the feet of President Donald Trump’s Christian supporters with the sweeping generalization that all believers must be science deniers. That is false. It’s also a false choice. If anything, the pandemic has painted a new paradigm connecting science and spirituality, faith and reason.  

One world-renowned heart surgeon, who also happens to be a world religious leader, is proving the point. Russell M. Nelson is president of the 16 million-member global faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also spent decades as a pioneer of treating the heart. To him, things of science and things of the spiritual are inseparable. 

‘I remain optimistic for the future’: President Nelson offers video message of hope during COVID-19 pandemic

In a video message sent to members and posted on social media, President Nelson invited all who were able to participate in a day of fasting and prayer. A faith leader calling people to faith in a time of trial is nothing new.

Interestingly President Nelson began his message: “As a physician and surgeon, I have great admiration for medical professionals, scientists, and all who are working around the clock to curb the spread of COVID-19.”  

He continued: “I am also a man of faith, and I know that during these challenging times, we can be strengthened and lifted as we call upon God and His Son, Jesus Christ — the Master Healer. 

“I invite you to join with me in a worldwide fast — for all whose health permits — to pray for relief from the physical, emotional, and economic effects of this global pandemic. I invite members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints everywhere, along with our many friends, to fast and pray this Sunday, March 29. Let us unite our faith to plead for physical, spiritual, and other healing throughout the entire world.”

President Nelson rejected the false choice often presented between science and spirit long ago. Prior to his call to full-time church service, he was a pioneer researcher, scientist and heart surgeon.

Video: From Scrabble to the commandments, President Nelson and Sister Wendy Nelson talk about 'eternal laws'

In Brazil on one of the many international ministry tours the 95-year old President Nelson has taken over the past two years, his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, commented that at his core, Russell Nelson is a scientist — he wants to know what laws govern a particular thing. Whether it is the principles of physics, or the law of lift, President Nelson believes there are eternal laws that can produce predictable, dependable and reliable results.

Faith and reason, science and faith are simply different sides of the same eternal coin. 

After forever changing the way the world dealt with heart disease through his pioneering approach to open heart surgery, President Nelson was called to full-time church service in 1984. He walked away from his scalpel, surgery and scientific research and turned his attention completely to healing human hearts by applying the very same complementary principles of faith and reason.

Science and spirituality are indeed complementary and connecting, elevating and empowering.

If reason and faith, science and spirit are compatible and mutually reinforcing, what does that look like in the middle of a pandemic? It looks like what President Nelson and the leading councils of The Church of Jesus Christ have been doing over the past few months.

These leaders have rejected the false choice of “this or that” while embracing the complementary, connecting, elevating power of “and.” 

President Nelson has called for prayer and issued calls for people to follow local and national governments along with world health expert guidelines.

Video: President Nelson invites all to participate in worldwide fast Sunday and to pray for relief from coronavirus pandemic

Church leaders have asked members to faithfully follow spiritual promptings to serve their neighbors in need and acted to suspend all church gatherings worldwide.

The church has encouraged members to be prepared for difficult economic times and has shipped relief supplies and sent resources to nations around the world. 

President Nelson regularly challenges members to share their faith in Christ with others and has called home more than 30,000 missionaries, from more than 150 missions globally, in what must be one of the largest organized evacuations of the last half-century. It’s all part of the solution to the spreading virus.

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The church teaches members to listen to the words of leaders and moved the annual general conference gathering out of the 21,000-seat conference center and onto the internet.

Leaders have encouraged members to look to the faith’s temple for peace and closed all 161 operating temples around the world. 

President Nelson invited all to join in fasting and pleading to God for physical, spiritual and economic relief from the pandemic and take every reasonable, rational step possible to curb the spread of the virus.

A pandemic is no time for the divisiveness of false choices. Science and spirituality are indeed complementary and connecting, elevating and empowering. One world leader is encouraging the people of the earth to unite and give faith, and reason, a try.

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