Dr. Candace Mcnaughton: Discipleship in a Pandemic

Tue Jan 19 10:00:25 EST 2021
Episode 114

In February 2020, Dr. Candace Mcnaughton participated in her first conversations about coronavirus at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. While she has been on the frontlines of COVID-19, she has witnessed the toll the virus has taken on patients and their families, tirelessly researching how to bring about the end of the pandemic with her colleagues. On this week’s episode, she graciously answers our questions surrounding COVID-19 and shares what the experience has taught her about discipleship.

They talk about this...resistance training or high-intensity training. That's kind of what we're all getting spiritually this year. It's like one extended, very long series of repetitions of patience.
Dr. Candace Mcnaughton

Correction: In the episode, we said that Dr. Mcnaughton works in the emergency department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is actually currently only seeing patients at the VA hospital affiliated with the university.

First Presidency Statement on vaccinations: "The First Presidency and Apostles Over Age 70 Receive the COVID-19 Vaccine"

Quote from Elder Bednar: "Misinformation is a major obstacle in a health crisis. Faith communities can debunk rumors, calm fears, and facilitate accurate information. Many will be fearful of vaccines. Religious leaders can be helpful in the fight against the coronavirus" (See full address here).

For those interested in medical journal articles, The New England Journal of Medicine has them available for free: nejm.org 

How the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work: "How the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Works"

Animated video Dr. Mcnaughton recommends about the distance of 6-feet: "Face It! You're Bad At Judging Physical Distance. Here's How to Do it"

Video about vaccines: "Coronavirus Vaccines - An Introduction"

For those who are interested, below are links to some studies by Dr. Mcnaughton's colleagues related to COVID-19:

5:41- Witnesses of a Miracle
10:48- How Does a Vaccine Work?
15:09- Real Humans Battling COVID-19
23:05- The Parable of the Lost Sheep
32:17- How Will We Respond?
37:40- Misinformation
41:34- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ


Morgan Jones 0:01
On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, the First Presidency released the following statement:

“In word and deed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported vaccinations for generations. As a prominent component of our humanitarian efforts, the Church has funded, distributed and administered life-saving vaccines throughout the world. Vaccinations have helped curb or eliminate devastating communicable diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, smallpox and measles. Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.

“As this pandemic spread across the world, the Church immediately canceled meetings, closed temples, and restricted other activities because of our desire to be good global citizens and do our part to fight the pandemic.

“Now, COVID-19 vaccines that many have worked, prayed, and fasted for are being developed, and some are being provided. Under the guidelines issued by local health officials, vaccinations were first offered to health care workers, first responders, and other high-priority recipients. Because of their age, Senior Church leaders over 70 now welcome the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs,” end quote.

We are so grateful for this guidance from the First Presidency. On today's episode, you'll hear from Dr. Candace Mcnaughton, who graciously provided us with several resources that may be helpful for you regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations, which we will include in our show notes.

You can access our show notes for each episode, including this one by visiting www.LDSliving.com/allin.

Of the patients she sees in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center emergency room, Dr. Candace Mcnaughton estimates that currently half are there with COVID-19. She says that observing the situation surrounding the pandemic has given her a new appreciation for what it might have felt like for the Israelites, “Who were dying because of the fiery flying serpents. All they had to do was turn and look at the scepter held aloft – but many of them didn't," she wrote in an email to me following our interview.

"How much like them are we now?" – she continued. "How often are we turning away, rationalizing our risks in the same way that they must have? We have been asked to stay home, not to ‘share air’ with others outside of the people who live with us. It is counterintuitive and counter to our human nature and desires to touch and see other people. It feels similar to other sacrifices the Lord has asked through the ages – difficult, counterintuitive, perhaps even wrong in some way, but absolutely necessary and the only way forward," end quote.

Today, we hope to answer some of the questions you may have regarding COVID-19 and Dr. Candace Mcnaughton has graciously agreed to join us.

Dr. Mcnaughton attended Brigham Young University, followed by Washington University in St. Louis for medical school. Following residency training and emergency medicine at Vanderbilt, she obtained a Master's of Public Health from Vanderbilt, completed the two year VA quality scholars fellowship, and a doctoral degree in epidemiology. Her research interests include health determinants for patients with diabetes and heart failure, health communication and resistant hypertension.

This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so honored to have Candace Mcnaughton on the line with me today. Candace, welcome.

Candace Mcnaughton 4:26
It's my pleasure to be here.

Morgan Jones 4:28
Well, I have been so anxious – I don't know if excited is the right word, but anxious to do this interview, just because I want to hear all that you have worked on and your perspective on this pandemic. I think that you have had a very different, probably, experience with COVID-19 then many of us and can share some interesting insights. But first of all, can you just explain to those listening what your role has been in all of this, as it relates to COVID-19?

Candace Mcnaughton 5:03
Sure. And let me start out by saying first, everything that we talk about here, I'm speaking as just, you know, a private citizen. I'm just speaking about my own experiences and opinion, so I'm not speaking on behalf of any of my employers.

I'm an emergency medicine physician, so that means I work clinically in the emergency department, and I am a – an emergency medicine researcher. We've been, I've been taking care of COVID patients, and then my role in COVID research has been quite limited, but I've tried to help out where I can.

Morgan Jones 5:37
Okay, perfect. So, I guess first of all, right now, we're in a very interesting spot. 10 months into this pandemic where a vaccine has been developed, vaccines have been approved, and yet most of us don't have them yet, and we're kind of waiting to see the way that all of this will play out. But from your perspective, do you feel like it was a miracle that a vaccine was able to be developed so quickly? And as a member of the Church, do you feel that fasting and prayer played into that, or how have you seen God's hand in the scientific developments?

Candace Mcnaughton 6:18
Yeah, so I would say that the vaccine is a miracle – vaccines – because there are multiple. We've got – at least FDA approved, so you know, specific to the United States – we've got Pfizer and Moderna. But there are other vaccines that are available in other parts of the world as well.

And what's interesting about this miracle is that this didn't happen overnight. I am not an expert in vaccine development, but from what I understand, work on these vaccines has been going on for more than 20 years. And really, it's built on the shoulders of decades. And if you really look at it, hundreds of years’ worth of research.

And so, for us to be able to develop even one vaccine that has any efficacy and that is safe to use in under a year, I mean that – when you look back at the history of humanity, and history of disease and suffering – that's a miracle no matter how you look at it.

I think the fastest vaccine development before this had taken five years. And you know, there's no guarantee when you start out with a vaccine developing it, and the road to use of mRNA as a vaccine strategy – so the way that both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines work – that was one that really was not accepted for a long time. It took a lot of work and reading about the scientists who are responsible for it, because it's, you know, as with any really important discovery, or work in science, it's never just one person. It's always like scores of people, and you hear about five to ten of them, and then you don't really learn about, you know, the hundreds of people who support that work and move it all forward. That was not a straight path. There were a lot of barriers that they've had to overcome.

My recollection actually, the first thing . . . in the first conversation that I remember having, it was the first week of last February, when this sort of like popped up on the radar for some of us in the hospital. You know, the first thing that we talked about was the fact that, you know, they had tried Coronavirus vaccines in the past, and they couldn't make it past the safety standards, because the vaccines at that time – and things have changed now, gratefully – they were really . . . it resulted in a very strong immune response, and they've dampened it down. So, in the course of 20 years, they've really made advances in these mRNA vaccines so that it's much safer.

And I mean, it is an absolute miracle. Yes, this last year has been really difficult. We've really had to make a lot of changes, but it's interesting, because a lot of those changes take us back to the way that most humans, most other people have had to live their whole lives. And so in some way, it's a stark reminder of how blessed we've been. Some things it's really hard to appreciate until you don't have them anymore, and freedom to go around and not worry about, you know, catching something that you could give to a loved one that may make them so sick that they end up in the hospital or die, I mean, you know, none of us have really had to deal with that in the United States, in our lifetime.

So it's been totally a perspective shift for sure. And then fasting and prayer, I'm 100% positive that there were many, many, many prayers that have been going on for decades. It's funny because I think in science, you know, we like to . . . there's a sense of, you know, "You don't need prayers, it's all just a bunch of hard work." But man, I'll tell you what, I'm sure – like everybody else – you know, you go in on a test and you're like saying prayers under your breath, you know?

It's very similar in the lab, you know, sort of, "Please let this experience work, please let us, you know, figure out how to interpret these results and use them and figure out what direction to go in next." I'm 100% positive that that's been going on for decades. And fasting and prayer, I'm sure on the part of, likely billions of people on the planet, have made some differences in decisions that leaders make and how people are behaving to some degree.

Morgan Jones 10:25
Yeah, very well said. And I love what you said about medical advances. One of the girls on our team shared with me a video, that a doctor in her ward had shared that talked about medical advances that happened prior to COVID that kind of paved the way for that vaccine, and I hadn't heard that, and so I thought that that was super interesting.

Candace, for those who wish that they had the opportunity to sit down with somebody who has been as familiar with this as you have been, how would you explain that the vaccine is anticipated to work for people?

Candace Mcnaughton 11:04
Sure, yeah. Because, you know, one of the biggest challenges that we have right now, at least in the United States, is that it's been really hard to find good, clear information. So, I'm going to give credit where credit's due, there's a nice resource that clearly explains how the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines work, because they're quite similar in terms of how they work. And like I said, there are likely to be other vaccines that are going to be available, I think, probably in the next six months or so. And they'll, they work very differently in some cases, so this is for Pfizer, and Moderna, and so the resource that – I don't know if there's a way for you to share links with readers or anything like that –

Morgan Jones 11:50
Yeah, yeah, we can, we can link whatever you'd like to send me in our show notes, so.

Candace Mcnaughton 11:54
Okay, cool. Alright, so I will send you some links. But the short description of this – and let's see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense is – so this Coronavirus, so I think most folks are familiar with DNA, and there's a closely related structure called RNA. And RNA is the genetic material for this virus. And what happens with that virus is – I was talking with my my 11 year old son, and he sort of boiled it down to this, he's like, you know, it's a strand of RNA that's wrapped in a soap bubble. And that's what a viral particle is, and that soap bubble, when you get infected, it merges with ourselves, and it dropped its genetic material in, and that genetic material is just like a virus on your computer, goes in and it takes over everything.

And it turns that cell into a virus making factory, and the cell turns from, say, like a cell inside your nose, and it becomes a cell that just creates virus, and each one of the little viruses goes out and infects another cell and takes over that cell and, and does the same thing over and over again. And what the – these, the Moderna And the Pfizer vaccines have done is, they have taken a portion of the – it's called messenger RNA, it encodes . . . it tells the cell how to make a protein. And in this case, it tells the cell how to make the spike protein. And that's what attaches or sort of velcros onto the cell as it lands on the cell and merges with it.

And so what the vaccine does, is it takes, not the virus, it just takes a snippet of the mRNA, and it puts that in a soap bubble and you inject that messenger RNA into your arm, and then your cells pick up that mRNA, and they make the little proteins just of the spike protein. So what it does is it raises a flag to your body and it says, "Hey, this thing is abnormal, this little spike protein” – that the virus would use to sort of dock on your cells – so you make an immune response just to that spike protein, so there's no virus that's part of this vaccine.

You can't get Coronavirus from the vaccine, but if you're exposed to the Coronavirus, after you've had the two shots of these vaccinations, anytime your body sees that spike protein, it mounts an immune response and it wipes it out. So that's how the vaccines work which is different from any other vaccine that you or I have had.

Most of the vaccines that you or I have had – like every year I'll get the flu shot, I don't get the nasal one, that one is a, it's actually live flu virus, but I'll get the shot in the arm, and that is a virus that they've sort of killed and they've like scrambled it like an egg, you know, they put the proteins in your arm – that's totally different. And that, for whatever reason, doesn't work for the Coronavirus. So we had to do something new and inventive, and it was mRNA. Messenger RNA.

Morgan Jones 14:56
Wow. That's incredible.

Candace Mcnaughton 14:58

Morgan Jones 14:58
I mean it – honestly, the fact that that was able to happen in a year, when it's completely different than other vaccines is kind of mind blowing. I wonder for you, Candace, and I know, you said that you haven't been involved a ton in the research, but I'm sure that you know, people that have been, and so what would you say that it looks like behind the scenes for people that are working on this?

And have there been, I imagine there are a lot of emotions involved in such a high-pressure situation when something you're trying to turn something around so quickly, and so I guess my real question is, what is the human side of this? Because I think, you know, sometimes, we become caught up and just think of ourselves in a situation where emotions are high, but we don't think about the people that are behind the scenes working. And I wonder, you know, are there a lot of long hours associated with this? So just give us like an idea of the human aspect.

Candace Mcnaughton 16:04
Sure. And I think you're right, I think there's a tremendous amount of work going on that is difficult to see. So, I can tell you that some of my colleagues have really not slept –very much at all in the last year. Because they've really been working day and night, and basically every day, both clinically and research-wise. So at our institution in particular – so we're lucky in that, our hospital is part of a network of institutions that's funded by the National Institutes of Health, or the NIH, and we were already part of a group, a very large national group, an international group that studies infections, particularly flu. And so this group of people were already sort of . . . the equipment and the people were in place to take advantage of that and make changes and shift over to Coronavirus.

So, sort of rather famously, Dolly Parton donated a million dollars to one of our hospitals, and that work contributed to – I think it was development of the Moderna vaccine. And that was at a lab. That's, that's here. And those folks have just worked, you know, day in, day out.

I mean, I know in our Emergency Medicine Research Division, there was a day in middle – about the middle of March where a group of the researchers got together with our research assistants and the staff that support us, because, you know, I think folks sort of think about the researchers, but it takes like people, like the research assistants are incredibly important. And actually, the folks who run the – do the paperwork, without those folks, you can't do the research, you know? If you don't have like a legal contract with the CDC, you can't do any of the work, right?

So like, actually, some of the most difficult and most important work is in the paperwork. Anyway, they sat down together, and at the time, we didn't know that much about, you know, how serious is this? How is it spread? How much of a risk is it to ourselves? It was in the context of last year, we had a really bad flu season, and we – like I said, we do a lot of flu research studies, and we noticed that like everybody on staff had gotten flu last year. So, you know, what we do is not entirely low risk. You know, if you're going in and you're enrolling flu patients and everybody's getting flu on the team, despite using appropriate, you know, you're using an N95 and everything, you just sort of go, “Alright, we just have to be careful and thoughtful about the risks we're taking.”

And so they all sat down together and decided that they were going to go – I mean, you know, to sound a little cliched, I guess, but it was, I think it's totally accurate to say they went all in and decided that they were going to basically spend every waking minute working on making sure that we took this opportunity to study this as much as we could, so that we could learn as much as we could, so that we could provide the best care.

And so what came out of that, and I think one of the most probably newsworthy examples is hydroxychloroquine study. So a colleague of mine was part of the team that really designed this study that was done across multiple hospitals in the United States. It was designed in a couple of weeks. Now, he didn't sleep at night, you know, it was just 24/7, go, go, go, go go for him – and, you know, probably hundreds of people at the same time – they got it up and off the ground.

And that's part of the evidence that showed us that hydroxychloroquine doesn't help – doesn't improve outcomes. Which is interesting, because – and I didn't realize this until afterwards – you know, we think about science, and we think about what's the best in terms of helping outcomes. What I didn't think about was that . . . so that same colleague has received death threats as a result of the work that he's done, because the environment that we're in is very polarizing.

Morgan Jones 20:04

Candace Mcnaughton 20:05
And so we were all very surprised about this, because you know, our goal has been, let's make sure that as many people can be healthy as possible, you know, let's make sure that we're providing patients with the best care that will result in the best outcomes. And it was a real shock to the system to hear that, folks for, you know, totally different reasons that had nothing to do with how well patients were going to do, we're really, very threatening in how they responded to that.

And that was, that was hard, because it was on top of, you know, you're already working in a pandemic, and it's already, you know, every time you go in and see a patient you're risking your life, and honestly, the lives of the people that you live with. But, you know, we went into this profession to try to help people, and like I said, you know, a lot of people have sat down and made the decision that I think a lot of – what everybody is trying to do – is to do the best that they can and the circumstances that they are in, with the resources they have available. And that means different things for different people. So, that's where we're at.

Morgan Jones 21:06
Yeah, I want to come back to something that you said about the polarization of the virus. And I think that there's, there are some different things that we could kind of address there. One of the things that you said to me when I reached out and asked you if you'd be willing to do this, you said that you would love to talk about how following public health recommendations is a concrete way that we can love our neighbors, "A concrete way to be more like Christ is to care about and do our part and keeping everyone around us healthy."

You said, "It's been difficult and sad to see knee-jerk reactions of selfishness through the pandemic, although there have been many examples of love and kindness as well." And those are all your words, but I wanted to ask a few questions related to that. Because I do think, I think that I've thought about this a lot. One of the hardest things about this situation is that all of us are trying to navigate something we've never navigated before, while having to make a lot of decisions in like, even the smallest interactions that we've never made before. And so, things that normally we wouldn't even give a second thought to, it like becomes this big thing. And you're having to have a conversation with your mom that you didn't want to have, about what's comfortable and what's not.

And I think that that's just something that everybody – I mean, I was talking to a friend last night who was saying that she's had, she's like, "I've had so many conversations with my sister, where we're just trying to figure out where we're both at." And so I think that this has, this has caused a lot of things on a personal level, but then on a, on a worldwide level, and specifically in the United States, it's become such a political thing. And I don't want to get into the politics of it here, but I do think that there are some important things as it relates to our discipleship as members of the Church that we can talk about. And so initially, what do you think caused those knee jerk reactions? And what do you think maybe we could do, as just citizens and neighbors to eliminate some of those?

Candace Mcnaughton 23:18
Yeah, I think you make really good points. And I think . . . so just to take a step back just a little bit, because I come at this from a little bit of a different perspective from . . . my husband is sort of laughing at me, because he and I, we have our undergraduate degrees in microbiology. And then I went to medical school, so I did four years of medical school and four years of emergency medicine where like, you train on how to deal with emergencies, you know?

And then I did a PhD in epidemiology. So, to me, like the first week in February, you know, the 1918 flu is something that is sort of like the boogeyman of epidemiology in the United States. And infectious diseases, you know, it's something that like, keeps us up at night, you know? Like we sort of have lived in fear of, but as time passes, we forget these things.

And so, I – in the context of all of that background, it seemed clear to me – and the United States government has invested a lot of resources in planning and preparing – but the fact of the matter is, that when you have a new emerging disease, when there's no vaccine and no medical treatment, no evidence to guide medical treatment yet, the only thing that you've got standing between you and really bad outcomes for people that you know, in that country, is leadership.

And that needs to go you know, all the way from the top down. And it's not – it's interesting, because it's like one thing that should – seems like it should be pretty simple, but it turns out the execution is really quite complicated in that we're all human. And, you know, you and I have not seen anybody die of diphtheria, you know? That's not a disease, right? Because we've all been vaccinated, and smallpox was completely eradicated. So it's very foreign, and it was sort of beyond most people's imagination to, to even conceive of something that would kill, you know, almost half a million Americans in a single year.

You know, like, for context, like car crashes, you know, which are, you know, obviously a big deal, they kill 44,000 or so Americans every year, right? We're like, talking 10 times that number of Americans dead from this virus in a year. And that's with the shutdown in March, and that's with all of the measures that we have taken, right?

So it's really complicated, and what I found when I tried to, you know, sort of raise these concerns, in the context of my training, I have gained a new appreciation for what it must have felt like when Noah was telling people, you know, you guys need to get ready, or there's gonna be a flood. Because I can't tell you how many times people were like, “You're overreacting. You're gonna cause panic,” you know, whereas I think it would be really helpful going forward, if, you know, maybe we changed our mindset to more of a sort of a proactive rather than reactive strategy for public health in at least this country, but maybe just in life in general.

I think – what's the term we use . . . a fear of missing out – you know, this defensive stance of like, I don't want to do anything different because it's different. My 11-year-old loves BYU Studio C, there's a line that he loves to quote of, you know, "Oh it's something new and different, I must fear it," – I'm not getting it exactly right, but he runs around with that, you know, "New and different, I must fear it."

But if we could, you know, maybe be a little bit more open to new ideas, and maybe a little bit more open to exploring things that we're not directly familiar with, and I think we could all benefit from that.

The other thing as I was, you know, looking back over the last – almost a year now – it struck me, as I was reading through the scriptures in Luke, you know, 15,:4 and in John 15:17, so, John 15:17, where he says, you know, "I command you to love each other." And then in 15:4, where he talks about the parable of the lost sheep. You know, there's – if you have 100 sheep, and one of them is lost, you're going to go look for them.

Which is, honestly, kind of not an American approach. You know, I think what I heard a lot of was, you know, "Mortality is only 1 or 2%, it's not that big a deal." That's one or two of your hundred sheep. The parable from the scriptures is, “I'm going to put everything down, I'll make sure the other sheep are safe, – don't get me wrong – but I'm going to go look for that sheep, and when I find the one out of hundred, that 1%, I'm gonna come back, and not only am I gonna be happy, we're gonna have a huge party.” You know, this is a big deal. This one out of hundred is really meaningful. And I think, you know, a lot of us have forgotten that Heavenly Father really expects us to care about each other in that same way.

If all I have to do is stay home and interact with people electronically, which is the first time in human history we've ever been able to do that, I feel like that's a miracle that I need to take advantage of. If this came up, there was a lot of angst around, you know, in-person church. And for our particular congregation, which has a lot of physicians who are in and out of the hospital, and so many of whom could be asymptomatic carriers, who may then infect elderly people in our congregation, we have erred on the side of caution in a lot of ways and tried to be very careful and cognizant of – how can we best connect with each other and love each other, but do it in a way that we're not sharing physical space?

How can I do ministering in a way that doesn't involve getting honestly within any physical distance of each other? Because I found, we tried a couple of different iterations of this, and by the time somebody is far enough distant, to be safe, I'm yelling at them. And it just seemed very clunky. And like, you know, at that point, let's just do it all by Zoom, you know?

Recognizing that there are situations in which people do need to go to Church, if you've got folks who don't have the priesthood in their home and they need sacrament, there needs to be a way to do that. And what we have done is a very careful, very physically distant sacrament meeting and actually, because the infection rate is so high here, we haven't had in-person Church of any sort since after Thanksgiving, because it just logistically has not been safe.

But before that, we would have very physically distanced people in the, in the sacrament meeting room and they all had to wear masks. And people commented, "It's not the same. It's not the same as getting together for sacrament meeting." And they're right. Because the only reason that we had in-person activities was to do something that had to be done in person, and that was an ordinance. Everything else that we do, talking, getting together, supporting each other, emotionally, really can be done with physical distance.

And it's, like I said, it's such a miracle that we have that ability. You know, for the first time in human history, I can do my research job and my kids can go to school – it's not perfect, mind you – definitely not perfect. What, you know, I have an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old. My 15-year-old has autism and my 11-year-old has, you know, some learning differences, and, you know, so life is complicated, right? But like, they can both continue to learn in some capacity, and I don't have to worry about them dying, which, you know, 100 years ago, would not have been possible, so it's not easy.

It's actually legitimately painful, we haven't gone anywhere since, I think it's like late February, but they get together with their friends on Zoom, they're still doing school, we have Young Men and Young Women activities online, so I think there are a lot of opportunities and ways that we can creatively reach out, make sure that the 100, you know, the 99 are also getting what they can, in the circumstances while making sure that that 1 or 2% is still protected, and still kept safe.

Morgan Jones 31:36
Yeah, I love the point that you brought up about the fact that like attending church separated isn't really quite doing it for us anyway, and I think, you know, it's true, and not that Zoom is doing it for anybody either.

Candace Mcnaughton 31:52

Morgan Jones 31:52
But I do think, you know, my ward meets, and everybody's masked, and I'm brand new, in a family ward, and I haven't really met many people at all, because Church is different. But I think that that's just the situation that we're in. And like you said, there are many miracles that have been seen throughout this.

Speaking of that, I wondered if you could speak to how you've seen God sustaining your faith in people and goodness, despite all the high emotions that are swirling around? And if you have any favorite examples of that love and kindness that you said there have been many examples of?

Candace Mcnaughton 32:38
Yeah, and before I forget – I'll share my thoughts on that in just a second. Can I just say one other miracle in this? So, we live not in the state of Utah, I've got a 15-year-old. And the miracle is, we haven't had to do early morning seminary. We have been able to do seminary by Zoom, and we have a lovely couple in our ward who does it and actually, even more of a miracle, they were able to maintain doing seminary while they, they have to split their time between here and Japan, so they continued to teach seminary from Japan.

Morgan Jones 33:10

Candace Mcnaughton 33:11
If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is. To your point about faith in humanity and seeing the love of God, sort of despite all these circumstances, I have the luxury – the first week of March, I sort of read the tea leaves – so to speak – and I purchased a bunch of extra PPE, so I'm pretty safe at work, actually. But not everybody has that option. And I can do things from home. And not everybody has that option. I mean, teachers, my word, you know, talk about like a group of people who are in a really difficult situation. People who work in grocery stores, and who do all the things that allow us to continue to function, those people are amazing, and we literally owe them, you know, most of what we have, you know, right?

So, in the context of like, we don't have control over what's going on. We don't have control over what other people are doing and how they're behaving, and yet, despite that – God loves us. And he set up a way for us to continue to find joy, even though you know, just as Adam and Eve were kicked out of garden, and they were made to you know, they had to plow and till the earth and they have to do it and weeds are going to grow up, and it's meant to be sort of a painful experience, the last couple of times I've read through the scriptures, I really started to question if I understood what it meant by "Joy."

It was like, you know, you keep using this term "Joy." And I genuinely don't know that I understand what that means, because it's always in the context of like, "They have children, and they're miserable, so they can have joy." You know, "You go through these trials and you're miserable, so you can have joy." And I think I still don't really understand this concept, but I have faith that, you know, even in the really awful experiences that we've all had this past year, there have been moments that make it clear that Heavenly Father still loves us as individuals. He can't, you know – part of the deal coming down here was that people can make bad decisions. And we all experience the consequences of those bad choices.

Somebody once said that our God is a God of natural consequences. He's . . . unless it's going to thwart His grand design, He's not going to stand in the way of allowing people to have their agency even if that hurts other people. And that's, I think, more stark now. But it's always been true. And so, His question for us is not, "Is it fair?" because it's, in this lifetime, it's not going to be fair. We're going to be put through things that, arguably, we don't want to go through or maybe even shouldn't have to go through, under different circumstances. His question for us is, "What are you going to do with that? How are you going to respond? What are you going to take from that to, to grow from?" You know, they talked about this in, like resistance training or in you know, high intensity training. That's kind of what we're all getting spiritually this year. It's like one extended, very long series of repetitions of patience.

Morgan Jones 36:13
How much can you take?

Candace Mcnaughton 36:14
Exactly, before you fall over. So, not easy, but probably worth it.

Morgan Jones 36:20
Yeah. I love what you said about you know, still being able to see God's hand, and I think one thing as members of the Church I – you know, you brought up ministering, I think, callings have been super hard over the past year. And I feel for people that are in callings, where it's like, I need to be doing more, but I don't know how to do more. And I think there's little things that maybe because we're, you know, spread so thin, it feels like a text doesn't matter, but a text does matter. And reaching out to somebody matters more than it ever has before, and so, I love that.

And I think that the more that we look for, I mean, in my situation, I was diagnosed with mono the same day that COVID, like that Rudy Gobert got COVID and then Tom Hanks got COVID, and I was able to go home for four months and have my mom take care of me while I had mono, and so the whole time I've been like, thank goodness that that happened, but I think that there have been little things as well that throughout this past year we've, we have been able to see God's hand and certainly like the vaccine is just like the icing on the cake.

But there have been plenty of other reminders of God's love. I want to touch on one really quick thing, Candace before we get to our last question, and that is – the Church just released a handbook update in December, and in it, one of the new additions was an entry about being careful where we're getting our information from. And then Elder David A Bednar said, "Misinformation is a major obstacle in a health crisis. Faith communities can debunk rumors, calm fears and facilitate accurate information. Many will be fearful of vaccines – religious leaders can be helpful in the fight against the Coronavirus." So I wondered for you, what role do you think religion has played through this pandemic? And how can our faith communities help with misinformation, but also how can we as individuals, dispel misinformation and find trustworthy sources?

Candace Mcnaughton 38:30
These are really great points. So our religion is interesting in that, I think it's definitely part of our religion to go to the primary source, right? Which is in many ways different from other religions. Like I have an expectation when I pray, that I'm going to receive individual inspiration. And similarly, when I have a question about what's going on in the world, I'll frequently go to the primary source. And so in this case for the Coronavirus, in general, that's been the CDC. Go to the CDC, they generally have like really good information. And if there's any further confusion then the local health department, or your primary – your regular physician.

I have not found it helpful to go to – in general – like magazines, and there's . . . the science has moved so quickly, that talking to other people has not been as helpful as it is potentially for some other things. I mean the science moved very quickly, and so things changed quite dramatically, pretty quickly over six months, as they should, as we gain new information we adjust you know, our parameters and how we behave.

So I think you know, for our religion in particular, like I said, I think going to the primary source. Go to the original source and don't rely on other people to form your opinion for you. Just like I can't rely on somebody else for my own testimony – for really important health information, I can't really necessarily rely on – certainly not online, you know, social media. And if my health or the health of my family's on the line, I want to make sure I get the information, right.

And you're right, as you said, what's particularly difficult here is that it's counterintuitive, right? The things that we would typically do to help people, and to show that we love and care for them are the very things that we should not be doing now. And for the really, the foreseeable future, until we get enough people vaccinated, which is likely to be the fall. So information is really, really important.

And then the role of religion in this, you know, religion can't replace public health. Religion is the thing that gives us a moral compass and helps us have a framework for what's right and wrong. And our religion tells us that we need to take care of the least of those among us. And so, in order to do that, that means we need to support public health, which means we need to wear masks, we need to stay away from each other, we need to wash hands.

Now is the time to really sort of be humble and say, "Oh, okay, if I learned something new about how the way that I'm behaving might be harmful to someone else," rather than saying, you know, "Whatever, you're wrong." Maybe we can take a minute and consider, you know, why are they suggesting that we behave differently? Is there something that is beyond just sort of my perspective that other people are seeing – which is not easy to do, but going to be even more important in the next several months, I think.

Morgan Jones 41:30
Well, Candace, thank you so much, you've shared so much good information. My last question for you is what does it mean to you, to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Candace Mcnaughton 41:40
To me I think it means the seemingly small things. Showing up, being present, doing the day-to-day things that add up over time, are . . . that's what it means to be all in. It's not the grand gestures, it's the stuff that nobody sees, and that nobody else really notices, but that, over time, make a tremendous difference on an individual level, but hopefully in the way that I interact with other people so that they can know. Hopefully, they're feeling the Holy Ghost or the love of Heavenly Father as well.

Morgan Jones 42:14
Thank you so much, Candace. It has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.

Candace Mcnaughton 42:19
Thank you.

Morgan Jones 42:22
We are so grateful to Dr. Mcnaughton for her willingness to answer our questions surrounding COVID-19 and for being such a joy to work with as we coordinated this episode.

A big thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode, and thank you so much for listening. We'll look forward to being with you again next week.

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