12 July 2024

My response to someone sharing [fake?] news with me

 A friend sent a video in which someone tells of people with evil intent taking HIV/AIDS treatments to countries in Africa with the intent to kill of masses, or to depopulate those countries. She had previously shared a similar thing about Global Depopulation in which vaccines, GMOs, and so many things are judged to have been introduced for evil intent.

My response to this concern was:

It is always difficult to know what is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

I do not doubt that some of what they say is true, maybe most of what they say, but I know enough about science that I sometimes question the conclusions that are drawn. 

One of the reassuring things that I have experienced is eating with people whom the Lord has called as prophets, seers and revelators, and seeing them simply eating what is served in the hotel or restaurant, and not being particular about no GMOs, vegan, or any weird diet, other than the Word of Wisdom in D&C 89, given an about 1836. I know that the Lord knows perfectly what is truth about GMOs, vaccines, and all, and He would not allow His prophet to cause His beloved children, even the weak and simple shepherd, fisherman, carpenter, street-sweeper, or anyone who cannot be expected to fully understand everything that is shared so readily and widely on social media, to be injured by things like GMOs without making His will known. 

I always listen with interest to what they say in General Conference -  and what they do not say - about GMOs, vaccines, news of wars, and the sensational things that many people share, 

More people in any part of the world are those weak and simple children of God than are the sophisticated academics or 'the wise and learned'. Our loving Heavenly Father has clearly spoken out about some issues - and I obey His word. When He has not spoken, I try to be wise and prudent, but not fearful.

My response to the HIV/AIDS concern was:

This guy is not lying. But he is not telling the truth. 

Let me ask you. How many people do you know that have or had polio? How about smallpox, rubella, and many fatal or serious diseases for which you and I and our children were inoculated or immunised? 

We were injected with those viruses or diseases as children. The purpose was so that our bodies would develop a resistance to those diseases for the possibility that we might be exposed to it in our community. If we were exposed to it, as I have been because I know at least two people who had polio and had deformed legs as a result, our bodies had built up antibodies so that they fought off the virus or disease. 

The purpose of HIV/AIDS treatment was not to spread the disease but to help people to not die from the disease. I know at least one friend who contracted HIV because of exposure by helping someone who was infected. He was a chaste man who did not do the things that caused the disease, but was exposed to it when helping someone who had contracted it because of doing those unchaste things. My friend lived well and continues to live decades later because of the treatments that this video is saying were designed to kill people. 

I have flown in an aircraft many times. Many people have died in aircraft because of engine failure. Sally and I flew to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the Temple there.  On our way, our plane lost two of its four engines and we flew for hours over the sea before we could land on an island and wait for another plane to be sent to take us on to New York and then continue our journey. Was that plane built with the purpose of killing off passengers? Many people die in planes, taxis, cars, bicycles, even walking across roads. Were these vehicles and transport systems designed to depopulate our country? 

I think that the words of the Saviour apply here. 'Judge not, that ye be not judged. For, with that judgement that ye judge, ye shall be judged'. If we look for faults in people when they actually had the best intent to be a blessing to the nations, but are actually less than 100% perfect and some people suffer because of their failures - do we judge them as intending to cause suffering, or as trying to do good but being like you and me - imperfect people? 

God knows the intent of the people who developed the AIDS treatments. You can ask Him. 

God's prophet encouraged church members to receive vaccines. The Church has helped millions in underdeveloped nations to immunise their children. I know that our wonderful and loving Heavenly Father would not allow His prophet to suggest anything like immunisations that could negatively impact on any baby, child, carpenter, fisherman, shepherd, or any simple human or animal. He would not allow the weak and simple of the world to suffer because His prophet made a mistake. 

Please ask God if Russell M Nelson is His tue and living prophet in 2024, and when He confirms to you that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His only true and living church in the face of the Earth with which He is well pleased, as He has confirmed to me, then please listen to the missionaries to see what Heavenly Father wants you to do.

I know that God will answer the prayers of even the simplest fisherman, goatherd, or carpenter. 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask if God'. That is the question that Joseph Smith had when he asked God, and that started the restoration of the only true and living church.

I hope that what I have shared might encourage the reader of this boring blog to ask God as counselled in James 1:5 because we all lack wisdom.


11 February 2024

Remembering Jean Dorothy de Villiers, 07 Apr 1939 - 31 Jan 2024

 As I prepared thoughts about Jean to share at the time of her memorial, my thoughts turned to a comment by her son Etienne who said that God must have messed up because why do people not live hundreds of years now? Methuselah, an Old Testament patriarch lived 969 years, so why did Jean die so young? I mused on how our measurement of time might have changed since Lamech's days, but this is a subject for another discussion!

On the morning of the memorial I happened to listen to an article Peace and Joy, Not Grief, Dominated My Heart. Why? in the Feb 2024 Liahona magazine and shared a paragraph with Jean's family. This is an account of a family who lost their father due to Parkinson's disease. Then as I continued to listen, I noticed that it mentioned the hymn 227 There is Sunshine in my Soul Today that we sang to open this service and I shared that with the family. Such a coincidence!

I remember so many things that my mother used to tell me. Like 'Do not walk on the road in the middle of the day with bare feet because you will be hurt.' Guess what - Yep! I walked on the road with bare feet. And yep! my feet got sore because the road was hot, and sometimes the eina was because of a duiweltjiedoring (devil thorn or Tribulus terrestris). I learned that it was wisdom to listen to what my mother counselled. It would be far better for me to learn from running on the road barefoot and realising the value in following my mother's counsel than for me to not obey when she said 'Do not put your hand on the hot plate of the stove because you will burn yourself.' If I did this, I could be seriously injured and if the stove were really hot, I might even lose my hand. 

My thoughts went back to Adam and Eve. God put them into the Garden of Eden that was truly wonderful and beautiful. In Genesis where we read of this, we learn that He made the 'great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.' I clearly have a lot to learn because animals do not listen well to me, but they evidently understood Him and were fruitful and did multiply and I have really enjoyed seeing wonderful living things in the Namib Desert and in our forests, and all of our types of landscape. It is amazing how much abundant life there is in the desert! I smile as I often share how fortunate I am to have chosen to follow the botany side of my BSc degree rather than the zoology side - photographing plants is so much easier than photographing many animals! Wind, depth-of-field-of-focus, and light might be a problem, but at least the plants stay put! Tortoises are not too bad, but almost all butterflies, lizards, birds, fieldmice, and fast animals are really difficult to photograph - I take my hat off to those who take such magnificent photographs of the exceptionally remarkable and beautiful animals created by our Creator.

I have spent a lot of time in the Namib Desert but I have never seen rain. However, on one occasion we were there shortly after rain and I have a special memory of driving in the desert and seeing that the dunes were green! I usually saw only wind-blown sand that formed the dunes and as we arrived at the green dunes and looked with a bird's-eye-view we could see a lot of open sand that was simply hidden from our view by the blades of grass. This brought to mind a memory of one of the things that my mother often quoted 'It takes the effort of every blade of grass to keep the meadow green.' Memories like this are special because it reminds me that my mother may be dead, but her memory lives on as I reflect on the wise things that I learned from her. Her spirit lives on, and also she is present in my life because of her influence in my life.

God then created man - male and female - and 'blessed them, and God said unto them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.' He put them into a garden planted eastward in Eden with 'every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.' He instructed Adam to tend and to keep the garden, and that 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' After this, Eve was created as an help meet for Adam. We know the story of how Eve was tempted by the serpent saying 'your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' Eve 'saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.' 

And - death was introduced because Adam and Eve did partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And they were cast out of the garden of Eden, and instructed to till the earth, with the opposition of thorns and thistles and all, and to eat their bread by the sweat of their face - and Eve became the mother of all living. We learn in 2 Peter that a day in the Lord's time is as a thousand years, so Adam and Eve, and even Methuselah, died within the day of mortality that each partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil when he ran barefoot on a hot road or a devil's thorn or some other transgression. Each one if us has gained a knowledge of good and evil by transgressing some instruction and receiving the consequences of a choice - and we will all die within our day of mortality.

I often share how sure I am that our loving Heavenly Father did not want His children to not have a knowledge of good and evil! Just like loving parents want their children to not hurt their feet on a hot road or devil's thorn, but know that they probably will and want them to learn about choices and consequences, God wants His children to be able to distinguish between good and evil and it is His hope for us is that we will desire to choose to do good, and to not choose evil. In the garden of Eden there was no evil, no lack, no opposition, no bitter, no pain, no sickness, no death. They could not have a knowledge of these while in the presence of God who wants His children to become like Him, and they could not have children because they had not yet fallen to the mortal state. We have an eternal journey - and this life from birth to death is simply part of that journey. 

Jesus of Nazareth shared the parable of the talents. He told of a man travelling into a far country and entrusting one servant with five talents, one with two talents and one with one talent, according to their several ability. Two of these servants then traded with the talent, or added five and two talents to their five and two, and one feared the austerity of his master and hid his talent. After some time he returned and called for an accounting. The one with ten talents was commended 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.'. The one with four talents received the same commendation. But the one who had buried his talent was reprimanded for not having at least invested the talent to get some interest on the investment, saying 'Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' I am confident that if the man with one talent had traded and doubled his talent, he would have received the same commendation and if either with five or two talents had buried them, they would have received the same reprimand  

May we be fruitful and multiply, and replenish that with which we have been endowed.

I was struck this morning while reading Romans 8:28 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.' Then I noticed a note that I have made about three years ago regarding verses 6 to 7. 'For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' I noted that being carnally minded includes the amount of time given to carnal things as well as the amount of time given to spiritual things. It is not mutually exclusive. It is not a sin to eat and enjoy our food, nor to work and enjoy our work, or to play or perform or watch sport or entertainment or art and enjoy it. Too much focus on these things can become evil. The thing is to give a very good amount of time to loving and serving God and performing His work and drawing close to Him and enjoying that!

It is so good to be able to use the Gospel Library app on my phone. I tend to do far more highlighting and notes than I could easily do in the hard copy scriptures that I used as a younger fellow. I have such a very long way to go to reach the level of Heavenly Father, but He wants me to have a godly walk and conversation, walking in holiness before Him. I love an insight that I received from the Spirit years ago - anyone who repeated the Lord's prayer in school like we did during every assembly, or at any time in the past or now, is acknowledging that we have a Heavenly Father, and that He has a kingdom, and so we each have noble duties and responsibilities as sons and daughters of the King of Heaven - princes and princesses! Everyone who worships the God of Abraham, whether they call Him God, Heavenly Father, Jehovah, Elohim, Allah, or whatever, is serving the same one God - the same God to whom Jesus of Nazareth, our Messiah, constantly directed all glory.

It is recorded in John 17 that Jesus Christ said of His disciples 'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.' Jesus Christ and His father are so perfectly united that they are referred to as the one God - a perfect team. They want us to be a perfect team - being one with each other and one with them. I have such a long way to go in becoming all that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ hope that I will become - I can but move forward step by step, day by day, small goal by small goal, thorn by thorn, and so forth. Just as Jesus did - and He is my example - I need to increase 'in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man' in order to become what He wants me to become. I suppose that even Jesus might have had a devil's thorn experience in his lifetime in Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or somewhere since devil thorns probably occurred in the land of Israel in His day.

My progress started millennia before the day that I was born and will continue millennia after the day that I die. Just as the ring on my finger symbolises eternity as it has no beginning and no ending, so our lives are eternal. There are milestones along the way like birth, death, resurrection, judgement, but those are only points along the strait gate and narrow way. 

Jean said to me one day that it will probably be boring in the Celestial Kingdom because everyone would be the same! I could reassure her that we will all be equal, but certainly not the same. Artists will be artists, sportsmen will be sportsmen, intellectuals, accountants, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, sailors, and whatever our gifts, each talent will go with us into the eternities. I am confident that Heavenly Father is not lacking in any talent or skill and He wants us to grow and become balanced in all strengths. Just as in the parable of the talents that I shared above. But I think that we will be able to still hold onto some special passions and gifts although lacking none.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle - probably with far more than 1000 pieces - and there will be times that a piece goes missing because it fell under a chair, or one might be placed in the wrong position and look almost right but then the right piece will turn up and we will see that we had made a mistake and we will find the right place for the wrongly placed piece, and the picture will become more complete and pleasing as time passes. Some might not have had a chance to start their puzzle as they died as little babes. For some there will still be many pieces to be put in their places and for some they might be enjoying a very nearly complete puzzle and maybe some will have what certainly seems like a complete puzzle but due to conditions associated with age they might not see or hear or remember or sense everything so well anymore. Whatever our puzzle picture may be, it will be a picture of divine design that will be pleasing to us. Similarly, as our lives fall into place as we love Him and keep His commandments, we will feel the presence of the Comforter who shall testify of Christ, and guide us to all truth. We will feel comfort knowing that death is part of the cycle of life. In nature each living thing dies and becomes a benefit to others, as food, or nourishing or uplifting or building in some or other way. I remember my colleague commenting on flowers decorating a shopping mall - he said that he could see that they were artificial because they were too perfect. Real flowers would be chewed by beetles or worms. Death is not final, though, but it is an essential step along the journey.

Many years after my parents have passed on to the next stage of their eternal journey, I still have them with me in the memories of their counsel. They often reminded us that we are princes and princesses in Israel - I guess that our behaviour suggested that we needed constant reminders of that... There were some other things that they very frequently had us read like no contention, or Love at Home. Some phrases were frequently shared like 'A gentleman treats even a milkmaid as a lady', 'Don't think that you are so great - remember that a goatherd on the mountains of Transkei can probably speak more languages than you can', 'The world needs street sweepers - but more importantly, the world needs excellent street sweepers!', and as already mentioned, 'It takes the effort of every bladed of grass to keep the meadow green'. Your grief might well be accompanied by relief that the lingering or suffering is over. We can, and should, be hopeful and not hopeless. The influence of our loved one will remain with us for all of life. We can also find hope in the knowledge that we can be reunited for all of eternity through the sealing ordinances of the priesthood. 

I am strongly impressed by how the Gospel is being preached to every creature. As I have shared our South African history with visitors, the Spirit whispered to me that, for all of the faults of colonisers around the world, they have taken the Bible, Torah, Qur'an and the religion of the God of Abraham to all parts of the world, as well as education, health, industry, technology, and so many things that have fulfilled to promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I have been particularly impressed by how millions of Saints of every kindred, tongue and people all around the world have been studying the same things together this past week. I remember being impressed when I visited a congregation in Italy in 2001 and they were learning in Italian precisely the same lesson material as I had learned with my family in Cape Town. Similarly in Berlin, Germany in 2005, although there were enough English speaking saints that we learned together in English. I have also enjoyed learning in various units in England the same things that my family was learning in Cape Town. That is one example of being one as disciples of Jesus Christ. 

This past week we have learnt from 2 Nephi 2 where it talks of Adam and Eve needing to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to be able to have children, and how this was part of the opposition that is needed in all things, the sweet and the bitter, and how 'Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.' We have the great ability to act and not only to be acted upon. It talks of how the Messiah is part of that joy as He came and redeemed us from the fall so that our bodies that die physically will be reunited with our spirits in the resurrection, and just as Adam and Eve were sent out of God's presence in the garden of Eden, we were separated from God when we were born, and we will re-enter His presence to be judged. His hope is that we will have become such that He can say 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' 

It is my testimony that we lived before we were born - individuals, children of Heavenly Parents, male, female, potential shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, tax collectors, sales people, shop managers, bead artists, creative people like Jean, botanists like me, or whatever, and that we chose there to follow the plan presented by our Heavenly Father and not to follow the alternative plan presented by Lucifer. We then came to this mortal stage of life where Lucifer and his angels invite and entice us to be miserable like unto himself. I cannot see why anyone would want to be miserable, but they are not necessarily told that the choice that they are being tempted to make will make them miserable - but if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is! Some become slaves to addictions. Some become miserable because they compare themselves to others and envy or covet what they do not have instead of rejoicing in the bounteous blessings that they do have. Some desire to be thieves, murderers, adulterers, liars, deceivers, and get great excitement as they suppress others or enslave others or hurt others. 

Heavenly Father wants us to treat everyone as we would want to be treated. I have a special memory of being with a Franciscan monk in a room in East London during 1974 after he had preached in the Catholic chapel - who knows if someone reading this might have been in that room with the group of young people who were meeting with him. Somehow I felt impressed to share that John told us that if a man says that he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar. Jesus told us that the two great commandments are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; and that we must love our neighbour as ourself. Then I shared what the Spirit taught me at that moment - it has to start with me loving myself in order to love my neighbour as myself - and we need to love our neighbour whom we can see - then that is part of what confirms that we love the Lord our God whom we cannot see. 

Some of us die at birth, some as infants, children, youth, adults, or geriatrics. Some die as a result of accidents, some after lingering and painful afflictions, some simply of natural causes. Each and every one will continue to learn and grow beyond death. That is the wonderful message of the Gospel that has been restored in its fullness in the latter days. There is a lot of good and truth in the world, but the Lord has said that He has restored the true and living Church with which He is well pleased, speaking of them collectively and not individually, for He cannot look upon with the least degree of allowance. I pray that I will always be an example of the believers, bearing witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

03 February 2024

Thoughts shared with a friend who feels wronged by a dear loved one

You mention in your CV that you love to write. I am impressed with your writing skill – I have done a lot of editing, mainly of scientific writing as I prepared publications for myself and for my team and often must make numerous edits. Your skill is good – it is worth working on it.

Just as in the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, there are many delights to be seen when we stop and look. There is so much to please the eye and gladden the heart.

I read that you had depression – that made me think back to my year after finishing BSC (Hons) at Wits University. Wow! That was intense. The medication was dulling and made me less than me. I recently read my matric journal from 1971 and I was amazed to read that I had depression then – with suicidal thoughts – I had totally forgotten that!

Then I thought of the absolute turmoil and distress that my wife Sally felt after serving so many patients as a family doctor, and suddenly she burnt out and was eventually diagnosed to have bipolar disorder, and years later bilateral temporal lobe epilepsy was also diagnosed! This journey has been really painful for her – and for me, and for the whole family. Sally later acknowledged that as she thought about it, she could recognise symptoms of bipolar disorder from her matric year, and also of epileptic incidents over the years. But, even with that recognition, there are times that she is adamant that she does not have any disorder and the meds are not doing anything for her and she wants to stop them all because of the side-effects! As you can imagine, I do not have many boring times in my life!

At the time of Sally’s first diagnosis my sister who is a psychologist with LDS Family Services suggested that we watch A Beautiful Mind and we watched it then, and I was impressed to watch it again when I first started to read some of the account of your journey. I have no idea of what might be the diagnosis for you, but you do mention medication and how tablets have destroyed your mind, and I think that you might have some issues like Sally and I, and others, have – and that so many people have in 2024.

My home teaching and ministering companion for many years was someone who is troubled by schizophrenia. He is always compliant with taking his medication and from about 20h00 is not particularly with things, but he presses on doing the best that he can under his difficult situation. He is faithful to his covenants even although his work that sustains him and his family does not enable him to attend Church regularly. If we met in the evening he would be there every week, but he is baking bread for many people on most Sunday mornings and many people at church forget about him – but I appreciate his great example of discipleship.

I have observed that many people that I know who evidently have great talents such as outstanding intellectual ability, given 'every man according to his several ability', seem to have an opposition in their lives such as ADHDD, bipolar, schizophrenia, dyslexia, or something that will help to refine them according to the Lord's love and wisdom.

I often reflect on the Saviour’s declaration in the synagogue when He first told of His mission: ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’ He had just declared ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Luke 4:18-19, 21. He then set about preaching, helping people to see, dumb to speak, deaf to hear, lame to walk, and mentally ill to cope with their afflictions (I anticipate many of the devils that He cast out were what troubled several of these mentally ill people), even raising the dead.

In the years leading up to 2024 He has inspired many of the seed of Abraham, and quite likely others who desire to help their fellow-men, to see (with spectacles, braille, surgery, medication, and other interventions), deaf to hear (with hearing aids, sign language, surgery, medication and other interventions), dumb to speak (with sign language, technology, and many other wonderful means), lame to walk (with wheelchairs, surgery, crutches, and various other interventions), mentally ill to cope (with medication, ECTs, counselling, and various interventions), and raising the dead and in limited instances even reversing death (with CPR, heart-lung machines, defibrillators, and other amazing interventions)!

I have been struck by the frequency with which Elder Jeffrey R Holland has referred to the healing (even if not totally removing illnesses) of mentally ill and other disabled people, saying that they should seek a priesthood blessing, and then go to the qualified and competent medical experts and allow them to be instruments in the Lord’s hands in bringing about needed healing. Several other general Church leaders have spoken about coping with mental or physical illness and they all encourage us to take advantage of what the Lord has inspired His instruments to do to help us to cope with, even sometimes to overcome, our afflictions. But mostly it is not to change the circumstances, but to help us to be the very best that we can be in spite of our circumstances. If we can, we are encouraged to take ourselves out of the gutter, addictions, or other things where we have control, but where we do not have control, He helps us to have faith in His ability to bless us to be able to make our desert blossom as the rose, to open up the windows of heaven by bringing us rain or benefiting from water that might be available as we bring our tithes and offerings into His storehouse that there may be meat in His house. This requires us to focus on correct doctrine and change ourselves from the inside-out rather than wanting to change things from the outside-in. I have often reflected on how apostles and prophets have battled on with serious impairments. I love the insight in The Chosen when James asks Jesus why He has not healed him, and Jesus says in effect 'I can heal you if you want it, but you being a witness of me despite your obvious walking challenges is a strong testimony to many that it is not only because of miracles that you follow me'.

I also love His injunction that ‘I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.’ Doctrine & Covenants 64:10. I am so grateful that He guarantees that any punishment that is due will be given by Him – and boy! He can punish far better than I can ever hope to do! And He can forgive so much better than I can! But – He can also help any one of us to become the opposite of a sinner if we humble ourselves and desire to be in the Celestial glory with Him. And – if we are in the ultimate instance of Zion, even the Celestial glory, we will be with Him, and if that person whom I despise in her or his sinful or mortal state is there, then it means that the Lord has helped her or him to change and become Celestial, and then I would love to be with that repentant and changed soul for all of eternity! The thing that I need to focus on is getting myself to the Celestial glory, and then everything will be far more wonderful than I can imagine!

You will probably remember the scriptures or General Conference speakers that I have quoted above. If not, feel free to ask me and I shall send links to the scriptures or talks. But the essence of what I am saying is that the Lord would delight in our seeking to be forgiving (not staying in a dangerous situation), and seeking to work together to be Zion people. Everyone has flaws, faults, failings, weaknesses, imperfections (I am woefully aware of such in myself). If I want to find a fault it will be so easy. But so does everyone have good points. My hope is to identify those and to help others to blossom in those good points. This kind of reminds me of something from my Institute study about someone entering a gardening competition and did a great job about removing all of the weeds but spent all of the time on that and did not plant beautiful and desirable plants. I have walked for many, many hours in the Namib Desert and I am always amazed at the absolutely wonderful beetles, lizards, spiders, birds, mammals, even some plants to be seen if one stops and looks. But most people climb in their cars and rush through the drab and dreary Karoo to get to the other side and often sit down to a delightful mutton meal that got its special flavour from the very Karoo that they did not stop to appreciate. Is that much different to the children of Israel following Moses and murmuring day after day despite the absolute miracle of having manna every day? Or as we are reading this week, Lehi’s family that had their food made sweet so that they did not need to kindle a fire to cook?

It has been agonising for Sally to no longer be able to serve patients, saving lives and improving health, from about age 45 years. Now she needs to serve herself, save her own life and improve her own health. Failure to do this leads to more rapid damage to her brain. The Lord had blessed her for more than 20 years as she magnified her calling, sanctifying her by the spirit unto the renewing of her body, but then, it appears, He withdrew that sustaining and Sally had to depart from her Jerusalem and go out into a wilderness in a difficult path to her promised land. There are times that she murmurs and yearns for the flesh pots of her past, but tries to keep her focus on drawing close to Heavenly Father as she trudges forward towards her promised land. I have often wondered if her challenges are there more for my refining than for hers – so it is not her burden to be borne alone, but we can bear it equally yoked, together, and both press forward towards the same Celestial promised land. I pray that I will be worthy to be there with her.

As I read and edited what I have written above, my thoughts turned to an experience when Sally, our first toddler and I were held-up on Signal Hill. A man threatened our daughter with a knife if we did not hand over our valuables. I was angry with this man who had definitely done wrong! I was mulling over in my mind how I could help the police to trap him in the act and make him suffer seriously with the harsh punishment that he fully deserved! I realised that I was not at peace. The scriptures say things like ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’. We had reported the matter to the police. We had prayed to Father in Heaven. We had done what we could do. I came to the realisation that it was appropriate for me to forgive and pray for this man’s redemption rather than planning for his destruction. I cannot express to you the relief and peace that came to my soul as I handed over the justice that needed to be dealt out to Heavenly Father and to the police.

It is interesting how I see so much related to what I have written to you coming up as I work through the Come, Follow Me study for this week, for example, the paragraph in this link https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-home-and-church-book-of-mormon-2024/05?id=p3&lang=eng#p3. I smiled as I thought of how there is always manna, or food that the Lord has made sweet, for us to collect each day, sufficient for that day, but I fear that we often just complain of being hungry because we did not gather our share of the manna or sweet food for the day. I hope that the Spirit has been communicating with you – as He has done with me – as you study with the millions of saints around the world during this week of our mortal journey. I was struck after sitting in a ward in Trieste, Italy, how remarkable that what I had studied that week, and my ward was studying in English in Cape Town was the same that was being discussed in Italian in this ward that week. The same in a ward in Berlin, Germany. We are blessed to be a body of saints – Zion – as we meet together around the globe in every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

It was interesting listening to the January 2024 Friend magazine this morning and feeling that some of the articles in it are in line with what I am sharing with you. I always marvel at how the Spirit lines up things to strengthen and enhance what I am learning. It reminds me that the Lord is in charge – He is at the helm. The article was Forgiving Like Nephi (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/friend/2024/01/04-forgiving-like-nephi?lang=eng)

I feel impressed to share a thought that I have had regarding the stupor of thought mentioned in the 9th section of Doctrine and Covenants. When my mind is buzzing over something, arguing for my argument, debating, justifying – not being at peace – then I try to change to maybe the opposite of my argument, or to the defence rather than the prosecution, or whatever and see how I feel then. For example, I have challenged people to speak convincingly that the sun is not shining and assess their feelings. I then let them argue that the sun is shining and assess how they feel – from being actively looking for justification of the argument, suddenly it changes to a simple statement like ‘I can see it. It may have stopped shining in the last 8 minutes, but I can see it now.’ As I read your writing, it looks as though there may be this stupor of thought. Why not ask the Lord what you should be thinking and maybe change your approach and see if you find peace. If not, try another approach. There is a good reason that the Lord called the Holy Ghost the Comforter. I love the feeling of clarity, simplicity, completeness, wholeness, integrity when it simply feels right. No because, because, because, but simply right. I often refer to Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof where he is thinking about his daughter not wanting an arranged marriage. It is ‘On the other hand…’ and ‘On the other hand…’ and in one instance he simply says ‘No – there is no other hand’. If one is always considering arguments, I reckon that we have not come to see things as the Lord sees them.

Moroni challenged us to remember how merciful the Lord has been to the children of men since the days of Adam, even until the time that we read his challenge. Many of us think more of the punishing Jehovah who instructed Joshua to destroy Jericho, and similar tales of harsh justice. I remember after listening to the entire Old Testament while driving to and from work how one needs to be familiar with that entire account in order to remember those details of mercy. He was harsh in order to help His children to repent. When there was even the slightest spark of repentance visible He would blow on it to help it to become a flame and then a roaring flame so that He could manifest His mercy through His blessings such as manna in the wilderness, opening the windows of heaven and pouring out a blessing, and healing from the poison of serpents. He is indeed a merciful God. Jesus Christ has already atoned for the sins of anyone who has wronged you or me. It is now up to us to help others to repent and receive that atoning grace and mercy, blowing on any hint of a spark of repentance to make it a Celestial recovery – and then we will have great joy over a soul that we have helped to save.

I hope that this really long response is not painful to you. I love you. I love everyone who has wronged you – not for the wrong that they have done, but for the divine potential that they have if they repent and meet the duty of a member which is to have a Godly walk and conversation, walking in holiness before Him. Four pages in a Word document! Haaaaaauw! Sorry it has become such a long response, but it is kind of short compared with what you sent to me 😉

Blessings on you as you prayerfully and frequently read your patriarchal blessing and look for how the Lord would like you to respond to those that you feel have wronged you. I promise you great joy as you love them, pray for them, do good to them. I love you, pray for you and I hope that I have done good to you. Blessings on you as you navigate your delightful journey in your wilderness. I promise you that you will find wonderful delights in what looks like a desert or an arid area. There will be those flowers, beetles, lizards, and all sorts of delights when you ‘stop and smell the roses’.

14 January 2024

The Priesthood—a Sacred Gift

I was asked to speak in our Milnerton ward sacrament meeting today, and to lead a discussion in the Elders Quorum about Pres. Russel M Nelson's October 2023 General Conference talk Think Celestial. Well, let me share my thoughts with anyone else who might be interested to read them and consider my boring observations 😉😉

In the process of preparing, I read a talk by Pres Dieter F Uchtdorf from October 2012 The Joy of the Priesthood and the two talks following it given by Henry B Eyring and Thomas S Monson. The talk Think Celestial also added valuable thoughts, as did going through an articles by Denelson Silva, Seek Diligently and You Will Find, included in the January 2024 Liahona. My thoughts also turned to many exciting experiences that I have had in Heavenly Father's wonderful Creation, and in priesthood service in His great work. Well, I hope that you enjoy my rambling thoughts...

Pres. Uchtdorf started off by recalling how he and some friends restored an antique airplane - a  1937 Piper Cub that had become run down. He shared how it was a great joy to fly it with his teenage son, and be reminded that the Piper Cub was not built for speed - cars on the autobahn in Germany would drive faster than they could fly when facing a headwind. He then related how he had flown in a sophisticated F-18 fighter jet and was reminded that being a jet fighter pilot is a young man’s game. In both the Piper Cub and the F-18, he felt the excitement, beauty, and joy of flight.

This turned my thoughts to many of my experiences working in beautiful forests, beautiful deserts, and many other landscapes created by the Lord. There are wonderful forests in the kloofs of Table Mountain. There is a small desert close to Cape Town - at the Tankwarivier about 200km from Cape Town, and there are delightful forests in the Cedarberg just 50 or so kilometres from this patch of desert.

I recall these Namib Desert dunes in February 1999 that normally are bare sand dunes,
but they looked green following recent rains. 
When close up, we could see how there was a lot of bare ground,
but at an angle the grass was hiding the bare ground making
the dunes or ground look green. This reminded me of what my mother frequently quoted 
'It takes the effort of every blade of grass to keep the meadow green'.
These are some of the wonderful Outeniqua Forests near to Knysna. 
So very different from the Namib Desert.

This also reminded me of some of our experiences visiting different sized wards and branches. When we were married in the Salt Lake Temple, we attended a ward sacrament and testimony meeting in Cottonwood Creek in the Salt Lake Valley. The chapel had more members in it than we have in a very well attended stake conference in Cape Town. There was probably a full Deacons Quorum of 12 deacons serving the sacrament to that large congregation, and probably only one in about 150 people got to share their testimonies compared to about 1 in 10 in our ward. The Elders Quorum was possibly large enough that there might have been two Elders Quorums in the ward. Home teachers probably visited a next-door neighbour, or someone well within walking distance. It would probably be very rare for an elder or high priest in that ward to get to administer or pass the sacrament in the chapel.

Compare that to our time in Nelspruit Branch some 5 years later where I was sometimes the only person, or one of two, blessing and passing the sacrament, and I would drive about 65 kilometres in our little Datsun 120Y to home teach a sister in Sabie, and then about 40 km to visit a brother in Barberton. 

I remember occasionally travelling about 22 kilometres from our home to Koeberg to home teach with Roux Lötter, or going about 100km to try and visit someone in Langebaan. It was a special occasion to see my two grandsons having their first experiences exercising the Aaronic priesthood as Josh blessed and Caleb passed the sacrament with their father Andrew. Then Caleb, then I, and then Andrew spoke in the sacrament meeting today.

Pres. Uchtdorf reminded us that the priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. The men exercising that priesthood are mortal beings who are flawed and imperfect. The bishop, or Primary president acting with authority and keys conferred by the priesthood are here to serve as the Saviour served in Jerusalem, and not to be served. I loved hearing King Charles declare in his coronation as King of Great Britain that 'I am here to serve and not to be served'. The New Testament describes of Jesus of Nazareth served, and we are His agents and need to do as He would do if He were here, serving willingly and devotedly. 

My thoughts turned to our schools here, or anywhere in the world. If a 40-year old person who never had the opportunity to go to school were to decide to go to school, she or he would not be put into a matric or senior class, but in a Grade 1 class in order to learn the basic Three-Rs - Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. It would be hoped that they would take a lot less than 12 years to reach the matric level, but they would be helped along the way by being put into classes with pupils with a similar level of development. That is not through any intent of supremacy or superiority, but out of compassion with the hope that they would become suitably qualified to graduate with a matric so that they can be more valuable in helping to build the nation. 

It is such a blessing to reflect on a significant change in policy since I was a bishop less than ten years ago. There need to be two adults present in any child or youth class or activity. This means that there is a wonderful opportunity for a new or returning member who needs to build or reinforce their Gospel foundation to be one of the two adults in a Nursery, Primary or Youth class or activity. They can serve as Primary secretary or music leader and have the basic Gospel 3-Rs taught together with the children. The Lord knows each member and will guide the Primary president, or youth leader, or bishop, to know who He would have build that spiritual foundation. In a large ward, maybe they could serve as class president or secretary, or in our medium-sized ward as that second adult. 

In learning how to know who to call to serve, the Primary leader should go through Chapter 17 of the General Handbook, but should also go through chapters 1 to 4 for the foundation, and really all chapters to 38 to see where Primary fits in the whole Church. This will help significantly in building the new or returning members, and every member of the ward of branch.

Another wonderful insight that I have had over the years is how my serving in the Church has helped me to learn administrative, teaching and leading skills that were of great value to me in my employment, and many skills that I learned in my employment have been of great value in my service in the Church. I am impressed that the Lord knows every one of Hs children and will guide the Primary president or the bishop in knowing who to call to serve in every calling, and what calling is suitable for every member. I know a member who is baking bread for many people each Sunday morning and so rarely gets to attend sacrament meeting at 09:00. If we met at 17:00 this member would rarely miss a meeting. But if a leader were to ask the Lord, He might well inspire that leader to call this baker to teach, or be that second adult present, in a Seminary class on a Tuesday night. These are some of the blessing of the priesthood keys and responsibilities given to each bishop or organisation president. It is unfortunate that we often focus on what a person does not do or cannot do rather than looking at what the member could become.

Just as I learned about bits and bytes when I first started to use computers, a byte containing 8 bits, with a value of 256, and the Lord would have us magnify or multiply our callings or talents to two, then four, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, maybe even 1024 to form a kilobyte of talent. I suggest that the Lord is not lacking in any skill. He would not be deficient in and type or temperament that we describe in psychology, but that He has a wonderful balance of all types and temperaments. 

Heavenly Father wants His children to become creators of deserts and forests, wards, branches, families, countries, and the world. He knows what we can become and through the priesthood each of us can become everything that He wants us to become, learning as we go by serving as He would, whether in Primary, or exercising the priesthood, or in any way that we can in His Church. He would like us have great joy in flying our Piper Cub or F-16 jet, soaring above the clouds and enjoying the magnificence of His creation below us. I have a special testimony of this, and I share these thoughts in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

21 November 2023

Beware of this possible hazard!

I was involved in a service project in which I was installing a door. 

I cut open the packaging of the door lock as I prepared to install it, but instead of using scissors as I usually do, I used a craft knife, and it happened to be at an angle. 

Yep - you guessed it.

The result was a razor sharp edge on hard plastic. 

I soon noticed one, then two bleeding cuts -
I had at least 5 cuts. 

The last cut was bleeding profusely - a real problem and inconvenience!

I couldn't figure out what was cutting me - I could not see enough splinters or slivers in the wood to do it but presumed that it was the wood that was to blame. 

But later, as I pondered, I realised that it was almost certainly the razor sharp edges that I had inadvertently produced by my unusual action in opening the packaging. I did not have the packaging to test my theory, but I am pretty sure that is the explanation. 

I hope that no-one else handled the packaging and got cuts that were a problem for them!

The wounds have healed. But I hope that I remember this unfortunate and unwise thing that I did with best intent, but that had really serious and inconvenient consequences.

Maybe this little account of my woes will help someone else to diagnose an issue in their life, and hopefully not get cuts like I got and wonder how on earth they occurred. 🤔😢 Please learn from my mistakes - this one or any of my mistakes that you notice - and do not repeat them!

25 September 2023

Is it important to participate in General Conference?

I was asked to give a talk on Heritage Day, and to address the question 'Why is it important to participate in General Conference?' Well, my thoughts turned to some stories from my heritage that relate to my own experience with participating in General Conference.

I appreciated some comments made by the previous speakers. 

  • Conference is easy to access on audio, video, on the web or in print.
  • Heavenly Father is available at any time - He is not busy at work, with friends, or doing anything that we need to hold back or fear interrupting Him as we approach Him in prayer.
  • The Holy Ghost is far better at bringing us information that we need than is anything on the internet such as Google or AI.
  • Write down things that inspire you in conference to jog your memory. 
  • Conference will inspire, uplift, edify.
  • We can be together as a congregation.

We sang our National Anthem as the intermediate hymn. 

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (God Bless Africa)
Maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo, (Raise high Her glory)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Hear our Prayers)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo (God bless us, we her children)

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (God protect our nation)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (End all wars and tribulations)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Protect us, protect our nation)
Setjhaba sa South Afrika - South Afrika. (Our nation South Africa - South Africa)

Uit die blou van onse hemel, (Ringing out from our blue heavens)
Uit die diepte van ons see, (From the depth of our seas)
Oor ons ewige gebergtes, (Over our everlasting mountains)
Waar die kranse antwoord gee, (Where the echoing crags resound)

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

God protect our nation - may we live together as one nation, the children of Adam and Eve, and not as many nations that contend against each other!

I was born in Africa and, except for about 8 weeks off the continent, about 8 months in neighbouring countries, I have spent my life in South Africa. I love my homeland. I so look forward to the time that everyone in our land loves our country enough that they never litter, destroy, or do anything that is part of any problem. I look forward to the time that South Africans do come together, standing united, living and striving for freedom in South Africa, our dear land.

Yesterday I led a walk where I shared details of the Battle of Blaauwberg, a Napoleonic battle right here, close to where we are today, a very significant part of our heritage in Cape Town, South Africa, Southern Africa, and even a lot of Africa as a whole. It was the precursor to colonisation in lot of a Africa. During the walk, we walked through a few patches that were very wet and muddy, and where restios that are straw-like plants are quite abundant in the Fynbos. I shared a story that I heard years ago. Someone asked if it would hurt to throw dust at a friend, or to throw water, or to throw straw? Clearly such actions might be fun, and would not hurt my friend, although it might annoy, irritate, or be uncomfortable. However, if the dust, water and straw were mixed together and then baked in a kiln to form a brick, and that brick were thrown at my friend, it could seriously hurt or injure my friend! That would not be a friendly thing to do!

With throwing bricks in mind, I reflected on an occasion when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I joined a group of men from the Krugersdorp Branch. We climbed onto a truck and drove towards a site with lots of bricks - yep, dust, water and straw baked in a kiln. I remember the jesting with the driver as he grated the gears of the truck. Well, after we arrived, those men started to throw bricks at each other! But - no-one was hurt. Each man would throw a brick to the next man who would catch the brick and throw it to the next man, and so on, forming a chain, and thus the truck became loaded with bricks. We then climbed on top of the bricks and drove back to the site where we had previously dug trenches and thrown concrete to form foundations, and those bricks were again thrown from man to man to form stacks of bricks, and then they were thrown from man to man to be handed to brick-layers who used mortar, trowels, levels, fish-lines, plumb-lines, window and door frames, and so forth, and they built the walls of the Krugersdorp chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were working in unity as we have been reading about in our study of the New Testament where we are challenged to work together in unity to build the Church of God - the Temple of the Spirit. In those days we played a significant part in building our chapels that nowadays are built by contractors with little participation by local members. I am grateful for that memory from my heritage. Prior to building the chapel, we had met in the Krugersdorp City Hall where we would have to clean up and remove beer bottles and other litter from the previous night before we could hold our priesthood, Sunday School, or sacrament meetings.

A later experience of throwing bricks in unity.
From left to right: brothers Tim, Ron, Les, three or four others, then brother-in-law Glenn Bray.

After meeting in the Krugersdorp chapel for about 13 years, the Roodepoort ward was formed and we met in my old Primary school hall and classrooms while building the Roodepoort chapel, and then I met in that chapel until I moved to Cape Town at age 27 years in 1981.

Over the years, I have met with others to hold church meetings in homes, schools, Scout halls, malls, etc. It is interesting how homes, or other places can be repurposed to form very suitable places for worship - and how places of worship can be repurposed to be used for other purposes, including for bars or brothels. Saints can unite in humility and make their circumstances very different to the norm. We should make our homes sacred places - so that, next to the Temple, the home can be the most sacred place on Earth, and a little taste of heaven on earth. I love the saying that no other success in life can compensate for failure in the home.

Doing some landscaping in front of the Krugersdorp chapel
Progress with the construction: the chapel, kitchen, Primary room, and hall.

I remember two stories or parables from my Insitute studies. One was to do with an expert on identifying counterfeit bank notes. He said that the only way to truly recognise counterfeit bank notes is to focus on being absolutely familiar with true bank notes. When one is truly familiar with the true notes, then counterfeit notes look odd and so raise concern. I could relate to that as I have been trained to focus on the diversity of plant species in our indigenous vegetation and so I am often able to recognise an invasive species because of how it stands out in the vegetation. 

The other story was about a contest in a neighbourhood where people were invited to present their front gardens for judges to select an outstanding garden. One person spent a great deal of time pulling weeds rather than focusing on planting the plants that would produce beautiful flowers. The garden did not win the prize - it was free of weeds, and had a lot of bare ground, but it did not have much to show in terms of beautiful flowers. I could relate, as one with some gardening experiences, and as a scientist and ecologist, that if one focuses on planting those plants that will produce beautiful flowers, they take the space that limits space for the weeds. Then the garden will have beautiful flowers for the competition rather than a weed-free garden.

In General Conference we often hear stories shared by prophets, seers, revelators, and other general leaders of the Church. These stories liken the known to the unknown. I love to share some meaningful stories that demonstrate my experience that has confirmed to me that it is important to participate, sitting 'at the feet of the prophet'. You may well not remember information that I share with you, but you will almost always remember stories like bricks being thrown at friends, and working in unity!

My first personal experience with General Conference that stands out in my memory is going with my family to join some friends in the mission home in Houghton, Johannesburg. We sat around a short-wave radio and listened on Voice of America and listened to General Conference as it was happening in Salt Lake City. Over the years, we have watched conference with video tapes sent to the units, then DVDs, BYU TV, and now we can watch on our cell-phones or at home using the internet, and even on TV or radio broadcasts for some sessions. I truly do appreciate how we can sit together with family and church members living in all parts of the world and as one large congregation we can watch the prophets and apostles and other leaders speaking as they speak - with only moments of delay as the signal is broadcast over the technological infrastructure. Is this not one of many evidences of the fulfilment of prophecy and of the covenant made with Abraham that 'in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed'? (Gen 12:3) I am confident that many of these technological innovations have been developed by the seed of Abraham for the very purpose that at the second coming of our Saviour all people everywhere on the globe will be able to witness that great event in ways that Abraham and other prophets would have had difficulty describing to the people of their times and with the vocabularies and best descriptions that they could give! But we are experiencing what they tried to describe!

Remember the saying 'Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never harm me'? I thought of how many people felt hurt or wounded by the words of others. King Noah and his priests accused Abinadi of being a false prophet because his words were not beautiful to them, and they burned him to death. Samuel the Lamanite had stones and arrows aimed at him as he prophesied and gave the call to repentance before the coming of Jesus Christ. Many temple-worthy, tithe paying members of the Hebrew faith cried 'Crucify him' because they listened to their leaders who accused Jesus of Nazareth of being a blasphemer without listening to Jesus of Nazareth and letting the Spirit confirm to them that He was indeed their Messiah! They were, in effect, throwing bricks at Him because they perceived that His words were not up to their expectations - they felt offended, although He would not have wanted to offend, but to draw them to Him in love and mercy.

I enjoyed listening to the September 2023 Church magazines and hearing ideas to help us to prepare for General Conference, like writing notes as we listen, doodles, use apps, write down our questions before conference and ponder those questions as we listen to the talks and we will hear how the Lord has inspired them to answer our questions.

There is a lot of brick-throwing going on around us these days. I believe that it is occurring everywhere in the world and that it is not endemic to South Africa. I remember commenting to a friend Bill Quirke in about 1977 that it must have been terrible for him because he had grown up in Ireland where there was terrible violent Catholic-Protestant conflict that was in the news. He said something like 'You know, Les, I lived in Dublin and Cork and never saw any of it'. I could relate to that because I was studying at University of the Witwatersrand, right next to Hillbrow where there was a lot of conflict that was publicised on the news oversees, but I never saw any of it. The bad news - the sensational news - sells newspapers, so that is what is published. It is so much more evident in 2023 with social media where almost anyone is able to publicise anything and they share what comes their way, often without checking facts, sharing fake news, or sharing the sensational news, but not always the joyous news. I try to share the joyful news! There is so much to share!

We see and hear of many things these days that certainly match the descriptions of signs of the last days. This past week we have seen extreme wave action, even mini tsunamis, right here in the Cape and our South African coastline. There were floods in Libya where a dam wall collapsed and destroyed large parts of a city and thousands of lives were lost. Through social media and Artificial Intelligence, we have so many things brought to our attention that are clear evidence of the fulfilment of prophecies regarding physical calamities, wars and rumours of wars. Now is a great time to reflect on these things and to listen carefully what the Spirit whispers to us as we listen to General Conference to see what we need to do to be among the 'ten virgins' who would be invited to the marriage feast, and then to be among the five wise virgins who had sufficient oil in their lamps to be ushered in to the feast rather than to be shut out.

It is very important that we live by faith and not by fear. Now is a great time to increase our faith by inspecting our foundations as we reflect on our personal Articles of Faith as we assess our first to thirteenth and consider each one of them. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. What do I believe? Do not think about what you do not believe, but what you do believe. Go article by article until number 13 - We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy (including General Conference), we seek after these things. What do I believe in becoming?

Sometimes we will feel that the words of friends, or the words of leaders in General Conference, are bricks that are being thrown at us and we feel injured, or we dodge them, or we just avoid being there in the first place, whereas we could catch them and use them to build a Temple of the Spirit, or the Body of Christ. 

We will be given a whole set of talents or gifts during this conference. We have the choice of not bothering to watch, listen or read, or to be eager to get as much from the conference as we can. We can prioritise time out of the 48 hours to be present, or to not be present. We can be offended by the words that we hear because they are not sweet and pleasant, or we can take note of things that our conscience urges us to change. We can catch the bricks or feel hurt or be wounded by them. We can build a temple of the spirit with them or just find faults with the bricks. We can choose to watch the world cup sport matches or to rather choose to watch conference. We can multiply the talents or gifts or we can bury them. 

We need to nourish and exercise ourselves spiritually with intent and care, just as we ought to nourish and exercise ourselves physically. I recall a story from years ago of a group gathering together to fast and pray for rain. One young boy arrived with an umbrella - and he was able to use it as the rain came down as they left the meeting. May we go prepared for the results of what we are praying for, hoping for, maybe even fasting for. 

I hope that we will choose to participate in this wonderful opportunity to learn from our general church leaders. I hope that we will choose to not hide it, avoid it, or neglect to participate. Rather, I trust that we will choose to share what we learn and what the Spirit prompts us to share so that we will be fruitful, multiply and replenish the earth with our efforts and determined labour, subdue it and have dominion over it. The treasure will be there - what will we do with it? I hope that we will be familiar with the 'true bank notes' so that we can recognise the counterfeit fake news, false things, wolves in sheep's clothing, or falsehoods that are clearly abundant about us in 2023. May our gardens be beautiful with abundant flowers. May we go to conference with questions and then take an 'umbrella' - or maybe a jug to fill up with the living water - to enjoy our journey home with the answers to our questions.

I share this with my personal testimony of Jesus Christ and the leaders that He has called today, and therefore in His name.

10 September 2023

Our beautiful and delightful covenant path

I was invited to share some thoughts in our stake conference today, but I was sick and did not get to speak. I sent these thoughts that were used in the review meeting that followed the conference, and I thought that I could share them on my blog. I also shared them with some missionaries who may not specifically be discussing patriarchal blessings with people who are learning about the Gospel, but this might help them in their own covenant path, or helping someone who is a new or returning member as that is a bigger part of missionary service in this time that it was when I was on mission in 1973-4.

While preparing these thoughts, I have reflected on the wonderful rain that we've had and the wonderful flowers that that we were able to enjoy in the last weeks. The Lord delights to bless us. 

I reflected on Adam and Eve who were blessed to be in the Garden of Eden, and then they were given an instruction, while in the Garden of Eden to be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it, and to have dominion over it, and then they were sent out into the world to till the earth and to be productive. 

Then Abraham was given a covenant and that covenant included property, posterity, and priesthood. That covenant was repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Jacob blessed his children, each individually. Ephraim and Manasseh were also blessed. These are examples of patriarchal blessings. 

I am sure that before we left our heavenly home, our Father in Heaven, and our Mother in Heaven gave us a farewell greeting and blessing - and I am sure they did, and that they had wonderful wishes for us. Then there was a veil of forgetfulness - but let us not be forgetful. 

We need to seek the Lord's word to us individually and to better see His blessings and His Word to us in the scriptures, His word to all of His children collectively. In order to receive a patriarchal blessing, one needs to be worthy to enter the temple, and the spirit has taught me that it is important 10 or 20 years later to really get the Lord's word to us through our patriarchal blessing, we still need to be worthy to enter the temple. And if we're worthy to enter the temple, we will get more out of studying the scriptures as well. 

We each need to make our covenant. We each need to be first generation covenant makers. Not just the seed of Abraham but personally make and keep covenants. We need to be a strength and a support to others on the covenant path. 

We need to be temple worthy. We need to be temple active. 

About 55 to 60 years ago, my first personal experience with General Conference was sitting in the mission home in Johannesburg, listening on shortwave radio, Voice of America, and hearing General Conference. Video didn't work for the stake conference today, but about 20 minutes into it, during President Herbert's talk, we started to hear the audio, and it was a blessing to be able to hear the conference. The video is lekker but the audio really was what made the difference and we were able to hear. I was impressed that what the speakers said reflects very much the thoughts that I had in my preparation to share this testimony with you. 

I hope and pray that we will all seek to make and keep covenants, and be ready to be actively in the temple when it is here, and to be actively involved in temple and family history work in preparation for when it is here. 

I share this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

May the Lord bless you on your covenant path, and helping others in whatever part they are on their covenant paths.

Love and blessings from Les and Sally Powrie