27 December 2014

How did Jesus feel - how would I have felt?

I spoke on Sunday before Christmas 2014 on the theme of the mortal life of Jesus Christ. In my preparations I recalled a song I learned in Primary more than 50 years ago. Number 55 in the current Children’s Song Book.
1. Jesus once was a little child,
A little child like me;
And he was pure and meek and mild,
As a little child should be.

2. He played as little children play
The pleasant games of youth;
But he never got vexed if the game went wrong,
And he always spoke the truth.

So, little children,
Let's you and I
Try to be like him,
Try, try, try.

Words: James R. Murray, 1841-1905
Music: Joseph Ballantyne, 1868-1944

I realised during the week that in studying the scriptures, as challenged in Moroni 10:3-5, we are instructed to read these things, then to compare them to the Bible, to ponder and to pray. Four elements. We cannot fully remember (compare) how merciful the ‘remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things’ if we are not familiar with the accounts of how merciful the Lord has been to the children of men from the days of Adam to now. So we need to read both old and new scriptures in order to make a comparison between the feelings of reading each. Then we need to ponder, and to pray.

I also realised in likening the scriptures to myself, that Jesus was in a rather interesting situation. He grew up among children in Egypt in his early years. Then when his family returned to Nazareth He probably grew up with a missing cohort of children because Herod had exterminated two years’ worth of children. His mother had received a visit from Gabriel explaining the absolutely unusual situation of her being a virgin, but with a child of divine origin. Joseph had been reassured in a dream that it was alright to marry Mary because she was a worthy virgin. But did Mary’s parents believe her story? Did Joseph’s parents believe him? Did siblings and grandparents believe them? Did He believe His divine calling? He certainly was an ‘odd boy out’ with a very different story behind his conception, birth and upbringing, almost certainly prejudice about the nature of His birth. He had very great expectations laid on Him by his mother Mary, Joseph, and God. How would I cope if I were such an odd-one-out in school and community? I was in a school of about 1200 students and 10 LDS students. Many youth are the only LDS student at school. How about these unique circumstances that Jesus faced?

Jesus attended the festivals and received the ordinances expected of Him as He grew. Circumcision, Bar Mitzvah, baptism. He learned from the sowers, the reapers, the shepherds, the housewives, and from anything that He could. Then he used object lessons from these everyday experiences in His teaching. His study would have confirmed His divine mission, giving Him strength to accept and live up to the unique mission that He had in life. Does my study of the scriptures help to confirm my divine heritage? Do I seek to understand my divine heritage as I study?

It strikes me that He did not say something like ‘Choose a doctrine that appeals to you and affiliate yourself with the sect that teaches that'. He said in effect ‘My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me.’ And ‘Come, follow me’. He was extremely patient with and encouraging to the repentant soul, but never condoned the unrepentant sinner.  He called all to repentance and to rise to even greater heights. To the worthy rich young ruler, who I would suggest was worthy of a Temple Recommend, He said ‘one thing lackest thou yet. Sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and come follow me’.  He affirmed this worthy young man, even loved him for his obedience and faithfulness, but did not say that was OK, but He challenged Him to reach for even greater things.

So, we need to be familiar with the scriptures and to reflect on them, learning, growing, gaining insight through comparison and pondering. We need to surrender our wills to the will of the Father as Christ did in Gethsemane. 

I bear solemn witness that Jesus is our Messiah, from eternity to eternity. I hope that I will always follow His example and challenge myself to reach for greater heights, to repent, to constantly improve.

22 November 2014

Does this scenario describe you?

Imagine you are at home on a Sunday afternoon - a typical Sunday. The time is about 3 pm. Which of the following would you most likely be doing?
  • Sleeping
  • Reading a novel
  • Reading a magazine like a TV guide
  • Reading the newspaper
  • Watching sport or something like that on TV
  • Listening to loud music
  • TV is on for the children to watch whatever is being broadcast
  • Vacuuming the house
  • Washing the dishes
  • Preparing a meal
  • Reading the Ensign, New Era, Friend or Liahona
  • Reading the material for priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School or other participation in Church
  • Doing family history or FamilySearch Indexing
  • Reading the scriptures
  • Watching Mormon Messages, Bible Videos or something from LDS.org
  • Pondering and praying what you are studying
What is your normal kind of activity on a Sunday?

What is the spirit like in your home? Is it the kind of spirit described by the statement 'Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.'? Would an angel want to linger in your home if he or she stopped by?

Now imagine that there is a knock at the door. You are not expecting anyone. Who could it be?

Who would you most dearly like to have standing at your door? Who would you feel the most blessed or honoured to have visit with you on this Sunday afternoon?
  • Your grade 7 teacher
  • Your last school principal
  • The mayor of your city
  • The president of your national parliament
  • A childhood friend
  • The one relative of yours that you most dearly love - mother, father, husband or wife (who may have left the house without keys and so is locked out), child, grandparent, or whoever is most dear to you
  • Your home teachers or visiting teachers
  • Your bishop
  • Your Stake president
  • Your Area president
  • An Apostle of the Lord
  • The president of the Church
  • An angel from Heaven
  • The Lord Jesus Christ, or God, the Eternal Father
Peeping through the peep hole of your front door, and seeing that it is the Lord Jesus Christ, do you throw open the door and welcome Him with open arms and invite Him into your lounge?

I was thinking this morning about the scriptures and one that I often ponder and wonder how well I live it is Doctrine and Covenants 20:68-69 about the duty of members after they are baptised. Does my home have the kind of spirit that a home does where there is a 'godly walk and conversation, ...works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.'? Am I doing my duty? How well am I doing in it?

The Sabbath is the Lord's day, not mine. Am I honouring it and living it as he would have me live it?

In thinking about how I would receive Him if He knocked at the door, remembering what He said as John recorded in Revelation 3:20 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.' Are we eager to have Him enter our homes on a Sunday afternoon, or at any time?

My thoughts also turned to Doctrine and Covenants 84: 35-38 where we read:
 35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
 36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
 37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
 38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
If it is a visiting teacher, home teacher, bishop or any other servant - do we receive him or her with open arms and treat him or her with equal honour and respect as we would the Lord Himself? Are we ready to receive the Father as we receive His servants?

I hope and pray that when representatives of the Lord visit, that our members could have the spirit in their homes so that the home feels like a Temple when we enter. I hope that someone who enters my home, even if it could be just one person, might just feel that it is a holy place. I hope that I am ready to open the door to the Saviour when he knocks, and welcome Him in to sup with me, and I with Him.

25 October 2014

Wellness Day walk and fun

Today we had our annual Wellness Day at SANBI, Cape. We are given the opportunity to have ourselves screened for health, wellness, HIV, TB, and this year to have some real exercise.

There was the option of a walk 5 km or a run 7 km - I elected to take the walk. We set out at about 9:45 am for the walk, and walked up behind and above the Kirstenbosch Research Centre. We started at 110 m altitude and reached about 210 m, sometimes climbing quite steeply and I was really breathing heavily with some of the climbs. But I reminded those who complained that we walked down a metre for every metre that we climbed. We then proceeded southwards along the contour path and came down through the top of the Protea Section of Kirstenbosch. It was a lovely walk through the forest and natural area of Kirstenbosch. I always enjoy our garden. I am privileged to work there.

I had parked at the administration buildings as I often do, walked to my office, then down to the activities. This is a 500 m walk and 35 m climb.

Add that to the 4.5 km walk, then back up to my office and down to the car again, and all in all I walked about 7 km today, and climbed about 290 m, excluding incidental walking in the building or the regular movements of a day.

A beautiful day, weather wise, good walk, good company as we watched Taebo, tug-of-war, soccer, touch rugby and other activities.

The image shows the approximate route of the walk in white and my daily walk to my office in turquoise. What a privilege to work at this place!

20 September 2014

This one was not my fault - Really!

With reference to my blog of 8 September 2014, I was intrigued to be given a gecko by my grandson Joshua today. he had rescued it from drowning in their pool by fishing it out of the water using his toy truck (actually a double decker bus that opens up). We played with the gecko for a while, then I noticed that it was missing toes on its left front foot! I thought I had to take photos of the hero, and of the gecko for posterity, and to show that I am not always responsible for the bad things that happen to lizards!
The little hero who saved the gecko.

 And then the gecko showing off its deformed foot.

Yes, I had it climbing all over me!

And Caleb enjoyed taking some of the photos, as did Joshua and Hannah. 

With a little help from Mommy.

Picture taken by Joshua.

08 September 2014

Lorem ipsum, Deep philosophy, losing toes, and some of my insights

I find it interesting that I'll often have a thought during the week and am able to see an application of the thought in counselling one or more people during the week. This week I have been thinking about something that I shared last week that I don't think that I have shared with you. I see I have shared the analogy of the 168 hectare farm, although I am not sure that I explained that the 168 ha represents 168 hours in the week that each and every person has? Well, this week I shared with some people the Lorem ipsum dummy text that I first recall seeing on the graphic design layout of the cover of our vegetation map book. So I only learned of Lorem ipsum at about 50 years of age. This is some Latin text that is used as filler text in graphic design. Wikipedia explains it as follows.
In publishing and graphic design, lorem ipsum is a filler text commonly used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation. Replacing meaningful content that could be distracting with placeholder text may allow viewers to focus on graphic aspects such as font, typography, and page layout.
The lorem ipsum text is typically a scrambled section of De finibus bonorum et malorum, a 1st-century BC Latin text by Cicero, with words altered, added, and removed such that it is nonsensical, improper Latin. 

I happened to have been speaking to someone who is working with me on the indexing project, he being a retired gent who it turns out taught second languages in grammar schools in southern England. I asked if he had taught Latin to which he replied that he had. Then somehow Lorem ipsum came into the conversation with him asking if I knew what it was, and that he had looked it up and it was interesting. On Saturday morning I had read parts of Moroni 7:5-23 and then decided to look at Lorem ipsum. I did a Google search and was amazed at the parallel between this and Moroni 7.

Moroni talks about good and evil, our choosing and judging good and evil, and the way to know is plain, and that we can know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night, enabling us to judge between good and evil. The following is an English translation of the Latin. The bold is the English translation of the text that is typically used and jumbled as filler text.
[32] But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing of a pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure? 
[33] On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

This is deep philosophy. So you can see that my blog this week is the philosophy of men mingled with scripture.

Today I met with a young man who said that he wants to go to FSY in December, but who has dropped out of school in Grade 9, and misses all too many Church meetings and activities.

I asked him who he would be in twenty years time? He eventually said that he would like to be involved with mechanical or electrical engineering.

I then asked him what he would do if he bought a ticket to fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg, if the pilot flying the plane carried on flying south instead of turning toward Johannesburg? He was not sure that he could confront the pilot, but I said that he had bought a ticket to Johannesburg, and the plane was supposed to be headed for Johannesburg, but was going in the wrong direction. he then agreed that he ought to confront the pilot and query why he was not headed for the destination. I then pointed out that he is wanting to fly to 'Johannesburg' but the pilot of his plane (himself) is headed for the 'South Pole'.

I asked him what situations make it easiest to make right decisions? He concluded that church and home would be best, maybe school. I discussed which company is most supportive and which least supportive? I hope that he will think about what I have shared and that it will help him to make wise choices. I then had him with me as I shared the plan of salvation and the restoration with someone who is caring for one of our youth who is making unwise choices, skipping school and keeping unsavoury company. He was able to recognize the parallels between his situation and that of the other youth and the need for changing some of his choices.

I then shared with him how I used to catch sand diving lizards Meroles anchietae (that I knew then as Aporosaura anchietae) in the Namib Desert, and we would weigh them and release them again.
We would walk carefully along the back of the dune so that we could see just along the slip face where the lizards would be out looking for food, mates, or opportunity to challenge the dominant male. When we saw a lizard above the sand we would throw our hat so that it would think a bird was flying over and dive into the soft sand of the slip face for cover.
We noted where it entered, went down the slip face, plunged in our hand, and usually came out with a lizard. Those that were cautious and responded to the vibration of us moving on the dunes would not be caught because we would not know they were there. It was those who were out that we could catch.
We needed to be able to identify lizards that we recaptured so we had to mark them in some way that was permanent so that we would be able to recognize them when recaptured. To do this the researcher would cut off fingers or toes. This sounds cruel, but some lizards lose toes in their fighting for a dominant position, so it is not just man being cruel. Each lizard is born with 20 digits and we could identify 20 lizards by removing one digit, or 400 if we cut off two digits. So that is what we did. Thus we were able to determine that dominant males lose weight as they defend their territory and breed with their females and thus are not able to eat as much as their competitors. So a competitor would oust the dominant male and for a while his DNA would be introduced into the population, but he would then be defeated by a challenging male who would become the new dominant male.

I asked this young man if he would ever miss a Church meeting if he knew that not being under the protection of being in the right place at the right time (in Church) would result in him being caught by one of Satan's hosts resulting in him losing a finger or toe every time he was not at Church? I had previously asked if he would ever miss a meeting if there were R1000 waiting for him each time he attended? he felt that in either case he could probably manage to be at every meeting. Somehow losing a finger seemed to be stronger motivation than gaining R1000. I reminded him that Heavenly Father sometimes blesses us for our faithfulness, and sometimes he prevents the loss of privileges, blessings or protection. This is like the positive reward of thousands of rands, or like preventing the negative consequence of losing toes.

I stressed to my young friend that I want to send him to FSY in December with '20 fingers and toes' or 'R20000' for each time that he attends meetings! I reminded him that Heavenly Father does not want to only give us R20000, but 'all that the Father has shall be given him', which far surpasses R20000! I hope that he uses these mental images as motivation to choose good and not evil.

So I shared Moroni 7, Lorem ipsum and losing toes with my Priesthood Executive Committee and two people this afternoon. Somehow this seemed to be appropriate in each setting. I am interested to see what will come to me this week that I will end up sharing with someone next Sunday?

24 August 2014

Desire To Do Right

There was great excitement in the village one day. A handsome, rich young trader was coming to ask a father if he could marry his daughter.

The daughter was generally thought of as having a face like a stone that would break a looking glass, and she looked like she had missed too many meals. 

The father had said that he would be happy to be given a cow that gave sour milk because he would be happy to get his daughter off his hands.

The daughter did not want to come to the ceremony in which the husband to be would ask for her hand because she was sure that the villagers would laugh at her.

At the ceremony the women of the village talked among themselves boasting of how many cows their husbands had paid for them, and that this young girl was not worth more than two cows, and that the young man would drive a hard bargain and if asked for two cows would offer one, if asked for one would settle for the horns and tail. The father was advised by his counsellor to ask for three cows, and when proposing this the villagers laughed.

The young man, who you will likely guess is Johnny Lingo, silences the villagers and boldly states that three cows is a high price, but not enough for Mahana. He would offer eight cows. Everyone was stunned! The whispers immediately spread through the village that Johnny Lingo had offered eight cows for Mahana.

The following morning Mahana is sure that Johnny Lingo would not come with the eight cows. She was being mocked and feeling worthless. Johnny Lingo does come with the cows and graciously leads his bride to be from her father’s house, treating her like a woman who was worth eight cows.

Some months later, after Johnny Lingo and Mahana have been away at the honeymoon place, Mahana’s father is very displeased when he visits their home because he accuses Johnny Lingo of cheating him because Mahana is worth ten cows! And indeed, she has blossomed and is a delightful sight!

What made the difference?

Young men, the Father of the daughter that you will ask to marry you simply asks for three cows for his daughter. Those cows are love, honour and cherish, and to be given for as long as you both shall live. Do you bargain for less than that? A fashionable offering that I see today is not even one cow – in the ‘guise’ of ‘love’ all too many young men offer lust and seem to think that they are being generous, and all too many young women do not believe that they are worth more than that and leave the Father’s home with the lustful young man rather than waiting for one who will offer the three cows.

Do you come and offer eight cows to the Father? Do you offer to be honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and to seek after that which is virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy? Do you also throw in belief and hope to make it ten cows that you feel your bride to be is worth? If you are offering such then you would be insisting on taking your wife to the honeymoon place called the Temple of the most High, there to show the great love, honour and cherishing that will make your bride blossom as a Daughter of her Heavenly Father.

In my home we were constantly reminded that we were Princes and Princesses in Israel. Now, in case you think that is outlandish, think of the Lord’s Prayer that you have almost certainly quoted ‘Our Father who art in heaven...thy kingdom come...For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’ Matt 6:9-13, 3 Ne 13:9-13. Think of Rom 8:16-17 in which we are declared to be joint-heirs with Christ.

May I remind you all that royalty may mistakenly think that they are there to be served, but Jesus Christ taught a much higher principle when he said in Mark 10:44 that he who would be chiefest shall be the servant of all. I was really impressed in the coronation of King Charles on 6 May 2023 that he said 'In his name and after his example I come not to be served but to serve.'

In Alma 32:27 we read the challenge to awake and arouse our faculties, even to an experiment upon Almas’ words. And I invite you to awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and 'exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words'. Give way to experiment upon the words that you are a son or a daughter of God, and that as such your heritage is worth all of the ‘cows’ of the thirteenth Article of Faith and you will find a growing desire to live worthy of being an ‘eight cow’ wife or husband. You will come to know in your heart that the worth of your soul, and that of your wife or husband, is great in the sight of God D&C 18:10.

You will become assured that you have the agency given you to choose liberty and eternal life or to choose captivity and death 2 Ne 2:27 or to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life 2 Ne 10:23.

Joseph Fielding Smith taught that if we love the Father and Jesus Christ then we will keep their commandments and if we want salvation in its fullest then we need to have a marriage in the Temple for time and for all eternity.

I always hope and pray that each of my children will remember what we have taught them, that they are Princes and Princesses in Israel, and that they will live the spirit of the thirteenth Article of Faith in full, being eight or ten cow children of God. I hope that they will be the salt of the earth, letting their lights shine before all men that as their good works are seen, then the Father in Heaven will be glorified by those who witness their good works. I hope that they will sow and nurture the seed of faith, letting it sprout, then nourishing it well to the point that they partake of the fruit ‘which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst’. That they will press forward earnestly, diligently, holding fast to the iron rod.

I have the same prayer for each person who reads this.

Shosholoza Meyl train rides

During July Sally and I travelled on the train to Johannesburg and back. We went for the wedding celebration between our daughter Cindy and Dom Wentzel.

Here is the feedback that we gave to the railway operator on our experience with travelling on ShosholozaMeyl. travelled Tourist Class from Cape Town – Johannesburg and back.

We enjoyed the two trips very much. We found the trips comfortable and relaxing.

We appreciated being in a 4 sleeper compartment going to Johannesburg so that neither of us had to climb onto the top bunk. We were comfortable enough in the two-sleeper coupe for the return trip. It was ironic, however, that we as a senior couple and a US senior couple were in the two coupes of carriage 10 (we in 10C and they in 10D) although a young unmarried couple who had not booked managed to get moved from the sitter section to 10B, ironic because they were not related and of opposite sex. It appears, from what I heard in the wee hours of the morning, that a man embarking in Kimberley was dissatisfied with being put into a compartment with three women.

The food and service were good and friendly. I think better on the trip up than the return trip. The waitress going up was far more flexible and accommodating when I asked for toast to replace bacon for breakfast, whereas on the return trip it was cheese and nothing besides cheese could replace bacon! But she did relent later and brought a second egg to replace the bacon, but did charge for a second slice of toast.

The service is not as good as we remember from the 1970s and 1980s, so hopefully they are working towards getting at least that level of service again. That said, I was impressed that a man who I heard introducing himself to a foreign passenger as the manager, was very much involved with the passengers and staff on the trip back. He interacted with the passengers and gave some information regarding the reasons for being delayed by rail maintenance.

Bedding should be easy enough to have in sufficient quantities. It should be easy enough to predict how much is needed, especially after making one or two mistakes. Rather have more than is needed than insufficient.

The kitchen ran out of milk, fruit juice and other supplies. Again, it should be fairly easy to predict with a little experience, and surely you have enough experience? Perhaps if passengers from the sitter section take bedding and dine in the dining car then that would make prediction more challenging?

It was frustrating that the heater was not working in our compartment. I did not ask if other heaters were working, but with-2 degree weather outside, the heater was missed. I was impressed that on the return trip a young staff member mentioned when I asked if the heater would be working, that it would not because it only worked with the steam locomotives. I was impressed on two counts, because he was probably too young to remember either working heaters or steam locomotives and I thought that maybe his telling me that indicated that he has some personal care and interest in his work, and that perhaps Spoornet is giving some background training to their staff.

The train ran almost 4 hours late without really clear explanation, or any explanation at all, on the trip up, but with better explanation on the return trip. It was explained that there was maintenance being undertaken on the rails tracks.

Something in the undercarriage of sleeper unit 8 on the trip up was making a really loud flapping noise such that it sounded a lot of the time as though we were traveling in a steam or diesel locomotive. I could not make out if it was a compressed air noise our something like a spring or pipe flapping with a resonance. Carriage 10 on the return trip was impressively quiet.

I was surprised that 220V power for cellphones or laptop computers is not available in this day and age. Wi-Fi connection might also be easy enough to supply, and the increased clientele will surely make these more than pay for themselves.

The door of 10C for the return trip was extremely heavy to open and close. I found that some of the fabric from the mat had ripped off and was sticking out from under the door. I suspect that there may be more fabric causing the door to stick. I suggest that compressed air may help to remove some material from the bottom slider, but it would probably be well to remove the door and service the top and bottom runner parts.

It might be an idea to give staff name badges. This will enable passengers to interact better with them by name, as well as enabling communicating compliments and complaints such as I am doing. Some staff were apparently far more enthusiastic and interested in their work than others.

It might also be worth drawing up a simple feedback slip to be placed in each compartment so that passengers can evaluate the trip and facilities.

We felt that the general care and maintenance were lacking. The walls and facilities are grubby and not in as good working order as they could be. As also mentioned, perhaps in this day and age power sockets and Wi-Fi could be supplied?

You may consider a simple play and/or entertainment area for children.

We wish you great success in providing increasingly good and favourable service. I am recommending train travel to others, so I trust that they will not regret following my recommendation. I love South Africa and am proud of my beloved country. I believe that we can give quality rail experience for passengers, and constantly improve as we learn from past experience.

Kind regards

Leslie W. Powrie

Harvest, the devourer, dangers, and blessings in disguise

I shared an analogy with the youth today. I ended up teaching them with no warning and no preparation, and shared an analogy that has been developing in my mind. The theme is Marriage and Family and I chose to teach about learning and teaching in the home

It is as though we each have a farm, and each of us has the same size farm, with the same potential. It has 168 hectares of good soil, and we are allowed to do with it as we see fit. Each hectare represents an hour in the week. The harvest that we will eventually reap will depend on the amount, kind and quality of seed that we sow, or do not sow. If we sow maize and tend it well, then we have the potential of harvesting an abundant maize harvest. If we do not plant all 168 hectares then we will not reap the maximal harvest. It is also feasible that we can sow the entire area and do all that we possibly can to ensure the harvest, but then at the last moment before a very promising and exciting harvest we can lose everything due to lightning striking and causing all to be burned up, or there could be locusts or hail that destroy the crop, and we might harvest little or nothing. That is not a measure of failure on our part, but the harvest will not be what we hoped. 

The harvest is a result of our effort, but far more significantly and important is the sunlight, fresh air, rainwater and soil nutrients and quality that are provided free by a loving and provident Father. All that we reap is a free gift to us, and nothing is fully guaranteed or deserved. True, we will not have any promise if we do not sow, but even with our most faithful effort we still are dependent on the providence from above. Our input costs remain the same if we plant for the maximum harvest whether we have no harvest or the most capacious harvest. So everything is entirely due to the goodness of God. He invites us to give back 10% of our harvest, thereby showing our gratitude for the harvest. In return, He promises us in Malachi 3:11 that ‘I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.’ We can then hope for the maximum harvest in accordance with our greatest efforts. We cannot hope for more, and can hope that there will not be less. But if we do not bring our tithes into the storehouse, so that there will be meat in His house, then we cannot hope for any such blessing of protection from the devourer or the variableness of nature. We cannot complain if the devourer destroys the fruits of our ground. 

But, by the same token, even if we seem to have mishaps, we cannot always know what protection we may have enjoyed. We may have been spared far greater mishap that would have happened, and the small mishap that we do experience may be simply to try our faith. My son Richard pointed out that sometimes the mishaps might be because Heavenly Father knows our potential and is preparing us for a greater harvest. He cited the example of a field that needs to be burned in order to have a better harvest the following year. After thinking about this, I thought more and realised that it might be for us to learn a lesson, or for someone else to learn a lesson from the way that we handle our loss. We need to be trusting enough to accept the loss and not ask 'why?' but 'how?'. How do we move forward, rather than why did we experience the loss?

I am fully confident that very often we are spared a lot of problems and have blessings in disguise. I say this because of thoughts that have come to me as I have pondered the promise given in my patriarchal blessing that many physical dangers and difficulties shall continue to pass by me, giving unto me blessings in disguise. One such blessing was that I was not bitten by a puff adder that was right next to me. I wonder how many times I have been spared from dangers, but on this one occasion it happened while I was pondering on the promises given in Mark 16:18, Luke 10:19 and Doctrine and Covenants 84:72 and whether I as a young LDS missionary was worthy enough to be given this blessing should I be bitten by a snake on this occasion when I was alone for a very brief time in Kloof Gorge. I wonder how many times I have been blissfully unaware of such protection, and even complained that I do not see the blessings in my life, but that was because they were ‘blessings in disguise’.

16 June 2014

Ye may know with a perfect knowledge

The Saviour Jesus Christ personally invited all in Matt11:28 ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ This is very clear and inclusive. At the same time, He personally said in Matt 7:21 ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ He clarified that it is those who do the will of the Father that shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

On the one hand he offers a free gift, but on the other hand he tells the cost of discipleship. I certainly would not feel comfortable sitting at a celestial banquet with the likes of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Christ and others who paid the high prices of discipleship and feel like their peer if I had done nothing in line with the will of the Father. I would feel like a fraud.

It is true in this life that we do not get anything for nothing, and I suggest that it is equally true in the promise of celestial glory. Let it be quite clear that it is by grace that we are saved. All will be resurrected. The physical redemption is free and applies to every mortal who has lived, does live or will live. But the spiritual redemption, exaltation and eternal life, which I visualise as ‘sitting with the noble and great ones at the celestial banquet’ will be for those who do the will of the Father, but the redemption is still a free gift, for we cannot save ourselves.

If you ever have the feeling that these promises apply to others and not to you, then I would suggest that you ‘can know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night’ (Moroni 7:15) that such thoughts are inspired by the devil because Christ’s invitation is always to all – ‘Come unto me’. Verse 13 of Moroni 7 says ‘But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God’, and verse 17 says ‘But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.’

Moroni 7:16 says ‘For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.’

We invite you to each write your own 13 Articles of Faith next to those of the Church. Please do not give in to the temptation to say ‘Oh, I don’t believe that’. Write what you do believe and commit to it. It is fine if it is different to those that we believe, then at least you have something by which to measure your belief and associated actions. But if our beliefs are not in harmony with your beliefs, then please ask yourself seriously if you will feel comfortable standing before God one day and explaining why you had your name associated with a Church whose beliefs you did not support.

If this is the Church of Jesus Christ as we claim, then you have made covenants, and you will be asked by God to account for how you kept those covenants. If you do not subscribe to them, then why is your name associated with us? If we are not the Church of Jesus Christ then you will be asked why you had your name associated with the church of the devil. How are you doing the will of the Father?
1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

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, we seek after these things.

In Gethsemane Jesus Christ said in Doctrine and Covenants19:18 that He did ‘tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink’. He preceded this by saying in verses 16 and 17 ‘For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I’.

I had thought that as each of us faces our own Gethsemane, that we need to suffer, but I am impressed that Alma the younger suffered until he cried within his heart ‘O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.’

I have come to realise that my Gethsemane will have as much suffering as it takes for me to cry within my heart for salvation, saying as Christ is recorded in Luke 22:42 to have said ‘Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.’ The sooner we offer our will to God, the sooner we will remember our pains no more, and be harrowed up by the memory of our sins no more.

We invite you with open arms, as does the Saviour Jesus Christ, whose servants we are, to do good and to come unto Christ, believe in Him, believe Him, and be perfected in Him. Please come back if you have strayed. We need you, and we all need the atonement. 

26 April 2014

A miracle in my life at 3 years, 11 months

I was told a few times of an incident in my childhood when I was riding my tricycle and following my sister who was going to visit a friend. Then, unable to stop at the main road, I fell off my tricycle as a truck caught it and carried it some distance along the road. I wanted to use this experience in a talk that I am giving, and so decided to check the details. I asked Judy, Tim and Jane what they recalled, and Judy and Tim had no memory of it. I wonder if they might have been at boarding school at the time, so not aware of it.

First reply from Tim said 'Sorry, I know nothing at all of this event.' 

Then Judy said 'I’m sorry to say I have absolutely no recollection of this event! Therefore… I do not think I was involved?'

Then Jane said
Hi Les
I was the sister involved and I remember very little.   We were going down the hill on Havenga Avenue and the intersection next to the old gaol on Goldman Street was the place. I remember a lady who lived opposite the gaol a couple of houses up from Goldman Street taking me into her home and (I think) phoning Mom.  If you were still riding a tricycle you were probably about 4.
I'm sorry that I cannot give you any more information than that apart from Mom and Dad commenting on how you were protected.
Since my father kept a daily diary for as long as I could remember, I decided to search his writings to find what he might have recorded. It was a good guess that if I was on a tricycle and had followed my sister some 1.1 km on a tricycle, I must have been somewhere between two and about 5 years of age, probably closer to 4 years as Jane suggested.

Tim has been scanning Dad's Diaries and putting them online so that his descendants and others can review them, and he had completed 1959 (the year that Ronald was born) and part of 1955, but not the intervening years. So, he brought the diaries for me to look through. After scouring three of them, I found what I was looking for. The entry for 23 January 1958, when I was three years and 11 months old, precisely a year before Ronald was born, and about two and a half months before 13 April 1958 when Dad was 'asked to be Transvaal District President' to which he recorded 'Phil and I could not but accept.' Maybe this miracle was fresh in their minds?

The entry for 23 January 1958:
Misty & cloudy am. Cleared pm late to sunny. Heavy clouds again then steady rain in night.
Travelled in with Rambler. 
Walked down to Lasts for Belladonna lunch time. 
A miracle! Jane & Leslie rode down 7th Avenue on Bike and Trike respectively. Leslie unable to stop at Goldman Street & got hit by a lorry. Rushed off to hospital but nothing but bruises & abrasions. A blessed occasion of the ministering of guardian angels. Thanks be to God. I came home at 4 pm. Elders Wright & Butler came to administer to Leslie with me.
Made fudge evening.
Had a letter from Tim - settling down much better. 
I remember Mom surmising that for some reason the tricycle might have swerved causing me to fall off it just before the truck connected with the tricycle and dragged it off, leaving me lying on the road. Whatever happened, I guess my mission on Earth was not yet complete. I am still alive now 56 years and four months later, so I guess my mission is still not accomplished. I hope that I do not fail the Lord!

These two photos from Google Maps Street View show the intersection where this miracle occurred. The slope seems so much less than I remember it being. Walking or cycling, especially at ages 6 to 12 years may cause one to consider it to be steeper! But because of the terracing to construct the road the slope within about ten metres of the road is somewhat steeper than the general slope.

What a blessing to have such a record faithfully kept by my father. My children are not so fortunate. I keep a professional journal at work, and have Blog entries and keep my talks, and some correspondence, but I hope they do not have to look for something like I did. They might not be as fortunate as I was to be able to find out what happened at some specific point in their lives.

It was fascinating to read what he recorded. Elders Naudé and Park (André and Mack?) had lunch with them 17 Aug 1958. He recorded the first American satellite launched 1 Feb 1958, and the first Russian satellite. He recorded that his basic salary was £10 with EA (whatever that means - Executive Assistant or Employee Allowance?) of £5, and Tim's and Jane's glasses cost around £6 each, so relative to a salary of R15000 that would be about R6000. They paid a gardener 8/, presumably for a day's work, equivalent to about R670 compared to that salary of R15000.

I love seeing Mom's writing in Dad's diary. She would communicate with him, reminding him to do something, asking him to do something, or thanking him.
26 February 1958: Thank you Darling for every time you pump my bike, I really meant to thank you last time. This is to make sure I don't forget again. I love you.
4 July 1958: If I'm 3 months pregnant, m. sickness should stop from now. Otherwise another 4 weeks? Heaven help us!
17 April 1958: Nats in with 103 seats to 53 although in minority of votes, by about 30,000 - Democracy! 
26 May 1958: Mr Eb Wells died in hospital after having received a cut from sheet metal car part at Plant.
7 June 1958: Jane, Leslie, Phil & I off to Potch. 8.45 - got there about 10.15, picked up Judy and Tim then off to Lake for day. Out in boat pm. Left there about 6.15 back about 7.45.
I remember those trips to Potchefstroom to fetch Judy from boarding school, and at this time Tim was also there.
17 July 1958: Crisis in Middle East. British troops land in Jordan. Americans in Lebanon.
11 August 1958: Atomic US Submarine 'Nautilus' sailed across earth under North Pole.
4 September 1958 (the anniversary of their wedding): IC [Louw] phoned am to tell of visit of Apostle Harold B. Lee early October to dedicate chapels. Did church work evening - wrote to British Mission re dedicating of Temple and to Pres. David O. McKay for his birthday Sept. 8. Bed by midnight.
I could not find it again, but he recorded the day that parking meters were first used in Johannesburg.

Fascinating, too, to see names of people and cars that I remember, and many that I had forgotten, but reading them bring them to mind again.

He recorded a very busy trip to England and France 25 October to 1 December 1958. His entry of 24 October says 'A hectic day! Received news am to get moving to Paris. Booked for SAA tomorrow pm 3.30.'

Blessed memories! Blessed heritage! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

I thought I would add another two incidents that I recall to do with not stopping at stop streets. Round about 1965 I was cycling to Florida Primary School on my Fairy Cycle, with 16 inch wheels, as I recall, and back-pedal brakes. I was riding down Havenga Avenue to cross The Highway. 

I did not stop at the stop street, and then suddenly heard screeching brakes to the left. A traffic officer was approaching and I think he stopped primarily to teach me a dramatic lesson. After I mumbled an untrue excuse of my brakes not working properly, and he talked to me, he said that he would possibly send me a summons. Boy! Was I frightened! I knew that I deserved to be reprimanded, and I think I thought at the time that he may summons me, but may also just be threatening me to teach me a lesson. But I felt really bad!

Another incident, about 1981, when I was about 27 years of age, I was on my way from our flat in Vredehoek to work or Church and riding my Lambretta scooter.

I approached the stop street, and did slow down to nearly a stop, but I know that it was a rolling stop. As I went around the bend I saw that there were traffic officers watching, and I stopped properly, but probably some 5 m or 10 m beyond the stop street.

Now I am probably about 95 % complaint, still not 100%, though. I think of the average driver over the past year, and whether they are 50 %, 75 %, or what, but certainly not 100 %. I reckon that I am about 95 % compliant. But when someone goes for a driving license test the examiner is not looking how well the candidate performs relative to the average, or to my performance, but to the K53 standard that involves a complete stop, pulling up the hand brake, letting the car out of gear, checking left and right, mirror, blind spots, putting the car in gear, checking mirror and blind spots and traffic conditions all around, then engaging the gear, and when ascertaining that it is safe to proceed, releasing the handbrake and pulling off without a roll.

I wondered how Jesus Christ would do if He were driving. Would he, knowing all and knowing if there were not a hazard, simply proceed without slowing, or if He would slow, or if He would stop, or do the full K53 routine? We teach our children ‘I’m trying to be like Jesus’, but how do we try to be like Jesus when it comes to stopping at stop streets, or whether drivers or simply pedestrians, if we not jaywalk at pedestrian crossings when the light is not green? Surely we need to try to be like Jesus in all aspects of life, not only in the spiritual things? I am trying to be like Jesus. I know that I am not like Him yet, but I sincerely am trying. Not just in how I treat stop streets, but in all aspects of my life.

Upon reading my journal some time after writing this post I came across the following, written Wednesday 9 July 1980, recalling a miracle in my life.

It is time that I write a little report on my close encounter with the sting of death. When I was about 4 years of age, I guess I was not really thinking about the ‘sting’ of death, or, in fact, even of death. As I think back now, all I recall is that I received a plastic model (about 30 cm long) of a Rambler, and even that is extremely vague.

Mom was probably resting, since she was pregnant with Ronald (hence my calculation of my having been about 4 years old) when Jane wanted to go and visit a friend of hers near the Florida Primary School. She climbed onto her fairy cycle (a small bicycle with about 45 cm wheels) and I decided to follow her on my tricycle. This journey involved our crossing Goldman Street, and there is a steep decline approaching Goldman Street, form our side. Well, a fairy cycle has better brakes than does a tricycle, and Jane stopped, and I did not. The brakes not being there probably did not particularly worry me, as I was probably enjoying the sensation of speed, and this seems to be substantiated by the fact that I turned to look over my left shoulder as I overtook Jane, and I apparently laughed and called to her. This probably saved my life for, as I turned, I caused my tricycle to tip over and deposit me on the ground.

Perhaps it was a careful guardian angel who figured that I could better tolerate a few grazes from the road than a collision with a truck that was hurtling along Goldman Street. I was searching for this word as I described my passing Jane – hurtling past would better describe my activity, while the truck was simply going a regular speed along a main road, hardly expecting a tricycle-mounted lad to cross his path. The driver of this truck brought his vehicle to a halt as quickly as he knew as he thought he had killed me, and indeed that would have been expected as he was dragging my tricycle along with him.

Two gentlemen, following this truck, stopped and took me off to hospital where I was treated for bruises and grazes. Mom needed to get to the hospital and the Dinnies were about to drive her there when Dad arrived home unexpectedly after giving someone a lift home at lunchtime. So Dad and Mom came to fetch me from hospital, and that night I received this gift of my plastic Rambler. I do not know where that model is now, but that serves as my only reminder of this experience. 

The next day the driver of the truck came, distraught, to apologize to Mom, who reassured him that I certainly not be counted as having been his fault, or any reflection on his driving, that I came darting out of a side-street.

Jane, in the meantime, was offered a lift home to come and tell Mom about the accident, but was quite determined that she had received strict instructions to never climb into a stranger’s car. So the kind lady who had offered her a lift had to walk home with Jane to come and tell Mom.

There is a lot in that story, and it was clearly a miracle. What is the mission that I must have in life for which my life has been spared at least two distinct occasions? I recorded the other incident in my entry of 18 June 1980 (the incident with the snake in Kloof Gorge, as a missionary in 1973).