16 March 2014

Tantrums and SDBs

(This is a repost of an earlier post. I could not sort out some issues with the labels, so I deleted the post and reposted it)

I remember my father and mother teaching me (I guess their frequent repetition meant that I needed to learn it) to drive five hundred metres ahead of myself on the road, anticipating what I would need to do rather than only reacting to the things right where I was, or being surprised by things further down the road when I got to them.

In 1981, when Sally and I went to Salt Lake City for our marriage, my brother asked me to buy him a copy of Eliminating your SDBs at the Brigham Young University Bookstore (Jonathan M Chamberlain, July 1978, ‘Are you a procrastinator? A compulsive eater? A perfectionist? Do you frequently experience feelings of inferiority? Depression? Withdrawal? Are you afraid of relationships? Of other people? Of failure? If you answered yes to any of these self-defeating behaviors so common in our society today, this book is for you.’).

I reflected a great deal on the thought of these Self-Defeating Behaviours (SDBs). For example, think of a couple who have a lovely family of four or five delightful children and how they are all looking forward to a bright future. This family is trying to follow common sense – letting common sense direct their life rather than the physical ‘here and now for me’. They are looking ahead and wanting to prepare for a brighter future, rather than being in the teenage mode where, as I am told, teenagers ‘cannot see beyond Friday night’, or the tantrum mode which is about ‘me and now’: ‘if it is in line with what I want here and now then that is right’. Common sense does not go down well with this childish ‘terrible twos’ mode. Tantrum mode is possibly the ultimate manifestation of SDBs.

Now picture the same family some years later, when their marriage has broken up and their children have grown apart, and one of the parents makes the comment that ‘I have never been happier than I am now’. Think of this situation and compare it with when the family had great capital and frugal ways. At the later time they may have exciting ways but they are eroding their capital. One could equally say ‘I have never been richer’ but the wealth is not sustainable because the capital is being eroded. Instead of a long and bright future in view, they have the ‘me and now’ in view and are happy. The happiness cannot last, however, because its base is eroding. They have lost sight of eliminating SDBs. Note that at the later time the comment ‘I have never been happier’ is not the same as saying ‘I am happier than I have ever been’.

Last Friday night, after again reading about the demise of a great civilization, which was probably the Mayan civilisation, I asked my wife, ‘Are you seeking the promptings of the spirit? Do you receive the promptings of the spirit? Do you follow the promptings of the spirit? Or has the spirit stopped striving with you?’ I think about these questions every time I read the accounts of the Mayans where an entire civilization was destroyed because they were in the throes of an ultimate ‘tantrum mode’. Common sense had completely deserted them and they were being driven purely by ‘me and now’ pride and anger, rather than being sensible and looking ‘five hundred metres down the road’ at their future and letting humility and common sense direct them. Well, I suppose that by the stage that they had reached, their future had been diminished to the lot of a bunch of grumpy old men existing with each other because their wives and children had been killed, and what kind of a future would that be? Well, let me tell their story.

The history recorded by a man called Ether and his predecessor historians indicates that this civilisation had numbered in the millions. After about 1900 years into their recorded history, during which they had had good times of happiness and prosperity, and bad times of war or famine, they reached a point where two factions – one led by a man named Coriantumr, and one led by a man named Shiz – were again at war. The historian Ether came and warned Coriantumr that he was on a path towards destruction if he continued in his war against Shiz. Coriantumr was the king over all the land. The king did not like what Ether was telling him, so Ether was cast out and had to live in exile in a cave. But he went frequently to observe unseen and record the goings-on of his people, and he witnessed and recorded their wars and eventual complete demise.

The demise of this civilisation occurred following a period when some people worked secretly to undermine the king Coriantumr. Coriantumr was cunning in warfare and fought force with force, violence with violence, but he did not employ common sense and wisdom. The death toll was high in the first year of the final period as a result of this guerrilla warfare as the enemies tried to obtain the kingdom.

Ether again warned the king to be guided by right and common sense, but the king persisted in his violent ways rather than teaching right ways. In the third and fourth years there were wars in which the kingdom was alternately taken from, and then retaken by Coriantumr. Rather than there being unity among the people, there were many bands fighting or robbing, and tyranny with people seeking their own gain. Battles prompted by anger raged in which either side prevailed, then lost ground again, and many, many lives were lost, and all the people were shedding blood and there was none to restrain them because the king was wounded and recuperating during a period of some five years.

Then, for some two years, there was a total lack of personal security as all were at risk of having their tools or weapons stolen. As tyranny prevailed, many thousands died as new contenders arose to try to take the kingdom. Families of killed leaders rose in vengeance trying to take the kingdom and, as usual, the general populace were the losers as a small minority of individuals sought for power. The last contender, who was trying to avenge his brother, was named Shiz, and the battles raged and the land was littered with dead bodies, the war being so much the order of the day that there was nobody to bury the dead. Now it was not only the warfare, but also the stench of rotting corpses that made life miserable. But Shiz persisted in his vengeance for his brother who had been killed by Coriantumr.

Shiz battled and pursued the king, but the battle turned and Coriantumr then pursued the armies of Shiz, who in their retreat killed any of the population who would not join their cause. Later, Coriantumr was in a position of advantage in a fortress, and maintained his position despite being seriously wounded. Shiz lost much ground and many people and withdrew.

At this point, Coriantumr was trying to follow common sense as more than two million of his people, in addition to their wives and children, had been killed, and he realised that he and Shiz were in a lose-lose situation. Although Coriantumr was prepared to give up his kingdom to spare the people, they were too angry and did not want to give in to Shiz. The people of Shiz were also angry and wanted to finish the war at all costs. The battle raged and progressed day by day, moving from place to place due to a continuous cycle of pursuit and retreat.

Finally, everyone was gathered into the two armies in one place for their final battle, except Ether who remained to chronicle the events. For four years each army gathered all the support that they could for this final battle, gathering men and their wives and children. Following the first day when there was no clear victor, there was great mourning and sorrow in the camps. Coriantumr again tried to make peace in order to spare the people, but Shiz and the people were blinded by rage and anger and would not accept any peace treaty. They fought day after day, out of control in their blinded state. This continued day after day until fifty two men remained to battle against sixty nine men. The next day it was down to thirty two against twenty seven.

Still they fought! I guess they had lost sight of any future because they were acting senselessly, and after all, what future was there? There were only a bunch of miserable men remaining as all of the soft targets, their wives and children had been killed. What was there left except to kill or be killed? Finally it was only Shiz and Coriantumr left, and Coriantumr killed Shiz. He was now left, a lone man, except for Ether, but he clearly was not about to welcome Ether back into his company. So Ether finished his record, and Coriantumr wandered and was eventually found by a people of another civilisation, probably either the Incas or Aztecs, forefathers of the American Indians who also discovered the record left by Ether.

But, as sad as this tale is, this other civilisation that took in the aged Coriantumr did not learn from it and they also had factions who battled with each other, until the entire destruction of one of those factions some five hundred years after Coriantumr and Shiz had their last battle. Thus were left the people who survived to be discovered by the explorers Pizarro, Cortez and Columbus some 11 centuries later.

But really – are there intelligent adults who give way to SDBs? Come now – don’t be melodramatic! Well, let me see...

We have just been all too aware of farm workers striking near De Doorns in the Western Cape in November 2012. I was among many people who had to divert their route of travel away from the N1 to bypass the action. Here are a group of labourers who want more income than they were getting. Now, that sounds reasonable, because inflation keeps on making any income become less than adequate, and labourers generally receive a pittance to start with. So, they express their wish for higher wages. But the SDBs involved are that they then burn down the vineyards of their employers. How can a farmer pay any worker if he has no vineyards from which to harvest grapes to sell in order to have any income with which to pay his workers? So, instead of higher wages, they now face no wages. Does this sound like the ridiculous story of the couple who killed the goose that laid golden eggs, or what?

And what about abused husbands or wives who remain in their abusive marriages because they lack the self esteem or confidence to leave the destructive situations?

What about the abusive partner? Marriage is between two people who, according to the marriage covenant, become one flesh. So the abuser is using self destructive behaviour because he or she is destroying that ‘one flesh’ of which he or she is an integral part of the whole.

It is unfortunate indeed that all too many people lose their perspective and lose focus on their future ‘five hundred metres ahead of them’ and just live for the ‘me and now’ and common sense leaves them. They cease seeking for common sense or guidance by their conscience, or following their conscience, or even become devoid of conscience. They do not seek or desire the guidance of the spirit, or if they receive it, they do not follow it, or even get to the point that the spirit ceases striving with them because they have become clearly opposed to that guidance.

Whatever your belief, in spirit or common sense, I hope that you can relate to these situations and can recognise the need to take a decision to not be guided by anger, despair or any Self-Defeating Behaviour and lose common sense, but to eliminate your SDBs and follow a course of common decency or common sense. Don’t get to the point where there is no future worth anything as in the case of Coriantumr and his grumpy old men. Life is worth living. There is a brighter future that is worth preparing for, and that should be our most earnest desire. This really can only come when we are in harmony with each other as opposed to when we are pursuing ‘me and now’ – being in tantrum mode. I hope that each of you may find the joy of love and harmony with a wonderful bright outlook for the future.

Some thoughts regarding love and same gender attraction

I don’t often speak out on the subject of same gender attraction, but following yet another defence of homosexuality by a friend whose son is gay, and whose returned missionary friend had just declared that he is gay, I have felt the need to stop putting off doing so. I recognise that someone may take out of context some of the things I say, but that is their problem. I trust that in context these words are in full harmony with the Gospel.
This is me on my honeymoon in 1981, I think this was in Disneyland in Los Angeles 
where we went after going from Cape Town to Salt Lake City to be sealed in the Temple
I still love my wife who is my dearest friend. 
We are delighted to have a wonderful family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren (Feb 2022).

To start with, I feel that it is essential to stress that love is a divine characteristic, and that we are commanded to love.

We are commanded to ‘love the Lord thy God with all of our heart, and with all your soul’ (Deuteronomy 13:3), and ‘with all thy mind, and with all thy strength’ (Mark 12:30). That is pretty deep.

We are commanded to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Luke10:27). That, too is pretty deep.

We are commanded to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Young women are to be taught ‘to love their husbands, to love their children’ (Titus 2:4).

So I am commanded to love my neighbour, and that includes male and female. I am commanded to love my children and I do indeed love them – I adore them. I am not quite that good about loving some of my neighbours. Some are really not that lovable.

So – there is little confusion about the fact that love for all is part of what God wants us to have. Love is a divine nature, God is love (1 John 1:8) and as we become like Him we need to learn to love.

I learned a lot as a parent, reading in chapter 4 of A Parent's Guide about interpersonal relationships.
  • ‘Courteous relationships are the basis of civilized behavior’, and are appropriate between friends, neighbours, strangers, even towards enemies. Imagine what the world would be like if we all treated every other person with courtesy?
  • ‘Affection is natural and is mostly associated with family relations’. This is more intense than courtesy, but it includes courtesy. Shaking hands would be courteous, holding hands would be affectionate.
  • ‘Intimate relationships are deeper and longer lasting than others and are more intense. Within such relationships are very strong emotions.’ Intimacy includes affection and courtesy. Intimacy is appropriate within a marriage relationship, but certainly not appropriate between strangers.

This is where the philosophies of the world make this so very blurred. They equate love with intimacy, or they treat intimacy or sex as synonyms of love. But love, properly expressed, would never be selfish or lustful.

Someone said that the sex scene in the movie Titanic was alright because ‘they were so much in love’. But where is the ‘so much in love’ in the case of a couple having sex when high on drugs, or when emotions run away with two colleagues in an inappropriate situation together, or with the soldiers raping the women of the village that they invaded? The ‘so much in love’ was with sex as an object and not with love for the other person. It was ‘so much in love’ with lust and not love for the other son or daughter of God involved.

I love my children, but if I were to jump into bed with them, that would not be love, but lust. The same goes for incestuous relationships with parents, siblings, or any other family members. It is absolutely appropriate for men to love men and women to love women, but that does not make it appropriate to jump into bed with someone. Love in the divine way of loving would actually mean the direct opposite of such inappropriate sexual relationships. Love would defend the virtue of another, not rob others of ‘that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue’ (Mormon 9:9).

As the world synonymises love and lust, so they say that an appropriate way of expressing love is to have sexual relationships. But love is a divine characteristic, and lust is a carnal, sensual and devilish (Mosiah16:3) characteristic, very appealing to the natural man or woman. And so Satan lulls anyone willing to give in to the natural man into carnal security. The tragedy is that as it is so appealing to the natural man, they become effectively shut out from the presence of God. (Moses 6:49)

God would have us love our enemies – he loves His enemies. But His enemies certainly do not love God. So, let me end off with this quote from Mosiah 3:19. ‘For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.’

It is important to note that some, maybe all, of those who have same gender attraction may be simply feeling the love that Heavenly Father intends for us to have. There are people who are very active in proselyting the Gay Rights movement who try to persuade the person that it is a sexual attraction. But, just as it is sinful to act on lustful desires to have sexual relations with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage, and because it is contrary to the eternal plan of eternal marriage in which man and woman are married for eternity, it is sinful to extend the love for anyone into sexual relations outside of marriage. The sin is not in feeling love – that is good. The sin is in committing sexual sin outside of marriage. It is important to note that homosexual behaviour can be forgiven through sincere repentance (Handbook 2: Administering the Church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 21.4.6). The key is to have an understanding of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of our mortal life as our opportunity to learn to become like our Heavenly parents.

I hope and pray that you will carefully ponder these things and then ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true. I am absolutely confident that he will manifest the truth of it to you through the power of the Holy Ghost. Love is a divine nature, and would never allow lustful behaviour which would destroy that very divine love in hetero-sexual, homo-sexual, or any relationships. 

I felt impressed add more thoughts that you might be interested in reading. See 

02 March 2014

Some thoughts regarding callings as we embark on the course of forming a new stake

Today we experienced the splitting of the Cape Town South Africa Stake of Zion to form the Bellville South Africa Stake of Zion.

I am amused that the Cape Town Stake does not include Cape Town, and the Bellville stake includes both Cape Town and Bellville.

Yesterday, as I was working on installing a door, I had one of my sessions of scripture study without any scriptures in my hands. These can be among my most powerful study sessions as my hands are busy weeding or doing things and my brain is studying the scriptures that I have in my memory banks. I was pondering a theme that has been on my mind for a few days, anticipating a possible call for me to be interviewed for the organisation of the stake. Here are some of the thoughts that went through my mind.

I wonder how many of us would call someone who really was prejudiced and rebellious to serve a mission? But the Lord called Jonah to go and preach the Gospel in Nineveh. Jonah really did not care for the people of Nineveh. He ran off in the opposite direction. When he realised that his decision was threatening the lives of other people on the ship on which he was trying to escape his assignment, he had them throw him overboard. We might say to ourselves that he really was not appropriate for our mission objectives and give up on him and call someone else, but the Lord sent a great fish to help Jonah to shore, and to give him some time to reflect and repent.

Well, Jonah did go and preach, and was successful, but he was miserable because his prejudice made him not want to share his exclusive club of salvation in the Kingdom of God with the people of Nineveh who he really did not like. So he sulked and moaned and whined. And the Lord continued to be patient with him, trying to get him to rise to his potential for greatness.

Another example – would we call someone who to promote the work was really working hard to interfere with the Work of Salvation? Would we call someone who was really not worthy of a Temple Recommend to serve? The Lord sent an angel to a group of youths who were on their way to disrupt the Church. He called them to serve as his missionaries. He called them to repent. He gave Alma the Younger three days’ time for repenting, during which time his heart was harrowed up so that it would be prepared for the service to which he had been called. Would we say – ‘no, he is not worthy’ and look for someone else, or would we take the risk with someone and call him and let him decide whether or not he will repent and accept the challenge to become softened and worthy of a Temple Recommend? I argue that the Lord does not wait for people to wander into worthiness – he challenges them up-front and that makes the difference in their lives.

Another interesting case is an avowed enemy of the Church – not even a member, someone who is going off to persecute the Saints. But the Lord sent an angel to call Saul of Tarsus and let him recognise that it is hard to kick against the pricks. He let Saul repent, and then sent the member of the local unit. This member, presumably a leader, was really hesitant, and asked the Lord if He knew who this man was and what he had been doing to the Saints? I mean, really – he was a bad oke! But the Lord reassured Ananias that this was his work and that Saul was a chosen vessel. And Saul rose to the occasion.

I have heard many stories of people called who really were not worthy at the time for their calls, but who put their lives in order and became worthy, and were commendable in the way that they magnified their callings. Elder Ted R. Callister spoke in the October 2013 General Conference about calling an unworthy man as a stake clerk in the Glendale stake. I remember in the book The Challenge from my mission days 1973-1975 I can’t find the book and cannot recall the author), about a stake president visiting a less active brother who would not return to Church because he did not approve of his bishop and others. The stake president challenged this brother to attend ward conference the next day to sustain his new bishop. Upon being asked who that would be, he was told “You!” Was he worthy to hold a Temple Recommend? No. Did he very promptly become worthy? Yes. And he served excellently as the bishop.

I remember Robert Sackley, a regional representative, telling of how he was called as bishop of half of a ward that was divided. The leaders had proposed a dividing line that would split the ward evenly in terms of active members. But the authorities used a different dividing line such that when the ward was divided one half that was predominantly less active and he was called to preside over that half. Within a year his ward was more active than the other ward. How could that be without him having called unworthy people to lead? And did that call not bring them into activity because of the challenge?

I have long felt that the Temple Recommend interview can be a very powerful spiritual experience. If a member is invited in, and all questions asked, right up to ‘Do you consider yourself worthy to participate in the ordinances of the Temple?’ they can feel the Spirit and realise what in their lives is not in harmony with the Gospel. It does not have the same impact if one stops after three questions and says “Oh no, you won’t qualify” and stop there. I also feel to start the interview with reminding the member that I am simply asking the questions on behalf of the lord, and that their answers are given to the Lord, not just to me. It is also sometimes appropriate to remind them that the Lord knows the answer to each and every question, but asks because we need to experience of accounting for our lives. I am struck by the fact that the Lord knows all things, but he asked Cain “Where is thy brother Abel?” He asked the woman who touched the skirt of His garment “Who touched me?” He asked Peter “Lovest thou me?” And He asked that three times! But Peter needed to answer more than the Lord needed to ask.

I have also witnessed the power of going through all thirteen Articles of Faith and after reciting each ask “Now, what do you believe?” I insist that they declare what they do believe, not what they do not believe. That brings a powerful spirit into the room and can bring about a life-changing experience.

I remember about 1970 or so my sister Judy telling of a sister (the daughter of the mission president at the time) who told of a powerful call to serve. I have often reflected on that as I have interviewed people to issue a call to serve. I have realised that it is essential to lay a solid foundation before the person being interviewed knows anything about a call. I schedule the interview with adequate time to discuss their lives, their interests, their talents, their time and family commitments and during all of this process I am seeking the confirmation of the Spirit that this call is right for them. If I do not get that confirmation the interview is ended without the person knowing why there was an interview. However, if I do get that confirmation then I am absolutely confident in saying “The Lord wants you to serve as such-and-such” and I have almost never had someone decline a calling when following this process. But I have been in interviews where the first words are “We want to call you to such-and-such a position” and somehow the spirit is just not as strong as when it is without doubt a call from the Lord.

Our two stakes need to grow. We can grow. May the Lord bless us to have a powerful Spirit about us so that we can rise to the level and potential that He wants us to achieve!