22 November 2015

The Hundred - Thirteen test

I have been at a low spiritual ebb all too often. That may surprise some, but it's true. 

I find the Hundred – Thirteen test helps me.

The Hundred part is inspired by something my older brother Tim shared with me years ago when he heard I was considering being an airline pilot. He came to me while I was doing my homework one evening and discussed implications of what I was considering (the fact that I wore spectacles, my lack of knowledge of geography, being away from home a whole lot, etc.). He suggested that I list the pros and cons of each alternative in the choice. My adaptation is to take a piece of note paper and prepare three columns: one for a scripture reference; one for the question like 'Become an airline pilot', 'Pack up and move to Nelspruit', 'Move to Cape Town to marry Sally', or 'The church is true as it claims' and one for the alternative 'Not become an airline pilot', 'Stay in Cape Town and look for work here', 'Stay in my parents' home and not go to marry Sally', or 'The church is a hoax'. Then randomly and prayerfully read 100 scriptures and after each one, write the scripture reference, and put a mark or cross under the appropriate column. I have to be honest in letting the Spirit guide me in the process. Should you take this test, you can decide if 'a scripture' is one verse; one chapter; 10 minutes; reading sequentially from the beginning of the book, e.g. Genesis 1:1 or Matthew 1:1, or whatever you feel appropriate. The important thing is to read the scriptures so that Heavenly Father can communicate with you through His Word. In research, one has to do sufficient testing to be confident in drawing a conclusion – a small sample size is not defensible. One hundred is a pretty reasonable sample size in some studies. Tens of thousands can be an appropriate sample size in very large populations. With more than 31000 verses in the Bible, even 100 is a small sample size, but it is a good start.

Another analysis that may help with some tough choices is the SWAT analysis (examining Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). The object of either exercise is ‘studying it out in my mind’ (See D&C 9:8).

The Thirteen part is to write down my own personal thirteen Articles of Faith. I read each that Joseph Smith wrote, and then write down my own. This is based on my mother's conversion story and the role that a challenge issued by an Anglican minister played. You can read her story in my blog http://personaltouchworks.blogspot.co.za/

When I’ve done this, I enter my Garden of Gethsemane and pray to my Heavenly Father and listen, hopefully being prepared to submit my will to His.

I believe it was one of my fellow missionaries Mike McLean who, in Port Elizabeth in 1973, shared a comparison with mathematics and receiving answers to prayer. A teacher will teach a mathematical principle and then give homework to be solved. The student then goes and applies the method to the problem in question. He returns to the teacher with the homework and the teacher either approves of the answer, or sends the student away to try again. If the student is still unable to solve the problem, the teacher might show the working out to get the solution, and then give the student a similar problem to go and solve. This continues until the student masters the principle in question. We similarly need to apply principles to solve problems in our lives, and go to our loving Heavenly Father and ask if we have reached the correct solution? We read that He will tell us in our minds and in our hearts when we have come to the correct conclusion. He will cause that 'your bosom shall burn within you' or, as I feel it, an incredible peace and feeling of completeness and clarity with no confusion as opposed to a stupor of thought or confusion when I need to go and give more thought to the problem.

It is not a quick fix – anything worthwhile is not a quick fix – but it is wonderful to receive personal revelation through the word already revealed to prophets. Talks in General Conference and other words of latter-day prophets and apostles also provide valuable insight as I ponder them. I do a great deal of pondering! I can recall one of my first experiences of pondering when I was probably about 16 years old. I received what Andre Naude would describe as 'a light bulb switching on in his brain'. I realized ‘Of course I must have a mother in Heaven because I cannot get to the Celestial Kindgdom without being sealed to a wife, so Heavenly Father must be sealed to a wife’. Yep, I was about 16 years old at the time! I know I must have been pondering because otherwise I would surely not have received such a prompting ‘out of the blue’. I don’t for one moment think I am on a par with Saul of Tarsus who was such a ‘chosen vessel’ that an angel would be sent to me to stop me on my road to mischief and cause me to have a few days of being without sight as I became cleansed and ready for someone like Ananias to come and restore my sight. I am just an ordinary person, but I have nonetheless had the Spirit speak to me through the scriptures, especially as I have pondered them. I have often said that some of my best scripture study time has been without a book in my hands, but while I am mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, or something like that and I am pondering the scriptures as I work

Perhaps another thing to contemplate is how I reflect each year at this season how interesting it is that when the temperature is 18°C (64.4°F) I am comfortably dressed in the kind of clothing that I would be wearing only at 27°C (81°F) three months previously. But at 18°C (64.4°F) three months ago I would be wearing polar neck sweater and jacket and still feeling chilly. I reckon the difference is not so much in the temperature as it is in my body becoming tolerant of the temperature. This reminds me of the story of a frog being placed inboiling water or being slowly brought to the boil, I become tolerant of lower temperatures, and if I do not check myself, I will be all too comfortable in the lower spiritual temperatures so that I don’t keep myself spiritually warmed. It is up to me to keep myself spiritually fed and nourished so that I can be more likely to be in tune with the Spirit and notice that the ambient temperature has dropped and I am becoming accustomed to it. I love the way Dieter F.Uchtdorf said it ‘first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith’

I have often questioned my faith, sometimes doubted, but I have taken to heart the advice to write what I do believe, and to know that although I do not know everything, I do know enough to declare confidently that God does live, He is my Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ is my Messiah, and I have enough experience with the Holy Ghost to confidently promise you that you, too, can know the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost if you read, ponder and pray with a sincere heart, with real intent, and having faith in Christ (see Moroni 10:3-5).

15 November 2015

My parents' stories of their conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

My father Charles Kenneth Powrie 

Born 5 November, 1921 in Lydenburg, Transvaal (Mpumalanga), South Africa

New horizons were there to conquer a year later in the form of an offer of a job by a former shipmate who asked me to move to Johannesburg to join the firm of Stanley Motors, Limited. This I accepted and -in 1946 we moved to Krugersdorp and here we found happiness and joy in building a home and in rearing our two children. Timothy was born here in 1947.
This was a strange, quiet life which seemed to be the calm before the storm. Finally in May, 1950 the change came, quietly and determinedly, when two young Americans knocked on our door with the offer of a message of great importance. My wife, Philippa, as though moved by some unforeseen force, invited these young Elders from Utah and Idaho to come inside whilst the week's wash-for a growing family became of secondary importance.
Mother led the way in this new intellectual exercise, whilst father tagged along in somewhat polite boredom, bred of post experiences which had resulted in such religious excursions. They had provided nothing more than a temporary distraction ending in on obscure wilderness. This time, however, it seemed different, as mother's arguments (given to her so strongly by her mother) appeared to be losing ground in the face of truth which was irrefutable. This resulted in talk of baptism and then why not both of us taking the step? On the 10th of September, 1950 we entered the waters of baptism at old Ramah to join what we now know to be the only true Church and Kingdom of God here upon the earth. We shall always remember with affection the four missionaries who spent time and effort in our conversion, Elders E. Mauary Payne, Parry D. Harrison, Farrell J. Roberts and Dean D. Baxter. Thus started the new life in a Church which, in its temporal appointments, showed very little sign of being the one and only Church of Jesus Christ, for we met in dingy halls and other humble surroundings in limited numbers and with very inadequate facilities. However, the true sweet spirit was there to guide us as we, like infants, crawled, then toddled, then stood upright and walked with our heads high yet humbled by the testimonies which we felt growing within our hearts.
The wisdom of the Lord in prompting growth and testimony through activity soon became manifest in my being called to one assignment after another - branch clerk, branch teacher, counsellor in the Krugersdorp Branch Presidency and then, after having been a member of the Church for just over seven years, the staggering and humbling call to serve as the Transvaal District President. This call in itself was one of the highlights of my life. The day as Transvaal District Conference, 13th April, 1958. We had returned home between sessions and, during that time, received a call from the District President, Brother I.C. Louw, requesting that we come in early. We duly arrived and were ushered into the presence of the Mission President Glen G. Fisher and President Louw, who dropped what I described in my diary as “the bombshell”. I had anticipated some call or another but certainly did not think of a position as the District President! Philippa and I looked at one another in astonishment, but the spirit whispered to us that we could do nothing but accept this high and wonderful calling. We appreciated the sobering honour and I was set apart by President Fisher that he admonished me to recall the promise given to Nephi of old that the Lord would not do anything save he would open the way for them to accomplish that which they had been commanded to do. This had the effect of helping me to recognize the promptings of the spirit in this calling and has been a blessing and a testimony. I have felt my inadequacy fall away in the face of the strength and guidance of the spirit which has helped me to do many things beyond myself and has indeed brought the treasures of Heaven into my life in this great service to the Lord.
The years have rolled by and our family has been increased in that three other precious souls have been brought to us namely, Jane in 1950, Leslie in 1954 and Ronald in 1959. These three children, sent to us during the course of membership in the Church, have all by strange coincidence been born on the 23rd of their respective months - an honour we felt indeed to be thus matched in some small way with our prophet Joseph Smith, born 23rd December.
The Church is our life. We have found the answers to every problem in service and in this association with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Recently we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary of our wedding day, and Philippa and I are able to bear witness to the fact that the sweeter years are here with us now because of the fact that we have attempted to mould our rebellious, stubborn lives, and the lives of our children, to the restored Gospel. We know without any doubt whatsoever, that these Gospel principles hold the key to that happiness and joy which is the heritage of children of men here upon the earth.
We hope and pray that we may continue to serve in this Kingdom and that-we shall be able to enjoy such precious experiences as we have in the more recent years, in having our eldest daughter, Judy, serve an honourable mission in South Africa. Currently our son, Timothy, is serving a mission in the British South Mission, thus bringing the Gospel to others as we had it brought to us.

Our next goal in life is to visit the House of the Lord as a family, to be sealed thus for time and all eternity. With the blessing of the Lord and with our ability to work in this direction also, we hope to achieve this in July, 1969. We pray that this will lead us to be able to serve better in the future and thus repay our Father in Heaven in some small measure for the great and glorious blessings which he has showered upon us over the years.

My mother Beatrice Philippa Dryden Dymond Powrie

Born 26th September, 1917, Mossel Bay,  Cape Province (Western Cape), South Africa

When Judy was nineteen months old, we moved to Krugersdorp, Transvaal, and Timothy was born there on the 2nd August, 1947 and we decided that our family was complete!
In May 1950 a friend of mine asked me “Have the Mormon Missionaries called on you yet?” I replied that they had not.
“Well, when they do, you must ask them in just to listen to their lovely accents - you don't have to listen to what they say!”
Meanwhile the Church of England Padre had called on me just a short while before that and during our, discussion I had said “But I don't believe that,” or “I don't believe that either”. He challenged me to do the thing which prepared me to receive and accept the gospel when the missionaries presented it to me. He said “Forget what you don't believe and read the Bible to find out what you do believe. Write out a list of the things that you do believe.” I did just this, reading the New Testament, and my list started with 1. I do believe there is a God. 2. I do believe that Jesus is the Christ. 3. I do believe the Bible to be the Word of God.
This surprised me because my mother had studied and passed on to me Theosophy, Yogi-ism, School of Truth, Unity Church of Christianity, etc. She believed that every time the earth needed a Saviour, one would be supplied and that Jesus Christ was only one of many. Also, she far from accepted the Bible to be special word of God, although she quoted from it so often.
The spiritual climate created by my reading the Bible and writing the list of beliefs – I regret that space does not permit me to tell of some of the fancy and very interesting ideas that came into my mind on, the subject! – was just the perfect one for the reception of the message brought by the Missionaries. When they knocked on our door I said “Oh yes, I've heard about you, come right in.”
We joined the church three months later; I, because I knew that it was true, and therefore was duty-bound to support it, and Ken, so he says, to keep me company. Elder Payne, in his last two Months of mission said that he had never lost his temper with any other investigator, but he used to get really mad with me for arguing in favour of reincarnation. In the end he said, “Pray about it,” and I did, because I knew I was right and I wanted to prove him wrong! The answer came to me one morning in a vivid flash of light inside my brain, “either you must believe in reincarnation or you must believe in resurrection – you cannot believe in both.” I investigated the two ideas and decided that I believed the Bible, so I accepted resurrection, and joined the church.
My mother taught me the Law of Tithing, in principle, although as far as I know she never paid tithing herself. A month before we were baptized, when the Missionaries, who were staying with us paid their first month's rent, I said to my husband, “Now can we start paying tithing?” I believed that tithing was the Lord's due, although it still did not seem to matter to me which church we paid it through, so we have been paying tithing ever since, for one month longer than our membership.
We also decided to have a larger family – Elder Harrison said I was still young enough to have four more, but that fourth one has never come. Eleven months later Jane was born on 23rd August, 1951. Leslie followed on 23rd February 1954 and Ronald on 23rd January, 1959 - we began to wonder if the “23rd” has any special significance for us!


Extracted from their autobiograhical entries in a collection of Autobiograhical Sketches.

Wright, Evan P (Editor). 1969. Autobiograhical Sketches - South African Mission - 1969. South African Mission, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Johannesburg, South Africa

14 November 2015

Students throwing tantrums about the weaknesses of their seniors rather than working to change the world themselves

South African institutions of higher learning, the students attending them, and others have been seriously impacted over the past few weeks by students demanding that fees must fall. Somehow they feel that it is not reasonable that fees increase although inflation erodes the value of the currency, and government have been reducing their financial support for universities. I guess they are as yet ignorant of the realities of life, and that life simply does become more expensive and that they have the choice of being proactive and preparing for tough times, or just moaning that there are tough times.

I am concerned that the students who are effectively throwing tantrums (an immature thing to do) should rather be working really hard to get themselves well qualified and able to go out and lead South Africa in the way that they are frustrated that the older generation are failing to do.

When they are the older generation they will probably realise that things in 2015 were not as bad as they were led to believe. I have no doubt that the a very big problem is a small group of trouble-makers who are telling the masses that the masses are unhappy. Certainly they are not as happy as they would be in the perfect world, but the world is not perfect – and that comment is not limited to the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, or even South Africa. They will in due course notice that the entire world has problems and is not perfect. I suggest that they should get over it, and become people who will help to make a better world by building on, rather than causing more problems by destroying, the tremendous good that there is.

Anyone who destroys is undermining the very thing that they say they are trying to achieve. Burning or damaging buses or property is, in my view, not defensible. Showing disrespect towards others is not acceptable. We have seen a lot of this in these riots and demonstrations. Of course, now that they have caused damage, some of the money that could go to supporting students has to go into repairing the damage. 

We need a nation of builders and agents of change, not tantrum-throwers who just complain because others are not building the nation and being agents of change, that everyone else is not perfect. Let them work to become more perfect themselves and make the difference that they want to see. Let them be part of the solution and not part of the problem.