20 December 2020

Debate, Decide, Determine, Deliberate

When I was very young and in the early years of my schooling, I was taught about weights and measures. We were taught about pounds and ounces (16 ounces in a pound) and feet, inches and yards (12 inches in a foot) and all that. I learned it well enough, but I remember being surprised that it was so complicated! Then, when I was in high school, I was introduced to the Metric System that worked in very clear and logical units and relationships - a decimal system where weights, measures, volumes and so forth were simply related to each other (1 litre of water has a mass of 1 kilogram at standard temperature and pressure, and the main units worked in thousands like grammes, milligrammes and kilogrammes). This gives a good example of a process of change in which there was discussion about the benefits of each system of weights and measures, and the benefit of fitting in with the International System of Units (SI). After debating the pros and cons of the options of remaining in the Imperial System or converting to the Metric System, a decision was made and there was a determination to set all things in order to use the new system, and I felt a relief or liberty from the complexity of the Imperial System following the deliberation in the use of the simpler Metric System. I continue to be amazed that the United Kingdom and the United States of America, leaders in the global stage, continue to hold to their ties to the complex Imperial System. I have known some older people in South Africa who would continue to calculate things in the Imperial System and then translate them to the Metric System in order to calculate weights or measures.

This brings me to my thoughts on four words and their parts in the process of change: Debate; Decide; Determine; and Deliberate.

De- as a prefix

The prefix de- means 'from, down, away, reverse, opposite', but I think that with each of the four words in the title, it indicates a choice between alternatives, perhaps 'opposite'. Let us look at the other uses of the root of each word. 

Using a search of Google Dictionary, it is interesting to note the possible root meanings of these words.

Debate looks at opposing arguments, and 'bate' seems to come from an angry mood, perhaps torment, or argument, 'debate' being derived from Latin, meaning 'the opposite of fighting'. The root word 'bate' might also be in 'probate' (from Latin for 'to test or to prove') and 'rebate' (derived from Anglo-Norman French meaning 'beat back').

Decide is attributed to the Latin 'off' and 'cut' or 'determine' and means 'to bring to a settlement'.  Although this is the only prefix used for 'cide', the root word seems to be in 'decisive', 'decision', and thence 'incisive' (cut into), 'precise' or 'precision' (relating to quality), all relating to choosing, making me think of the knowledge of good and evil, and our challenge to decide to choose good.

Determine seems to be related to inner quality as in 'firmness or purpose', by which one goes about 'establishing something exactly by calculation or research'. The root word relates to absoluteness such as 'determinate' that infers 'exact and discernible limits or form'; 'exterminate' that is final and total 'destroy completely or kill'. I also am struck by 'termination' relating to a destination or end-point, and my thoughts about 'determine' relate to acting on the decision to reach an end goal - with determination.

Deliberate relates to slow, measured, careful and conscious well-thought-through choice. Liberate is not used with any other prefixes, but I find it interesting to think of the Saviour's teaching that 'ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free' (John 8:32).

I thought of another word, but this does not seem to be a prefix, although it does relate to these four words and to what I am trying to convey in this blog - 'Divine'. If we use the process for ourselves whereby we debate (study something out in our minds), decide (discern good and choose to choose the good), determine (act on the decision), deliberate (reach the freedom that results from the former steps), we will achieve a divine nature. We will be fruitful branches on the true vine, divine in nature (see John 15:1-8).

The process of changes leading to liberation

I can think of some times in my life when I have sought to change something in order to achieve a better outcome. I recall a decision that I made years ago that was a blessing to me. 

A healthy choice - walking rather than driving
I worked at the Kirstenbosch Research Centre for its first 25 years. I took a decision during that time to park down the hill and walk about 500m each way to the office rather than driving. I debated with myself the pros and cons. Driving increased my carbon footprint; increased the wear and tear on the car due to added distance and speedbumps; it did not save significant amounts of time (it was simply the difference between walking 500m and driving 500m, and if I needed to attend meetings down the hill it took more time to use the car than simply the time of travel); the only advantage to driving might be in inclement weather - and I then had the option to walk or drive as opposed to many colleagues who used the bus and did not have the option to drive. The advantages of walking were in terms of reducing carbon footprint; added health; fresh air; enjoyment of watching the sunrise or sunset; watching the wildlife and enjoying the natural vegetation; noticing natural things that I would miss if driving; I would not be competing for parking spaces at KRC; I could park in the shade; getting to converse with others who were walking; and I had several other ideas that came to me as I walked that added to the list of pros and cons. I then decided to walk as the norm and driving would be the exception. I determined to arrange things so that there would be fewer disadvantages arising from my decision. I was then deliberate in following through with my commitment and I enjoyed the liberating experience of walking. I walked many kilometres, through forest, fynbos, nature, fresh air, sunrise, seeing insects, lizards, frogs, beautiful little flowers and several things that I would have missed if I had followed the practices of most of my colleagues. I truly rejoice in the decision that I made and the benefits of sticking to my commitment made to myself.

As I was thinking about this deliberate process of choice, I was struck by thoughts shared by Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Thomas S, Monson in October 2013, and Gordon B. Hinckley as I listened to talks referred to in the Come, Follow Me study of the week (and sometimes talks from the same General Conference following those cited talks). My testimony of the importance of studying out in our minds, then asking the creator of all things, the King of Heaven, He who has all knowledge, wisdom, power, if the thing be right. As we debate to consider the alternatives, decide to discern between good and error, or sometimes good and better, determine to follow a course, we will enjoy the liberation that comes from removing the burdens or bonds of doubt, fear, anger, hate, envy, and any number of negative things and replace them with the opposites of those negative things.

I am grateful for all that I have learned in this process. I still have a long way to be excellent in applying the recipe, but my experiments thus far have confirmed to me that it is good to enjoy the liberty that comes to us as we come to know the truth, and when the truth makes us free.


Enchanted Learning. Prefixes and Suffixes - Enchanted Learning. Accessed 20 Dec 2020.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf. 2013. You Can Do It Now! (churchofjesuschrist.org)

Thomas S. Monson. 2013. True Shepherds (churchofjesuschrist.org)

The road to Emmaus and me

I have done several two or more hour walks recently in various settings, including karoo, succulent karoo and fynbos. My most recent walk was a 5¾ hour, 14 km walk on the front of Table Mountain and Devil's Peak, marvelling at seeing probably about 250 plant, fungus and lichen species. I love living in this part of the world where I am able to walk in these wonderful ecosystems.

I am touched by the story told of two men who lived about 1990 years ago. They were walking and conversing in a landscape very similar to the karoo. They were joined by a stranger at some stage of their journey of about two hours, and were guided by this stranger in their thinking and interpreting of an amazing experience that they had just witnessed in their country. I hope that I may help others to have wonderful experiences as I walk with them and share some of my thoughts with them.

A couple walking in the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden

These two men were walking in an area not vastly different to the semi arid winter-rainfall succulent karoo vegetation. They had just witnessed a dramatic event in their city and were discussing it as they walked. They had had close affiliation with a really impressive character that they thought was going to lead them to victory against a foreign oppressive colonialist regime that ruled their land. At the very least, they anticipated some dramatic outcome for their people following all that they had seen their wonderful hero doing on a day to day basis in their country. 

Even with all of their wonderful expectations, their hero had just been killed by the foreign imperialist regime that they despised. It is true that a lot of their own people had hated their hero and had called for his execution, despite their own antagonism towards their foreign rulers. Their own leaders did not want to be ruled by these oppressive foreigners, but they hated this upstart commoner who had such popularity with some of their people. They just wanted him out of the way!

These two people were presenting the thoughts and anticipations that they and some others had about their hero, and the sudden and unexpected anticlimax to the story that they had to share. 

They were about to be guided by this stranger in reinterpreting their observations. 

The stranger initially reprimanded them for being slow of heart to believe in their hero that had been killed. But - he was dead! What good could he do now for their cause? What good would his death do for their cause? This stranger then recounted things that had been said hundreds of years before about this hero and that his death was not a defeat, but actually a victory. This was the very way that the enemy would be defeated - by their hero being killed. This left them with much to ponder. They were not entirely sure what to think!

They had walked for a long time and it was approaching the end of the day so they invited the stranger to dine and spend the night with them. He did accept their invitation and as they were about to eat, he blessed the food and gave them each some bread, then he vanished out of their sight!

These two rather startled men reflected on this remarkable and unreal experience and recognised that their hearts had burned within them as the stranger had been talking with them during their walk. They felt comfortable with these strange things that they had heard, even if they could not comprehend them! 

I am always impressed that if these guys had just got on with their meal and chatted about the weather or the latest triumph of their favourite sports team, and had not reflected on the experience that they had with this stranger, they might have missed their precious feelings. 

They had evidently just walked about two hours. It was possibly already dark, or nearly dark. They immediately set off again to repeat the two hour journey to share their experience with their friends who were also distressed by the death of their hero. 

As they were once again with their friends, they tried as best as they could to explain what had just happened to them - what they had heard the stranger say, what they had felt, and about the stranger disappearing!

Even after being told of the experience that two of them had on the Emmaus road, the people of the assembled group were terrified and affrighted when their hero Jesus appeared to the group as they were trying to come to grips with their feelings and confusion. 

It appears that, as part of His way of making it absolutely clear that He was not a spirit, that He was not dead, but had risen from the dead, Jesus Christ gave a clear demonstration that the resurrection is the reuniting of body and spirit by asking if they had some meat for him. He would surely not have needed to eat, but the disciples would have needed to witness His ability to eat and participate in this regular social activity - that he was not a spook. 

I enjoyed watching the two videos portraying some of the events of the 24th chapter of Luke - the stranger joining the two disciples on the road, and then Jesus appearing to the gathered disciples in the room that was shut for fear of the Jews.

I am grateful for the insights that I have gained as I have pondered the stories of long ago in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book Of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and the Pearl of Great Price. I am grateful that there are enough times that I have not simply chatted about the weather or sports and have been able to have the Spirit teach me things that no man has taught me. I have realised that my heart has burned within me as I have come to feel the complete harmony of truth in so many of the things that I have studied. I am grateful that this harmony of truth has extended to include some things that I was taught in my science and biology classes at university - helping me to see how things that are scientifically possible but absolutely unlikely without God can have occurred because I know that God is there with His divine oversight. 

How can I doubt when I know enough about genetics, ecology, physics, probability and other things that were taught to me at university to know that these things that are possible are almost certainly absolutely improbable without divine design? Beyond that, though, I do not only know about God - I know that God has made Himself known to me in undeniable ways. 

I have felt my heart burn within me on my road to Emmaus, and I hope that some of the insights that I have shared with others on their roads to Emmaus have caused their hearts to burn within them. I hope that I can be that kind of tour guide that does not only share information, but helps guests to learn things from the Spirit that no man could teach them.

11 December 2020

So many kinds of voices - responding to the COVID-19 lockdown and wearing masks

This morning I was sent a video by someone who asked 'Plz tell me what to think about this'

It would appear that this video was prepared by someone from The Unity Group, Standing Together South Africa, and the logo in the video matches that on https://www.theunitygroup.co.za/ 

In essence, this video encourages us to be part of the masses who would fight against lockdown and wearing masks, encouraging us to think and to not just follow what the government is imposing on us due to conspiracy theory or conspiracy fact because the government wants us to lose everything so that we will become totally dependent on them. The video encourages us to refuse to take the vaccine when it is developed, that Cyril Ramaphosa and the politicians are all corrupt and plundering South Africa, and to fight against any further lockdown.

My response was basically as follows.

What do you think of what President Russell M Nelson is saying? He was a world renowned heart surgeon. Is he now the Lord's mouthpiece? Is he a living prophet and apostle, or not? Does God live? Does God guide us through a living prophet, or not? Did He make a mistake by not causing Russell Nelson to die before being sustained as prophet, seer and revelator? Or, did the Lord direct the calling of Russell M Nelson in 1984 so that he would be president of the Church 36 years later in 2020 at precisely the time of a global pandemic when he would be the right person to be His prophet?

Russell Nelson is someone who has worn a mask for many hours on end in the process of carrying out surgical procedures to save lives. He is a strong proponent of the hygienic practices of sanitizing and directed the Church to adopt such practices and responsible social distancing by closing meetinghouses and temples worldwide even before the government of South Africa imposed its lockdown in March 2020.

How many minutes have you spent studying, praying and pondering about the scriptures in this past week? How many minutes have you given to alternative voices like social media, the channels of Babylon, and other sources? How much airtime do you give to the Lord's word as opposed to what comes to us on the World's TV channels, news channels, and the like? 

What have you learnt from pondering Moroni 7 in which Moroni teaches us to judge so that we can know good from evil, what is from God and what is from the devil? Moroni says 'the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.' Is what Russell Nelson says good or is it evil? Is what this video is saying good or is it evil?

Is the lockdown pure evil, or will some good come from it? Yes, there is bad that has come and will yet come, but will the overall balance between good and evil be more good or evil when one looks back two or three years from now, just as the Spanish Flu pandemic was devastating,  but the recovery was better in many ways than if the pandemic had not struck? Who will accurately measure this balance? Each person will have her or his own opinion - how will you decide which opinion is beyond reasonable doubt? What is the sure source of pure truth and light - the unnamed man in this video, or Russell Nelson, or Heavenly Father?

I do not reject what this man says - but, it would take extensive personal study to be able to know beyond reasonable doubt if what he says is true about Cyril Ramaphosa plundering the country, or if that is the voice of Cyril's enemies spreading lies about him.

Similarly, it would take extensive personal research to know what is the best way to prevent the virus from spreading, or if I should refuse the vaccine or not. There are so many alternative opinions - how should I decide which opinion to adopt? 

Simply put - does God care enough for us to guide us through a prophet today? If He does, then what is that prophet directing me to do? Does that prophet join in demonstrations fighting against masks, lockdowns and vaccines, or is he wearing a mask, directing the lockdown of the Church meetinghouses and Temples, and speaking positively of those working to develop a vaccine? By their fruits ye shall know them. I have observed the fruits of Russell Nelson. I have no idea what the fruits are of this unnamed man.

Does this give any indication of what I think about this?

26 November 2020

Some thoughts about the early history of southern Africa

I read, with interest, a review of the book The Lie of 1652 by Patric Mellet. It is a rather complex review! I grew up with English as first language and was wondering how many people will follow all of the very complicated writing!

I have appealed in March 2020, and again in November 2020, to StatsSA that they add to the next census distinct categories for the San, Khoe, Kalanga and Cape Malay since I cannot see where they would classify themselves - African, Coloured or Indian since I don't think that the Khoisan are likely to classify themselves as White, or the Cape Malays as Coloured or African, or would they simply select the category called Other? We show very little acknowledgement to the Khoisan, the original people of our wonderful country!

I have wondered what South Africa would be like now if the 'Whites' had not come here? What would the numbers of San, Khoe and Kalanga be like now? What would the numbers of Nguni, Sotho-Tswana, Venda and Tsonga people be like? What ages would people typically reach? What would their homes be like? What would their towns, cities, hospitals, universities, roads, technology, infrastructure, transport and so forth be like? Would a farm be feeding tens of people or thousands of people? 

It strikes me that the 'Whites' did not bring the soil, the gold, the diamonds, the wonderful agricultural or natural potential. Without their developing these potentials, what would have been developed by people who had been here for thousands of years and had not done particularly much with the potential?

I appeal to everyone to ask such questions and be honest with themselves before simply accepting the history as it is taught in school now, or fifty years ago, or in books like this one about the inaccuracies of accounts of what occurred in and around 1652. It is good to expand one's vision and not simply keep a narrow view, but please do not let other people tell you what is true - or what is false. Think about it yourself. Do your own research and then accept that, since you and I were not here in 1652, or 180 years before that when D'Almeida was here, 400 years before that when the Nguni peoples first came, or 1500 or perhaps many thousands of years before 1652 when the San people were inhabiting the region that we now describe as the country of South Africa, we will each have our own biases and not one of us can truly say who is right. Let us focus on what is right in the way that we treat each other rather than agonising about who is right about history. Let us rejoice in the strengths of each group and person in our wonderful country and live according to the motto on our Coat of Arms '!ke e:/xarra//ke' which is from the Khoisan language of the /Xam people - let us rejoice in the meaning - "diverse people unite", or "people who are different joining together". Let us build a wonderful united society made up of widely diverse people rather than looking for things that will divide us.

24 November 2020

Family memories

We've been decluttering and so have some questions that have arisen. 

We have been looking at several of the things that I remember from when I was growing up in my parents' home. 

We still use the glass plate and ceramic roast platter that we used to use when we made pancakes. Good memories.

 Jugs and sieves that are still used.

Some things I'm not sure if we bought, or if mom bought. I believe she gave each of my siblings soup ladles.

Big spoons

Bowls on the left that we use. The red and green glass bowls, cake tins and an old enamel pot we shall pass on to someone - just don't know who... The fork at the bottom of the picture is not very visible, but is there to give an indication of the sizes of the items.

We use the sugar ladle, but the bowl has been in the cupboard for decades. We use a margarine tub with lid since ants don't get in ๐Ÿ˜‰
Another glass bowl and the chip cutter. We haven't cut chips for years.

Peugeot commemorative items. It took a lot of time to clean them ๐Ÿ˜‰
Silver dish: Peugeot 505 Ti launch, 23 Mar 1973
Pewter beer mug: To commemorate the 100 000th Peugeot motor vehicle manufactured in the Republic of South Africa, 7 February 1973

I believe that this set of sterling silver cutlery is the Dymond cutlery set. I am not sure if this is all that there was or if some items might be elsewhere. Do we sell them, or donate or lend them to a museum? We haven't used them for decades. It was quite interesting polishing them, thinking of those who would have kept them polished in a proper English home. I think we just washed them and put them into the drawer - I don't remember ever polishing them... Sal and I did not use them, particularly after we started to use a dishwasher, if we ever used them before...

Judy has the cabinet from the cutlery set. Lovely craftsmanship. She uses it for her sewing reels and bobbins.
Here is a set of silver plated spoons, I think for eating grapefruit. I don't know if they were given to us as a gift, or if they came from Mom and Dad.

The biggest challenge in my mind is how to let the value of each of these items be retained. If they go out in the garbage they will end up as buried treasure in a landfill. I'd rather that they go to a museum, dramatic society or someone - anyone - who will get some value from them.

We also saw that we have a number of Long Playing records (Beethoven, Vivaldi, and so forth) and the record player. There are so many things that we have not used for ages and we need to pass them on to someone else that I hope will derive value from them. 

10 November 2020

Moving treasures from 'buried' to 'valuable' status

My mind is buzzing. Sal's mind is buzzing. We need to make changes as we move forward - to where?

Two of us in a five-bedroomed house. Not the ideal, but what to do?

I think of the many things that need to be done to move forward. I lie wakeful at 04:40 with a cat disturbing my sleep, doves cooing and helping to keep me out of sleep, it is cozy in bed, so I do not really want to get up. I know that I need sleep as my coping capacity will be compromised if I am deprived of sleep, but there is so much to do and my mind is occupied, and I am not drifting back to sleep...

I think of the buried treasures in our home, my garage, the loft, many things of value that are not realising any value because I want them to achieve their maximum value and so they are achieving nothing of value... 

These bed ends for a bunk bed have been buried treasure 
that need to be brought out of obscurity

In 2008 we did some reorganizing in our home and a bunk bed was taken out that had been installed, without their bed ends, in a temporary bedroom - and then the bed frames disappeared. I am not sure if they had been given away, or put outside and taken without permission. But, some time later I found the bed ends in the loft. So - someone has two bed frames and possibly mattresses, without bed ends, and we have bed ends with no frames. 

It would be wonderful for the bed-ends to be reunited with the original, or even some alternative frames and realise their full potential for which they were originally designed. But, they have been in my way for years without my getting around to finding a way to let them become the supports for a bunk bed again. Cindy proposed using them to make bookshelves for her new home, but I wanted them to become a bunk bed again, so they did not become bookshelves and they are still in my way...

I realise that I have caused this treasure to remain buried rather than letting it become useful in some way. It reminds me of what my mother said - 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions'. I am not intentionally being obstructive, and I believe that my desire is not evil, but maybe there would be better value in bookshelves than these items just being in limbo waiting for me to make something very unlikely happen. If we fail to let them function as bunk beds, or as bookshelves, they may deteriorate and become of little value as either, and then end up in a fire. But even then, branches that do not produce good fruit, or tares, cast into a fire still provide heat for warming, cooking, cleansing, smelting, or some other useful purposes, and the ashes can add nutrients and texture to the ecosystem when they are swept out of the fireplace.

So - I acknowledge that the best intention might not be the best option of it is not put into action to realise that intention as we downsize in preparation for moving on. And - this is only an example of many forgotten treasures...

02 October 2020

About That-Ark: There Just Ain’t Noah Way

This was taken from a US newspaper, about 1973 or 1974. I guess it had been sent to one of my missionary companions.

About That-Ark: There Just Ain’t Noah Way

by Jack V. Fox

United Press International

Willits Calif. – If Noah were alive today and forewarned of another great flood, could he build an ark and get the animals aboard?

The creative writing class of Willits High School decided to find out after the woeful conclusion of a local businessman, exasperated with governmental red tape, that "you couldn't even build an ark in this county."

A Serious Level

The class approached its inquiry on a serious level, writing letters on plain stationery with only the high school's street address to governmental bodies, banks, zoos, construction firms, trucking outfits and the Coast Gaurd.

A decision, was made to sign the applications with the name Noah Lamechson since the Bible that Noah was the son of Lamech.

The Old Testament also was the basic source of information for building the ark and selecting the animals.

It was necessary to translate the biblical cubits into feet and inches. The student planners decided on an ark 300 cubits or 450 feet long, 50 cubits or 75 feet wide and 30 cubits or 45 feet high.

A Bit of Gopher Wood

The Bible says Noah used "gopher wood and pitch." A Willits pastor said that gopher wood was probably cedar or cypress that pitch was probably bitumen found in the Dead Sea area.

A decision was made to build the boat on a property known as "the old city airport" which was owned by the City. Class member Rich Wilkinson paced off the area needed and a passerby, asking what Rich was doing was told “Measuring for an ark."

"Oh," said the man. “Well, have fun.”

But the word spread quickly and was taken seriously. One businessman was overheard to comment: "Do you know what those hippies are trying to do now? Build an ark on city property."

"Lamechson" first applied for a use permit to the city engineer and was turned down, so he appealed to the planning commission.

Meantime, attempts were made to collect and transport the animals. Letters were written to several trucking agencies, all bringing a negative response, including one from a company which advertised "No job too big for us."

Sorry, It’s Too High

"Lamechson" wrote the California Division of Highways about transporting giraffes from San Fransisco. A reply was received warning that “some way will have to be found to keep their heads down to within 15 feet of the pavement — the lowest bridges over Highway 101 are at this height,"

An inquiry to the Department of Fish and Game for permission to obtain two rare condors got this answer.

"Under state law, California Fish and Game Code Sections 2052 and 3511, it is illegal to take or possess certain fully protected and/or endangered wild life species. The California condor is a species found on this list. Thank you for your interest and your offer to raise endangered species for, their perpetuation. Unfortunately, we do not feel that this is possible under present law."

The Coast Guard was one of the agencies that quickly tumbled. Its reply said that women crew members were perfectly acceptable so long as they were properly licensed.

Following All the Rules

"If the-ship should go aground on a mountaintop, it should display as distress signals three black balls, each not less than two feet in diameter.” The coast guard added.

Bank of America turned down an application for a $500 000 financing loan, saying neither the animals nor the boat would be sufficient collateral and suggesting something could be arranged if the ark promoters could put up “marketable securities”.

"Lamechson" filled out an environmental impact study form including the question “Could the project result in the displacement of community residents?”

"Yes," said "Lamechson." "About 30 billion of them.”

We're not going to tell you how it came out. You may get a hint from the title of the student report, "You Can't Build an Ark in Mendocino County."


11 September 2020

Being part of the solution instead of part of the problem

We have had wonderful rains recently. 

A rainbow signifies that rain is on hand
A waterfall near Franschoek flows following rain and snow falls

Water glistening in dams looking over Franschoek Valley

Snow is a slow release form of precipitation

For some people living on the streets the rain was a real inconvenience because the rain wet their bedding. For some who had shelter, the rain was not such an inconvenience. For some it was a pleasure seeing the rain coming and watering the earth, then flowing into the storm water system and into the sea. For some, the rain was harvested and used for lasting effect in irrigating, washing or other useful purposes.

Construction of a dam enables water to be utilised in many ways, including generating electricity, and it can be channeled to a great distance from the storage dam
HF Verwoerd Dam, now named Gariep Dam, on the Orange River, photos by Ken Powrie

Our being prepared to receive rain is an example of a range of scenarios from a problem, not a problem, not a solution, and a distinct solution. You and I can also be part of the solution, or part of the problem.

There are certain homeless people who come to my door. I remember one, in particular, to whom we gave some tins of food. He was clearly hungry, unlike some who have simply discarded what was given to them because what they actually wanted was money for alcohol or something unwise. This beggar went around the corner, sat down, and ate from the tins. Then I saw the following morning when taking a walk, that he had left the tins in the gutter. Suddenly I had become part of the problem because my tins were littering the neighbourhood.

Litter dropped in alleyways where vagabonds hang out

Litter dropped right next to bins that are provided in our neighbourhood

Why is it that beggars who constantly receive from the community, from shelters, or from clinics and other services, do not give back to society by cleaning the streets – being part of the solution – rather than littering, or any other adverse behaviour – being part of the problem?

I love my country and it grieves me when anyone demonstrates a lack of love for our wonderful land. It is unfortunate that so many people simply litter, or are part of the problem in any other way.

Some litter at a roadside stop in the middle of the Karoo - 
litter thrown on the ground and not in the bin provided

There certainly are times when I feel like I am among the dazed 80%. Just maybe in some circumstances I would be considered among the doomed 10% ๐Ÿ™

I am feeling dazed about the prospects of disposing of some stuff as we prepare to simplify our home that has 30 years and more of accumulated clutter. My wife is more the survivor 10% in many ways.... 

I guess that each of us might be in either category, depending on our strengths and the circumstances. My challenge is to try to be part of the solution - and to try to never be part of the problem - especially in the things that matter most.

Let each of us choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

03 September 2020

The origin of interesting things

I found this interesting. I picked it up long ago. 



One side

The other side


I look at it and can picture one rock bumping another, causing a cleft to form into which water will be drawn by capillary action, the water then freezes and causes the small chip to break off. This water being drawn in and freezing could have been repeated in the same crack, season after season, event after event, over many years. The weathering of rock is a slow process, but all of the valuable agricultural soils derived from granite, shale, dolerite, sandstone, conglomerate, and other rock are evidence that the soils do weather. 

Isn't it interesting that anthropologists and archaeologists look at things like this, using their incredible human eyes, and say that this must be a stone tool fashioned by primeval hominem. Yet, they will thoughtlessly attribute the development of their human eyes, and brains, and hearts, and fingers, and skin, and circulatory system, and intelligence, and everything that makes them what they are to random chance events and undirected natural selection. 

I don't doubt natural selection, but I am fully confident that an infinitely intelligent and powerful Heavenly Father directs the selection processes that might have been part of some of the development of some of the preferred races.

09 August 2020

Me, a marathon runner? Nah! Or am I?

We all started out as babies, and almost every one of us learned to move, then to turn over, to crawl, to toddle, to walk, to run.

Some of us went on to run in school races. Some to school competitions, inter school competitions, regional competitions, provincial competitions, inter-provincial competitions, national competitions, international competitions, and a small number to a global arena like the Olympic Games!

Some of us ran because our parents encouraged us to. Some ran because our friends ran and we were just following the crowd. Some ran because we became seriously passionate about it and because the runners' high was so - well, worth it!

Running is wearying... It comes with discomfort, sore muscles and blistered feet, sweat and probably tears.

Whatever the reason that we ran, we would have felt some benefits of running. These include the runner's high, feeling good about the achievement (improved self-esteem), burning calories, shedding and burning fat from the body - and keeping it off, and low-cost exercise... An internet search for 'benefits of running' shows that there are many other benefits to physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health from running.

I never was a marathon runner, but I did participate in inter-school badminton (and I was not particularly good in inter-school cricket...) and so I can relate in a small way to the satisfaction that comes from working at sport. I did some cross-country races, sprinting, hurdles, high jump, and other athletics at school, but I was not passionate about that. But I do take off my hat to those who have a passion for, and who excel in, running marathons and other great achievements.

But - can you consider someone who regularly ran marathons, initially because her parents expected it of her while at school, then her peers dragged her along, then she became a self-starter and ran for the love of it. And she really loved it! She has certificates showing her accomplishments. She has several witnesses to the fact of her running, completing gruelling marathons - and loving it! But life changed. She lost interest, stopped exercising, stopped enjoying the benefits of running, and even became very deriding of anyone who runs. She denies that she enjoyed it. She always blames her parents for making her run against her will. She has become flabby and insulting of those who run, telling of many important reasons to not run - why no intelligent person would run.

Does that sound like a story that I concocted, or are there people like this? Do you know people like this?

Paul related Gospel living to running a race (1 Cor 9:24, Heb 12:1) and says of himself that he had 'fought a good fight' and finished his course (2 Tim 4:7). I have known so many people who have run valiantly and have medals, certificates and witnesses to prove that they ran spiritual races. The evidence attests that they ran with great passion and success while they were in trim spiritual condition, exercising every day by studying, pondering, praying, fasting, obeying the commandments, and that they had felt that spiritual runner's high. They personally spoke of their love for running spiritual marathons. 

I know that there is a real spiritual scientific experiment that has been conducted by thousands of people. They have studied the subject, applied the method, tested the promises, obtained the results, and reached the conclusion that the method is sound and the results are consistent. I know that if anyone will follow the same method and apply the same tests that they will obtain the same results and draw the same conclusions. 

Despite all of this evidence, there are people who have never conducted the experiment who are certain that the results are false and the conclusion is erroneous. There are those who did conduct the experiment and who experienced the results and bore personal testimony that the results were sound and true, but have changed their mind after ceasing to live the way that yields the results of spiritual health and well-being.

So - while I was never a marathon runner like the tens of thousands who run the Two Oceans or Comrade's Marathons in South Africa, or the over 800 marathons run throughout the world each year and almost on a weekly basis, I guess that I can say that I have been running a spiritual marathon for just about all of my life. There were times when it was because my parents encouraged me, or friends were dragging me along, but most of it is because I have kept going because I have felt the benefits of maintaining that level of spiritual fitness - and revelling in the runner's high.

I have come to know God. At school, church and university I learned about the scriptures, religion, god, evolution, natural selection, and other philosophies. Through my personal study and exercising my faith I have come to know God and that the scriptures are His word to us. I hope that I shall always keep myself in spiritual peak condition so that I can continue to feel the spiritual runner's high. It is a wonderful feeling - and it can only be appreciated by personal experience - no-one can adequately describe it to persuade anyone that it is worth the effort required to experience it. I hope that this inspires you to work on being spiritually fit so that you will enjoy the benefits of running our spiritual marathon in order to reach the finishing line with honour. I know that it is worth every effort!

See also:

31 May 2020

Sumerian tablets - are they in harmony with the writings of Abraham and Moses?

Some time ago, while working in the garden, I listened to something about Sumerian tablets. I had also listened to other reports about ancient civilizations and subjects. My thoughts were turned to my readings of the BibleQur'an, several of the works of Charles Darwin and other valuable and interesting books as I listened. I found a wonderful harmony between each of these - a reminder to me that there is one story of the creation and early history of man that has been passed on through generations in different groups of descendents of Adam and Eve who have changed the story according to their traditions and cultures. My impression was that there is a common thread in each of the accounts, and I can see the basic harmony with the account of the creation as told by Abraham who lived about 2000 years after the fall of Adam and the start of mortality. Abraham lived about 2000 years before Jesus Christ, and we live about 2000 years after Jesus Christ. Adam lived for nearly half of the time between Adam and Abraham, and many patriarchs who would have faithfully recounted the stories lived to ripe old ages and would have shared the more true accounts with their descendents who would listen. We are told in the Book of Moses that there was a book of remembrance kept in the language of Adam, so I am confident that there is a reliable source of the true story.

The world as a whole have the account of creation as given by Moses who lived about 500 years after Abraham. We know that Abraham had taught the Egyptians of the creation, history, astronomy, and versions of the same stories would have been recounted in all civilizations before and after the time of Abraham.

It is not surprising to me that there are many versions of the same story. If we look at our own history, there are many versions told in official sources and newspapers of the same events. There is a common element to each story, but each account differs. There are some fictional and non-fictional accounts including research tomes, historical novels, fantasies, and representations of facts that add embellishments to the simple stories. I would not be surprised of some of the differences in ancient records are similar in their telling about the stories.

There is one God who does know the actual facts, and each of us can look at whatever version of the story we have and ask that one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, what we need to take from the account that we read in order to be faithful followers of His plan for us. He will help us to have insights to guide us in our individual understanding of the fundamental principles. It is not likely that He will give to each and every person an individual audience to hear the full story, especially if we fail to do what we can easily do to find what is readily available to us to read and ponder, then to pray for confirmation or guidance. 

We are able, particularly in the year 2020, to gain access to the alternative accounts of the story and not rely only on the one with which we grew up if there is more truth available. The interpretation of what we read is guided by the spirit of God with which each of us was born. The Spirit will guide the honest reader to the most reliable account of the story of the creation and the plan of life and salvation. If the reader lets God lead him or her to truth, God will lead, because He wants us to know Him. I was impressed that the Qur'an advises the reader to read the Torah - and I understand this advice because the Qur'an talks about Abraham, Adam, David, Aaron, Noah, Solomon, Jesus, Mary, John, Zechariah, and other biblical characters, but does not give as much detail as is in the Old Testament and New Testament.

I have conducted the experiment that millions have conducted and I have come to know God. I have studied the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price containing the books of Abraham and Moses, Doctrine and Covenants and other words of modern representatives of that God who spoke to man from the days of Adam and continues to do so today. I have learned about these scriptures, and have come to know them rather than simply knowing about them. I have come to know God rather than simply knowing about Him. 

I have come to know personally that, if any person will do the will of the Father, she or he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or if they are simply the stories of men. I have knocked and the door has been opened. I have done my seeking and I have found. I have asked and I have received. I know you can too.

I have come to know that simply being exposed to facts does not make the difference. The children of Israel personally experienced the sea parting and themselves walking on dry ground, they saw the pillar of fire and the cloud, they were eating the manna, and yet they hankered for the flesh pots of Egypt because they were not switched on to trying to do the will of Jehovah. Laman and Lemuel had seen an angel, felt the shock when Nephi touched them, but were failing to do the will of the Father and just said that God did not make such things known to them. The citizens of Jerusalem saw Jesus of Nazareth, but some cried out 'Crucify him!' while others followed Him.

There is an abundance of fascinating information available, like decoding the Exodus, and other speculations and deductions relating to the stories told in the Old Testament. I have been edified considering many descriptions given by people of their research into these ancient events and accounts. 

The main thing is to go to the source of the scriptures - if they are true, as I am confident that they are - then there is a Heavenly Father who loves His children and will want to manifest Himself to those who diligently seek Him. But it does not help drinking from the water downstream after many people have paddled and done other unmentionable things in the water before it reaches you when the God who revealed His word is waiting to speak directly to and guide you and you can enjoy the perfect living water right at its source.

28 May 2020

Congratulations, Dad. You can bless the sacrament

I remember one day when I was very young running up to my father after the Church meeting and congratulating him on being able to bless the sacrament!

The Ken and Philippa Powrie family, 1960
Clockwise from the left: Ken (father), Les, Jane, Tim, Judy, Ron and Philippa (mother) in the centre
Ken Powrie 1961

We were meeting in the Krugersdorp Town Hall at the time, so that would probably have been well before I was 9 years of age when we moved to the new Krugersdorp chapel in 1963. I would guess that I was quite a bit younger than 9 years, but have no idea how old I was. I have wondered if my father might have recorded the incident in his diary, but that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

It was clear that I esteemed those who could bless the sacrament.

My father was called in 1959 as president of the Transvaal District and so usually presiding at meetings and very often visiting other units around the district. I wonder if I might have been younger than 5 years, so before he was called, but I imagine that I was older than 5 years of age.

Many years later my father told me that one would not preside 'from the floor', so I wonder if the mission president might have been visiting, enabling my father to bless the sacrament, or else he presided from the sacrament table on that day if he had already been called to serve as district president.

Of course, I now see that the district president would direct others who direct others who direct the administration of the sacrament, but in my young mind, the ordinance of the sacrament was so sacred that I saw it as a very great honour for my father to be able to administer the sacrament of the Lord's supper.

I am very privileged on occasions to administer or pass the sacred emblems of the sacrament. It was a special experience recently to bless the sacrament together with my son Richard while my oldest grandson Joshua and his father Andrew passed the sacrament immediately after Josh was ordained as a deacon, and then to pass the sacrament together with Josh. I wish that more of my friends could participate in this holy ordinance.

We also have an unusual situation at present with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are not able to meet together with the saints in sacrament meetings. Sally and I are blessed to be able to have the sacrament in our own home, with me blessing and passing it each week with authorisation of the bishop. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have encouraged those without a worthy priesthood officer who can administer the sacrament: “In unusual circumstances when the sacrament is not available, members can be comforted by studying the sacrament prayers and recommitting to live the covenants members have made and praying for the day they will receive it in person, properly administered by the priesthood.”

Just minutes after posting this blog someone on the family sent a Facebook link by Russell M Nelson 

It was really meaningful for me to read about his experience of the sacrament with his wife in his home, and reading what many said who commented on his post.

25 May 2020

The sad demise of a watermelon that looked so good

Last week we bought three watermelons - I always tap them to make sure that they sound normal and these all looked fine. When we got home, one was feeling a bit wet, but I presumed that was just condensation from the cool day. I tapped each, as usual, and selected one to cut up for us to eat.

This morning, four days later, I noticed a patch of water on the counter below a watermelon. I rolled it and noticed that it was not as firm in parts as it ought to be. Upon further examination, I found that it was squirting juice - no putrid smell or anything, but it was soft like an underinflated football. There was a lot of liquid beneath is, and then I saw a patch on the chest freezer close by, and what looked like sticky spray.

So, I started to clean up and prepare to see if I could salvage any of the watermelon to eat. Sally warned me to not try it in the kitchen, but at the compost heap - that turned out to be very sound advice...
On the whole, the watermelon was looking quite normal. But there was this unmistakable evidence of something not being right.

I inspected the watermelon and found some patches where liquid may have escaped.

Then I saw air and liquid were bubbling out from was one small spot. 

I found that I could push in parts of the skin and it was like an underinflated soccer ball.

I cut into the fruit using a bread knife and out poured an abundance of liquid. 

It continued for a long time as can be seen from the large puddle on the ground.

The rind is brown and soft, and all of the flesh is like a smoothie. It was not smelling particularly offensive or anything - I thought of tasting it, but did not give in to the thought... 

I was glad to be working at the compost heap and not on the kitchen counter!

We found that the liquid had gone around the lid of the freezer and was getting inside. There was quite a lot of it! The watermelon had been standing where the rag is on the counter on the left.

I took this as an opportune time to defrost the freezer that I noticed a few weeks ago was approaching time for attention.

The moral of the story - beauty can be skin deep! Don't judge someone from outward appearances. Its what is inside that really matters.