08 January 2020

Behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words

These thoughts were triggered by my study of Come, Follow Me this morning. I hope that your heart will be similarly softened.

Perhaps a good example of my heart being softened as mentioned in 1 Nephi 2:16 relates to the 1978 revelation on the priesthood

When I was on mission in 1973 I had not been uncomfortable with the teachings that related to why the blessings of the priesthood and the Temple were withheld from people descended from the seed of Cain. That is what was taught, and I saw no real reason to question it. I had inherited the Bible that my brother had used in the first part of his mission in England in 1967-1969 (it had been stolen from his parked bicycle, and then miraculously returned to him), and he had some notes regarding the priesthood and the seed of Cain, and I was interested in what he had written. I also had a few impressions that were part me as a 'European' citizen of  South Africa and I recall feeling support for what the same brother had said 'I believe in the principle of separate development' - allowing the rights and freedoms of indigenous people to study, do business, develop and live in ways that were natural for them without the pressures and expectations of the white ways that might have been burdensome to them. That made sense to me, but the policy referred to as Apartheid was somehow not really compatible with this principle as I understood it, but this was simply not a matter that 'occupied my mind'. 

My mother had taught me to be considerate and respectful - comments like 'Remember - that goat herder on the mountain in Transkei can probably speak more languages than you can.'; 'A gentleman treats even a cowgirl as a lady.'; 'The world needs street sweepers - but more importantly, the world needs excellent street sweepers.' taught me to value and respect each goatherder, cowgirl, streetsweeper and other person. I hope I was reasonably living up to those ideals.

My father started serving as manager of the Presiding Bishopric Regional Office in about 1976 and it was the time when people in Africa were starting to respond to the Gospel message. It was clear that they were not simply 'the seed of Cain' in nature. Whatever may or may not have applied to their ancestors was clearly not applicable in at least some of these good people who desired the blessings of the priesthood and the Temple. Like some Lamanites whose hearts were softened and were more righteous than some Nephites, this was clearly a matter of choice and not biological inheritance. 

Then, one day we heard on TV that was now part of South African life, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was going to extend the blessings of the Priesthood and the Temple to all, regardless of race. I thought - I am comfortable with the proposal, but I'll not accept it as truth until I receive it directly from Church channels. But now the thought 'occupied my mind' and in the hours between hearing the announcement and receiving the official communication from the Church I knew in my heart that it was right, and that this was essential for us to be able to fulfill the mandate of the Lord Himself in Matthew 28:19-20. 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.' 

I later came to know in my heart that, whatever judgement the Lord might, or might not, have had on the seed of Cain, He would now judge anyone who now rejects the seed of Cain. Whether or not they had been under His condemnation, I would now be under His condemnation if I held on to previous prejudice. I am the one being judged now. 

Then, as we approached 1994 in South Africa, my heart was softened regarding the integration of all races in our own nation. I recall thinking that my heart had been changed before the stroke of the pen of the State President made integration official. The law now required me to open my heart, but the Spirit had already opened my heart. The stroke of the pen could not do it. It had to come from within. I could relate to Boyd K Packer's explanation that 'True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.' He said this in October 1986 and often expanded on it. I was changed - my heart had changed - before the law required my attitudes and behaviour to change. My heart had been softened by the Lord through the working of the Spirit. 

I am saddened that this revelation on the priesthood that was a special part of my heart being softened was something that precipitated the hardening of the hearts of some of my dear brothers and sisters. It is sad that they no longer walk with us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I look forward to the time when their hearts will be softened again.