29 March 2020

Come, Follow Me: The righteous shall Prosper in the land

As I studied the Come, Follow Me material for the week 23 to 29 March 2020 I pondered the question 
What do you learn from these accounts that can help you “prosper in the land”?
As part of my tour and culture guide training that I have done recently, I have been reminded of the absolutely fantastic country in which we live in South Africa. It is suggested that the Khoisan who were encountered at the Cape by Jan van Riebeeck and other European explorers in the 1400s and 1500s are the oldest humans and that South Africa has many of the oldest mountains and life forms on Earth! I love living here.

I love the way that my father described how God, after finishing creating the Earth, emptied out His pockets and tipped out gold, diamonds and many other wonderful resources on this southern tip of Africa. Perhaps he was inspired to refer to Kirstenbosch as being part of the garden of Eden that remained intact. Maybe the four rivers mentioned in Genesis 2:10-14 that flowed from the garden and became into four heads divided what became Africa, Australia, Antarctica and America after the continents drifted... So perhaps Kirstenbosch was part of the Garden of Eden after all... It is such fun to hypothesise... But, I digress...

I suppose that the Khoisan people were prospering in the land in the Cape way back in 1653 - they had sufficient for their needs and were content. They lived in harmony with each other and with the land. 

The Khoisan were surrounded by great wealth of natural resources that include rivers, landscapes, resources such as gold, diamonds, iron and platinum, but they left these gifts or talents from their loving creator buried. However, they did live in harmony with each other and with nature, and that is highly commendable. I believe that they prospered in the land. 

Then other people came and set up a refreshment station for ships travelling between the Netherlands and their trading stations in Batavia. The Dutch and other settlers such as the French Huguenots, the British and others had grand ideas and they irrigated the landscape and extracted resources from the earth and developed infrastructure such as schools, universities, hospitals, cities and dams. They transformed the landscapes as they irrigated and developed vast tracts of land. This put pressure on the Khoisan that meant that they were no longer content and prospering in the land. Infectious diseases, philosophies, ideologies, pressures, dependencies (alcohol, tobacco), sexually transmitted diseases, all sorts of novelties were introduced. There were some definite advantages, but also some definite disadvantages. Similar impacts applied in the case of the Shoshone in northern Utah when the saints came and used the land as I read this past week in Saints Vol 2. Similarly, many other people have faced challenges as strangers entered their lands with novel customs and ideas. This has happened all over the Earth and throughout all of history.

Were the Khoisan better off without universities, hospitals, schools, agriculture, mines, technology?
The command was given to man as stated in the first chapter of Genesis, from verse 28:
 'And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth'.
Was it good or evil to transform and develop the land? Exploiting the people in the process was an evil, but does that make everything evil?

The Khoisan would hunt and take animals as they needed them, and would then use the meat, skin and everything that they could, but only what they needed. Many others came and exploited the animals for greed, status, pride, and there will never be enough to satisfy greed - the difference between sustainable and unsustainable utilisation. The Khoisan could enjoy equilibrium and prosper in the land as they utilised the resources in a sustainable manner and the land provided sufficient for their needs. 

The settlers prospered in the land because they used the abundance of natural resources to expand and develop - except that greed overcame them, and greed is never sustainable. Greed always makes one believe that there is not enough to prosper. The people who exploit the land do so in an unsustainable manner because they do not automatically make sustainable harvesting part of their mindset.

In terms of having children, the Khoisan were fruitful and multiplying, but were they being fruitful and multiplying the gifts that they had been given in the form of natural resources? A lot of people today are being fruitful and multiplying in terms of temporal things, but neglecting to have as many children as they might, and then training up those children to be the fruitful, multiplying, replenishing citizens that will exercise wise dominion over the wonderful world with which we have been blessed. Some people dearly wish that they could have children - think of Sarai, Rachel and Hannah in the Old Testament. Some, as one woman told me of her choice in 1973, choose to not bring children into this world that is filled with so much that is evil. Some choose to not have the inconvenience of children in their pursuit of worldly success. Some choose to not pass on problem genes. Some adopt or help others to nurture their children because they cannot have their own children. Being fruitful in leaving a great posterity is not the blessing that all will have.

The settlers who thoughtlessly or thanklessly exploited were being fruitful and multiplying, but failing to replenish with responsible dominion.

I believe that our Father in Heaven desires that we not just be consumers, subsisting on the land without being fruitful and multiplying - I believe that the Lord indicated that the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have the mission of being the blessing in the nations, which includes being fruitful, multiplying, replenishing citizens that will exercise wise dominion over this Earth and its resources.

I guess that each person needs to consider what he or she is doing to be, and to leave a posterity that will be, fruitful, multiply, replenish and have dominion, while being good to other people, living things, and the environment - living in harmony with nature, in harmony with each other - and in harmony with God.

After pondering this again three days later, my thoughts turned to the greater blessings that the Lord desires to pour out on us. I propose that He wants more than for us to simply exist well on the land. I think that His desire is for us to not just double two talents, but to find the other three talents and double those as well. He wants us to make the desert blossom as a rose. He wants to rebuke the devourer for our sakes and bless our harvest. He wants us to be fruitful, multiply, replenish and have dominion, while being good to other people, living things, and the environment because of our love for and commitment to Him. That is why He could send the Israelites to Israel and the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley - because they would make more out of the desert than simply existing on the land. This includes all that is encapsulated in the ten commandments: our having no other gods before Him; not getting distracted by other things and putting them before Him; lovingly and respectfully honouring His name; making the sabbath a holy day; honouring father and mother - with a promise that our days will be long upon the land that He gives to us; respecting life, respecting sexual purity; respecting the property and rights of others; being filled with integrity; and returning to the Lord and others thanks for the wonderful blessings that we have by not coveting or being greedy. I hope that I can become all that my Father in Heaven wants me to become.