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.

24 May 2020

If you would not want it decorating your wedding hall, then please...

I love our beautiful country. I love the song of a bird, the blue, blue sky, the feel of the rain on my face and of the wind as it rushes by, the touch of a velvet rose, and the scent of the lilac tree, the eyes that I have been given so that I can see the color of butterfly wings, and ears that I can hear the magical sound of things. I love my life, my mind, my heart: I thank him reverently for all his creations, of which I’m a part. See My Heavenly Father Loves Me in Children's Songbook.

I have derived such delight from the things discussed in Doctrine and Covenants 59:16-20 -the fulness of the earth is ours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbs upon the trees and walks upon the earth; and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

My eye has indeed been pleased and my heart has indeed been gladdened by the wonderful world - especially in the Cape that is so outstandingly fair.

And so I am truly saddened to see the litter and abuse - the lack of judgement, the excess, the extortion evident in the way that too many people treat our beautiful natural heritage, and our places of residence.


Some young men were really excited when I offered to decorate the hall for their wedding reception - then not quite so excited when I said that I would decorate it with chip packets, sweet wrappers and things that they seem to like having around. We were walking up Lion's Head and they had dropped these things by the wayside as they walked excitedly in the magnificent fynbos.

 My mother would very often quote 'The world needs street-sweepers. But, more importantly, it needs excellent street-sweepers.' I think that she originated that quote, or may have heard her mother say it... I have reflected on that a lot as an ecologist - even if every single person were careful to prevent the countryside becoming littered through his or her carelessness - now would that not be a blissful world? - the trees would continue to drop their leaves, and so the streets would need to be swept. But, what my mother was saying is to be excellent in whatever we do. It seems as though other people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Warren Peterson have discussed similar concepts, like sweeping the streets as though you were Beethoven composing music. I think my mother would agree with that...

As long as that piece of litter is in your hands, you have control over it - but once you release it, you have given up any control and cannot guess where it might land, what hazards it might present to wildlife, and how it will cause our beautiful world to look neglected.

I wish that every single person would love his or her country, love his or her world. As I have pointed out in a previous blog, our own South African Constitution states that every citizen has equal rights, followed by the statement that every citizen has equal responsibilities. Under  section 3 Citizenship of Chapter 1 (3.2.a, 3.2.b)
(2) All citizens are ­
a.       equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship; and
b.      equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. 

I recall a quote that my sister shared with me when I was young. 'Men, like rivers, become crooked when they follow the path of least resistance.' This concept might be attributable to Henry David Thoreau. It is wonderful to see our landscapes from satellite imagery such as in Google Earth Pro. The scale is too small to see litter...
It is fascinating to see how crooked some rivers become - like the Sangussi River in Muanza, Mozambique.

I hope that each person who reads this blog will take this call to heart, and encourage every other person to keep our beautiful world free of litter. If you would not want it decorating your wedding hall, then please don't decorate our countryside, our neighbourhood, our school, or any place with it. Take it home and add organic matter to a compost heap, recycle what can be recycled, or put it carefully into a bin where it will be handled properly by the authorities. Please keep our beautiful world beautiful...

11 May 2020

Geyser troubles - in hot water after 27 years!

On a Sunday morning about 27 years ago we had a geyser burst. I called on Jan Nel, our home teacher at the time, to come and assist with cleaning up and assess things and then the following day I called on Robert Bothwell to replace the geyser.

Robert replaced it the following day with a copper lined Kwikot 200 litre 200 kPa geyser. This has a 4000 Watts heating element and served our family of 7 and occasional visitors very well for more than 27 years. It is worth spending more for a copper lining and larger geyser.

I set the thermostat on about 47°C with the idea that, 
  1. if a child (or adult) put his or her hand into only hot water they would be uncomfortable, but not injured, and 
  2. thinking of my training in physics, this is maintaining a shallower temperature gradient and so should not cost anywhere as much as maintaining water at a higher temperature. 

I do not recall ever running out of hot water, even when the home was fully occupied and all were showering in the morning, and washing dishes, and all.

But all things do age and become less effective.

I had investigated and tried replacing the thermostat with one that Robert Bothwell had in stock, but that blew immediately and so I called on Peter Lloyd, a plumber who works on our Cape Town area chapels, to come and replace the heating element and thermostat. We had replaced this geyser in about 1993 (according to the date shown on the old element, a copper-lined geyser. It was quite clear when the old element was removed as to why the thermostat blew. The copper coating of the heating element was completely disintegrated in a lot of places and so electricity would have been going through the water to short-circuit the element!

It took about four days from the problem starting before I called on Peter, and I was impressed at how effectively the water remained hot in the geyser for many days without being heated. The thermal insulation is highly effective!

I could hear the water sizzling or hissing inside if I turned on the power to the geyser. Then the wiring blew and the need for replacement became more obvious.

All is now well with the new heating element - thank you Peter Lloyd, the plumber.

Below are pictures showing how seriously the element had deteriorated. The conducting element can be seen in places within the white insulating layer inside the copper coating. The thermostat looked fine although it was broken.

10 May 2020

Some thoughts on responsibilities of Government and people re COVID-19

Sal and I join Herman Mashaba in supporting President Cyril Ramaphosa – and we join him in his concern about the many members of the cabinet that are divisive, exclusive, destructive and obstructive rather than uniting, inclusive, constructive and supportive.

I have had a lot of thoughts on this matter. I am impressed with the way that Abraham Lincoln described democracy: Government of the people by the people for the people.

Our own South African Constitution states that every citizen has equal rights, followed by the statement that every citizen has equal responsibilities. Under the section 3 Citizenship of Chapter 1 (3.2.a, 3.2.b)
(2) All citizens are ­
a.       equally entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits of citizenship; and

b.      equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. 

As I looked at some of the images that went around regarding the plight of poor people around the country due to COVID-19 I saw place for cultivation of crops in home gardens that have no crops, but the people complain of being hungry.

One thing that has impressed me working with a volunteer indexing programme at SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute) is that most of our volunteers are from Australia for a South African programme! I firmly believe that everyone should work to the extent that he or she is capable, especially if receiving a social grant. Requiring volunteer service would also encourage those receiving the social grants the get themselves better educated and skilled in order to improve their employability. Volunteer work also can have a great advantage in that it helps to develop important skills such as the way that Indexing helps people to become skilled in interpreting information, computer skills, etc.

One volunteer in Australia let me know that she is involved with SAFARIS to fill a requirement of the social grant that she receives from the Australian Government. She is required to give a certain amount of time volunteering if she is receiving a social grant because she is not employed. I feel that such a work requirement would be extremely beneficial in South Africa. For example, there is a great deal of litter all about, and abundant devil thorns and invasive species and it seems as though a lot of people do not take pride in their own country! They would surely be offended if I said that it is MY COUNTRY and not THEIR COUNTRY but they do not take care of OUR COUNTRY! But, most important, in the light of every citizen having equal responsibility, I feel that needs to be stressed – every citizen has equal responsibility to ensure the rights of every other citizen. This is particularly important with the needs of COVID-19 where each individual has an equal responsibility.

SAFARIS (Southern African Friends and Researchers Indexing Specimens) is the volunteer programme that I started that involves transcribing information from historical biodiversity specimens and records. I started this because I have been involved in FamilySearch Indexing, a similar volunteer programme, for many years that transcribes information from images of birth, marriage, death and other records for family history research and I realised that this approach would be valuable for biodiversity records.