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?