11 February 2024

Remembering Jean Dorothy de Villiers, 07 Apr 1939 - 31 Jan 2024

 As I prepared thoughts about Jean to share at the time of her memorial, my thoughts turned to a comment by her son Etienne who said that God must have messed up because why do people not live hundreds of years now? Methuselah, an Old Testament patriarch lived 969 years, so why did Jean die so young? I mused on how our measurement of time might have changed since Lamech's days, but this is a subject for another discussion!

On the morning of the memorial I happened to listen to an article Peace and Joy, Not Grief, Dominated My Heart. Why? in the Feb 2024 Liahona magazine and shared a paragraph with Jean's family. This is an account of a family who lost their father due to Parkinson's disease. Then as I continued to listen, I noticed that it mentioned the hymn 227 There is Sunshine in my Soul Today that we sang to open this service and I shared that with the family. Such a coincidence!

I remember so many things that my mother used to tell me. Like 'Do not walk on the road in the middle of the day with bare feet because you will be hurt.' Guess what - Yep! I walked on the road with bare feet. And yep! my feet got sore because the road was hot, and sometimes the eina was because of a duiweltjiedoring (devil thorn or Tribulus terrestris). I learned that it was wisdom to listen to what my mother counselled. It would be far better for me to learn from running on the road barefoot and realising the value in following my mother's counsel than for me to not obey when she said 'Do not put your hand on the hot plate of the stove because you will burn yourself.' If I did this, I could be seriously injured and if the stove were really hot, I might even lose my hand. 

My thoughts went back to Adam and Eve. God put them into the Garden of Eden that was truly wonderful and beautiful. In Genesis where we read of this, we learn that He made the 'great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.' I clearly have a lot to learn because animals do not listen well to me, but they evidently understood Him and were fruitful and did multiply and I have really enjoyed seeing wonderful living things in the Namib Desert and in our forests, and all of our types of landscape. It is amazing how much abundant life there is in the desert! I smile as I often share how fortunate I am to have chosen to follow the botany side of my BSc degree rather than the zoology side - photographing plants is so much easier than photographing many animals! Wind, depth-of-field-of-focus, and light might be a problem, but at least the plants stay put! Tortoises are not too bad, but almost all butterflies, lizards, birds, fieldmice, and fast animals are really difficult to photograph - I take my hat off to those who take such magnificent photographs of the exceptionally remarkable and beautiful animals created by our Creator.

I have spent a lot of time in the Namib Desert but I have never seen rain. However, on one occasion we were there shortly after rain and I have a special memory of driving in the desert and seeing that the dunes were green! I usually saw only wind-blown sand that formed the dunes and as we arrived at the green dunes and looked with a bird's-eye-view we could see a lot of open sand that was simply hidden from our view by the blades of grass. This brought to mind a memory of one of the things that my mother often quoted 'It takes the effort of every blade of grass to keep the meadow green.' Memories like this are special because it reminds me that my mother may be dead, but her memory lives on as I reflect on the wise things that I learned from her. Her spirit lives on, and also she is present in my life because of her influence in my life.

God then created man - male and female - and '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. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.' He put them into a garden planted eastward in Eden with 'every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.' He instructed Adam to tend and to keep the garden, and that 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' After this, Eve was created as an help meet for Adam. We know the story of how Eve was tempted by the serpent saying 'your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' Eve 'saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.' 

And - death was introduced because Adam and Eve did partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And they were cast out of the garden of Eden, and instructed to till the earth, with the opposition of thorns and thistles and all, and to eat their bread by the sweat of their face - and Eve became the mother of all living. We learn in 2 Peter that a day in the Lord's time is as a thousand years, so Adam and Eve, and even Methuselah, died within the day of mortality that each partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil when he ran barefoot on a hot road or a devil's thorn or some other transgression. Each one if us has gained a knowledge of good and evil by transgressing some instruction and receiving the consequences of a choice - and we will all die within our day of mortality.

I often share how sure I am that our loving Heavenly Father did not want His children to not have a knowledge of good and evil! Just like loving parents want their children to not hurt their feet on a hot road or devil's thorn, but know that they probably will and want them to learn about choices and consequences, God wants His children to be able to distinguish between good and evil and it is His hope for us is that we will desire to choose to do good, and to not choose evil. In the garden of Eden there was no evil, no lack, no opposition, no bitter, no pain, no sickness, no death. They could not have a knowledge of these while in the presence of God who wants His children to become like Him, and they could not have children because they had not yet fallen to the mortal state. We have an eternal journey - and this life from birth to death is simply part of that journey. 

Jesus of Nazareth shared the parable of the talents. He told of a man travelling into a far country and entrusting one servant with five talents, one with two talents and one with one talent, according to their several ability. Two of these servants then traded with the talent, or added five and two talents to their five and two, and one feared the austerity of his master and hid his talent. After some time he returned and called for an accounting. The one with ten talents was commended 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.'. The one with four talents received the same commendation. But the one who had buried his talent was reprimanded for not having at least invested the talent to get some interest on the investment, saying 'Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' I am confident that if the man with one talent had traded and doubled his talent, he would have received the same commendation and if either with five or two talents had buried them, they would have received the same reprimand  

May we be fruitful and multiply, and replenish that with which we have been endowed.

I was struck this morning while reading Romans 8:28 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.' Then I noticed a note that I have made about three years ago regarding verses 6 to 7. 'For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' I noted that being carnally minded includes the amount of time given to carnal things as well as the amount of time given to spiritual things. It is not mutually exclusive. It is not a sin to eat and enjoy our food, nor to work and enjoy our work, or to play or perform or watch sport or entertainment or art and enjoy it. Too much focus on these things can become evil. The thing is to give a very good amount of time to loving and serving God and performing His work and drawing close to Him and enjoying that!

It is so good to be able to use the Gospel Library app on my phone. I tend to do far more highlighting and notes than I could easily do in the hard copy scriptures that I used as a younger fellow. I have such a very long way to go to reach the level of Heavenly Father, but He wants me to have a godly walk and conversation, walking in holiness before Him. I love an insight that I received from the Spirit years ago - anyone who repeated the Lord's prayer in school like we did during every assembly, or at any time in the past or now, is acknowledging that we have a Heavenly Father, and that He has a kingdom, and so we each have noble duties and responsibilities as sons and daughters of the King of Heaven - princes and princesses! Everyone who worships the God of Abraham, whether they call Him God, Heavenly Father, Jehovah, Elohim, Allah, or whatever, is serving the same one God - the same God to whom Jesus of Nazareth, our Messiah, constantly directed all glory.

It is recorded in John 17 that Jesus Christ said of His disciples 'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.' Jesus Christ and His father are so perfectly united that they are referred to as the one God - a perfect team. They want us to be a perfect team - being one with each other and one with them. I have such a long way to go in becoming all that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ hope that I will become - I can but move forward step by step, day by day, small goal by small goal, thorn by thorn, and so forth. Just as Jesus did - and He is my example - I need to increase 'in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man' in order to become what He wants me to become. I suppose that even Jesus might have had a devil's thorn experience in his lifetime in Bethlehem, or Nazareth, or somewhere since devil thorns probably occurred in the land of Israel in His day.

My progress started millennia before the day that I was born and will continue millennia after the day that I die. Just as the ring on my finger symbolises eternity as it has no beginning and no ending, so our lives are eternal. There are milestones along the way like birth, death, resurrection, judgement, but those are only points along the strait gate and narrow way. 

Jean said to me one day that it will probably be boring in the Celestial Kingdom because everyone would be the same! I could reassure her that we will all be equal, but certainly not the same. Artists will be artists, sportsmen will be sportsmen, intellectuals, accountants, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, sailors, and whatever our gifts, each talent will go with us into the eternities. I am confident that Heavenly Father is not lacking in any talent or skill and He wants us to grow and become balanced in all strengths. Just as in the parable of the talents that I shared above. But I think that we will be able to still hold onto some special passions and gifts although lacking none.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle - probably with far more than 1000 pieces - and there will be times that a piece goes missing because it fell under a chair, or one might be placed in the wrong position and look almost right but then the right piece will turn up and we will see that we had made a mistake and we will find the right place for the wrongly placed piece, and the picture will become more complete and pleasing as time passes. Some might not have had a chance to start their puzzle as they died as little babes. For some there will still be many pieces to be put in their places and for some they might be enjoying a very nearly complete puzzle and maybe some will have what certainly seems like a complete puzzle but due to conditions associated with age they might not see or hear or remember or sense everything so well anymore. Whatever our puzzle picture may be, it will be a picture of divine design that will be pleasing to us. Similarly, as our lives fall into place as we love Him and keep His commandments, we will feel the presence of the Comforter who shall testify of Christ, and guide us to all truth. We will feel comfort knowing that death is part of the cycle of life. In nature each living thing dies and becomes a benefit to others, as food, or nourishing or uplifting or building in some or other way. I remember my colleague commenting on flowers decorating a shopping mall - he said that he could see that they were artificial because they were too perfect. Real flowers would be chewed by beetles or worms. Death is not final, though, but it is an essential step along the journey.

Many years after my parents have passed on to the next stage of their eternal journey, I still have them with me in the memories of their counsel. They often reminded us that we are princes and princesses in Israel - I guess that our behaviour suggested that we needed constant reminders of that... There were some other things that they very frequently had us read like no contention, or Love at Home. Some phrases were frequently shared like 'A gentleman treats even a milkmaid as a lady', 'Don't think that you are so great - remember that a goatherd on the mountains of Transkei can probably speak more languages than you can', 'The world needs street sweepers - but more importantly, the world needs excellent street sweepers!', and as already mentioned, 'It takes the effort of every bladed of grass to keep the meadow green'. Your grief might well be accompanied by relief that the lingering or suffering is over. We can, and should, be hopeful and not hopeless. The influence of our loved one will remain with us for all of life. We can also find hope in the knowledge that we can be reunited for all of eternity through the sealing ordinances of the priesthood. 

I am strongly impressed by how the Gospel is being preached to every creature. As I have shared our South African history with visitors, the Spirit whispered to me that, for all of the faults of colonisers around the world, they have taken the Bible, Torah, Qur'an and the religion of the God of Abraham to all parts of the world, as well as education, health, industry, technology, and so many things that have fulfilled to promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. I have been particularly impressed by how millions of Saints of every kindred, tongue and people all around the world have been studying the same things together this past week. I remember being impressed when I visited a congregation in Italy in 2001 and they were learning in Italian precisely the same lesson material as I had learned with my family in Cape Town. Similarly in Berlin, Germany in 2005, although there were enough English speaking saints that we learned together in English. I have also enjoyed learning in various units in England the same things that my family was learning in Cape Town. That is one example of being one as disciples of Jesus Christ. 

This past week we have learnt from 2 Nephi 2 where it talks of Adam and Eve needing to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to be able to have children, and how this was part of the opposition that is needed in all things, the sweet and the bitter, and how 'Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.' We have the great ability to act and not only to be acted upon. It talks of how the Messiah is part of that joy as He came and redeemed us from the fall so that our bodies that die physically will be reunited with our spirits in the resurrection, and just as Adam and Eve were sent out of God's presence in the garden of Eden, we were separated from God when we were born, and we will re-enter His presence to be judged. His hope is that we will have become such that He can say 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' 

It is my testimony that we lived before we were born - individuals, children of Heavenly Parents, male, female, potential shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, tax collectors, sales people, shop managers, bead artists, creative people like Jean, botanists like me, or whatever, and that we chose there to follow the plan presented by our Heavenly Father and not to follow the alternative plan presented by Lucifer. We then came to this mortal stage of life where Lucifer and his angels invite and entice us to be miserable like unto himself. I cannot see why anyone would want to be miserable, but they are not necessarily told that the choice that they are being tempted to make will make them miserable - but if something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is! Some become slaves to addictions. Some become miserable because they compare themselves to others and envy or covet what they do not have instead of rejoicing in the bounteous blessings that they do have. Some desire to be thieves, murderers, adulterers, liars, deceivers, and get great excitement as they suppress others or enslave others or hurt others. 

Heavenly Father wants us to treat everyone as we would want to be treated. I have a special memory of being with a Franciscan monk in a room in East London during 1974 after he had preached in the Catholic chapel - who knows if someone reading this might have been in that room with the group of young people who were meeting with him. Somehow I felt impressed to share that John told us that if a man says that he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar. Jesus told us that the two great commandments are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength; and that we must love our neighbour as ourself. Then I shared what the Spirit taught me at that moment - it has to start with me loving myself in order to love my neighbour as myself - and we need to love our neighbour whom we can see - then that is part of what confirms that we love the Lord our God whom we cannot see. 

Some of us die at birth, some as infants, children, youth, adults, or geriatrics. Some die as a result of accidents, some after lingering and painful afflictions, some simply of natural causes. Each and every one will continue to learn and grow beyond death. That is the wonderful message of the Gospel that has been restored in its fullness in the latter days. There is a lot of good and truth in the world, but the Lord has said that He has restored the true and living Church with which He is well pleased, speaking of them collectively and not individually, for He cannot look upon with the least degree of allowance. I pray that I will always be an example of the believers, bearing witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

03 February 2024

Thoughts shared with a friend who feels wronged by a dear loved one

You mention in your CV that you love to write. I am impressed with your writing skill – I have done a lot of editing, mainly of scientific writing as I prepared publications for myself and for my team and often must make numerous edits. Your skill is good – it is worth working on it.

Just as in the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, there are many delights to be seen when we stop and look. There is so much to please the eye and gladden the heart.

I read that you had depression – that made me think back to my year after finishing BSC (Hons) at Wits University. Wow! That was intense. The medication was dulling and made me less than me. I recently read my matric journal from 1971 and I was amazed to read that I had depression then – with suicidal thoughts – I had totally forgotten that!

Then I thought of the absolute turmoil and distress that my wife Sally felt after serving so many patients as a family doctor, and suddenly she burnt out and was eventually diagnosed to have bipolar disorder, and years later bilateral temporal lobe epilepsy was also diagnosed! This journey has been really painful for her – and for me, and for the whole family. Sally later acknowledged that as she thought about it, she could recognise symptoms of bipolar disorder from her matric year, and also of epileptic incidents over the years. But, even with that recognition, there are times that she is adamant that she does not have any disorder and the meds are not doing anything for her and she wants to stop them all because of the side-effects! As you can imagine, I do not have many boring times in my life!

At the time of Sally’s first diagnosis my sister who is a psychologist with LDS Family Services suggested that we watch A Beautiful Mind and we watched it then, and I was impressed to watch it again when I first started to read some of the account of your journey. I have no idea of what might be the diagnosis for you, but you do mention medication and how tablets have destroyed your mind, and I think that you might have some issues like Sally and I, and others, have – and that so many people have in 2024.

My home teaching and ministering companion for many years was someone who is troubled by schizophrenia. He is always compliant with taking his medication and from about 20h00 is not particularly with things, but he presses on doing the best that he can under his difficult situation. He is faithful to his covenants even although his work that sustains him and his family does not enable him to attend Church regularly. If we met in the evening he would be there every week, but he is baking bread for many people on most Sunday mornings and many people at church forget about him – but I appreciate his great example of discipleship.

I have observed that many people that I know who evidently have great talents such as outstanding intellectual ability, given 'every man according to his several ability', seem to have an opposition in their lives such as ADHDD, bipolar, schizophrenia, dyslexia, or something that will help to refine them according to the Lord's love and wisdom.

I often reflect on the Saviour’s declaration in the synagogue when He first told of His mission: ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’ He had just declared ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Luke 4:18-19, 21. He then set about preaching, helping people to see, dumb to speak, deaf to hear, lame to walk, and mentally ill to cope with their afflictions (I anticipate many of the devils that He cast out were what troubled several of these mentally ill people), even raising the dead.

In the years leading up to 2024 He has inspired many of the seed of Abraham, and quite likely others who desire to help their fellow-men, to see (with spectacles, braille, surgery, medication, and other interventions), deaf to hear (with hearing aids, sign language, surgery, medication and other interventions), dumb to speak (with sign language, technology, and many other wonderful means), lame to walk (with wheelchairs, surgery, crutches, and various other interventions), mentally ill to cope (with medication, ECTs, counselling, and various interventions), and raising the dead and in limited instances even reversing death (with CPR, heart-lung machines, defibrillators, and other amazing interventions)!

I have been struck by the frequency with which Elder Jeffrey R Holland has referred to the healing (even if not totally removing illnesses) of mentally ill and other disabled people, saying that they should seek a priesthood blessing, and then go to the qualified and competent medical experts and allow them to be instruments in the Lord’s hands in bringing about needed healing. Several other general Church leaders have spoken about coping with mental or physical illness and they all encourage us to take advantage of what the Lord has inspired His instruments to do to help us to cope with, even sometimes to overcome, our afflictions. But mostly it is not to change the circumstances, but to help us to be the very best that we can be in spite of our circumstances. If we can, we are encouraged to take ourselves out of the gutter, addictions, or other things where we have control, but where we do not have control, He helps us to have faith in His ability to bless us to be able to make our desert blossom as the rose, to open up the windows of heaven by bringing us rain or benefiting from water that might be available as we bring our tithes and offerings into His storehouse that there may be meat in His house. This requires us to focus on correct doctrine and change ourselves from the inside-out rather than wanting to change things from the outside-in. I have often reflected on how apostles and prophets have battled on with serious impairments. I love the insight in The Chosen when James asks Jesus why He has not healed him, and Jesus says in effect 'I can heal you if you want it, but you being a witness of me despite your obvious walking challenges is a strong testimony to many that it is not only because of miracles that you follow me'.

I also love His injunction that ‘I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.’ Doctrine & Covenants 64:10. I am so grateful that He guarantees that any punishment that is due will be given by Him – and boy! He can punish far better than I can ever hope to do! And He can forgive so much better than I can! But – He can also help any one of us to become the opposite of a sinner if we humble ourselves and desire to be in the Celestial glory with Him. And – if we are in the ultimate instance of Zion, even the Celestial glory, we will be with Him, and if that person whom I despise in her or his sinful or mortal state is there, then it means that the Lord has helped her or him to change and become Celestial, and then I would love to be with that repentant and changed soul for all of eternity! The thing that I need to focus on is getting myself to the Celestial glory, and then everything will be far more wonderful than I can imagine!

You will probably remember the scriptures or General Conference speakers that I have quoted above. If not, feel free to ask me and I shall send links to the scriptures or talks. But the essence of what I am saying is that the Lord would delight in our seeking to be forgiving (not staying in a dangerous situation), and seeking to work together to be Zion people. Everyone has flaws, faults, failings, weaknesses, imperfections (I am woefully aware of such in myself). If I want to find a fault it will be so easy. But so does everyone have good points. My hope is to identify those and to help others to blossom in those good points. This kind of reminds me of something from my Institute study about someone entering a gardening competition and did a great job about removing all of the weeds but spent all of the time on that and did not plant beautiful and desirable plants. I have walked for many, many hours in the Namib Desert and I am always amazed at the absolutely wonderful beetles, lizards, spiders, birds, mammals, even some plants to be seen if one stops and looks. But most people climb in their cars and rush through the drab and dreary Karoo to get to the other side and often sit down to a delightful mutton meal that got its special flavour from the very Karoo that they did not stop to appreciate. Is that much different to the children of Israel following Moses and murmuring day after day despite the absolute miracle of having manna every day? Or as we are reading this week, Lehi’s family that had their food made sweet so that they did not need to kindle a fire to cook?

It has been agonising for Sally to no longer be able to serve patients, saving lives and improving health, from about age 45 years. Now she needs to serve herself, save her own life and improve her own health. Failure to do this leads to more rapid damage to her brain. The Lord had blessed her for more than 20 years as she magnified her calling, sanctifying her by the spirit unto the renewing of her body, but then, it appears, He withdrew that sustaining and Sally had to depart from her Jerusalem and go out into a wilderness in a difficult path to her promised land. There are times that she murmurs and yearns for the flesh pots of her past, but tries to keep her focus on drawing close to Heavenly Father as she trudges forward towards her promised land. I have often wondered if her challenges are there more for my refining than for hers – so it is not her burden to be borne alone, but we can bear it equally yoked, together, and both press forward towards the same Celestial promised land. I pray that I will be worthy to be there with her.

As I read and edited what I have written above, my thoughts turned to an experience when Sally, our first toddler and I were held-up on Signal Hill. A man threatened our daughter with a knife if we did not hand over our valuables. I was angry with this man who had definitely done wrong! I was mulling over in my mind how I could help the police to trap him in the act and make him suffer seriously with the harsh punishment that he fully deserved! I realised that I was not at peace. The scriptures say things like ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’. We had reported the matter to the police. We had prayed to Father in Heaven. We had done what we could do. I came to the realisation that it was appropriate for me to forgive and pray for this man’s redemption rather than planning for his destruction. I cannot express to you the relief and peace that came to my soul as I handed over the justice that needed to be dealt out to Heavenly Father and to the police.

It is interesting how I see so much related to what I have written to you coming up as I work through the Come, Follow Me study for this week, for example, the paragraph in this link https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/come-follow-me-for-home-and-church-book-of-mormon-2024/05?id=p3&lang=eng#p3. I smiled as I thought of how there is always manna, or food that the Lord has made sweet, for us to collect each day, sufficient for that day, but I fear that we often just complain of being hungry because we did not gather our share of the manna or sweet food for the day. I hope that the Spirit has been communicating with you – as He has done with me – as you study with the millions of saints around the world during this week of our mortal journey. I was struck after sitting in a ward in Trieste, Italy, how remarkable that what I had studied that week, and my ward was studying in English in Cape Town was the same that was being discussed in Italian in this ward that week. The same in a ward in Berlin, Germany. We are blessed to be a body of saints – Zion – as we meet together around the globe in every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

It was interesting listening to the January 2024 Friend magazine this morning and feeling that some of the articles in it are in line with what I am sharing with you. I always marvel at how the Spirit lines up things to strengthen and enhance what I am learning. It reminds me that the Lord is in charge – He is at the helm. The article was Forgiving Like Nephi (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/friend/2024/01/04-forgiving-like-nephi?lang=eng)

I feel impressed to share a thought that I have had regarding the stupor of thought mentioned in the 9th section of Doctrine and Covenants. When my mind is buzzing over something, arguing for my argument, debating, justifying – not being at peace – then I try to change to maybe the opposite of my argument, or to the defence rather than the prosecution, or whatever and see how I feel then. For example, I have challenged people to speak convincingly that the sun is not shining and assess their feelings. I then let them argue that the sun is shining and assess how they feel – from being actively looking for justification of the argument, suddenly it changes to a simple statement like ‘I can see it. It may have stopped shining in the last 8 minutes, but I can see it now.’ As I read your writing, it looks as though there may be this stupor of thought. Why not ask the Lord what you should be thinking and maybe change your approach and see if you find peace. If not, try another approach. There is a good reason that the Lord called the Holy Ghost the Comforter. I love the feeling of clarity, simplicity, completeness, wholeness, integrity when it simply feels right. No because, because, because, but simply right. I often refer to Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof where he is thinking about his daughter not wanting an arranged marriage. It is ‘On the other hand…’ and ‘On the other hand…’ and in one instance he simply says ‘No – there is no other hand’. If one is always considering arguments, I reckon that we have not come to see things as the Lord sees them.

Moroni challenged us to remember how merciful the Lord has been to the children of men since the days of Adam, even until the time that we read his challenge. Many of us think more of the punishing Jehovah who instructed Joshua to destroy Jericho, and similar tales of harsh justice. I remember after listening to the entire Old Testament while driving to and from work how one needs to be familiar with that entire account in order to remember those details of mercy. He was harsh in order to help His children to repent. When there was even the slightest spark of repentance visible He would blow on it to help it to become a flame and then a roaring flame so that He could manifest His mercy through His blessings such as manna in the wilderness, opening the windows of heaven and pouring out a blessing, and healing from the poison of serpents. He is indeed a merciful God. Jesus Christ has already atoned for the sins of anyone who has wronged you or me. It is now up to us to help others to repent and receive that atoning grace and mercy, blowing on any hint of a spark of repentance to make it a Celestial recovery – and then we will have great joy over a soul that we have helped to save.

I hope that this really long response is not painful to you. I love you. I love everyone who has wronged you – not for the wrong that they have done, but for the divine potential that they have if they repent and meet the duty of a member which is to have a Godly walk and conversation, walking in holiness before Him. Four pages in a Word document! Haaaaaauw! Sorry it has become such a long response, but it is kind of short compared with what you sent to me 😉

Blessings on you as you prayerfully and frequently read your patriarchal blessing and look for how the Lord would like you to respond to those that you feel have wronged you. I promise you great joy as you love them, pray for them, do good to them. I love you, pray for you and I hope that I have done good to you. Blessings on you as you navigate your delightful journey in your wilderness. I promise you that you will find wonderful delights in what looks like a desert or an arid area. There will be those flowers, beetles, lizards, and all sorts of delights when you ‘stop and smell the roses’.