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’.

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