Sunday, February 8, 2015

Our thoughts on Uchtdorf's talk titled "Lord, is it I?"

Dad and I finally had time last evening to read Uchtdorf's talk titled "Lord, is it I?" We had quite a nice discussion about it. Then because it was on my mind, a story shared by a Stake speaker today in Sacrament meeting, touched my heart.

Attendance has been down, and today we had maybe 30 to 35 there at Sacrament meeting, with three of those being from the Stake. The Stake YM's president, an Africaan by descent I think, was the one who shared the story I was impressed by. Hopefully I can remember the important details of what he shared.

When he was a young boy, his science teacher gave each student three sunflower seeds and told them to go home and plant them, but with specific instructions. Two of the seeds were to be carefully planted with the small pointed end downward, and the third seed was to be planted with the large end down and the small pointed end up. They were to water them each carefully, by the schedule provided, give them plenty of sunlight, and take good care of each separate pot.

In time, the two seeds planted with the small pointed end down, grew quickly into healthy looking plants, needing transplanting into a bigger pot. Since instructed to take good care of each, he decided to check on the third seed. He carefully turned the pot upside down, and discovered that the third seed planted with the large end down and the pointed end upward, had in fact, grown as much as the other two seeds, but in a downward direction, and the seedling was touching the bottom of the pot. He decided to transplant this seedling, as well, but now turned to grow in an upward direction.

He proceeded to take excellent care of each of the three transplanted seedlings. The amazing thing was that not only did all three thrive, but the heartiest and most healthy looking of the three was the one that was planted upside down and had spent some time growing in the wrong direction Yet it became the most beautiful, the healthiest and the heartiest of the three.

Then to take this "parable of the three sunflower seeds" (as I will call it) and compare this to the parable of the dandelions, beams and the motes, and spiritual blind spots referred to in Uchtdorf's talk, I felt that an analogy could be drawn here, as well. Do we make harsh judgments on those who seem to be making wrong decisions in their lives and heading in the wrong direction, away from the Lord's counsel. Because we are steadfastly holding to the iron rod, do we feel that they must be following Satan's promptings, only to be led in a downward direction in life, and unable to turn their lives around. We no longer feel comfortable in their presence and seem to shun them for their decisions and behavior.

Yet, sometimes, even years later, we discover that they were able to learn from their experiences away from the Lord's light and in a downward direction, and are able to become strong, stalwart examples to others of the need for the Savior in their lives. They become leaders for the Lord's cause, because of their experiences. They may even put our mediocre attitudes of heading in the right direction to shame. We can learn how to become beautiful, shining examples of the Savior's Gospel, through their experiences of growing stronger through "the refiner's fire."


Zulu culture is rich in heritage and tradition. Some of these traditions, however can create difficulties for new investigators seeking to join the Church. Obeying the laws and commandments of the gospel can be seen by some family members as being contrary to cherished traditions of Zulu culture. It takes great commitment and courage for investigators to do what is right in these situations. Here are a few of the traditions that can create great challenges for new investigators.

"Lobola" -- Lobola is the payment, that the family of the bride requires from the suitor before the marriage is allowed. Because of the difficulty in obtaining the large amount of money usually involved, many couples live together and raise a family, sometimes for their whole lives, without getting married. This is, of course, contrary to the law of chastity. Often, if the situation is approached with sensitivity, a solution can be found.

"Polygamy" -- While polygamy is not as common now as in years past, it is still an accepted practice in some Zulu families. The Lord's instructions in our day are that a man should be married to only one wife. (Of interest:  The current king of South Africa has numerous wives and when he selects a wife, it is unlawful to refuse. Recently, he chose a church member's wife to be his next selection, and great care was taken by the LDS Church here in South Africa, to talk him out of that selection, and explain why she could not be taken as his wife. Good relations were able to be maintained.)

"Ancestor Worship" -- Central to Zulu culture, and similar to our own beliefs, is a reverence and respect for ancestors. New investigators should be taught that our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness is built around families, and that we love our children and honor our ancestors. Some Zulu families, however, actually worship their ancestors and perform animal sacrifices as a way of honoring them. They should be taught that this is not appropriate after understanding the plan of salvation and joining the restored church.


This information on Zulu culture and customs was taken from a pamphlet that was recently shared with us. We felt this section might be of interest to our family and friends, and worth us being able to look back on, years after the completion of our mission.

"Greetings or acknowledgements are an important part of Zulu culture. All people you make eye-contact  with, you should greet, and all greetings should be acknowledged.

When shaking hands with a Zulu, you should support your right arm with your left hand underneath. They usually do a 3-part handshake: start with a regular handclasp, then slide hands forward until you clasp the upright thumb, then back to a handclasp. Practice with this greeting with your companion. (This handshake is NOT used in Indian and white areas.)

Women may be addressed as "Mama" and men as "Baba."

amaZulu are brought up from their youth to look down when addressing their elders, to speak quietly and to speak only when spoken to. This is deeply ingrained in their culture and should not be taken as a sign of shiftiness or guilt.

Many people prefer you to use the back door -- it is considered more humble. Also, it is rude to knock loudly on a door. Talk, or clear your throat as you approach, and try a soft knock first.

Upon entering the home, amaZulu seat themselves immediately and unobtrusively. They do not wait to be invited to sit.

In Zulu culture a subordinate should not be physically taller than his senior. Try to get to their level. If they are seated, sit. If they are standing, stand.

When handing things to people, always try to hold the object with both hands. Likewise, it is polite to have both hands open when someone hands you something. This is especialy nice with older people.

When visiting a baba or couple, try to bring a baba or couple with you: the ones you are visiting (especially the baba) will then feel obligated out of courtesy to stay and listen to what you say.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Summary of Our First Three Months in the South Africa Durban Mission

We are loving it here in the metropolitan area of Durban, South Africa. We live in Westville, what we would call a suburb of Durban. We had a VERY rough start to our mission when I broke my arm four days after our arrival. It required 4 pins and 4 days of hospitalization, which meant little to no training from the one doing the job before me -- and the same for my husband since he was running back and forth to the hospital (a 30 minute drive away). After 6 weeks they took out the pins, but kept me in the arm sling for 6 more weeks to insure proper healing. They x-rayed and had me put the sling away exactly 3 months to the day after breaking my arm.

We are slowly learning our jobs, in spite of the extremely different economy, customs, languages, etc. They are probably about 30 years behind in most things, if not more. Yes, they speak English here, but since a high percentage of the population are of Zulu descent, Zulu is their first language, and they speak it by far more than English. A clerk in a store will repond to your question in English, then turn to another clerk and ask her opinion or speak to her in Zulu. Another large portion of the population are of Dutch descent (here as early as the 1600's) and speak Africaans, a language whih mutated over time from Dutch and German. Understanding ANYONE on the phone is extremely difficult, because of their "accent" -- but they say WE have the accent!

But the Zulu people are great! For our Sunday assignment, we work with a small group of 50 to 60 maximum, located about a 45 minute drive away. They are all Zulus and meet in a VERY old school building, typical of maybe the 1930's. I work with the children from 2 to 12 years of age, with one young woman who is about 20 years old assisting, and another woman who comes every other week to teach (due to her work schedule). Our attendance varies weekly from 2 to 16 children. Nearly all walk to church, with some walking nearly an hour to get there, one woman with her infant tied on her back with a blanket, Zulu-style. It is great to work with the kids; they are so loving and accepting. Since Zulu is their first language, ideally the young woman translates what I say into Zulu -- but of course, things aren't always ideal.

My husband and I work in the mission office Monday thru Friday. I am over the boardings, totalling maybe 50 to 60, dealing with contracts, furnishings, locating new boardings, etc. I am also over medical by making appointments, billing insurance, and making sure the right people know of the health concerns, from minor to major. My husband is over all aspects of the finances for the approximately 150 young male missionaries and the 14 senior couples assigned to work in the South Africa Durban Mission. As I think of all our responsibilities, it is no wonder we still don't have it all mastered, and get stressed at times.

The animals here are amazing, and the climate is ideal. But we try not to dwell on missing the birth of the 7th grandchild two weeks ago, our oldest grandson leaving for a mission in two weeks, etc., etc. We have had the opportunity to go on a couple of game drives (safari's) and seen giraffes, elephants, rhino's, etc up close in the wild. Everything is an adventure here -- but, of course, we ARE on the other side of the world!