Saturday, February 27, 2016

Some Thoughts About Foreordination and Predestination--George's Post

A.   Some Thoughts about Predestination and Foreordination

Many Christians struggle to make sense of the doctrines of predestination and foreordination.   Often it is easier just to set these troublesome doctrines aside in their minds, as they are seemingly at odds with the commonly-held, and reassuring, doctrine that God is not a respecter of persons.[1]    One of the virtues attributed to God is His fundamental fairness.   Men are drawn to God, and accept, praise, worship and honor Him, at least in part because they consider God to be fair and equitable, not given to acting based upon caprice or whim.   And that fairness requires of God that He judges men according to their works, not based upon nationality, ethnicity, status, position, or other commonly recognized indices of social standing.   “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.”[2]    God judges in righteousness, without bias, based upon what men do and the secret intentions of their heart, while men, in their fallibility, judge based upon appearances—according to the sight of their eyes, and the hearing of their eyes.    Were it not for this fairness, God would be less in our eyes, fall short of what we expect of God as the “Great I Am,” and certainly of one who loves all of mankind.
But the scriptures constantly speak of Lord’s justice, describing Him as one who judges in righteousness.   When speaking of God’s judgment, Isaiah says:  “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:  And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and  might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.  And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.  But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smith the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.”[3]
It is, without fast talking, difficult to reconcile this concept of God’s fairness with the notion that some men, for reasons untold, are “foreordained,” “called,” and “predestinated,” entitled to enjoy special blessings at the hand of the Lord, without regard to their works or intentions or, at least, without being held to the same standard of reckoning applied unstintingly to others.   Yet these concepts surface in both the Old and New Testament.   Of the Prophet Jeremiah we read: “Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”[4]   The Prophet Abraham is promised that “in thee,” meaning that through his seed or prosperity, “all families of the earth shall be blessed.”[5]   Repeatedly the Old Testament affirms the blessings that are to flow to the House of Israel, the chosen of God, even though they are not always faithful, remembering the promises made to them and their descendents, and staying obedient.  “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”[6]  “For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called three by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou has not known me   I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded three, though thou has not known me:”[7]  
Christ himself was “foreordained before the foundation of the world.”   “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:  Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”[8]   That Christ was foreordained is not so puzzling, in that Christ was the “Word,” who existed before the world was created.[9]   The roles Christ were to play as the “only begotten of the God,” the “son of God,” the “Savior” were conceived before Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden, and were assigned to the Christ, as one instrumental in the creation of all things created for the benefit of men.   Christ frequently speaks of not doing anything but what He saw His Father do, of coming to do the Father’s, and not His, will, and as one acted under assignment from the Father.  
But virtually the same language is used when speaking of the saints of God:   “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly pleased in Christ:   According as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world, that we shall be holy and without blame before him in love.   Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will….In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”[10]   In this context, it is much more problematic.   What does it mean to speak of the “saints” being “foreordained” or “predestinated?”   What could the saints have possibly done to have warranted such special treatment?     How are they different from those who are not “saints?”   What could they ever be said to have done to warrant special treatment?
The twin concepts of “foreordination” and “predestination,” which frequently run in tandem with one another, are based upon three premises.   First and foremost, they presume that, at some time in the past, a selection has taken place:   some individual or some group of individuals has been “chosen,” set apart, designated, separated from others, according to and at the will of God.   When the term “foreordained”[11] is used, it suggests the “choosing” may have been ratified by the performance of an “ordinance.”  What exactly that ritual might be is left obscure, but it calls to mind the performance of earthly ordinances where individuals are separately called out, and ordained, to hold a position of authority or power, such as the “laying on of hands” to confer upon one the office of an apostle.    Second, the individual or group of individuals “chosen” or “pre-designated” are thought to be “more likely than not” to realize the blessing or to hold the calling to which they have been “foreordained” or “called.”   They are “expected” to fulfill the callings to which they have been called.   Why precisely they are so “predisposed” or “equipped” is not clear.   They may have been endowed by God with special spiritual gifts, equipping them to do great things or achieve special tasks, otherwise beyond the abilities of others; or they may have intrinsic talents, known to God but not given to them by God, similarly equipping them to act in special ways; or  perhaps it is just that God, for whom all things may be present—the past, present and future--has the “fore” sight to see what it is in store for them in the future.   Or, possibly, it is some combination of all of these factors.     
Last, the terms are never employed except to designate a “blessing,” or special status, in favor of the one who has been chosen—the chosen is “foreknown” or “predestinated” that he or she might be firstborn among many brethren, justified, and glorified.   These elements are all apparent in the following passage from the 8th Chapter of Romans:   “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.   Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”[12]  
It is nigh impossible to reconcile such “blessings” in favor of those chosen if they have done nothing to deserve being “chosen.”   How are the chosen different from others—why would God elect to choose them and not others similarly situated --is God acting arbitrarily, randomly, at whim, capriciously?   The Mormon belief in a pre-existence eliminates the conundrum facing Christians who have no concept of a life prior to this life.   If there were a “pre-existence,” during which God’s spiritual children made moral choices, some making far more progress than others, it is hardly a stretch to think of those who progressed the most being “foreordained,” or “chosen,” or “predestinated.”   In fact, if those were the facts, God would be capricious, were he to eliminate the differences among His spirit children, existing as the result of pre-mortal decisions, at the time those spirit children were sent to the earth to inhabit mortal bodies and be tested to see if they would be obedient.   Thus, we are not startled when God reveals to Abraham:   “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones.  And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rules; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good, and he said unto me: Abraham, thou are one of them; thou was chosen before thou wast born.”[13]
Do we know who is “chosen” and who is “foreordained?”   Here, of course, lurks a pernicious danger.    Those, who judge after the sight of their eyes, and hearing of their ears, will be prone to look to earthly success or Church position or other evidences of social standing as signals of “election.”   But the Savior cautioned us, saying “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”[14]  Moroever we are also told that he who is the servant of all is the greatest.  “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”[15]   I am confident the Lord has a special place for the humble, righteous members of Malawi, even if, by the standards of the world, or even for that purpose, by the criteria often used in the Church to measure standing, those members seem to be the most humble and underprivileged.

[1] See, for example, Acts 10: 34-35 (“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.); Rom. 2: 11-13 (“For there is no respect of persons with God.  For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be jusitified.”); Gal. 2: 6 (“But of these who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter ot me: God accepteth no man’s personJ for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:”).
[2] 1 Peter 1: 17.
[3] Isa. 11: 1-5.
[4] Jer. 1: 4-5.
[5] Gen. 12: 2-3 (“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:  And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.)
[6] Isa. 43: 1.
[7] Isa. 45: 4-5.
[8] 1 Pet. 1: 19-20.
[9] John 1: 1-3 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   The same was in the beginning with God.   All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”)
[10] Eph. 1: 4-5, 11.
[11] Hence the term “foreordination”—the “fore” meaning prior to in time, and “ordination” meaing the performance of binding ordinance performed by or at the direction of the Lord.
[12] Rom. 8: 29-30. 
[13] Abr. 3: 22-23.
[14] Matt. 20: 16.
[15] Matt. 23: 11-12.

Friday, February 26, 2016

To See an Apostle or The Journey of the Presidents - Carole's Post

There was a very special event on the calendar for the third week-end in February.  Elder Neil L. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, accompanied by his wife Kathy, was going to be in Lusaka for a few days of training.  The Lusaka stake presidency, all district presidencies and all branch presidents of the Zambia Lusaka mission were invited to attend a training meeting on a Saturday morning.

Blantyre is the furthest outpost of the mission  In order to attend this meeting, it required a 4 1/2 hour drive to Lilongwe, then another nine hours to Lusaka and we had heard that the "highway" between those two cities had many detours because of construction.  But I don't think the leadership even thought about the difficulties.  They were just excited to be able to hear an apostle of the Lord.
President Chinyumba, a member of the mission presidency, rented a van, so that he could drive and take the eight "presidents" from Blantyre and pick up the additional "six" in Lilongwe on the way.

When our son Seth was here, he told us it was very confusing because we referred to so many "presidents".  On this day, calling everyone "President" was a mouthful.  I think we need to become a stake soon, so we can have fewer "presidents" and have "bishops" instead!
The first item to go in the van was a very large suitcase belonging to Elder Jena.  Since he is leaving the mission field to go back to South Africa next week, he had to get all of his luggage to Lusaka and that meant somehow one of his suitcases had to go by car (because of luggage restrictions on the local airlines).  That meant the spare tire had to go in the van, more like on someone's lap!

President Edward Matale, district president.

President Clement Chikapa, 1st counselor.
President Gabriel Chinomwe, 2nd counselor.

I gave them each a goody bag with a peanut butter sandwich, granola bar, chips, fruit, and cookies.  It was going to be a long trip!

President Banda of the Blantyre 1st branch.
President Leinhard Amos of the Ndirande branch.  He has served for about a year and is the longest serving branch president of the district.  When he was called, he had not even been a member of the church for a year!  President Joseph Banda (right) of the Zingwangwa branch.  He had been a branch president for a week! - just in time to make this great trip.
President Charles Tchongwe of the Blantyre 2nd branch, standing with Gabriel.  
They all said their good-byes and managed to crowd into the van.

Look at all those suit bags hanging up - so they will look sharp for the meeting.

No air-conditioning and a very hot day..

Off they went, spending the night in Lilongwe and getting up early the next morning to go on.  They really did fit six more "presidents" in the van!
When they came home, they left early in the morning and drove straight through, arriving home about 1 am.  
Everyone we have talked to has said it was a glorious meeting and worth every minute of that long drive.  Elder Carl B. Cook, the Africa Southeast Area President and his counselor, Elder Stanley Ellis, both spoke.  In case you are wondering why they are not "presidents", it is because they are members of the First Quorum of Seventies.  Also speaking were Elder Mdletshe, Area Seventy and President Leif Erickson, our mission president.  They were very specific in their training.  Elder Anderson was the final speaker and gave inspiring words to those Priesthood leaders.  They came home with renewed dedication to their callings, and felt the assurance that they were called of God. Elder Anderson made a point of talking to each one of them for a few minutes individually.
L to R  Front row:  Elder Cook (Area President), the Blantyre District Presidency (Chinomwe, Chikapa, Matale), Elder Anderson.  Back row:  Elder Ellis (Area Presidency). Pres. Amos (Ndirande), Pres. Erickson (Mission President), Pres. Tchongwe (Blantyre 2nd), Pres. Banda (Blantyre 1st), Pres. Chinyumba (Mission Presidency), Pres. Banda (Zingwangwa), Elder Mdletshe (Area Seventy)
They had big smiles when they left, and now we know that their spirits have been touched by the words they heard.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How We Love the Missionaries - Carole's Post

One morning about two weeks ago, we received an "emergency" phone call.  The zone leaders were reporting on a call they had received from Elder Maele.  His companion, Elder Jena, was locked in his bathroom! 
Off we went to the Stephens Rd flat to investigate. 
 You can tell it is morning because Elder Maele has to unlock the security gate to let us in.
George brought along the tool chest, but this was going to be tricky.  The hinge was on the inside.
"Hello, Elder Jena, are you in there?"

Elder Maele watches.

While George was working on the door, he jokingly asked,  "So, Elder Jena, how many times have you been locked in the bathroom and couldn't get out!"

"Only once before, in another flat.." he replied!!!  Huh.

The skeleton key had broken off  and the bottom half had fallen down into the lock.  George worked on taking off the entire lock and then the door molding.  

That didn't do the trick.  The only thing left was to ram it! - well, at least George put his shoulder to the door and gave it all he had!

Elder Jena emerges.  It's a good thing he will be going home in a few weeks, if this is a common occurance!

When we had all sixteen over for Christmas Eve, I sent them all home with a plastic shaker can of Vim (like Comet or Ajax) and some tough scrubbies.  Merry Christmas!  I told them that if they started then, they just MIGHT be able to get all the black and mold off their showers and tubs by the time we did an inspection in January.  

When that January inspection rolled around, I was shocked at how nice everything looked.  These missionaries really came through!  (So next time, we might need to focus on ovens and "cookers" - Malawian name for stoves).  As we did the inspections we took an inventory of what things needed to be fixed and what things they needed.  Two weeks ago, we went around and delivered those items in the early morning, before they left for the day.

Mops, brooms, buckets, dishtowels - there are always things that need to be replaced.

 First stop was the Michiru flat.

Carrying in items..

through the interior courtyard, past the weights (bench press).  Yes, they really do use them.  
 Elders Chawaguta (from Zimbabwe) and Chiliza (from South Africa)  are ready to start the day.  Elder Chiliza served in Blantyre when we first arrived here.  We pronounce his name phonetically, but actually the "Ch" is pronounced as a tongue click, something I could never master!  He was our first district leader, then went to Zambia, ended up as assistant to the president, and then came back to finish his mission in the best place of all - Blantyre!  We are especially fond of him, so it really made us happy when he told us he was being released a couple of weeks early so he could fly to Johannesburg and meet his family, who are coming from an area outside Durban.  They will all be sealed together in the temple!  What a wonderful way to end his mission!
 On to the Namiwawa flat; these are the first sisters to move in after several years of elders living there, since it is more convenient to their area.  However, within a day or so of moving in, the sisters asked if the flat could be professionally cleaned.  Elders and sisters frequently have different standards....
The flats probably look nicer than you would expect for missionaries, but security is such a necessity - both gates and guards, that in order to get that security, the church has to rent nicer and larger apartments.

Sister Motsi (from Zimbabwe) and Sister KiniKini, who is from Salt Lake but of Tongan heritage.  She is really happy that the new mission president, who arrives in July, is from Tonga!
  Next up was Sunnyside flat # 5.  If this looks familiar, it is because this is where we lived for the first five months of our mission.  We even had the metal screen installed to keep out the bugs, but what a pain to open and close!
Elder Stark (from California) and Elder Majekodumni, who is from London but is of Nigerian origin.  Elder Majekodumni has earned a master's degree and plans to become an educator.  
Our next delivery was to the only flat where four elders stay together.  This Sunnyside flat is notorious for water shortages and other maintenance issues, but you wouldn't know it from their smiles!  Elder Tshabalala ( South Africa), Elder Hollingsworth (another Californian) Elder Mpofu (Zimbabwe) and Elder Alexander (California again!). 
Before I met Elder Hollingsworth, a new missionary, I saw his passport and was shocked at how young he looked.  Then I realized that he was 15 when the passport was issued! However, when I met him, he didn't look much older!
Elder Mpofu knows sign language and he and his companion have recently baptized Matisse, a new deaf convert in the Zingwangwa branch.  Now several branch members are learning sign language.
 And now we are back to Stephens Road, with Elder Maele (from Kenya) and Elder Jena (from South Africa).  Elder Jena will be released in two weeks and we will miss his musical talent.  He plays the piano and organ beautifully - all by ear.  At zone meetings, he puts us all in a spiritual frame of mind with his prelude music.
Sister Kgwetiane (South Africa) and Sister Frimpong (London) in their home.  I just delivered chocolate chip scones, a "final" request of Sister Frimpong's before she finishes her mission next week.
These are the sister trainers for Blantyre.  How I will miss Sister Frimpong!  I hope we will see her in London in the next few years as she goes on to university (studying psychology).  But we get to keep Sister Kgwetiane (I hope...we never know..).

Our zone leaders, Elder Brewerton and Elder Rugumayo. Elder Brewerton has served in the office in Lusaka and will take over some of the office duties here when we leave. Elder Rugumayo has been in Blantyre for a very long time and we assumed we would finish our missions together, since he is scheduled to finish a week or so after we leave. However, we just heard he has been assigned to the Copperbelt for his last eight weeks and how we will miss him!
Together, they are a powerful companionship.  Shown here, they are picking up the Liahonas for a branch and a set of scriptures for a new member.

We had our zone meeting one week later this month because the zone leaders and sister trainers had gone to Lusaka for training and did not get back in time to prepare.  
As George and I walked into the room before zone meeting, it looked like everyone ws praying, but they were actually reading their scriptures to spiritually prepare for the meeting.
Most of the meeting was watching the recent Worldwide Missionary Broadcast. Though George and I had seen about half of it, we were pleased to watch again because it was such marvelous training from Salt Lake.

After a short discussion, afterwards, it was a fun time to visit.  The missionaries in Blantyre do not get together all that often - only about once a month, so it is a great time to catch up before heading out to their various areas.

Sister Kinikini and Elder Mpofu.

Elder Maele checking out Elder Hollingsworth's nametag.  After all, he is the newest missionary.

Nancy Masoo, who is planning on entering the mission field soon, visiting with Sisters Kgwetiane 
and Frimpong.

Since this was the final zone meeting for two of our missionaries, we decided to take photos of missionaries based on where they were from.
Sister Kgwetiane, Elder Jena, Elder Chiliza, Elder Tshabalala

(with two South Africans)
Elder Chawaguta (second from left) next to Elder Mpofu

Sister Frimpong and Elder Majekodumni

Elder Rugumayo

Elder Maele

CANADA (Alberta)
Elder Brewerton

Elder and Sister Beal (Washington), Elder Alexander, Elder Hollingsworth, Elder Stark (all from California!), Sister Kinikini (Utah)
OUR BLANTYRE DISTRICT - together for the last time!

One Kufa Road--George's Post

1.    One Kufa Road

The Church has leased the One Kufa Road residence for about 3 years.   It is ideally located, less than four blocks from the Blantyre Chapel, in the beautiful neighborhood of Mandala, home to the Mandala House, one of the earliest plantation like homes, and one of several upscale communities in Blantyre.   The home is a comfortable two bedroom home (including separate study), with two garage-like structures for storage and a boys quarters at the back, on what is probably an 2/3 acre corner lot.  French doors off the living room open up to what is the front yard, with pleasant views across a small valley to a ridge line to the south.    The property is leased from Aniz Aboobaker, our favorite landlord, whose family is of Indian descent, but have lived in Malawi for several generations, their Africa roots now deeply implanted, and ties with Indian distant and fading.   Aniz, his wife and two adult sons (both of who are involved with the family business) are part of a large Indian family with substantial real estate and other business interests in Malawi.   Both sons have gone to college in South Africa, the youngest at Monash University now, the eldest a graduate from there.  
The property is the first lot on the left side of Kufa Road (hence One Kufa Road) (few streets in Blantyre have “street” names, only major thoroughfares and a handful of paved streets in the nicest neighborhoods), and occupies a splendid spacious lot, with established foliage--mature fruit-bearing passion fruit and avocado trees, palm trees, full bushes and lush vegetation—enclosed by a high brick security fence, topped with shards of glass and concertina wire.   The property is cared for by Davey Mangani, who serves both as the day guard and as the full-time gardener, working six days a week (Sunday is his only off day).    Davey has a home in his wife’s village, a 30 minute ride south of Blantyre, just off the road running to Chikwawa.   Occasionally, his wife Chrissy, and two-year old son Mike, will catch the mini-bus to Blantyre to spend a few days in town, using the boys’ quarters at the back to cook nsima, but spending the nights in Davey’s quarters behind the Zone Leaders’ flat.   Davey joined the Church several years back and, when in town on Sunday, attends the Blantyre 2nd Branch.
Davey is himself an institution, having worked as a gardener and guard for the senior couples for about 8 years.   He remembers all of the couples—the Bullocks, Shields, Prets, and Reynolds—and has either gotten fond of or accustomed to them, and the peculiarities that come with the senior missionaries.    Davey has a huge toothy grin, is always happy (or at least appears to be), and responds, with unfailing good cheer, whenever asked to help out.  We are careful not to ask or expect too much, not wanting to abuse the relationship, knowing how accommodating he is by nature.
Without question, the grounds of One Kufa Road, under Davey’s tender care, must rival the grounds of the Garden of Eden.   Blantyre’s climate seems to be almost perfect for growing flowering scrubs, bushes and trees, vibrant rich colors for every season.   It is hard to think of any place in the world better suited as the original location for the Garden of Eden, though there is no evidence that the Garden was everywhere close to Malawi.   Davey takes great pride in his handiwork; we do not oversee his work, and never ask or demand that he tend the yard.   Each morning he rakes up fallen leaves and other debris, sweeps the driveway, trims hedges, cuts grass low, using a panga knife or electric mower (mowers themselves unusual).    The yard and grounds would not look better if under the care of a grounds crews for a four or five-star leisure resort in South Africa

Initially I thought we would make use of the yard, sitting on the small deck at the back of the house, enjoying the fresh air, beautiful foliage, and pleasant view.   There are several shady corners, under large trees, ideal for an quiet afternoon read, or spending a few idle moments.   Or, at least, we might open the French doors, bringing the outdoors into the living room.    But for whatsoever reason, rarely do we find the time.   Only once did we use the backyard for hosting a party, when the full-time missionaries joined us to celebrate this past Thanksgiving (November 2015), having a South-African styled brai, instead of baking a turkey with stuffing.   
Davey, early in the morning, with local broom in hand.   Every couple of months, Davey asks for a couple thousand kwacha to replace the native brooms, which are handy but don't last long.
Part of the boys' quarters at the back of the lot, used by the day and night guards for cooking.
The guard station at the front.   When Davey is done with the day's work, or needs a break, or the weather is inclement, he may retreat to this shaded station.
This is one of the ugly reminders of the potential dangers of living in Blantyre.   Every home in the nicer neighborhoods is protected by high brick walls, and often have around-the-clock on site guards.

Davey's smile is infectious.   Without question, Davey is the gardener here.

I will let the rest of the pictures tell their own story without embellishment.