Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reactivating the Clarkes

   We enjoyed a busy weekend attending PEF classes in Cleary and Kwanobuhle on Saturday, visiting both Lorraine & P.E Ward on Sunday and hosting the Van Sickles, the Taylors and Janette Lake for dinner Sunday afternoon in honor of Sister Jane’s birthday.  It was also our 38th wedding anniversary.  Yesterday we celebrated with a two hour Thai couples massage. Rose Fourie and Num, who had done wonders to repair my sore hip flexer, worked on us both in the same room.  It was lots of fun.   Last night we visited the Clarkes again.  Phillip Clarke showed up at sacrament meeting on Sunday which was a miracle as he has not darkened the doorstep in 26 years.  It was also a miracle that we happened to be at Sacrament meeting in P.E. Ward.  We had planned to go to church in  Kwa Magxaki Ward so we could deliver the “Planning for Success” certificates.  However  Tom overshot the turnoff twice.  This has never happened before.  The first time we got off the freeway and circled back to the N 1  via a slip road.  Then Tom was distracted by a begger standing on the corner of the freeway, and turned when the GPS said turn right.  We found ourselves going the wrong way into oncoming traffic.  Tom needed to turn right into the left lane. Instead he turned right into the right lane.  He quickly corrected but missed the turn off once  again.  We were too late to go out to Kwa Magxaki.

  We decided to return to Lorraine and catch that Sunday School class.  This was a good plan as the ladies wanted to know how the donation to the newborns went.  I gave them a report and then  joined Tom for Sacrament in P.E. Ward which was just beginning.  What a wonderful meeting.  The last of three speaker was the President of the Johannesburg Temple.   He had come down to visit his daughter, the wife of Bishop Wade Van Rooyen.  After the meeting  I noticed Elder Pack waving and mouthing something pointing to the front.  Since I could not understand what he was saying, I made my way up thru the crowd  to the front of the chapel.  Elder Pack had a big smile  on his face.  He said:  “Brother Clarke is here.”  I saw him and gave him a big hug.   Miriam works on Sundays so she did not attend.

Tom and I along with Elders Pack and Acton stood at Brother Clarke’s side while the congregation filed out.  He knew some of  the people, including the Temple president but wondered why there were so few people at the meeting.  I explained that many members had moved to Australia, Germany and other areas in 1994 when aphartheid ended in S.A.   Many Afrikkaners feared black leadership and so emigrated.  Elder Pack wanted photos so we went outside.  Brother Clarke invited Tom and I to visit again on Monday night.
The Elders had a family getting ready for baptism so could not join us.

Miriam was very interested in our visit to the newborn unit at Dora Ngiza hospital.  She crochets and often makes things to donate.  The matron of the maternity ward at Dora Ngiza asked me for the pattern for baby  caps.  She wants all the nurses to knit for the newborns on  breaks.  She said they put premature babies into plastic bags but need something to cover their heads.  Her goal is to have 1,000 caps on hand for the babies as soon as possible.  Sister Clarke is very interested in helping.  Tom and Phillip spent the evening talking about sports and World War 11.   Phillip finally brought up the questions of polygamy.  He said that Christ taught one man should have only one wife.  So why did Brigham Young have 27 wives and why was polygamy practiced in the early days of the church?

I was in the Church historian’s office doing research on polygamy for my Master’s thesis in 1985.  That is until Jim Kimball, the church historian, called me into his office and suggested that I write on something else.  So I knew a lot about this.  I explained that Joseph Smith was commanded to practice polygamy.  It was not something he chose for personal reasons.  Heber Kimball almost left the church because of this doctrine until wife Vilate prayed and learned that it came from God.  It may have been partly to provide for women single, divorced and widowed who needed support and protection but more likely the purpose was to build a foundation of righteous leaders.  These were needed to grow the church from 6 members in 1830 to 6 million today.

Many of our leaders today including Mitt Romney, have ancestors that practiced “the principle.”  I told Brother Clarke that only 3% of the church leaders were “called” to take more than one wife.  That they could not do so if the first wife was opposed.  I gave him the example of  Inger Sward Johnson, my paternal great grandmother. Her husband was bishop of both Lake View and Vineyard Wards.  A convert from Norway, he stood 6’ 2” tall, and had served a mission there.  When a general authority suggested that he take another wife John went to Inger who was about 5’ 2”.  She said, “Why John, you can have as many wives as you want but I won’t be one of them.”  He never broached the subject  again.

In 1847 when the Saints came west, Utah territory was a wild frontier.  Life on the edge of civilization was exactly what those hearty settlers made it.  There were no laws against having more than one wife.  The infant church needed lots of leaders.  Joseph Smith had read about this practice in the Old Testament.  When he asked, he writes that an angel with a drawn sword came to him and said either he practice the principle or forfeit his calling.  Polygamy was likely given as a commandment in an effort to raise up a righteous generation quickly.  It’s rather like the Perpetual Education Fund program today which provides opportunities for return missionaries in developing countries to better themselves so they can support their families and devote time to their callings in Africa, South America and other developing countries.

I explained that between 1847 and 1896 many children had been born and raised in righteous families.  Wilford Woodruff prayed about what to do in order for Utah to become a state.  The answer was to end polygamy which he did.    However some fundamentalists groups still practice polygamy today.  But these people are not part of the Mormon church.  This is why the church historian discouraged me from writing about polygamy in the 1980’s.  He said those who still practice polygam would use my thesis to justify their cause.  Consequently, I chose to write abouot the Mormon Waldensians.  The Clarkes are not pleased with President Zuma—their polygamist president—who has five wives and many out of wedlock children.  Two more prospective wives are awaiting their wedding days.  It appears that we are meeting the Clarkes and the elders next Monday for dinner as  Elder Pack goes home on Wednesday.

New subject:  Teen mothers.  When we went to the hospital I asked one of the nurses how many new mothers they had.  “Too many” she replied.  She was referring to the practice here of so many teens having babies.  Celeste Teixeira-Swiegelaar, from the P.E. ward  Relief Society, went with us to deliver the layettes.  She explained that part of the problem is a clash of ancient and modern cultures.  Many still feel the groom must provide lobola (bride price or dowry) to the bride’s family, and have a tribal ceremonial “marriage.”.  Many teens dream of a  traditional western wedding with a white dress, cake and all the trimmings costing thousands of Rand.  The 25% unemployment rate is mostly young people who cannot find jobs.  Many are poorly educated.  So when a girl gets pregnant often the boy disappears.  Consequently, the girls end up on welfare with 250 Rand each month per child and the babies are raised by grandparents, relatives and/or uneducated teen mothers.

Sorry but no more smileboxes!  The program has been corrupted and despite the best efforts of Janette and Elder Taylor, we have not been able to fix it.  Tom is exploring other picture options.  The only solution for fixing it seems to be buying another lap top or learning some another picture program.  Hope you are all enjoying Pioneer Day! 

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