Sunday, September 29, 2013

Today I Saw ... Skillz

This Thur or Friday I saw a guy riding a bicycle

while carrying a crutch in his left hand just inches above the ground

with his left [broken/sprained/damaged] leg resting on the support bar.

So really, with one hand and one foot, he peddled over the pot holes of the broken dirt road and made it look effortless that he was going faster than our car. It was quite impressive. I wish I had a non-verbal picture for you.

Finding common ground: Karl Marx

This semester I'm teaching an independent study course on "heterodox economics" - which is to say, the stuff that doesn't typically make it to the textbooks. I was pretty confident in picking the readings for the sections on Austrian and new institutional economics, but decided to chat with my next-door colleague, an avowed Marxist, to see what he would suggest for covering Marxism. He recommended the first volume of Das Kapital in the gleeful knowledge that he was getting ME to read it as well. He knew I was not about to assign something to my student I hadn't read myself and the recommendation is a sensible one since I'm assigning very sympathetic readings for the other topics as well. I've been meaning to read Smith, Keynes, Ricardo, Marx, et al "someday" anyway, so I took this as a chance to cross one off my list.

Primarily, I confess, I was reading so I could voice better objections to Marx than that I don't like his conclusions or rehashing other people's criticisms. I've found those objections and I'm quite pleased with the understanding I've gained in the last couple weeks. My opposition to Marxism is now founded on firmer grounds*. I also found two things that I liked.

The first was a lovely quote in praise of the labor market as
"a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham [the greatest happiness for the greatest number]. ... And precisely for that reason ... under the auspices of an all-cunning providence, they all work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal, and in the common interest."
I found myself in ready agreement with that characterisation.

The other idea was one I had never before considered, but I found it profound in my circumstances.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

LDS in Nigeria: Tithing

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we give 10% of our income to the church to fill the ancient law of tithing. When we moved out here, one of the things we wondered was how we would pay our tithing. There wasn't a bishop to give it to; we never see the mission president; what do you do?

Answer: you pay online. Our mission president helpfully sent us a set of instructions to set up bill pay. There is also a short electronic form to fill out. We had our credit union in the US pay our tithing straight to church headquarters - at least until Joy and the kids settled down in Utah. As Superstar began earning an allowance this year, he saved his N5 and N10 bills until we could get to the US where I exchanged them into quarters and nickels so he could pay his tithing too. We wanted him to have the experience of actually handing it in.

June 2001 three Nigerian members wrote in to the Church magazine to answer a question about tithing: why pay if you earn so little that your contribution won't make a difference? While I don't know if these particular Nigerians were among the 80+% living on less than $2/day, the odds are pretty good at least one is. These were their thoughts:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

LDS in Nigeria: Faith Rewarded

The story of the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nigeria is one of remarkable faith. We heard of that faith before the Church was even allowed to send missionaries here as people who had never even heard of the church had visions of the temple and congregations sprang up across the south. My last post told of how some of the members gained their testimonies. In the year 2000, the Ensign and Liahona contained tales of miracles in our day, of faith rewarded.
Aba Nigeria Mormon Temple

The greatest of these blessings was Pres. Hinckley's announcement in the April 2000 General Conference that a temple would be built in Aba, Nigeria. The Church had grown to 9 stakes in Nigeria. At the time we had 76 temples in all the world, though another 50 would be completed within the next 5 years in a massive campaign of building. Even though I have not yet had the privilege of visiting it myself, knowing that there was a temple here has been a source of strength to our family. The temple will have its own post later on once my chronology gets closer to its dedication in 2005.

David Eka, who was I believe the second black African Area Authority, was sent to fight in the Nigerian civil war while a young man. He recounts:
While in a bunker, he heard a voice instruct him to quickly move out of it. He stood to leave and urged others to leave with him, but when they refused, he climbed out without them. Immediately a bomb fell on the bunker, and he was the only survivor. With this assurance that his life was being spared, he began kneeling in prayer daily. If you will take me back alive to my people, I will serve you, he recalls saying many times in prayer. He was never wounded and returned safely home.

Advice on moving to Nigeria: food

It's been a long while since I made official suggestions for someone preparing to move out here, but the wisdom of this one has been pressing on me this time around:

Bring Meals. Not just food, but meals.

When we have ever planned to go back home, the longest list of "Things To Do in the States" is of the foods we will eat, ranging from the fresh vegetables that you either can't find here or have to clean in bleach, to anything that requires refrigeration, to meat that you don't have to soak in vinegar to get rid of the health risks, to anything that resembles variety.

I have a friend out here who spends the better part of his non-work time (as far as I can tell) posting pictures of food he will eat when he gets back home. When another friend left a year ago, she gave us her food storage: Pop Tarts, real butter, Asian spices, and a host of other things we are still going through. It was a delightful treasure trove that felt like Christmas.

While we've always brought a little food from home we mostly brought ingredients: seasonings I can't find here (eg. paprika, Lawry's, Worcestershire sauce, or anything green), a little dried fruit, and one bag of peanut M&Ms per month. We did think of a couple foods we wanted to make and lacked ingredients for: chocolate chips and canned pumpkin for cookies, powdered sugar for crepes, but not meals.

This time around I decided to play it smarter. I thought of particular meals I wished I could have here and brought everything I'd need. I brought taco seasonings and salsa and made myself some improvized taco salad last week I was enraptured about. Tonight it was falafel mix that sent me into ecstasy. I have Thai sauces and Indian mixes and just a few other special meals, enough for about one a week.

Those little treats do a world of good for my morale. So I heartily recommend that if you are coming to a little, out of the way corner of Nigeria, bring some variety.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Confession: Sundays are longer than I remember

Do you remember the Twilight Zone episode where the guy wanted nothing but to read without being bothered by humanity, and when he wakes up to find himself completely alone he goes off to read in the library only to **O Henry Spoiler Alert** break his glasses so he can't read? Sundays have become a little like that, only without O Henry.

I never really felt like I got as much time to study the scriptures and ponder on Sundays as I wanted. It's not that I wanted to ignore my kids and wife. I wanted to spend gobs of time with them too. I just couldn't do everything I wanted to do.

Well, I don't have that problem anymore. I can study the gospel, hold church, watch a general conference session, do family history extraction or help in the vineyard, blog and write in my journal, practice piano, prepare food, "and by then it's, like, 7:15." Saturdays are a lot easier because there's even more that needs to get done and I have the comfort of knowing I won't be able to do a lot of it on Sunday.

Joy was visiting her sister last Sunday and we didn't have a schedule for when we would talk. Not knowing when or IF I would finally get the chance to see my family was really hard. I was happily surprised when we did get to chat. It was much-needed manna to my soul.

I love every moment I get to spend talking with them. I've learned I tell time by how many hours it is until I can see them again.

My hope is that I will use this time to get really stuffed full of time to myself on Sundays and rejoice for every minute I get with Joy and the kids when we're back together again.

A Prophet visits Nigeria: Feb 1998

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley was well known for his travels visiting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world. In Feb 1998 he took Elder Holland with him to visit Canada and Africa and they made a stop in Port Harcourt. As far as I can tell, this was the first visit from a Prophet of the Lord to Nigeria ever. He spoke to 1100 priesthood leaders, visited Aba where he would eventually build and dedicate a temple to the Lord, and then spoke to 12,000 members in a civic center members of the Church had been cleaning and preparing for his visit. On his drive to Aba, hundreds of members lined the roads in their Sunday best, waving green and white Nigerian flags.

The May 98 Ensign does not have much that he said to them, sadly. He told the brethren to be committed to their callings. He also said:
“The Church will grow in Nigeria as you grow,” President Hinckley said. “If you don’t do anything, nothing very much will happen with the Church. But if you are anxiously engaged in assisting those for whom you are responsible, the Church will grow in strength.”
Speaking of the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males, President Hinckley said, “I am an eyewitness to what happened.”
After the conference, a sister from Benin City commented, “This conference was like Moses gathering the children of Israel.”
Thankfully, some of the things he said were later shared in the monthly home teaching messages. From June 98 we learn that he said this to the general membership:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Confessions from the Absentee Father: Schizoid Man

I was standing in the kitchen warming up my leftovers for dinner when something happened I was not prepared for. The window was open and suddenly


I was in emergency mode. I was not only in emergency mode, I was divided into four people, all of whom were talking and yelling at each other at the same time:


This went on not very long, but long enough before I could pull myself together. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finding the Gospel in Nigeria: 1996-99

Several articles in the Ensign describe how individuals in Nigeria found the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and much happier their lives are as a result.

Florence Chukwurah was born into a very poor household in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria. She determined that she would escape poverty by staying close to the Lord, working hard with her hands, obeying her elders, and working hard in school. She decided to become a nurse, which was possible because of a government subsidy and a loan her father was able to get to pay for her schooling. While working as a nurse, a woman noticed that she went home after work instead of spending time with the men. So she sent her nephew to propose marriage to her. She prayed about his offer, felt he was a religious man, and accepted.

Both she and her husband very much wanted to find a church that filled their longing for truth but could not find one. They fasted on New Years Eve 1981 to finally find a church they could stay in. Their prayer was answered nine days later as they both had separate impressions to visit some friends.
When they arrived at the home of their friend, they were surprised when he offered them a soft drink instead of the more usual beer. He explained that because he and his wife now belonged to a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they no longer drank alcohol or smoked.
“My husband and I looked at each other,” recalls Sister Chukwurah. “We love each other so dearly that we can speak with our eyes. After looking into each other’s eyes, we immediately asked, ‘How can we become members of this church?’”
Ten years later her husband was called as a mission president in Ghana which gave them the opportunity to be sealed together, along with one of their sons. At the time of the article, her husband had just been called as one of the first area authority 70s. While her husband was away, her son was very sick and not responding well to the medicine. She prayed and felt impressed to stop giving him one of them. He quickly grew better. She knew her prayer of faith had been answered.

Dr. Pius Ozoemena was worshipping in a meditation room while at a conference in Italy. There he found two books that drew his attention, the Book of Mormon and Elder LeGrand Richards' A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. He wanted to know more, so he paid to have the books photocopied and professionally bound so he could study them. "Because of the revelations contained in these books, I guarded them jealously upon my return to Nigeria. For almost a year I read them faithfully and compared their messages with other scriptural texts."

Some more summer fun

While Joy and the kids are visiting her sister's family, it seems only appropriate to post this picture of our last visit to them. Here is Princess riding on her cousin. It's so very nice to be near family!

Princess' first bowling

Over the summer we took the kids bowling a couple times at the BYU lanes. It was Princess' first chance. The thing that amazed me was to see this teeny little person carrying a ball one-fourth of her body weight over and over again, and she still thought it was fun. After a while Mom and Dad had some pity on her and we set the ball up on the supports for her. Even then she occasionly protested: it was her ball and she was going to carry it herself! She and Superstar both had a great time.