Church History Centre Opens in Johannesburg, South Africa

  By Elder Tom and Sister Kathleen Barnes

  • 6 December 2013

“Behold, there shall be a record kept among you...” (D&C 21:1).

 On the day the Church was organized, the Lord said, “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you...” (D&C 21:1). This record includes inspirational stories about the development of the Church and lives of its members. A place to preserve and make available these records is also required.

The Africa Southeast Area Church History Centre (CHC) is the first Church History Centre in Africa and one of the first to be developed in the Church.The Pacific Area has a CHC in New Zealand, which was the first in the Church. Having the CHC in Johannesburg allows Saints from all over the Africa Southeast Area (ASEA) to visit the facility when they come to the temple. The CHC is located in the ASEA Office complex behind the Distribution Centre.

Members may visit the centre to learn about the history of the Church in the Africa Southeast Area. They can also learn to use the Church History Library catalogue, research historical documents for personal or family history purposes (at this point mostly for those  who have pioneer ancestors of the Church in South Africa), and donate records about the history of the Church in their areas. The CHC is generally open Tuesday through Saturday.

Another part of the facility is the Records Preservations Centre (RPC). It is a repository for historical artefacts and documents which are in a secure location in the Area Office. Items in the RPC may be viewed under the supervision of the CHC staff.

The CHC was opened the last week of October 2013 after much planning and development by the Area Presidency, Elder Randy and Sister Barbara Knudsen, the Johannesburg Area Office support team, and the efforts of Matthew K. Heiss and his staff at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The CHC has two computers for patrons to use to research items in the Church’s extensive library collection. Additional seating for four more patrons allows them to look at documents stored in the RPC or watch DVDs of faith-promoting stories compiled by the Church. All digitised records are available to view on these computers. In addition, the Records Preservation Centre in Johannesburg has received the Clive D. Nichols and the Kenneth Powrie collections, containing historical records since the beginning of the Church in South Africa.

There is a work station with two computers for the Church History missionaries to use. At the present time Elder and Sister Barnes have replaced the Knudsens and are working full time, using this area in support of the Area Church History Advisers, Warner and Melissa Molema. The Molemas have been recently called and have the responsibility for Church History work in the Africa Southeast Area, under the direction of the Area Presidency.

                         Elder and Sister Barnes, senior missionaries in the new Church History Centre

A large part of the collection process is to obtain oral histories from members of the Church in the Africa Southeast Area. The Church has grown rapidly in Africa since the late 1970s. There are many valuable faith-promoting stories dealing with the life, faith, and works of converts to the Church. Many have remarkable stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles in order to join the Church. We want to collect such stories and we want to have these stories available to the members so their testimonies can be strengthened. These stories can enlighten us to know how to better deal with challenges in our own lives.  You can contact Elder and Sister Barnes at tbarnes@ldschurch.org or kbarnes@ldschurch.org if you have faith-promoting stories.