Elder Andersen Finds Great Faith, Love in Southeast Africa

Contributed By Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writer

  • 11 March 2016

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (second from right), and Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, General Authority Seventy and counselor in the Southeast Africa Area Presidency (third from left) gather with local priesthood leaders for a special district conference and priesthood leadership conference in Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We found great faith, a love of God, and a love of Christ. There is so much that we can learn from these Latter-day Saints.” —Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Neil L. Andersen’s recent trip throughout southeast Africa was notable for several reasons. For one, Elder Andersen participated in a historic event by dedicating the ground for the region’s first temple—the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Temple (see related story).

For another, the Apostle became the first serving member of his quorum to ever visit the remote province of Kasai in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But for Elder Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, who accompanied him throughout his travels, some of the most memorable moments will be from their personal interactions with the members.

With an itinerary that included stops in five African nations—including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique—Elder and Sister Andersen had many opportunities to interact one-on-one with members and to hear their personal stories and testimonies as they participated in stake and district conferences, missionary meetings, and special member meetings.

In visiting with the members, “we found great faith, a love of God, and a love of Christ. There is so much that we can learn from these Latter-day Saints,” Elder Andersen told the Church News upon his return.

Sister Andersen added, “Seeing the example of the beautiful Saints in Africa always makes us want to be better.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invites a young man up to the stand during a stake conference on February 21 in Maputo, Mozambique.

In addition to their involvement in various meetings throughout their travels February 9–24, Elder and Sister Andersen visited with members in their homes—close to 10,000 miles from Salt Lake City—and saw pictures of the Savior, the First Vision, and the First Presidency.

“They understand about the Atonement and the Resurrection. They are very committed to Christ, and … they believe in the Restoration and the Book of Mormon,” Elder Andersen observed.

In addition to other meetings, Elder Andersen and members of the Southeast Africa Area Presidency—General Authority Seventies Elder Carl B. Cook, Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, and Elder Stanley G. Ellis—conducted priesthood leadership conferences in Kananga and Mbuji-Mayi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as in Lusaka, Zambia, and Maputo, Mozambique.

At the same time as the priesthood leadership conferences, Sister Andersen, Sister Lynette Cook, Sister Claudia Keysor Hamilton, and Sister Kathryn Ellis participated in auxiliary women’s meetings.

“One of the many things I love about the women we met is their deep love for the Savior and their beautiful, absolutely unfettered faith in the Lord’s servants,” Sister Andersen said.

Elder Andersen observed that in many of the areas they visited, like the Kasane Branch located in a far-flung corner of Botswana, the Church grew even before the arrival of missionaries. The stake in Luputa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, developed as member families moved to the area and continued to worship once they arrived. They saved their tithing money to give to the mission president when one of them would return to the larger cities. Luputa became a stake in 2011, even before receiving full-time missionaries.

Their faith and devotion is remarkable, he said.

Speaking of the growth of the Church, Elder Andersen noted that in the 30 years the Church has been established in Kinshasa, it now has 145 congregations and seven stakes. Mozambique created its first two stakes last year. Lusaka, Zambia, also created its first stake last year, while Malawi is working toward its first stake. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the fastest-growing areas, and construction has now begun for a temple. “The Church in Africa is growing and is strengthening,” Elder Andersen said.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen, left, and Elder Carl B. Cook, General Authority Seventy and President of the Southeast Africa Area (right), and his wife, Sister Lynette Cook, pose with members in Maputo, Mozambique.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, greet members following a special district conference in Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 14. Elder Andersen was the first serving member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit the city.

Elder Neil L. Andersen shakes hands with young men prior to a special district conference in Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 14.

Some 2,000 members gather under tarps strung over bamboo poles to listen to counsel from Elder Neil L. Andersen and other Church leaders in a special district conference in Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 14.

Elder Neil L. Andersen speaks during a special district conference in Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 14. Elder Andersen and other Church leaders spoke to some 2,000 members gathered under tarps strung across bamboo poles.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, greet members following a special district conference in Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on February 14. Elder and Sister Andersen traveled throughout southeast Africa February 9–24, 2016.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, meet with members of the Kasane Branch in Botswana, on February 17 as part of a two-week trip throughout southeast Africa.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen pose with Church member Cornelia Rautenbach outside the building where LDS meetings are held in Kasane, Botswana, on February 17, 2016.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and Sister Kathy Andersen pose with members following a district conference in Lusaka, Zambia, on February 20. Elder and Sister Andersen traveled throughout southeast Africa February 9–24, 2016.

Members in Maputo, Mozambique, gather to hear counsel from Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a stake conference on February 21. Elder Andersen traveled throughout southeast Africa February 9–24.