Elder Bednar Observed Incredible Church Growth in Africa
By Elder Douglas Green Stoker and Sister Rebecca R. Stoker, Church News contributors
- Elder Bednar, with other General Authorities, spent 10 days in West Africa meeting with leaders and members and observing the growth and activity of the Church.
- The visit of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was a first for many members and was a special experience for those in attendance.
- Leaders say the growth of the Church in West Africa is miraculous.
“These faithful Saints are living the principles of the gospel and prospering spiritually under the blessings of heaven. This is a great day for the Church and for Africa.” —Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently spent 10 days with Latter-day Saints in West Africa, observing incredible growth and activity in a relatively young area of the Church.
“Truly the Lord is hastening His work throughout the world,” Elder Bednar commented. “We saw evidence of that hastening in every country and city we visited in Africa. The devoted and faithful members of the Church on that continent are anxiously engaged in following the example of the Savior and establishing His gospel and Church. I am especially impressed by their diligent preparation to enter the house of the Lord worthily and receive the blessings to be had therein.”
Throughout West Africa the Church has experienced rapid growth in many areas. The number of baptisms, confirmations, and ordinations performed shows only the beginning of what is to come in the land of these humble and obedient pioneers of the Church.
“The Church has been operating in the countries and cities we visited for just over three decades,” said Elder Clayton. “With only a handful of exceptions the members, leaders, and African missionaries we met are converts. They weren’t born in the Church. They came into the Church as converts because someone else invited them to listen to the missionaries, they responded to the message, and they chose to be baptized. The growth that has occurred as thousands upon thousands of wonderful people have gained testimonies, developed faith, grown in conversion, and accepted the ordinances of salvation is truly miraculous.”
In addition to holding special Sunday meetings on two consecutive weekends, Elder Bednar and Elder Clayton directed priesthood leadership conferences, met with priesthood leaders and their wives, held young single adult devotionals, gave instruction at missionary zone conferences, led a member devotional, met with mission presidents and their wives, and conducted a review of the Africa West Area.
Under the direction of Sister Bednar and Sister Clayton, the wives of priesthood leaders met to receive instruction and participate in stimulating discussions based on several articles they were asked to read in preparation for the meeting.
Sister Lucy Oraegbu, a member of the Nigeria Lagos Stake, explained she almost did not get to the session for the wives. “But, thankfully, Heavenly Father prepared a way,” she said. “As the sisters shared their testimonies and experiences that day, I was greatly touched. I could feel the presence of the Holy Ghost.”
Many Nigerians came from great distances to see an Apostle. The number of members and investigators attending the Sunday meeting with Elder Bednar in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, was impressive, with 2,700 people filling the convention center and spilling out to the back of the building, where extra chairs were placed under shade tents. Large projection screens were situated for participants to view the meeting.
“The feeling of being at the feet of a prophet, seer, and revelator was a marvelous opportunity,” commented Brother Ikechukwu Ake, a member of Omoku Ward, Port Harcourt West Stake. “I came a long distance with my family to be here. I have no regrets. This Church is my life.”
The visit of a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was a first for many members of the Church in West Africa—one they will never forget.
“What a great privilege to have an Apostle in Nigeria,” said Patience Ekpo of the Lagos Nigeria Stake. “It is an exciting moment to be among the Saints this wonderful Sunday and hear an Apostle of the Lord speak. I feel so humbled to listen to his counsel, which is the Lord’s message to me and my family.”
Young single adults in both Port Harcourt and Lagos enjoyed uplifting two-hour question-and-answer sessions with the visiting authorities. Time passed quickly as thoughtful questions were addressed and sincere concerns were clarified.
“As a young single adult, this meeting has encouraged me to keep the commandments and be virtuous at all times, anywhere I find myself,” said Nkechi Ayama of the Rumueme 1st Ward, Port Harcourt West Stake. “That is the sure way to a happy life.”
After concluding their travels, both Elder Bednar and Elder Clayton reflected on the faithful members and their bright future. “These faithful Saints are living the principles of the gospel and prospering spiritually under the blessings of heaven,” Elder Clayton said. “This is a great day for the Church and for Africa.”
“The Lord is mindful of His children in West Africa,” Elder Bednar remarked. “It is marvelous to witness the blessings of the Lord in their lives as they embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ and honor sacred covenants. We anticipate continued spiritual growth and maturity as they press forward with steadfastness in Christ.”