Gabon Country Dedication in Ancient Forest
By Sean E.R. Donnelly
“It was like retiring to a Sacred Grove, reminiscent of Joseph Smith's first prayer in 1820.”--Elder Carl B. Cook
On November 5, 2013, eleven days after the Church received full legal status in the Central African country of Gabon, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles performed a powerful and significant country dedicatory prayer in a forest clearing at the base of a tall tree. He was accompanied by his wife, Susan K. Bednar, and local leaders: Elder Carl B. Cook of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency and his wife, Sister Lynette H. Cook; President W. Bryce Cook, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Kinshasa Mission, and his wife, Sister Karol Cook; and President Armand Mpandou, president of the Libreville Gabon Branch.
Gabon is situated right on the equator on the west coast of Central Africa. It is country known for tropical rain forests. The dedication *site chosen, in keeping with the natural context, was the magnificent Cenarest Arboretum in Sibang, Libreville--the country’s capital city (* GPS coordinates below).
It was a cloudy, humid and hot afternoon. The group walked reverently deep into the forest. A damp scented trail led to the forest’s tallest tree. A giant tree, a Ceiba Pentadra, was the backdrop for the dedication. According to the Arboretum’s botanist, the tree was planted in the early 1800s and has been standing since the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now it towered above the forest canopy providing shade for the group, and a suitable symbolic ancient ‘witness’ of what was about to take place.
The Ceiba Pentadra tree towers above the forest canopy.
Elder Carl B. Cook remarked, “It was like retiring to a sacred grove, reminiscent of Joseph Smith’s first prayer in 1820.” As the group gathered in a circle at the base of the tree, calmness descended after the singing of “I Need Thee Every Hour”; and then Elder David A. Bednar dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel.
He blessed the nation, the people, the future missionaries; he turned the keys to open the door for the living and the dead, and for the work of salvation to go forth unabated. He said that very specific people will be prepared and sent to Gabon to assist in the work, that there would be peace in the hearts of the people through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that the members there would be righteous and strong.
Following the sacred event, Elder Bednar commented that it was a remarkable experience, not merely a ceremony, but that all the keys of the priesthood on the earth today were acting under the direction of the First Presidency to bless the people and the land. He said that dedicatory prayers change the history of nations. Several times Elder Bednar said that it was the dawning of a bright new day, that the future is brighter than we have any idea. As if in fulfillment of that prophetic statement, the weather made a significant change. The 80-strong congregation of members, friends, and visitors witnessed light shining brightly all around as cloudy skies were replaced with clear, crisp sunshine and blue skies; the heavens were speaking. “These are historic days, days never to be forgotten,” said Elder Carl B Cook.
Elder and Sister Bednar gather with members and friends after a devotional in Libreville, Gabon.
The dedication concluded a 10-day visit to Africa for Elder David A. Bednar. He also met with priesthood leaders, missionaries, and members in Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lubumbashi and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In meetings, he left an apostolic blessing and special witness of Jesus Christ. The visit ended with Elder Bednar expressing his love for the people he had met and the places he had been.
*GPS Coordinates of dedication site - 0° 27’ 30” North and 9° 29’ 0” East.