Lessons Learned as Church Achieves Provisional Recognition in Gabon
By Jeff Clayton, Africa Southeast Area Legal Adviser
After six years of concerted effort, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been granted official recognition in Gabon. Acting under the direction of the spirit, Brother Jeff Clayton (Africa Southeast Area Legal Adviser) and French speaking Elder David Larsen (Associate Area Legal Counsel) were instrumental in gaining the recognition on 22 August 2012.
The Church cannot be fully organized and functioning until receiving official recognition in a country. Recognition allows the Church to send missionaries to the country, to purchase land, to establish accounts for monetary funds, and to establish groups, wards, branches and stakes.
In his own words Brother Clayton shared “Lessons Learned or Re-Learned While on the Lord’s Errand” in Gabon.
A. LESSON ONE: We are engaged in the work of the Lord
About a month ago I was studying the scriptures, and I read the following verse. Alma 26:37 ‘Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen.”
“The Spirit bore witness to me that morning in a very powerful way that God is mindful of Africa. This is the time for Africa! Everyone one of us here is blessed to be part of the unfolding of the Gospel in Africa… this is God’s work and we must never forget it.
B. LESSON TWO: Do your homework first as in Doctrine and Covenants Section 9
We worried and planned … about this trip to Gabon for months. We pondered; we prayed; we tried to find out all that had taken place.
In Libreville [capital of Gabon] our first visit was with our lawyer to find out anything that could help us in understanding why things had not worked out. She was most helpful in pointing us the right way.
Sister Larsen and Public Affairs put together a wonderful packet of information which turned out to be a very important tool in touching the heart of a powerful government official.
C. LESSON THREE: Listen to Priesthood leaders
Bishop Gaetan Kelounou, Talangai Ward, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, played a critical role. A native French speaker, Bishop Gaetan is bright, and capable and very, very faithful. He had the right spirit and connections and knew how to use them appropriately.
President Brent Jameson, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Kinshasa Mission President, provided counsel regarding staffing of the new unit.
D. LESSON FOUR: Go with courage and faith
When we left to go to Gabon, we had a whole week and we had only two appointments. We didn’t know who we were going to end up talking to; we didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. But we went, trusting that the Lord would open the doors and something would happen.
E. LESSON FIVE: Follow the promptings of the Spirit
As I worried and pondered about this trip, I felt the impression that what we needed to do was find the persons whom the Lord had prepared to help us with getting this job done. I also felt prompted that it would take a long time so we scheduled a whole week in Libreville.
Each day, including Sunday, the right person or persons emerged to affect the action necessary to continue moving forward.
Each day brought strong impressions of where to be and what to do to be of the most influence.
Receiving provisional registration
That afternoon [Thursday, 23 August 2012] the Gabon President’s office delivered to our hotel the provisional registration for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can imagine how we felt. We were hoping when we left South Africa that we would make some progress. We had already thought we would have to schedule some additional trips. Never once did we think we would have a registration document before we went home.