Friend to Friend

From a personal interview by Corliss Clayton with Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the First Quorum of the Seventy, currently serving as second counselor in the United Kingdom/Ireland/Africa area presidency

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    Elder Alexander B. Morrison

    “I was a convert to the Church—the first in my family,” said Elder Alexander B. Morrison, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “I cannot think of a time when I didn’t believe in God and feel His presence in my life. When I was introduced to the gospel, I had only to hear it to believe it. I was a student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. One of my schoolmates, David Blackmore, introduced me to the gospel. Two doctrines of the gospel really interested me. One was eternal progression—the idea that a major purpose of our life on earth is to learn and to expand our knowledge and our capacities. That just thrilled me. The second doctrine was that of eternal marriage. I was dating Shirley Edith Brooks at the time, and I would have jumped through hoops—flaming hoops—to be with her forever. Shirley and I got married a week after we were baptized, and we were later sealed in the Alberta Temple.

    “Wherever I go, it’s the children that concern me. Our members in Zaire, for example, are really eating only one meal a day. Life in African villages is a story of fever, sickness, and poverty. Things that many of us take for granted are difficult for many of the people in Africa to get.

    “I remember a little six- or seven-year-old girl whom I met in Ethiopia. She was collecting water from an irrigation ditch. It was full of silt and mud, but it was the only water available. She went down a very steep bank with a basin and a cutoff plastic bottle, which she used as a dipper, and filled the basin with the black water. Then she carried it home on her head. God bless those dear little ones. How He must love them. And how heavy are the burdens that they have to carry. It tears at my heart.

    “We have wonderful Church members in Africa,” Elder Morrison continued. “I remember going to a priesthood meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, last year. There were about fifty men and boys there, all wearing shoes. Many of them do not have shoes to wear during the week, but they have them to wear to Church meetings. The priesthood holders were spotlessly clean, which is very impressive in a country where getting water is difficult. They were all dressed in the very best that they had. And they were all anxious to learn.

    “The thing that amazes me about Africa is that you can go to a meeting and talk there for two or three hours, and the children will sit and listen very quietly. There’s no scuffling or punching each other, no wrestling, and no wanting to go out for a drink of water. The children don’t let their attention wander for even a second. They’re great kids and a great people.

    “Children, learn as much as you can about this world. Not because you have to learn, but for the sheer joy of learning. Learn all that is beautiful, lovely, and of good report. Learn from the past and from the present about all kinds of things. The people of Africa love to learn. Books are so expensive and rare there that they are anxious to get any book to read. Each schoolbook is shared by many children. Scriptures are passed back and forth until they are tattered.

    “I was in Zimbabwe a few months ago and went to visit a school. Little children as young as six or seven years old walked five miles each way just to go to school. The building had no windows, and its two classrooms were separated by flour sacks. It was a chilly, rainy day when I was there, and water was running in through the door, which had to be left open to let light into the building. Each child had just one piece of paper and a pencil. They knelt on the wet floor when they wrote, using their benches as tables. They sang “I Am a Child of God” (many of the children were Church members), which they sang in Shona, their native language, and “God Bless Africa,” a national song of the African people. Those children sang with all their hearts.

    “Many of the children were sick, malnourished, and so thin that you could count their ribs. I left with tears in my eyes. And that’s why we have to bring the gospel to those people. It’s only the gospel of Christ that will make the difference.

    “Children, learn about and love children in other lands because we’re all children of the same Father. And don’t ever forget to thank your Father in Heaven for what you have and to be generous to the rest of the world.

    “Be happy. The children in Africa are happy in spite of their problems. The gospel of Christ can make us all happier than we’d be without it.”

    1. Three children from Kinshasa, Zaire

    2. Young Nigerian girl with a beautiful smile

    3. Elder Morrison visits with members at district conference in southern Nigeria.

    4. Cheerful and friendly neighbors get together to cook fufu (casaba and corn) in Zaire.