Mother knelt down and brushed the red clay from the tombstone. Sarah read the faded words: “GOBO FANGO, AGED 30 YEARS.” She paused a moment and then asked, “Who is Gobo Fango?”
Mother began pulling the weeds that had grown up around the old stone. She motioned for Sarah to sit down next to her under the shady tree that covered this part of the cemetery.
“Gobo was a valiant Saint,” Mother answered, “a courageous child from South Africa. He was one of the first African pioneers to join the early Saints in the West, and he is a member of our family.”
Sarah looked confused. “But, Mother, we are not from South Africa. We are from California.”
Mother laughed. “We are now, but our ancestors back at the time of the pioneers came from all over the world.”
“What is an ancestor?”
“Good question. An ancestor is a member of our family who lived a long time ago.”
“You mean like Granny?”
“Yes, and her parents before her, and their parents before them. Learning about them is what we call family history,” Mother explained. “Would you like to hear the story about Gobo Fango?”
Mother sat back and started the amazing story of a little boy and his mother who was very ill. “Gobo was a three-year-old boy in 1857. His mother knew that she was dying and could no longer care for him, so she tucked him into the branches of a tree on the Talbots’ property. Ruth Talbot soon found the starving boy and gently coaxed him from the tree. Tired and cold, little Gobo climbed down and into the arms of his new mother. The entire Talbot family cared for Gobo as one of their own.
“When the family was taught by Mormon missionaries and joined the Church, they had a strong desire to follow President Brigham Young’s counsel to join the Saints in America. The Civil War was starting, and it was dangerous to bring Gobo to America because he was black. When the ship’s captain refused to allow Gobo on the boat, Henry Talbot knelt and asked for Heavenly Father’s guidance. He knew that Gobo would not be able to take care of himself if left behind.
“An idea came to Brother Talbot—his prayer was answered! He would roll Gobo into a large rug and smuggle him on and off the ship. Gobo was afraid to be wrapped inside the dark, heavy carpet. However, he had faith in the prophet’s counsel to go to America, so he remained very still and quiet. No one knew of the precious treasure tucked away in the old, faded rug.
“Once in America, Gobo was excited to start his new life there. He wanted to meet the prophet and see the temple that the missionaries in Africa had told him about.
“The family journeyed mostly by train. At one station, they were startled by an angry mob boarding it. Someone had told them that a child slave was being smuggled through. Gobo was not a slave, but the mob would not have believed it.
“Quickly Sister Talbot lifted her large hoop skirt and hid him underneath. Gobo pulled his knees tightly against his chest and held his breath until the mob left and his mother took him upon her lap. She reminded him that he was a child of God and explained that their home with the Saints in Utah would be a place of acceptance and love for their entire family, including Gobo. She assured him that their fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel understood what it was like to be persecuted and judged. Surely they would not turn Gobo away.
“Sister Talbot was right, and as soon as they could, the Talbots adopted Gobo.
“Once in Utah, Gobo grew into a righteous, hardworking sheepherder. He was always faithful to his baptismal covenants. In 1886, when a tablet of paper cost two cents, he willed his entire life savings—some five hundred dollars—to help build the Salt Lake Temple. Years later, the temple work was done for Gobo and he was sealed to Ruth and Henry Talbot in the very temple he helped build.”
Sarah’s mother smiled. “And that is the story of Gobo Fango.”
“Wow!” Sarah exclaimed. “I never knew that he was part of our family!”
“It is important to remember that pioneers came from all areas of the world,” Mother said, “North America, South America, Europe, and Africa.”
Suddenly, the thought of family history and pioneers meant something more to Sarah. It wasn’t something just for adults. It was for her. Even an eleven-year-old girl like herself could learn a lesson of love and acceptance and faith from little Gobo Fango.
“We contemplate humbly and gratefully the sacrifices of those who have gone before us. … We are thankful for their faith, for their example, for their mighty labors and willing consecrations. … They have passed on to us a remarkable heritage. We are resolved to build on that heritage for the blessing of those who follow.” (“Proclamation from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles”; Ensign, May 1980, 53.)