Banyan Dadson: Finding the Gospel in Ghana


Men like Banyan Dadson are rare in the small African nation of Ghana. Not only is he highly educated, but he is also a Latter-day Saint in a country where the Church is relatively new. Originally a professor of chemistry, Brother Dadson is now the pro-vice chancellor (vice-president) of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

A convert to the Church of about six years, Brother Dadson dreams of the day temple spires will be seen against the central African skyline and his countrymen will join the Church in huge numbers. There are already more than 2,000 Church members in Ghana, with as many as fifty baptisms each week. “The Church meets the needs of my people,” he explains simply.

As a young boy, Banyan was so attentive in his Methodist services that he could often repeat entire sermons, and soon became known among the children as “the priest.” When many unanswered questions left him dissatisfied, he drifted into an informal Christian scripture union, but had trouble accepting all of their doctrine of being saved by grace alone. Faith without works was a doctrine which caused deep conflict in him. “Every Christian ought to demonstrate that he believes in the Lord,” Brother Dadson says.

At twenty-two, Banyan separated from the group and joined another religious brotherhood. The group gave him the spiritual support he needed during the next eight years while pursuing his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees in organic chemistry. “The brotherhood forbade alcohol, tobacco, and immorality and even had a story similar to Joseph Smith’s experience,” Brother Dadson recalls.

He returned to Ghana after earning his doctorate from Cambridge University in England and took a position as a chemistry professor at the University of Cape Coast. He spent the next ten years in academic pursuits, marrying, and beginning a family—unattached to any religious group. During this time he came in contact with “Reverend” Billy Johnson, who had come across copies of the Book of Mormon and started, without official authority, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Banyan had attended a church meeting, but couldn’t accept the tribal drumming and dancing that were a part of the services.

Eight years later Billy Johnson gave Brother Dadson copies of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Gospel Principles, along with the news that Latter-day Saint missionaries had recently reorganized the local church, this time with a priesthood foundation. Brother Johnson had been baptized and was called to be the first district president.

Banyan decided to give the new religion one more try. This time he attended a standard Latter-day Saint sacrament meeting with the hymns on cassette tapes. As he learned more about the gospel, he soon realized he had finally found the church he had been searching for. He was soon baptized, followed by the four oldest of his six children and, within a few weeks, his wife Henrietta.

Brother Dadson began spending more time with his family, including getting them up at 5 A.M. for prayer and scripture study. The effect on the family was impressive.

“People would tell me what a remarkable change for good they had noticed in my children,” he recalls. His brother and sister also noticed and soon joined the Church. Kwamena Dadson is now president of the Cape Coast Branch, and his sister Elizabeth Kwaw is a Relief Society president.

A few months after Brother Dadson’s baptism, he became the branch’s first elders quorum president, and in the spring of 1982 he was called to be second counselor in the Ghana District.

Brother Dadson credits his Church membership for his career successes. In 1981 he was appointed the dean of faculty at the university, a position he held until his appointment as pro-vice chancellor in May 1985. “The Church has made me a more effective teacher and leader,” he explains, citing such skills as organizing his time, using his talents and energies more effectively, and relating better with others. “In dealing with the staff, I am constrained by the law of Christ to show love.”

Along with improvements in his work and family, the gospel has brought another benefit. “I was once plagued by fears, but they have vanished. I feel a solid confidence; I am secure in the Lord.”

During the summer of 1983, Brother Dadson spent two months as a visiting professor of chemistry at Brigham Young University. That was his first trip to Utah, although he had previously lectured as a Fulbright Scholar and a guest of the U.S. State Department at various universities in the country.

Though his family remained in Ghana, Brother Dadson took advantage of his two-month stay to go to the Provo Temple and receive his endowment. Since then, economic restraints have prevented him from taking his family to the temple, but he says he “will not rest until I have brought my wife and children to a temple to be sealed.”

The Dadsons and their six children, ages ten to twenty-one, enjoy typical activities with the branch, including plays, native dancing, soccer, and working at the welfare farm, where maize, beans, and other vegetables are grown.

Concerned with needs of fellow countrymen for food and other supplies, Brother Dadson is one of the trustees of the Friends of West Africa (Ghana), a non-denominational organization involved with obtaining and distributing free medical supplies to hospitals, clinics, and villages.

The Dadsons plan to stay in Ghana and help the Church to grow, and hope their children will choose to do the same.

[photo] Banyan Dadson, second from left, with his wife and six children.

Laurie Williams Sowby, a free-lance writer, is a Sunday School teacher in her American Fork, Utah, ward.