Friend to Friend


 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 introduced me to the gospel. (Elder Morrison is currently serving in the United Kingdom/Ireland/Africa area presidency.)

“Wherever I go, it’s the children that concern me. I remember a little six- or seven-year-old girl that 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. 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 in 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.

“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 some time ago and went to visit a school. Little children as young as six or seven years old walked eight kilometers 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.”

[photo] Photograph courtesy of Elder Alexander B. Morrison