The Spirit Gave Me Courage

By Gbenga Onalaja

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    When I was nine years old, I was the only Mormon student in a very large private Catholic school in Ibadan, Nigeria. It was announced one day that the archbishop of the Ibadan Diocese would be coming to our school, and everyone was very excited. He is a very important person, and he makes such a visit only every four years. Great preparations were made—the school was repainted and decorated with flowers and balloons, the lawn was cut, and we were all reminded that we should look our very best on this special day. On the day of the visit, I woke up two hours earlier than usual just so I could get ready. I was very excited to wear my new school uniform, and I was eager to show it to my brothers and sisters before I left for school.

    At eight o’clock, all the teachers and students were waiting when the honored guest arrived. After he greeted us and made a few remarks, he asked, “Who was Saint Martha?” The hall was quiet. After several moments of uncomfortable silence, he asked the question two more times. It was easy to see that the archbishop was disappointed because no one answered his question.

    I felt very nervous. I was confused when he asked about Saint Martha, but I felt sure I knew the right answer. I had learned about Martha in Primary, but I was afraid to raise my hand—partly because I belonged to a different church and partly because I was so shy. I had not even talked much to my classmates, and answering this question would mean standing in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 people!

    But I remembered how I always stood up in church to bear my testimony, and the Spirit gave me the courage I needed. The next thing I knew, my hand was in the air and I was being called on to answer. I then found myself standing beside the archbishop in front of the largest crowd of people I had ever seen. All eyes seemed to be glued to me. Everyone was waiting for my answer. My legs were shaking as I stated that Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus. There was another silence after I answered. Then the archbishop’s expression changed, and he asked me to explain further. I remembered the story from Primary, and I told about Jesus Christ’s visit to Mary and Martha and about how he raised Lazarus from the dead (see Luke 10:38–42 and John 11:20–45).

    The archbishop seemed very impressed with my answer and asked for a round of applause for me. He then shook my hand, hugged me, and asked which Catholic church I attended. I explained that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that I learned these things in my church Primary class. He smiled and said, “Gbenga, you have made me very happy today. I am very proud of you, your church, and whoever taught you. Without you, nobody would have answered that question, and I would have been greatly disappointed.” He then rewarded me with a scholarship for my last year at the school. This made me feel very thankful for the Church, my Primary teacher, my family, and the Spirit of God, which directed me.

    Since that day, I have been referred to as “scholarship boy.” Every time I hear that phrase, it brings back good memories and reminds me that I should always listen to the promptings of the Spirit.

    Gbenga, above with his family, remembered what he had learned in Primary and bore his testimony in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 people. (Photography courtesy of the Onalaja family.)