Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kimball on LDS in Nigeria

When we first moved here I shared some of the early efforts of faithful people in Nigeria to get the Church to come here and bring them the fullness of the Gospel. In a Sept 1978 training meeting, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball - the prophet at that time - shared his thoughts about the importance of bringing the gospel to "The uttermost parts of the earth." One of his most famous statements* from that talk was this:
I believe the Lord can do anything he sets his mind to do.
But I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter. Why should he break down the Iron Curtain or the Bamboo Curtain or any other curtain if we are still unprepared to enter?
And so he urged first those whom we would now call the Seventy and then the rest of the church membership to get ready. That recommendation included learning Mandarin Chinese -- he praised the Chinese quite highly for their many attainments to keep their societies morally and physically clean. He prophesied that "Our brothers and sisters in Russia must hear the gospel; and if we are attentive and prayerful, the Lord will open the way" and now our best friends are there. He also shared this about bringing the gospel to Africa:

I recently received a sweet letter from a school boy in Ghana in which he expressed his great pride in “being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The fact that he has not yet been baptized did not deter him from considering himself a Latter-day Saint. However, he expressed to me his hope that soon he could become a true Latter-day Saint with baptism, confirmation, and at the appropriate time, the bestowal of the Aaronic Priesthood. He said his heart always thrilled when he sang hymns like “Come, Come Ye Saints,” “Come, O Thou King of Kings,” and the other songs of Zion. 
What we are saying is that there seems to be a great movement afoot in many nations to prepare people for the further light and knowledge that only we can give them. The Lord by his Spirit is preparing people for the day when the gospel will be taught them in plainness. We must be ready. ... 
Of course, there are other challenges in so-called “third-world” countries. Many of the congregations of interested black people are illiterate or poorly trained. We will need to help educate the youth of these congregations and teach them the principles of growth and development which will allow them to improve themselves economically and culturally as well as spiritually and intellectually. But that is not so different from what we have had to do elsewhere in other times in our history. ...
We have had many of our people at various times in those countries involved in their schools, their businesses, their political and economic life. It is a large continent. Roads are at a premium, and homes are usually far less than we are used to here. Poverty is widespread. Country after country has scarcely over $100 per year per person income for an economic base. But can we ask them to wait any longer? I believe that we cannot. We mention Ghana, but what of Nigeria, Libya, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast, and the Sudan and others? These are names that must become as familiar to us as Japan, Venezuela, New Zealand, and Denmark have become. ...
I am endlessly fascinated by that last sentence. Had I not moved here, I am certain Japan and Denmark would be much, much more familiar to me than Nigeria, my training notwithstanding. The purpose of the Church Education System and Sunday School isn't teaching geography, but how often in our meetings do we even reference other countries? America as the cradle of the Restoration gets a lot of play. Thousands upon thousands of missionaries sent to Latin America and Europe return with stories and experiences that get shared. How can we learn and become familiar? [Other than by reading our blog, of course ;)  ]

Perhaps if I had been paying more attention to the Church magazines. Nigeria has been mentioned this year alone in the November Friend, September Ensign, August New Era, July Liahona, May Ensign from the April General Conference [well, I did notice that one - it was part of the reason I accepted the post], April Friend, and the February and January Liahonas, plus the brand new Relief Society manual. Only two months of this year did not mention Nigeria somewhere! That's true for 2010 also.

Within mere months of this address by Pres. Kimball, we were in Ghana and Nigeria in full force.

And now here I am, working to "educate the youth of these congregations and teach them the principles of growth and development which will allow them to improve themselves economically and culturally as well as spiritually and intellectually;" part of another preparation in Yola and Jimeta for a people ready to hear.

* - The other being that " the Spirit of the Lord is brooding over the nations to prepare the way for the preaching of the gospel."