Sunday, January 29, 2012

LDS in Nigeria: the first stake 1988

May 15, 1988, the Aba Nigeria Stake became the first stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in western Africa. A stake is a large collection of congregations. In this case, there were 2,300 Latter-day Saints in the stake in 6 wards (large congregations) and 3 branches (smaller congregations).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, an apostle, presided and was assisted by Elder Sackley, introduced last time. This came just weeks before the 10th anniversary of the revelation directing the Church that all worthy LDS men could be ordained to the priesthood. (See Official Declaration 2).
Elder Maxwell recalled being present in the Salt Lake Temple on that historic day “when all the General Authorities gathered to sustain the revelation and decision from President Spencer W. Kimball.
“I wept with joy that day,” he said. “The handkerchief I wiped my tears with I took home and told my wife not to wash. I put it in my book of remembrance, still bearing the marks of my tears of joy.
“On this Sunday, I have a second handkerchief that has wiped more tears of joy,” Elder Maxwell told the congregation. “I will take it home and place it in my book of remembrance next to the other handkerchief.”
The same News of the Church article includes an intersting discussion in celebration of the 10th anniversary about Africa, African-Americans, and the Latter-day Saints.

May 15 is also the day we commemorate when John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to begin to restore the priesthood authority lost to the earth for centuries. Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, then first counselor to the prophet and later a prophet himself, said:

Today, on this May 15 Sabbath, there was organized in the nation of Nigeria a stake of Zion whose officers and members are all native Africans. These people are able and faithful. They carry in their hearts a love for the Lord. They walk in obedience to the commandments. They honor and magnify the priesthood that they rightfully hold, having been called of God by prophecy, and the laying of hands by those in authority. This is but the beginning of greater things to come as the truth of the restored gospel covers the earth as the waters cover the mighty deep. (See Isa. 11:9.)
And so, we celebrate not only the restoration of the priesthood of Aaron and the higher priesthood called Melchizedek. We also celebrate the revelation of the Almighty to a prophet, joined in prayer by his fellow Apostles—his Counselors and those of the Council of the Twelve. This has opened great areas of the world to the teaching of the everlasting gospel. This has made it possible that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.”
We have cause to rejoice and to praise the God of our salvation that we have seen this glorious day, that we have now lived a full decade under this tremendous enlargement of opportunity and authority, and that the Lord has blessed with a great and sweet harvest the efforts of those who have labored among those upon whom there was once a restriction.
More posts in the series.