Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Prophet visits Nigeria: Feb 1998

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley was well known for his travels visiting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world. In Feb 1998 he took Elder Holland with him to visit Canada and Africa and they made a stop in Port Harcourt. As far as I can tell, this was the first visit from a Prophet of the Lord to Nigeria ever. He spoke to 1100 priesthood leaders, visited Aba where he would eventually build and dedicate a temple to the Lord, and then spoke to 12,000 members in a civic center members of the Church had been cleaning and preparing for his visit. On his drive to Aba, hundreds of members lined the roads in their Sunday best, waving green and white Nigerian flags.

The May 98 Ensign does not have much that he said to them, sadly. He told the brethren to be committed to their callings. He also said:
“The Church will grow in Nigeria as you grow,” President Hinckley said. “If you don’t do anything, nothing very much will happen with the Church. But if you are anxiously engaged in assisting those for whom you are responsible, the Church will grow in strength.”
Speaking of the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males, President Hinckley said, “I am an eyewitness to what happened.”
After the conference, a sister from Benin City commented, “This conference was like Moses gathering the children of Israel.”
Thankfully, some of the things he said were later shared in the monthly home teaching messages. From June 98 we learn that he said this to the general membership:

“We can make great strides in the direction of perfection in our personal behavior. We can be perfect in our prayers to our Father in Heaven. There are some things in which it is very difficult to be perfect, but I hope that everyone here, every man and woman and boy and girl, will get on his or her knees night and morning and thank the Lord for His blessings, thank the Lord for His kindness, thank the Lord for every gift that He has given, and pray for strength to do the right thing and remember before the Lord all who are in need and distress. We can be perfect in our prayers, my brothers and sisters”
July 99 gave us these words to the priesthood leaders:
“We had a General Authority, Joseph Anderson, who lived longer than any other General Authority in the Church. He lived to be 102 years of age. He served as private secretary to President Heber J. Grant for many years. President Grant had a stroke and became very seriously ill, and Joseph Anderson went up to see him at night, and the President said to Joseph, ‘Joseph, have I ever been unkind to you?’ And Joseph said, ‘No, President Grant, you have never been unkind to me.’ And the President, with tears rolling down his face, said, ‘Joseph, I am grateful if I have never been unkind to you.’ He died the next day. But what a marvelous thing that a man who had worked with him for so very many years could say that the man who directed his efforts had never been unkind to him”
After recently discussing the Big Man syndrome here, I was particularly impressed by this story. I don't know if someone had spoken to Pres. Hinckley about how the Big Men treat others or if he had some knowledge of the regional cultures. Neither idea would surprise me. But this was something God wanted to teach the leaders here, to be kind to the people "under" them. I also see that, if Pres. Hinckley had this issue in mind when he shared this story, he did not wag his finger at them and tell them to repent. He simply gave them a good example, taught them true principles, and let the Spirit work on them as they were ready to hear.

More of the LDS in Nigeria series.