A Stake Conference for All of Africa

A Stake Conference for All of Africa

“The words of the apostles have changed our lives.  I plan to follow their teachings,” declared Emmanuel Jelle of the Entebbe Ward in Uganda after attending the broadcast to Africa from Church leaders in Salt Lake City on Sunday 23 November 2014.

Commenting on the message from Sister Jean A. Stevens, of the Primary General Presidency, Angela Kamangira of Lilongwe, Malawi, said, “The messages were very special. It was a blessing to me— in fact life-changing. What stood out for me was the importance of teaching the scriptures to the children in families.” “I liked listening to the talk from Sister Stevens.  We need to have the habit of scripture study with our children.  Also, as Africans we are tied to our culture.  We need to focus on the gospel culture to lead us to our Father in Heaven,” said Sara Balyejusa, the newly sustained Stake Primary President, of the Nsambya Ward, Uganda.

A Young Woman from the Debre Zeit Branch, Ethiopia, Meheret Ayele Asfaw, (on the right in the photo) said, 'Sister Stephens' talk impressed me.  It told me the Church has a special place for sisters and for families.'
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After hearing the talks, Abeesha Katsande of Zimbabwe responded, “The messages were inspiring and uplifting. I have fasted and prayed many times to find a job, but have so far been unsuccessful. This morning I was taught, ‘God knows our plight.’ That teaching gave me confidence and comfort.”

Abere Tiumelisan Adane, Branch Mission Leader of the Debre Zeit Branch in Ethiopia, (on the left in the photo) said, 'The message was very nice, especially what President Uchtdorf said.  He encouraged families to be forever.”
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Akua Crystal Danso of Ghana, in the photo to the left, loved the question that was discussed, ’Must we always do things the standard way?’” I was reminded of Heavenly Father’s personal plan for each of us, which is Divinely-crafted. Also, the strong distinction between the Lord’s ways and that of the world was highlighted, and the importance of focusing on becoming something, not just knowing things.”
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“We should be willing to sacrifice ourselves and everything we have for the kingdom of God. We need to give our best. Our best is good enough for the Lord. We need to stop making excuses,” said Grace Balmoi of the Ntinda Branch, Uganda. Steven Kssenyonjo of the Mukono Ward, Uganda: “In Jesus Christ we have to change because we become new creatures focusing on eternal life. We have to change from our traditional customs to the [customs of] the restored gospel.” Bishop Fred Kamya  of the Nsambya Ward, Uganda commented, “I liked this conference because the things they talked about help to change our mindset so that we can become better Saints. We have a problem with mindsets in Africa. This will transform us.”

For many members, Elder David A. Bednar’s and President Dieter F. Uchdorf’s remarks on African traditions stood out. Elder Bednar noted that some African traditions are consistent with gospel values, such as the importance of the family and the strong bonds among family members. However, there are also some negative cultural traditions, such as the bride-price, lobola, and the traditional relationship in which the husband rules the home without consideration for his wife. He stated, “The practise of lobola conflicts with the gospel plan.” He counselled members of the Church to “discontinue the practice and follow the Lord’s counsel.” 

President Uchtdorf quoted Elder Oaks on the practice of lobola: “This practice leads to behaviour unbecoming a member of the Church.” He directed members to “discontinue this practice,” and counselled that “The Lord’s way is the best way to bring families together forever.”

“The message from Elder Bednar about cultural practices touched me.  Our sons and brothers face big challenges when marrying.  If people know we are gifts from God, then they will not sell a girl as a wife,” said Elizabeth Tuliraba Kaffu, newly sustained Stake YW President, from the Seeta Branch in Uganda.

President Ashebir Yirga, in the photo with his family, is the 1st counsellor in the Addis Ababa District Presidency, Ethiopia, and tells that “One of my co-workers, who is not a member of the Church, hasn’t yet married. I asked him why he hasn’t married yet. I told him that families are essential, and that you can get more joy in a family. I bore my testimony to him. His response shocked me. He said, ‘Ashebir, I want to have a wife, but it is very difficult for me as I have to save to pay her parents $3000. It will take me a long time to save this money.’ I know that my country needs the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially those who sell their daughters for money. God has made us free. Our culture has put us in bondage. I would like to thank our Prophet and Apostles for giving us Heavenly Father’s message. I am a son of God. I will not put myself in bondage.”
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“I liked the idea of putting away the tradition of lobola. Not everyone can afford it. Family life was stressed, which is important. I noted the teachings about husbands and wives – that the husband is not above the wife in a family hierarchy. The father and mother are equal to each other in the running of the family,” said Lawrence Mbaki, a Young Single Adult from the Democratic Republic of Congo (photo left).
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“I was impressed by President Uchtdorf’s talk, that we need to trust that the Lord will help us.  We go through challenges, but if we have faith, we are strengthened,” said Olivia Adhimbo of the Nsambya Ward, Uganda. James Makula of the Maakindye Ward, Uganda, a convert of one year, loves how everyone calls each other “brother and sister.”  He loved the strength he felt in meeting with so many good people at a conference like this. “I learned that we have to teach children responsibility by reading the Book of Mormon together, praying with them, and loving and caring for them, so that they grow up to proclaim the gospel.  We have to keep our faith in God.  Some people like us, i.e., handicapped, can have miracles in our lives.” 
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“I was impressed by two messages today:  First, a message on culture: Don’t continue to do the same thing because someone else did it.  Let it go.  Second, I enjoyed Elder Bednar’s comments on paying tithing: It is the only way we will be blessed as a people,” said Richard Okello of the Seeta  Branch, Uganda.

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Brian Kizito of the Makindye Ward, Uganda (photo left)remarked, “I liked the conference because it talked so much about Africa.  So much was centered on Africa.  I have never been to a conference that talked about Africa.  It assured me that our leaders love us and are concerned about us.” 

President Jimmy Carter Okot, Kampala Stake President, Uganda (right in photo, with Mission President Robert Chatfield, Uganda Kampala Mission, in the centre), commented, “It was so clear today that President Uchtdorf made reference to our situation here [regarding lobola].  To hear a member of the First Presidency tell the story of the water and the well was a testimony to me of how much the Lord wants to help us.  They went to the Lord and petitioned Him as to what we needed to hear today. ” 
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Jimi Sass, from South Sudan, is studying in Uganda and attends the Kajjansi Branch. He said, “A lot of things captured my attention today, like some of the false traditions we have in Africa which are against the teachings of our Gospel culture.” Bahle Bonga from Kwazulu-Natal, thought that “The messages were an eye-opener. We Africans are a cultural people and honour our ancestors. We respect them and do as they have done. The church addressed that issue this morning so that we can be straight in the church but still honour our culture. The leaders didn’t say, ‘Don’t marry’. They taught that the gospel culture comes first. The leaders care for the African people.”

Sibonelo Nongcula, a Young Single Adult from Mthatha, Transkei  (photo below) enjoyed the talks. She said that “The emphasis on lobola stood out for me. I have only been a member of the church for one year and am still learning. It is a process to adapt to the new ways. My parents are expecting lobola when I get married, and I have been taught that it adds value to me. I appreciate how my family accepted my becoming a Christian and respect my views. I set the standard for them and try to make right decisions. My parents are very traditional and will not like not receiving lobola. My father might feel disrespected, but he loves me and he wants me to be happy.”