Alice Okkers: Faithful to the End

Alice Okkers: Faithful to the End

“Every morning we would hear my father’s favourite hymn: ‘Do what is right, let the consequence follow’” recalled Alice Johanna Okkers. Alice, born in May 1900, was the daughter of one of the first coloured people in South Africa to accept the gospel and become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her father, William Paul Daniels, was baptized in 1915 in Salt Lake City. While there he received a blessing from the president of the church, Joseph F. Smith, who promised him that someday he would hold the priesthood, if he lived faithfully. On his return, Brother Daniels was eager to participate in the activities of the church, but was limited by the doctrine governing priesthood authority. Despite his disappointment he continued to attend church. The missionaries would come to their home every Monday evening and they would eat together, have a meeting, and share their testimonies. Alice remembers that they would study the book, Jesus the Christ by Elder James E Talmage.

Brother Daniels died in 1936, many years before the May 1978 revelation on the priesthood was received by President Spencer W. Kimball, president of the church.  Despite not having received the priesthood in this life, Brother Daniels’ testimony was strong. Shortly before his death he called Alice to him and said to her, “I am going to ask you to promise  something ..... Stand by the church!” And she did. Many years later she said: “I have stood by the church until now, when I am at the age of eighty-eight years.”                                                                                                                                                                    

In October 1978, she had the great privilege of meeting President Kimball who had come to South Africa for the first Area Conference in this part of the world.  He was accompanied by President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Presidency of the Seventy, and others. Alice was invited to sit at the front of the congregation and at the end of the meeting was taken by bus to the Carlton Hotel to meet with these brethren and their wives. She told them about her dream to go to the temple and said: “I would love to touch the door of the temple.” President Kimball promised her that if she had the faith and strength she would one day reach a temple. The thought came into her mind, “the Salt Lake Temple”, but she quickly dismissed it, never thinking that she would ever go there.                                                                           

Two years later one of the members of her branch sponsored her trip to Salt Lake City and there she was able to attend the temple, receive her endowment, and be sealed to her family! It was a wonderful experience for her and she was overwhelmed and moved to tears:  “To think that our Lord would suffer so that we could enjoy this beautiful thing ..... The temple was so wonderful, I thought that if I should close my eyes, I could be with the Lord.”

Many members remember this remarkable lady. Donald Harper recalls that Sister Okkers worked at the mission home in Cape Town as a seamstress. She did any mending that was needed, including sewing on buttons for some of the missionaries. He also remembers that she lived very far from the Mowbray branch chapel and was not able to attend church often, but when she could attend she would faithfully bring her tithing and other offerings.

Hein van Kralingen, together with Brother Galloway, was her home teacher when she lived in the Strand and attended the Strand branch. He remembers that there was a photo of her in their local newspaper on her one hundredth birthday and recalls, “She had a great sense of humour right till then, and remained sharp and witty.”

Alice Okkers age

Alice had a testimony of the blessings of sacrifice: “I know that people can enjoy the gospel if they will only give up what they have to give up, and sacrifice.” When her branch president suggested to her that she didn’t need to contribute to the missionary fund out of her very modest income, she replied: “I love to pay it. Though I pay only a small amount, it is better than nothing.  It can help.”

“And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12: 43-44).

A Okkers age