In the 1990’s Thomas Mogapi was in desperate straits. He had left his wife and three children in the care of his wife’s parents and fled to Botswana as a refugee. He hoped to gain legal status so his family could join him.
As he went to the Botswana immigration office one day, Thomas saw two white men in shirts and ties. He thought they might be American spies, but he still asked who they were. He had a positive conversation with them, as they explained they were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thomas even got directions to their church building and made an appointment with them to visit it the following Sunday. The first speaker in sacrament meeting spoke on the Word of Wisdom, and Thomas knew he had found a good church. The church he had been raised in also prohibited smoking and drinking, and he knew that the Word of Wisdom was true from his own experience.
After he began receiving the missionary lessons and reading the Book of Mormon, Thomas decided to pray to know if it was true. One Saturday, after being asleep for about a half an hour, he sensed someone standing next to his bed and heard a voice say, “The Book of Mormon is a second testimony of Christ.”
“Surely,” he thought, “this must be a true book.” The next day, Thomas went to Church and asked to be baptized. There was no baptismal font at the chapel, so the missionaries used a large, stiff piece of plastic to make a dam that would form a pool for the baptism. It worked perfectly, and Thomas was baptized.
Finally, in 1994, Thomas was able to return home to his family. He searched for the nearest chapel, took his family to the meetings, and eventually baptized his wife and daughter. Soon he was called to serve as branch president, but at the interview, he hesitated to accept the calling. He had no formal education and felt unqualified to serve as a branch leader.
The stake president, however, reminded him that Joseph Smith had little education when he received the First Vision. “Devotion qualifies us for the work,” he said. “Read your handbook and the scriptures, and the Lord will teach you.”
Within a few years, President Mogapi became Bishop Mogapi and his ward was split. When he was released, he knew he had worked hard and done a good job. He and his wife began to serve in the Johannesburg Temple. He loved the temple and was working on his family history when the temple president asked him to bring his wife to an appointment. It turned out to be an interview with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who set Thomas apart as a temple sealer, the first black sealer in South Africa. Thomas Mogapi had the faith and personal testimony that “the Lord qualifies those He calls.”
Excerpted by Marnae Wilson from a personal oral history of Thomas Mogapi, Randy Knudsen, July 3, 2012