This blog covers the years 2014-2016 when we (the Robisons) were at the Ghana MTC. To see the blog covering the period 2016-2018 click on this link:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Elder Stevenson Visits "Beautiful, Resilient" People in West Africa

 Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor     3 October 2016

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles takes time to visit with members during a trip to Ivory Coast.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Stevenson was the first Apostle to visit Sierra Leone since the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
“We have many new converts that have deep faith. … They testify the gospel has brought joy to their lives. They love the hymns. They sing without a hymnal and seem to know every word of every verse. They are vibrant, wonderful people.” —Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve

Just over a year after missionaries returned to Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone and almost two decades after civil war rocked the West African nation, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Latter-day Saints in the area.
Elder Stevenson said he was filled with “tender feelings” during the assignment September 7 through 19 to Sierra Leone and other nations in the Church’s Africa West Area. The visit, he said, was an opportunity to reflect on the “challenges and adversity” faced by the faithful Latter-day Saints who have found “love and joy in the gospel.”

Elder Stevenson and his wife, Lesa, were accompanied on the assignment by Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Rosana; Bishop Dean M. Davies of the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Darla; and members of the Church’s Africa West Area Presidency—Elder Terence M. Vinson, Elder Marcus B. Nash, and Elder Vern P. Stanfill.

As part of their assignment to West Africa, Elder Stevenson, Elder Soares, and Bishop Davies conducted a review of the Church’s Africa West Area; held priesthood leadership, district, and stake conferences, member devotionals, and missionary meetings; and visited the Accra Ghana Missionary Training Center and the Accra Ghana Temple. In addition to Sierra Leone and Ghana, they also visited Liberia and Ivory Coast, where they met with members, missionaries, and priesthood leaders.
Elder Stevenson’s assignments began in Sierra Leone, where members share a remarkable legacy of faith and sacrifice.

Two years after the first convert baptisms in Sierra Leone in June 1988, new converts began meeting in their homes. In May 1989 Elder Richard G. Scott became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to visit the country; he met with Church members and dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel.
Members from Sierra Leone wait to greet Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The first district was organized in Freetown in December 1990; a second district was organized seven months later in the city of Bo. Church meetings moved to rented meetinghouses.

Soon, however, Church President Ezra Taft Benson asked members to abandon their new rented meetinghouses and gather in their homes to worship. The news was very discouraging for the local Latter-day Saint leaders and members, who felt that the rented buildings were an important milestone for the Church in Sierra Leone. But they were obedient.

Just months later civil war erupted in Sierra Leone.

In the midst of war, churches were frequently targeted by rebels; thousands lost their lives while worshipping God. But Latter-day Saints in the country were safe from harm, obediently worshipping in their homes.

Because of this faith, the Church in the country continued to grow until Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created, in 2012, the first stake in the nation—the 3,000th in the Church (see related story).
Church leaders meet with priesthood leaders in Ivory Coast.
But trials were not over for Latter-day Saints in the country. After years of civil unrest, the country was hit by the Ebola virus epidemic, which moved into Sierra Leone in 2014 (see related story). Due to Ebola, another Apostle did not visit Sierra Leone again until Elder Stevenson’s recent visit; Bishop Davies’s trip marked the first time a member of the Presiding Bishopric has ever visited Sierra Leone.
He said the members in Sierra Leone are a “light growing out of a darkened nation because of Ebola and war.”

While visiting Sierra Leone, Elder Stevenson, Elder Soares, and Bishop Davies met with the faithful members in the country to talk about the civil war and other hardships.
Elder Stevenson compared the members’ experiences to trials faced by the people of Alma in the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 24). The Lord, he explained, did not take away their burdens but instead made them feel light.

“I think this is what is observed in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ivory Coast,” he said.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to missionaries in the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West Missions on September 14, 2016.
Elder Soares said members in all the West African nations arrived for meetings three to four hours early.

Elder Stevenson said he loved to look out at the congregations of member meetings and see the number of children and families. “Every country we visited is experiencing high growth,” he said. “We have many new converts that have deep faith. … They testify the gospel has brought joy to their lives. They love the hymns. They sing without a hymnal and seem to know every word of every verse. They are vibrant, wonderful people.”

Elder Soares said he loves to hear the members in West Africa sing. “They have a special enthusiasm when they sing,” he said. “It is really beautiful.”

Bishop Davies said Church leaders often talk about the growth in the Africa West Area. “The people are not just growing in numbers,” he explained. They are growing “in wisdom and maturity.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to missionaries in the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West Missions on September 14, 2016.
“Church members reflect a sense of purpose, industry, and faithfulness,“ he said. ”They are pleased with their membership in the Church. They are resourceful and devoted in caring for themselves and for each other. They understand the importance of temples and make unusual sacrifices to go to the temple. In the face of almost overwhelming adversity, they are patient, and their faith in God is unwavering.“ As an example, in the Ivory Coast Bishop Davies met a group of Latter-day Saints at an evening member devotional after they had just returned the same day from their 14-hour one-way trip home from the Accra Ghana Temple.

The missionaries don’t have a challenge teaching and baptizing new members, said Elder Soares, noting that referrals in the area come from relatives and friends. The members are a great example of happiness, which brings others into the gospel, he said.

A sister missionary participates in a meeting of missionaries serving in the Ghana Accra and Ghana Accra West Missions on September 14, 2016.
Elder Stevenson said all of the countries they visited belong to the Accra Ghana Temple District. They faithfully attend the temple, despite two to three days' travel from some locations. The temple announced in Ivory Coast will be a blessing to the area, he added. Despite the long drive to attend the Accra Ghana Temple, members continue to come, said Elder Soares. “They fill temple patron housing every time they come. They want to come more frequently.”

Other challenges facing the Church in the area, Elder Stevenson said, come as a result of the dramatic growth. The Church is working to provide meetinghouses and to train local leadership, he said. “All of this has built faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”

The members are hardworking, doctrinally sound, and obedient, added Elder Stevenson. The Area Presidency is directing the rapid growth of the Church in an impressive, orderly way, he added.
“I was really impressed by the resilience of the African Saints,” said Elder Soares. “Beside the challenges and suffering they are resilient and they look for God in every way. They have a faith in God that allows them to go forward.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses priesthood leaders in Sierra Leone.
Sunset shows beauty of Sierra Leone.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits the soon-to-be completed missionary training center in Ghana.
Latter-day Saints gather for a member devotional in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

OBHR Lessons from the Caribbean and Ghana

zone-conf-wim October 11

OBHR Lessons from the Caribbean

Robison and his wife presided over the Ghana Missionary Training Center, helping missionaries learn to teach the gospel in French and English from 2014-16.

When two young missionaries lost the trail while hiking La Soufière, a volcano on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, Reid Robison had to act quickly. After receiving the news that the two young men had gone missing, Robison, then president of the West Indies Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, immediately flew to Martinique from mission headquarters in Trinidad and brought in twenty additional missionaries from surrounding islands in the mission to help search alongside the local police force.
For three days, headlines such as “Where are the Lost Boys?” splattered the local papers and nightly news. Robison drilled his strategy to the searchers: “Pray, then go.” It worked. Days later, the missing missionaries turned up deep in the marshy forest of the island.
“It was the first time anyone had ever survived being lost in that area of the jungle,” Robison remembers.

Robison embraces one of the recovered missionaries that had been lost in the Martinique jungle.

In addition to the miracle of finding the lost missionaries, Robison’s tenure as a mission president included countless opportunities to use his organizational behavior (OB) background. Robison holds an MBA from Northwestern University and a PhD in educational leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though his time among the people and culture of the West Indies stands in stark contrast to his business background as a manager and executive at OC Tanner, Robison cherishes the memories. Spice stands in Grenada, cutlasses in Barbados, and bokits, the traditional fried sandwich of Guadeloupe, stitch together the bright fabric of the Caribbean, where Robison and his wife supervised 186 missionaries of the West Indies Mission from 2006-09.
Though Robison may seem like a classic Wasatch Front grandfather, his experiences in OB far surpass those of a typical classroom education. In addition to his time in the Caribbean, Robison served as president of the Ghana Missionary Training Center from 2014-16.
Presiding over a mission or an MTC is “really a workshop in leadership,” Robison says. “You’re training missionaries to be leaders, and you’re training new members in the developing church to be leaders.”
Robison, his wife, and West Indies missionaries at the mission home in Trinidad.

Today, Robison, now a BYU OBHR professor, applies the lessons in sociology, psychology, communication, and management he learned during his years of missionary service abroad to his curriculum at the Marriott School.
He believes in the value of appreciating and understanding diverse cultures, and he teaches students to “listen to understand” when they work in organizations. He shares with students how he and his wife went to the Caribbean and Ghana thinking, “There is so much we can do to teach and to educate the people there,” but came back “blown away by how much they had taught us.” Robison hopes students will see how much they can learn from any person in an organization.
In addition to teaching classes, Robison develops social innovation projects in his new role as relationship manager for the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance. He finds partners in the US and Africa to build Ballard Center education and trade programs in underdeveloped areas, including those where he once served. He is currently working to establish a program for students to receive credit for higher education classes that will be held in church buildings across many third-world countries.


Today, Robison works with the Ballard Center on development projects in underprivileged countries.
“We work to enrich the lives of people in underprivileged countries,” Robison says. “It’s along the lines of, ‘How are we going to teach them how to fish?’”
Apart from their 4.5 years abroad, Robison and his wife, Diane, have lived in Provo for the past 18 years. Of their 18 grandchildren, 13 live within two miles of the Robisons’ home, where the family gathers each Sunday.
“I love cheering them on in whatever they do,” Robison says.
The Robisons also have one granddaughter serving as a missionary in Paris, where Robison first served a mission at age 19.
“French is the language of heaven,” Robison says.

Robison and his wife with the two missionaries that had been lost in Martinique.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Do you remember the Bonsrah triplets we featured 2 years ago?

Well, they are home!  We welcomed 3000 missionaries into the Ghana MTC during the two years we served there, but this set of Ghanaian triplets really stood out to us.  We just had to publish their story on our blog.

Left to Right:  Dicken, Dickson and Dick

Dicken served in Enugu, Dickson in Portacourt, and Dick in Lagos.  It looks like their vision changed a bit during their ministry.

Here are their testimonies:

“Our testimony is that we know fully and truly that there is a God in heaven and he loves us and the Book of Mormon is also another testament and the prophet Joseph Smith was called of God.
“So we found about the church through our guardians the Opare family. We came to school in their school and through that we became members. We knew everything about the church was true. I loved the plan of salvation. I had never heard of it so when I heard of it I was happy. My parents gave us the consent to be baptized. Like earlier said, our mentor has been the Opare family. I wanted to first broaden my knowledge or testimony about Jesus Christ and his church and I had the desire to share the restored gospel. My mother’s first name is Doris. Dick Bonsrah’s (favorite) scripture is king Benjamin. Dicken’s is also king Benjamin and Dickson’s is Moroni. Dick’s favorite scripture is Jacob 2:17-19. Dickson’s favorite scripture is Mosiah 2:41 and Dicken’s favorite is 2 Corinth 4:8-10.”

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Anything About Africa in General Conference Last Weekend? This is what African Eyes is All About

 President Monson - Sunday Morning Session (April 3, 2016 General Conference)

Brothers and sisters, before I begin my formal message today, I would like to announce four new temples which, in coming months and years, will be built in the following locations: Quito, Ecuador; Harare, Zimbabwe; Belém, Brazil; and a second temple in Lima, Peru.

Elder Hallstrom - Saturday Morning Session (April 2, 2016 General Conference)

"Five months ago, my wife, Diane, and I went to Africa with Elder and Sister David A. Bednar. The sixth and last country we visited was Liberia. Liberia is a great country with a noble people and a rich history, but things have not been easy there. Decades of political instability and civil wars have worsened the plague of poverty. On top of that, the dreaded Ebola disease killed nearly 5,000 people there during the latest outbreak. We were the first group of Church leaders from outside the area to visit Monrovia, the capital city, since the World Health Organization declared it safe to do so after the Ebola crisis.

On a very hot and humid Sunday morning, we traveled to a rented meeting facility in the center of the city. Every available chair was set up, totaling 3,500 seats. The final count of attendees was 4,100. Almost all who came had to travel by foot or some form of inconvenient public transportation; it was not easy for the Saints to gather. But they came. Most arrived several hours before the appointed meeting time. As we entered the hall, the spiritual atmosphere was electric! The Saints were prepared to be taught.

When a speaker quoted a scripture, the members would say the verse aloud. It did not matter—short scripture or long; the entire congregation responded in unison. Now, we do not necessarily recommend this, but it was certainly impressive that they could do it. And the choir—they were powerful. With an enthusiastic choir director and a 14-year-old young man at the keyboard, the members sang with vigor and strength.

Then Elder Bednar spoke. This, of course, was the anticipated highlight of the gathering—to hear an Apostle teach and testify. Clearly with spiritual direction, partway through his remarks, Elder Bednar stopped and said, “Do you know ‘How Firm a Foundation’?”

It seemed that 4,100 voices roared in response, “YES!”

He then asked, “Do you know verse 7?”

Again the entire group answered, “YES!”

The arrangement of the mighty hymn “How Firm a Foundation” sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the last 10 years has included verse 7, which was not sung much previously. Elder Bednar instructed, “Let’s sing verses 1, 2, 3, and 7.”

Without hesitation, the choir director jumped up and the Aaronic Priesthood–bearing accompanist immediately began to energetically play the introductory chords. With a level of conviction I have never felt before in a congregational hymn, we sang verses 1, 2, and 3. Then the volume and spiritual power was elevated when 4,100 voices sang the seventh verse and declared:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!10

In one of the most remarkable spiritual events of my life, I was taught a profound lesson that day. We live in a world that can cause us to forget who we really are. The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God. The Saints in Liberia have little materially, and yet they seem to have everything spiritually. What we witnessed that day in Monrovia was a group of sons and daughters of God who knew it!

In today’s world, no matter where we live and no matter what our circumstances are, it is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God. Knowing that will allow our faith to flourish, will motivate our continual repentance, and will provide the strength to “be steadfast and immovable” throughout our mortal journey.

Elder Andersen  - Saturday Afternoon Session General Conference (April 2, 2016)

Elder Joseph Ssengooba is from Uganda. His father died when he was seven. At age nine, with his mother and relatives unable to care for him, he was on his own. At age 12, he met the missionaries and was baptized.

Joseph told me of his first day at church: “After sacrament meeting, I thought it was time to go home, but the missionaries introduced me to Joshua Walusimbi. Joshua told me that he was going to be my friend, and he handed me a Children’s Songbook so I wouldn’t have to go into Primary empty-handed. In Primary, Joshua put an extra chair right next to his. The Primary president invited me to the front and asked the whole Primary to sing for me ‘I Am a Child of God.’ I felt very special.”
The branch president took Joseph to the Pierre Mungoza family, and that became his home for the next four years.

Eight years later when Elder Joseph Ssengooba began his mission, to his great surprise his trainer was Elder Joshua Walusimbi, the boy who had made him feel so welcome on his first day in Primary. And his mission president? He is President Leif Erickson, the little boy who stayed away from Primary because he was terrified about giving a talk. God loves His children.

When my wife, Kathy, and I were in Africa a few weeks ago, we visited Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Because the chapel was not large enough for the 2,000 members, we met out of doors under large plastic coverings supported by bamboo poles. As the meeting began, we could see dozens of children watching us, clinging to the bars on the outside of the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the property. Kathy quietly whispered, “Neil, do you think that you might want to invite the children to come in?” I approached District President Kalonji at the podium and asked him if he would welcome the children outside the fence to come join us inside.

Elder Renlund - Saturday Morning Session General Conference (April 2, 2016)

My dear brothers and sisters, while living in Africa, I sought advice from Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy about helping Saints who live in poverty. Among the remarkable insights he shared with me was this: “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.”

This principle underlies the Church’s welfare system. When members are not able to meet their own needs, they turn first to their families. Thereafter, if necessary, they can also turn to their local Church leaders for assistance with their temporal needs.1 Family members and local Church leaders are closest to those in need, frequently have faced similar circumstances, and understand best how to help. Because of their proximity to the givers, recipients who receive help according to this pattern are grateful and less likely to feel entitled.

The concept—“the greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement”—also has profound spiritual applications. Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive. While the unfairness can range from trivial to gut-wrenching, when we are distant from God, even small inequities loom large. We feel that God has an obligation to fix things—and fix them right now!


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Africa Continues to Be on the World-wide Radar

What has happened in Africa since we returned to Provo in late January?

1st - Two Apostles visited Africa in February and March - Elder Andersen led the groundbreaking ceremony for the temple in Kinshasa and Elder Rasband visited the Saints in Ghana including the MTC.

Elder Andersen met with the missionaries, all of whom we trained in the Ghana MTC, and shared publicly stories of one of them.

Elder Rasband gave inspired counsel to the missionaries about the importance of going through the temple prior to entry into the mission field.

He taught from Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants  (the dedicatory prayer of the Kirkland Temple)  He had missionaries  read verses, 22,39, 59 and 73.  He spoke about Joseph Smith preaching to men going forth into the mission field,  armed with power,  and that angels will be round about them (and you).  These servants will be going out to various parts of the world, and now it's Africa, to gather the Lord's elect.  The church is coming forth out of darkness.

He said to these missionaries in the MTC that their temple endowment will give them power to be one of the Lord's servants.  

 22 And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them;
 23 And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfil that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days.

 39 And whatsoever city thy servants shall enter, and the people of that city receive their testimony, let thy peace and thy salvation be upon that city; that they may gather out of that city the righteous, that they may come forth to Zion, or to her stakes, the places of thine appointment, with songs of everlasting joy;

 59 We ask thee to appoint unto Zion other stakes besides this one which thou hast appointed, that the gathering of thy people may roll on in great power and majesty, that thy work may be cut short in righteousness.

73 That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners;

2nd - Prayers were again answered from on high and a temple in Zimbabwe was announced.  We could hear the cheers from across the ocean.

This is one of the three operating temples in Africa.  It is located in Nigeria but very similar in appearance to the one in Ghana.  The official rendering of the temple in Zimbabwe has not yet been released.

Harare, Zimbabwe - News Release from

Zimbabwe is home to approximately 14.2 million people and over 26,000 members of the Church. The temple planned for Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital and most populous city, will be the first in the country. The Church has three operating temples in Africa (Aba, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; and Johannesburg, South Africa), one under construction (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo) and three more announced (Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Durban, South Africa; and Harare, Zimbabwe). The closest temple to Harare is in Johannesburg, a 13-hour drive.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What Do You Do After Your Mission?

If you would like tips on how to prepare for your career after your mission, go to a blog that I maintain weekly called "Decrypting Your Job Search".  In this blog you will find tips for interviewing, preparing your resume, and charting your path.