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:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Who Performed the First Baptisms in Ghana?

Yesterday, Elder Russell and Sister Michelle Cannon presented a Devotional at the MTC about the senior couple mission to Africa of his parents, Edwin and Janath Cannon. His parents along with Rendell and Rachel Maybey were sent by the First Presidency in 1978 to establish the first official branches of the Church among the people of West Africa.

Elder Edwin and Sister Janath Cannon, 1978

Despite the setbacks in formal missionary work, unbaptized converts in Africa received Church literature and inspired direction through the years until 1978. Often these devoted people went to great lengths to communicate with Church headquarters and its missions. Their faith penetrated the spiritual darkness as they shared their newfound knowledge and conviction generously with neighbors.
One such pioneer in Ghana was Joseph W. B. Johnson. Brother Johnson was converted after prayerfully reading the Book of Mormon in 1964. He relates that following his conversion “one early morning, while about to prepare for my daily work, I saw the heavens open and angels with trumpets singing songs of praise unto God. I heard my name mentioned thrice: ‘Johnson, Johnson, Johnson. If you will take up my work as I will command you, I will bless you and bless your land.’ Trembling and in tears, I replied, ‘Lord, with thy help, I will do whatever you will command me.’ From that day onward, I was constrained by the Spirit to go from street to street to deliver the message that we had read from the Book of Mormon.” When the Cannons and Maybeys arrived fourteen years later, there were already many unbaptized congregations that Brother Johnson had organized, calling themselves The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of these early converts later rejected official membership in the Church, but many accepted it. A foundation had been established upon which later missionary work would build with increasing success.

Elder Cannon and Elder Mabey with Anthony Obinna and family at the first baptism in Nigeria
Photo Taken at Baptism in Nigeria Four Months After First Baptisms (March 4, 1979)

Another early African convert and pioneer who was baptized by the Cannons and Maybeys was Anthony Obinna in Nigeria. He related the following story that occurred in the late 1960s: “One night I was sleeping and a tall man came to me [in a dream], took me to one of the most beautiful buildings, and showed me all the rooms.” In 1970 he read an article in an old 1958 Reader’s Digest titled “The March of the Mormons,” which included a picture of the Salt Lake Temple. “It was exactly the same building I had seen in my dream,” he said. Brother Obinna wrote to the Church for LDS literature.
In 1978, when the Obinna family learned of the revelation on the priesthood, they wrote to the First Presidency: “We are happy for the many hours in the upper rooms of the temple you spent supplicating the Lord to bring us into the fold. We thank our Heavenly Father for hearing your prayers and ours. … We thank you for extending the priesthood, … to prepare us to receive every blessing of the gospel.” When the missionaries arrived in Nigeria, they found many people prepared for the gospel as a result of Brother Obinna’s teaching and leadership. The first LDS chapel built in Nigeria is near the Obinnas’ home in Aboh Mbaise, of the Imo State.  

A young couple and baby at the first baptism in Ghana (October 21, 1978). 
The baby is now a bishop in Cape Coast.

Now about those missionaries and their connections to history: 

Elder Russell and Sister Michelle Cannon, called to serve in Africa 36 years after Elder Cannon's parents

First our devotional presenter, Elder Russell Cannon,  is the son of Edwin Q. Cannon.  He and his wife are serving a senior couple mission for 18 months in Accra with responsibility for perpetual education.  They have six children and soon will have their 16th grandchild.  And Elder Cannon's father and mother, the couple who opened up West Africa were responsible for the first baptisms in West Africa along with another senior couple, the Maybeys.  Elder and Sister Cannon had much experience in the Church and a rich heritage.  They were the mission president couple presiding over the Switzerland mission in the early seventies and at that time Elder Cannon had responsibility for outreach areas as far south as Africa.  They also later served as the President and Matron of the German Temple.  In August 1978, Elder Cannon and Merrill Bateman (Dean of the BYU Marriott School, later of the Seventy and BYU President), were sent by the Church on a fact-finding tour of the groups of people preparing for the gospel in Nigeria and Ghana.  It was upon their return, that the First Presidency sent the Cannons and the Maybeys to establish the Church in West Africa. (late 1978).

Earlier in the direct ancestry line was George Cannon, great grandfather of Edwin Cannon, who was a sea captain of a slave trade ship along the coast of Africa in the early 1800's.  His ship stopped at many of the same ports of call where Elder Edwin Cannon would years later stop and establish the Church.  Sea Captain Cannon was killed at Sea in 1810 by a mutiny of his men on board ship and tossed into the sea.  His grandson  was George Q Cannon and his daughter Leonora Cannon was the wife of John Taylor the third president of the Church.
What an irony it is to think that the great grandson of George Cannon the slave trade Sea Captain, was (along with his wife) one of the two couples responsible for the baptisms of 1723 people in Africa.
(Based upon notes during the Aug. 31 devotional and an Ensign article by Dale LeBaron)

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