An elderly gentleman, more than 80 years old, came to the Accra Ghana Temple with a group of saints from Nkawkaw where he lives alone. The group spent the night in the Temple Ancillary Building, in the rooms available to temple patrons, so that they could spend two day serving in the temple.
On the morning of April 27, 2012, the elderly man was sitting on a bench inside the men’s dressing room in the temple, waiting to do initiatory ordinances.
In a few minutes another man, 54 years old, came and sat down by him. The younger man had planned to attend the endowment session that morning with his wife and the other members of his ward, but had arrived in the temple too late. He decided to do initiatory ordinances instead.
The older man asked the younger one where he was from.
“Sekondi,” came the answer.
“Where in Sekondi?” The elderly one asked.
“What part of Ketan?”
”Where the public schools are.”
“I have children living there,” the older man said.
With a growing sense of recognition, the younger one looked at him intently and said, “You are my father.”
Just then an ordinance worker approached to invite the elderly man into the initiatory booth. About fifteen minutes later, when he had completed the ordinance work, the older one returned and immediately asked, “What is your name?”
“John Ekow-Mensah,” the younger man said.
“That is my name, too. You are my son.”
The younger John Ekow-Mensah had been named after both his father and his grandfather; fathers and sons for three generations in a row had borne the same name. When the boy was very young his parents’ marriage dissolved and the father left. The boy was four or five years old at that time. He and his three younger sisters were raised by his mother and her family. John never saw his father again until that Friday, April 27, 2012, in the temple. But sometimes his mother, when he was misbehaving, told him that he was “a carbon copy” of his father.
The younger John grew up and married. He and his wife had decided to find a church that they could join together. John was away at school at The University of Ghana in Accra when he saw a Liahona magazine on a shelf. He found himself interested in what it had to say, and noticed the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the publisher.
When John came back from school to his home in Sekondi, his wife was anxious to tell him of a church she had learned about from one of her friends. She said it was called, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. John told her that this was the church he had read about in a magazine at the university.
The younger John and his wife, Deborah, were taught the gospel and baptized in 1999. In 2009 they were sealed together with the three youngest of their five children in the Accra Ghana Temple. John works with the national Council for Civic Education, and Deborah runs a shop.
Unbeknownst to the younger John, his father had made his living mostly as a painter. He had lived in Mankesim from about 1983 to 1989, and operated a little shop. From there he had moved to Ada, near Tema, close to the salt mines. While in Ada, he met a woman who was living in a building he was painting. She was a member of the Church and she introduced him to the gospel. He was baptized a Latter-day Saint in Asunafu, Ghana, in 1991.
Though their paths in life had separated, the father and his son had both found the gospel. Twenty-one years after the father’s baptism and 13 years after the son’s, they were reunited in a miraculous meeting in the temple. After that encounter, they went on a temple session and then sat in the celestial room together, reconnected their lives, and rekindled their love.
What took the older man away from his family, and why hadn’t he tried to get back with or at least contact them? The day after the father and son were reunited, we interviewed the two men again and, while we listened, the son learned for the first time why his father had left. In fact, though the son’s elation upon finding his father had been obvious—according to Sister Gaye Briellatt, the temple matron, tears were shed—his joy did not seem quite complete. Though everything he said and did was respectful and proper, he seemed to us not quite ready to embrace his father wholeheartedly. We wondered if he might still be harboring some resentment over his father’s unexplained disappearance from his life.
But then, as we talked to them both on Saturday, the father explained to his son what had happened. Among their tribe, the oldest matriarch held a sovereign power. Whatever she required, everyone in the larger family was compelled to do. In this case, that matriarch was the grandmother of the elder John Ekow-Mensah’s wife, and she was violently opposed to his marriage to her granddaughter. It was her insistence that force separation upon this couple, and made it hopeless for John to attempt continued contact with his family. Besides, he had to go wherever he could get work, sometimes far away. Telephones were not available in their time and place, nor was mail service. In that culture, expulsion from the family severed all ties. The younger John had known his great-grandmother as a strong, hardworking woman, but not as the power that had deprived him of all association with his natural father for nearly fifty years.
We watched and listened as the revelation of the true story brought the father’s and the son’s rediscovery of each other to a fullness. The happiness in their eyes seemed brighter than the West African sunlight that bathed the green foliage surrounding us that morning, as we stood together outside of the temple.
Though some would call the Ekow-Mensahs’ meeting a coincidence, we wondered. What if the older John had not moved to a town and painted a house where one of the few Church members in Ghana lived? What if someone in a Ghanaian university had not left a copy of the Liahona in a study room? What if one ward and one branch in Ghana, six or seven hours drive from one another, had not planned their temple trip on the same day? What if the younger John had not missed his endowment session? What if he had not decided to do initiatory work?
Observing the radiant faces of the father and son during the second interview on that Saturday morning, we remembered these words of Moroni, which on this occasion seemed almost audible: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven?...Behold I say unto you, nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men” (Moroni 7:27, 29).