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, July 4, 2015

Africa Mourns the Passing of Yet Another Apostle - President Boyd K. Packer

A month ago, Elder L. Tom Perry passed away.  Yesterday at 2 p.m., President Boyd K. Packer left this world.

This post is give a couple of insights about President's Packer's connection with Africa.
He along with Presidents Monson and Hinckley were the first three General Authorities to help organize and found the Genesis Group.

The Genesis Group is a social organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for African-American members and their families. It was first organized in Salt Lake CityUtah, in 1971 to provide members an organization where they could affiliate with fellow African-American members. The group was led by Ruffin Bridgeforth from 1971 through 1978. Shortly after the church's June 8, 1978, announcement of the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members of the church, the group was dissolved.
The Genesis Group was reorganized in the 1990s, based on a perception that African Americans still had unique issues and could benefit from a chance to affiliate with one another, especially since many were the only members of African descent in their local wards and even in their stakes. Leaders of the group include Darius Gray (1997–2003) and Don Harwell (2003–present).Seventy President Ronald A. Rasband is currently the LDS general authority responsible for overseeing the group.

Ruffin Bridgeforth, a native of Louisiana came to Utah in 1944 for employment. In a 1996 Church News interview, he recalled that the influence of a co-worker who was a Church member helped him overcome negative opinions he had heard about the Church. Later, he met and married his first wife, Helena, whose family were Church members and who, after their marriage, accepted the gospel message from missionaries. Later as a birthday present to her, Ruffin prepared himself for baptism.

In 1971, Brother Bridgeforth had become acquainted with two other black Church members: Darius Gray, a local television news reporter, and Eugene Orr, who worked at the library on the University of Utah campus. One night they met together in a classroom at the library to discuss the formation of a support group to fellowship black Latter-day Saints.

"The most memorable thing to me," Brother Gray recalled in a recent interview, "is that in 1971, there were so few members of the Church of African descent, and to have three black Latter-day Saint men kneel, have prayer in that classroom, asking God's guidance and counsel, that's what sticks with me.

"From that point, we approached the Brethren, and after a brief period, it was decided that three members of the Twelve — Elders Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson and Boyd K. Packer — would meet with us and work with us."

Brother Bridgeforth, who died in 1997, recalled in the 1996 interview: "After much prayer, we came up with the name 'Genesis.' It means 'beginning.' We felt it might be the beginning for many of our people in the gospel."
In October 1971, the three apostles met at the old Salt Lake Third Ward meetinghouse with about 200 black Church members, "many of them anticipating the day when the priesthood would come to them," Brother Bridgeforth said. The apostles organized the Genesis group with Brother Bridgeforth as president and Brother Gray and Brother Orr as first and second counselors.

Meanwhile, on the continent of Africa, the seeds of the gospel had been sown. In the early 1950s, devout Christians in Nigeria and Ghana had learned of the Church through literature and the Book of Mormon. They began writing letters to Church headquarters requesting more literature and Church membership.
"What began as a comparative trickle of requests in the early 1950s became a flood by the 1960s," recounted E. Dale LeBaron, former South Africa mission president, in a Nov. 3, 1998, BYU Devotional address. "More letters requesting literature were received from Nigeria and Ghana than from all the rest of the world combined."

Interested persons set up congregations and began meeting without authorization in the name of the Church.
In 1961, President David O. McKay assigned LaMar Williams, secretary to the Missionary Department, to go to Nigeria to determine if the people were sincere in their interest and willing to accept membership without holding the priesthood, Brother LeBaron said.

"He was not prepared for what he found there. He was met at the airport by 10 pastors with whom he had been corresponding. He was treated like royalty but surprised to discover that not only did each pastor operate independently, they were not even aware of each other."

Upon his return, Brother Williams provided Church leaders with the names and addresses of 15,000 unbaptized converts in west Africa. Unfortunately, Africa's most devastating civil war, the Biafran war, occurred in the area of these believers. This and other factors prevented the Church from being established in west Africa at the time.
"It is important to note," Brother LeBaron said, "that the Church made every effort to establish itself in west Africa but was prevented [by circumstances] from doing so."

Meanwhile, up until 1978, people in west Africa continued to meet unofficially as "Latter-day Saints" in various congregations. That experience is illustrated in the story of Sam Bainson, a young man who in February 1978 was invited by his sister to attend one of those congregations.

"I didn't know anything at all about the Church," recalled Brother Bainson, who today is a successful insurance agent and member of the bishopric of the Solon Ward, Kirtland Ohio Stake. The Sunday School lesson that day was on the Plan of Salvation. "This brother was talking about the purpose of life. We are here for a reason, to be tested whether we are going to be obedient to our Father in Heaven. I'd never had an experience like that before. I didn't know what I was feeling. All I knew was my mind was so clear; I felt this was true."

After the meeting, he was given a copy of the Book of Mormon. "I couldn't put it away," he said. "I'd never had anybody tell me about it before; I'd never seen it until that week. Yet I knew that book was true."

For many Latter-day Saints, it was one of those defining events, such as the Kennedy assassination or the moon landing, that fixes in memory exactly where one was and what one was doing at the time one received word of it.
In this case, the date was June 8, 1978. The news spread around the world as fast as radio and television waves could carry it: President Spencer W. Kimball had received a revelation that the day had come when all worthy male members would receive the priesthood.

The letter of announcement from the First Presidency would be sustained in general conference on Sept. 30 of that year as the one of the rare additions to the canon of scripture in this century. It is now in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration — 2.

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