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:

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!


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