Work in Nigeria has deep roots, flowers quickly

Although the Church has been in Nigeria for only 20 years, it has progressed rapidly. The following time line of the Church in western Africa lists the significant dates of the development of the Church there.

1950s — Church leaders became aware of West Africans interested in the Church.

Many letters were sent to Church headquarters from the West African nations of Nigeria and Ghana, requesting literature and membership in the Church. The letters were written by devout Christians who had gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

1960s — Numerous letters were received at Church headquarters. More letters were received from Nigeria and Ghana than the rest of the world combined. The Church responded by sending literature. Some Africans even established LDS bookstores. However, those seeking baptism were told they must wait. These Africans organized congregations. It was reported that there were more than 60 congregations in Nigeria and Ghana with more than 16,000 participants, none of whom were baptized.

Glenn G. Fisher, president of the South Africa Mission, was assigned by President David O. McKay to visit these congregations. He was the first Church representative to visit these groups. In his visits, he found one group of congregations with more than 5,000 participants.

1961 — LaMar Williams, secretary to the Church Missionary Committee, went to Nigeria for a monthlong fact-finding visit. The first official meeting in West Africa was held Oct. 22, 1961, in the Opobo District, Nigeria. Some, including eight mothers with small children, had walked up to 25 miles to be at the meeting. The meeting included two hours of instruction and three hours of testimony bearing.

Brother Williams was called as mission president, but was unable to get a visa to enter the country.

1965 — After working to get a visa for four years, Brother Williams, while in Nigeria, received an urgent telegram to return immediately to the United States. He was not told why but followed the directive. Upon his return to the United States in December 1965, the Biafran War began, with much destruction in the area where the unbaptized congregations of believers were located. Released from his call, Brother Williams gave to the Church Missionary Committee some 15,000 names of people in Nigeria who requested baptism.

June 9, 1978 — President Spencer W. Kimball announced revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males.

Nov. 9, 1978 Elder Rendell N. and Sister Rachel Mabey, and Elder Edwin Q. and Sister Janath Cannon arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, as the first full-time missionaries.

Nov. 21, 1978 — Anthony Obinna, who had waited for baptism for 13 years, was the first of many converts baptized, and was set apart as the first branch president in West Africa. "The seed of the gospel will grow into a giant tree. The Church in Nigeria will surprise all the world in its growth," said Brother Obinna at the time. In one 24-hour period, the missionaries baptized 149 converts.

1979 — Within one year of the missionaries' arrival in West Africa, there were more than 1,700 members in 35 branches.

July 1, 1980 — The Africa West Mission was created.

May 15, 1988 — The Aba Nigeria Stake was created, with David William Eka as stake president.

Feb. 14, 1998 — President Gordon B. Hinckley arrived in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the first Church president to visit West Africa.

Feb. 16, 1998 — The first temple in West Africa was announced for Accra, Ghana.

The preceeding information was taken from an address given at the BYU devotional on Nov. 3, 1998, by E. Dale LeBaron, BYU professor of Church history and doctrine, and the Deseret News 1999-2000 Church Almanac.