Religious and community leaders, government dignitaries and national journalists gathered at a ceremony in Bamako, Mali, to mark the official recognition of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a religious association in the West African nation.
“It was a historic and memorable day for the people of Mali, and for the Latter-day Saints in general, but (especially) for the Saints in Mali,” said Malian resident Yeah Samake, a Latter-day Saint and former 2013 and 2018 Mali presidential candidate, in a Newsroom release.
Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy, first received news of the official recognition from the Ministry of Religion on Jan. 22, 2019, and expressed the First Presidency’s gratitude in the ceremony on Sept. 12.
At the ceremony, Minister of Religious Activities Daniel Thera said, “We are not closed. Mali is an open country for all religions.”
Samake, who has also served as the Malian ambassador to India, added, “We are a loving, caring people. Muslims are very tolerant, but our constitution is secular. All religions are welcome in Mali, and all Muslims are welcome to worship any god they see fit.”
Elder Nash shared that he had been visiting Mali before the Church was organized in the country and has grown to love the people there deeply.
In May of 2017, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated Mali and other West African nations to receive the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Elder Bednar’s visit to Mali, Senegal and Guinea was the first visit those nations had received from an apostle of the Lord.
“They have the gift of the Holy Ghost, which helps them learn — enlightens their minds,” Elder Bednar said of members in West Africa in a Church News article. “I am always grateful for the things I learn from the faithful Saints in Africa. Their faith strengthens me.”
That year, the first congregation was organized in Bamako. Today, 68 members in the capital city are members of the Church with about 50 Latter-day Saint families in all of Mali.
With this formal recognition, the Church will be able to minister better to its members and for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be taught to all Malian citizens regardless of their religious affiliation. It also enables missionaries to be called to serve in the country of about 18 million people. There are currently four full-time missionaries of the Church serving in Bamako.
“More and more people will come, ask and wonder what this Church is all about,” Elder Nash said. “It all begins with the love they have for God and then the love we have for each other. We are honored to be here with you.”