Following a February visit to Gambia by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with national leaders there, first lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow met this week with senior leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.
Her visit also included tours of Church education and humanitarian sites beyond Church headquarters.
“They had given us such a warm reception and been so open about the things they’re doing, and we saw the potential for collaboration,” Elder Christofferson said.
Elder Christofferson was the first Apostle to visit the West African country, and after extending his invitation to come to Salt Lake City, he joined the First Presidency in welcoming Bah Barrow on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
“I think the government is pleased to see the kind of people [that] we are, [that we] can have influence on for good in their nation along with the resources that the Church can provide,” Elder Christofferson said.
The first lady responded by acknowledging her Church hosts as “warm people.”
“Everyone is smiling, and it shows love; and you [have] already accepted us as family,” she said. “And that’s what we believe in The Gambia — we believe in family.”
Although Gambia is a Muslim country, “it’s one where religious freedom flourishes and [is] very open,” Elder Christofferson said. “So, we talked a little about that and gratitude for their tradition of religious freedom.”
Education and humanitarian visits
The first lady traveled to Utah to explore Church education and humanitarian sites and to meet with state government representatives, according to a report on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, her delegation went to Provo, Utah, to listen to a BYU Education Week devotional given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Marriott Center.
The following day, she toured the Church’s Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, learning of the Church’s global efforts to help those in need.
Elder Christofferson said the Church has sponsored humanitarian projects in Gambia in recent years. “Our monetary support for clean water for emergency assistance, disaster assistance, and medical resources and care is about $1.7 million over the last three or four years,” he said.
Members of the general presidencies of the Church’s Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations hosted a luncheon for Bah Barrow and her delegation, who later met with members of the First Presidency to talk about the Church’s beliefs, shared values and possible future collaboration with others to benefit the people of Gambia.
The Church in Gambia
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received official status in Gambia earlier in 2022, following Elder Christofferson’s visit with President Adama Barrow and the first lady. There were 11 Latter-day Saints in Banjul when the Apostle arrived, with another 11 baptized his first evening in the country.
“I can take credit for doubling the population of the Church in one day in The Gambia,” he quipped.
The Church established its first branch in Gambia on June 10, 2022; there are currently 26 Latter-day Saints in the Banjul Branch, with two full-time missionaries assigned to serve in the country. And the branch will soon send out its own first missionary.
For more photos and information on the visit and events, go to ChurchofJesusChrist.org.