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Elder Rasband shares how the gospel’s joy abounds in Africa

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy share how dreams and faith are fueling the Church’s growth in Africa

Africa is the most quickly-growing area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the past 10 years, Church membership has grown 121% on the continent. At least 14 countries in Africa have seen growth of more than 100%.

And among all this growth, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — who has been assigned to oversee two of the Church’s areas in Africa — is never finished learning.

“You’re learning all the time, and, for me, it’s one of the great honors of my life that I get now to face the African people on behalf of the First Presidency and Twelve with the deep love and affection I have in my heart for them,” Elder Rasband said on the Church News podcast.

When he received the Africa assignment a year ago, Elder Rasband was pleased when Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy — who also joined Elder Rasband on the podcast — was assigned to assist him.

Elder Palmer — originally from New Zealand — moved to Africa in 2016 for his own assignment to the continent. He said the Lord’s hand is over the growth that is happening in Africa, and the people are quick to open their hearts and minds to the Church.

“There’s a reservoir of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And there’s this tremendous faith amongst our people,” he said.

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Dreams and visions

Missionaries for the Church first arrived in South Africa in the 1850s. In the 1940s, men and women in western African countries started hearing about the restored gospel and wrote to Church headquarters for more information. The gospel is only beginning to be preached in other countries today.

For many new members, their conversion started with a dream. Missionaries will be greeted by someone in the street who said they had a dream about young men in white shirts with a black name tag. New members say they had a dream about the Church before they ever joined. 

“These people are given dreams from heaven, and they respond to them. And I think that’s one of the greatest ongoing phenomena in the Church in Africa, is they are a visionary people,” Elder Rasband said. 

Elder Palmer said there are countless experiences where someone has had a dream about the Book of Mormon or they see the name of the Church, and later when they see a meetinghouse, they knew it was a fulfillment of their vision. 

“God is very mindful of those who are searching for truth in the many, many countries across the continent of Africa,” he said.

Centers of strength

As Elder Palmer travels to different countries where the Church is still new and growing, he’ll find a group of Saints who want to meet together and would love to have the Church established in their area. 

But he said the Church has to grow in a thoughtful and inspired way — starting in a larger population center, and then expanding from there, “so if you will, the branches don’t overgrow the roots of the tree.” 

Seated, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, left, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, and Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy, with his wife, Sister Jacqui Palmer, meet with local leaders and dignitaries in Maputo, Mozambique, on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
Seated, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, left, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, and Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy, with his wife, Sister Jacqui Palmer, meet with local leaders and dignitaries in Maputo, Mozambique, on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The rapid growth means some new members join the Church, and then go on a mission and are called to be a new bishop and then a stake president within just a few years. 

Elder Rasband put training right at the top of what’s essential for monitoring the growth in Africa as men and women fill these new positions.

“It’s very critical that at the area level, the brethren and sisters are helping to train the local leaders of the Church,” Elder Rasband said.

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It can be a challenge to strengthen, teach and grow the future leaders of the Church, said Elder Palmer, but he has a testimony that the Lord is preparing His children. 

“We are seeing tremendous leaders from Africa … the Church is in very, very good hands,” Elder Palmer said. 

The joy of the African people

Many times, a senior missionary couple or foreign missionary couple will visit African members in their homes and break down in tears or feel pity because of the humble circumstances or lack of temporal possessions. 

But Elder Palmer said the people are happy, because they have the joy of the gospel. And they are willing to share whatever they have.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talks with attendees during the cornerstone ceremony for the Durban South Africa Temple dedication in Umhlanga, South Africa, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, talks with attendees during the cornerstone ceremony for the Durban South Africa Temple dedication in Umhlanga, South Africa, on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“If you use a scriptural term, they have ‘eternal riches,’” Elder Palmer said. “True happiness and joy comes from this connection with family and connection with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we see this reflected in those who are living in prosperous circumstances within Africa and those who are living in circumstances that are far from prosperous.”

Elder Rasband said in many cases, the complexity that has been added to people’s lives clouds the things that really matter most. While an African home may have a dirt floor or a tin roof, on the wall will be a picture of Jesus Christ or a picture of the closest temple. 

“I think for these wonderful African Saints, they can still focus on the things that matter most, and they do, and I think it brings great happiness for them,” he said.

“That’s part of future lessons we all need to learn, because there are lessons that are going to bless this whole Church from our experience in Africa.”

New temples in Africa

A map shows the Church’s temples throughout the African continent. Temples and their statuses are as of Sept. 1, 2022. | Aaron Thorup, Church News

Africa now has six operating temples, with four more under construction and an additional 12 announced. The most recent temple is one for Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, announced in April 2022 general conference.

“The Lord has seen the African people. Through His prophet, He’s revealed 16 more temples, and we now have the obligation to prepare a temple-ready people,” Elder Rasband said.

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When Elder Rasband recently traveled to Kenya, he visited the temple construction site in Nairobi. The prominent local television station conducted a live interview with Elder Rasband and Elder Joseph W. Sitati, who was then the president of the Africa Central Area.

The last question startled Elder Rasband — “As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, what would you have to say to the people of Kenya, today?” 

He wondered how much he should say, but then he remembered his ordination to be a special witness of Jesus Christ at all times, in all places, and in every circumstance.

And so he bore his witness of Jesus Christ and pronounced a blessing that the country, its leaders and people would be blessed as they turned themselves to Jesus Christ.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Joseph W. Sitati, president of the Africa Central Area and a native of Kenya, prepare to address the media at the construction site of the Nairobi Kenya Temple in Nairobi, Kenya, on May, 21, 2022.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Joseph W. Sitati, president of the Africa Central Area and a native of Kenya, prepare to address the media at the construction site of the Nairobi Kenya Temple in Nairobi, Kenya, on May, 21, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As he concluded his remarks on the podcast, Elder Rasband said he knows “God loveth all of His children” of every nation, tongue and people. 

He remarked on the great privilege to go forward with members and missionaries to share the importance of the gathering of Israel — and Africa will be a great gathering harvest for the Church for many years to come, with wonderful men and women leading the way. 

“The Lord’s gathering will continue in full measure amongst these wonderful Saints, and all the Saints and all of Heavenly Father’s children throughout the world.”

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