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New branch opens in South Sudan after Church regains legal status

‘We know that we can find peace again in this land only through the gospel of Jesus Christ’

Strong faith and prayers of South Sudanese Latter-day Saints paved the way for restored legal status for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a new branch, reported the Church’s Africa Newsroom.

In 2013, approximately 2.2 million South Sudanese fled the country entrenched in civil war and became refugees in neighboring countries Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Amid the conflict, the Church was prevented from applying for its annual registration as the government’s Bureau of Religious Affairs ceased operation.

Members of the Church in South Sudan were left without a registered church.

A decade later, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was in Nairobi, Kenya, when a group of Latter-day Saint refugees from South Sudan met with him and Elder Ian S. Ardern, General Authority Seventy and president of the Africa Central Area, and one of his counselors, Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, General Authority Seventy. The young men expressed faithful yearnings to serve missions.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, front center, met with a group of South Sudanese refugees in Nairobi, Kenya.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, front center, meets with a group of South Sudanese refugees in Nairobi, Kenya, with the Africa Central Area president, Elder Ian S. Ardern, front left, and one of his counselors, Elder Thierry Mutombo, in August 2023. The group asked Elder Rasband for the ability to serve missions, and four have received mission calls so far. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“I was moved by the faith of these young men from South Sudan. Theirs is the faith that moves mountains,” Elder Rasband said. “Their dedicated service will inspire and bless them and their families forever. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace — will help them be better ambassadors of peace in their precious homeland.”

Around the same time, several South Sudanese members and the area’s legal counsel began working to restore the Church’s legal status and professed eagerness for the restoration of the Church in their home country.

At the close of the meeting, Ismail Lazaro Zangbayo — who hosts worship meetings in his home — noted, “We know that even as the Lamanites and Nephites [in the Book of Mormon] fought, the only thing that brought them peace was living the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

He continued: “We know that we can find peace again in this land only through the gospel of Jesus Christ, that there may be no more desires in the hearts of men to war with each other. We know that You will bless us with what we seek and restore the Church in South Sudan.”

The presidency of the restored Juba Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Sudan.
The presidency of the restored Juba Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Sudan poses for a photograph after the Church regained its official status in the country and reorganized the branch. From left are Gatwech Jackson Deng, branch clerk; Ismail Lazaro, first counselor; President Peter Deng, branch president; and Jimi Sasa, second counselor, along with his son, Eloi. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

On Feb. 7, 2024, their prayers were answered.

The Church’s legal status was renewed, and three months later 82 Latter-day Saints gathered at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Juba for the reorganization of the Juba Branch.

Several Latter-day Saints had emotional reactions at the reestablishment of the Juba Branch as it will allow baptisms to occur. Baptisms have not been performed in South Sudan since the civil war began. Rebecca Amet said: ”Love brought me into this Church, love has kept me in this Church. God has done something good for my family today. Now they can be baptized.”

“I have prayed to see this day for many years,” Rina Regina shared. “Now my children can be baptized.”

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