Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has wrapped up a 10-day visit to four countries in West Africa. He was joined by his wife, Kathy; Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Jacqueline; and members of the Africa West Area Presidency from Saturday, February 19 to Monday, February 28, 2022.
“COVID eased enough in this area that it permitted an in-person visit, and we really have enjoyed every moment to actually be with people,” said Elder Christofferson, who spoke from Accra, Ghana, the last stop on his ministry. Other countries on the visit included Nigeria, The Gambia and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Elder Christofferson was impressed with the vibrancy of the culture and the Church of Jesus Christ in West Africa, including people of all ages who participated in the meetings.
“We’ve been very many places in the world, and we see so many little children here and family units, intact family units. And … the strength of the Church is in its families, and we think it’s in good shape here in West Africa,” Sister Christofferson said.
Elder Christofferson said one of the highlights of his ministry was dedicating The Gambia for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which makes it possible for the Church to receive official recognition there.
“It was one of the sweetest experiences of my ministry in the Quorum of the Twelve to feel the spirit, the Lord’s awareness of what was being done, to turn the key, to open the door for the preaching of the gospel and the establishing of the Church, building Zion in that part of the world,” he said.
“We’ve been praying for this to happen and it’s a blessing,” said Juliana Sandra Amako, who is one of 23 Latter-day Saints who live in The Gambia.
Samson Amako, 27, performed part of the 11 baptisms completed in The Gambia on Wednesday, February 23, which nearly doubled Church membership in the country.
“It’s a huge opportunity to meet an Apostle. And it’s something that we have been expecting for a while now, and it has happened,” he said.
Daniel Amako, 25, was looking forward to Elder Christofferson’s historic visit to Banjul and plans to serve a mission soon. “It was exciting. We only get to hear about him and see him in photos and pictures,” he explained.
“We can envision maybe starting with a pair of missionaries here, and then it will grow because this country seems so very open to receive the gospel,” said President Daniel Lewis of the Côte d’Ivoire Abidjan West Mission, who oversees The Gambia.
The senior Church leaders met with high-level government officials in Nigeria, The Gambia and Côte d’Ivoire, including the president and first lady of The Gambia, and the vice presidents of Nigeria and The Gambia.
“We were honored to visit the man called the special counselor to the president of Côte d’Ivoire,” said Elder Christofferson, who spent over an hour with M. Koné Drissa in Abidjan on Friday, February 25.
“These meetings with senior government leaders … offer us a chance to educate them about what we are doing here, who we are, what our members do and contribute as citizens, what the Church’s impact is and can be as we grow, what missionaries do, our willingness to support many of their priorities in education, clean water, other projects that benefit the needs, the infrastructure and health needs of people,” he said.
Leadership Instruction Meetings
The first meeting was held on Saturday, February 19, in Lagos, Nigeria, where Elder Christofferson and the other senior leaders offered instruction to more than 50 stake, district and mission presidents. Another leadership meeting was held in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the following day.
Elder Christofferson said the four-hour instruction meetings gave the senior Church leaders time to address questions from local leaders and to counsel together.
Leadership meetings were also held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and Accra, Ghana. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles plan to hold these meetings annually around the world.
“There are tribes in these countries and the tribal influence is still strong,” Sister Christofferson observed. “It seems like, in many of these countries, there’s a very good rapport between the different peoples who almost have a bit of a different ethnic background.”
Elder Christofferson said Church membership is growing in West Africa and will continue to expand in some emerging countries, such as The Gambia and Mali.
“It’s still a time of beginning. The Church is quite established in Nigeria and Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. But [for] much of the rest of the area, it’s all very new,” he said.
“There are a number of challenges. I’m optimistic that we can meet them just because it’s the Lord’s work,” Elder Christofferson concluded. “This is a spiritual work, and we honor the Lord.”
On the morning of Monday, February 28, Elder Christofferson met with missionaries at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Accra before departing for Salt Lake City.