On the evening of August 10, 2016, an apostle of the Lord, Elder David A. Bednar arrived in Accra, Ghana to begin a five-day visit to the Africa West Area. In addition to meeting with leaders, Elder Bednar held two devotional services at the Christiansborg Stake Center in Accra.
The first of these was held on Thursday, August 11, 2016 to which the Young Single Adults of the area were invited. Also in attendance were Africa West Area President Terrence M. Vinson, and his counselors, Marcus B. Nash and Vern P. Stanfill and their wives, and several of our Area Seventies.
The stake center was filled to capacity and the service was broadcast by satellite to stake centers throughout the Africa West Area enabling thousands to participate in this wonderful opportunity.
Elder Bednar began the evening by saying that he wasn’t going to give a speech, rather he wanted to hear directly from the Young Adults and learn what they wanted to know. He told them that they would not remember the words that were spoken but that he hoped they would remember what they felt by the power of the Holy Ghost. He invited them to raise their hands and ask questions, reminding them that while all questions are good, some are much better than others and all should be appropriate to the person, place and time. He also asked that they not ask questions they had prepared in advance, but instead ask about those things that came into their heart while they were there. He promised that if they did this and listened with a pure heart, even those who didn’t have the opportunity to voice their question would receive answers. In addition to responding to questions from those at the stake center, questions were gathered by text from other locations throughout the area.
As the questions were asked, Elder Bednar would sometimes answer the questions himself, but would also ask others in the Area Presidency and their wives to respond. A young woman was the first to raise her hand and asked how women in the Church should choose between being a wife and mother, and still pursue her education and dreams of a career. Elder Bednar asked Sister Bednar to answer this. She stated that while young women should get as much education as possible she should be willing to put it on hold so that she would no miss the opportunity to experience the greatest joy in life, the joy of family. She stated that there is nothing more Christ-like than a mother’s love for her child.
Another question asked is on the minds of most single young adults - how can we prepare for a temple marriage? Elder Bednar responded that it was very simple, you must become yourself the type of person you want your companion to be. If you make a list, it should be a list for yourself, not for the other person. He emphasized that you do not find a happy marriage; you create it by honoring gospel covenants, unselfishness and making Christ the center of your life.
A significant subject was raised when a young brother asked how we could overcome feelings of doubt and entitlement as we strive to live the gospel. Elder Bednar taught that the Savior told us to doubt not, fear not, (D&C 6:36) and that doubt stops forward movement, which creates fear. Fear equals inaction, which is the opposite of faith, which equals action. We should exercise faith by looking to the Book of Mormon for guidance.
Among other topics addressed that evening were -
•Sabbath Day Observance - the Sabbath and temple are similar in that they are both are meant to be a time we dedicate to God so that we may be elevated and enlightened by Him. How we use this time is a sign to God of our regard for Him.
•Making important decisions – the Lord gives us agency and we shouldn’t rely on Him for all answers. Answers come little by little over time. We should act and then we will know when we are on the wrong track.
•Choosing between mission and study – “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
•Refraining from Pornography – if you are a member with the gift of the Holy Ghost you will be warned that you shouldn’t go there. If you already have, stop and replace it with other good things, such as family history indexing, or other Church activities. You must replace darkness with light. Do not wait. Repent now and seek the Lord’s help. Living the gospel is not hard, NOT living the gospel is hard.
Elder Bednar concluded the evening by recommending that each Young Single Adult get an inexpensive copy of the Book of Mormon and go through it and mark every reference that refers to the Lord strengthening, strength in the Lord, coming to Christ, or in the strength of the Lord. He taught that the Atonement of Christ is not just for cleansing; it is for strengthening and empowering us. He told us that it is his singular responsibility to bear witness that the Father and the Son are real, that we are sons and daughters of God, that Christ died and was resurrected. The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith and that Thomas Monson is a prophet of God.
All in attendance were inspired and uplifted by the wisdom Elder Bednar and other leaders shared that evening. It was an extraordinary privilege to participate in this singular event.
The second of these events was held Sunday, August 14, 2016, also at the Christiansborg Stake Center. The first speaker was Sister Susan K. Bednar, who complimented the youth on their reverence preceding the meeting and the respectful way in which they entered.
She then shared a little about the personal side of Elder Bednar, describing how he has always loved to work out, and when he was the president at BYU Idaho he would run the stadium steps, taking them 2 at a time. Students would ask to join him but could rarely keep up. She said that she quickly learned after they were married that whenever his father (who was not a member of the church) phoned them, Elder Bednar would always greet him with, “Dad, when are you going to be baptized?? He always lived his life trying to be the best example possible so his father would see the value of gospel. He never gave up and eventually his father was baptized.
When Elder Bednar spoke he used the same format he had with the Single Young Adults, saying that he wanted to respond to questions from the youth rather that give a speech, and then he taught them how to ask them properly. As before, questions were received from youth in other stake centers throughout the Area.
First to stand was a young man who asked, “In Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 it states that God has a body of flesh and bones, but in the New Testament, John 4:24, we read that “God is a Spirit.” How can we reconcile these two scriptures?Elder Bednar responded that it is important for us to read from the scriptures in their totality. This is why we needed the Restoration – we needed more scriptures for clarification. Joseph Smith was the greatest revealer of Christ because the Bible was incomplete. Yes, God is Spirit, but He is also more. We have a more complete picture with both the Bible and modern-day scripture.
Some other questions –
•How do I know the Holy Spirit is with me? Stop worrying about it. Be a good boy. You have been taught to pray and study the scriptures. All good comes from God, so when you have a thought to do something good it is simply the Holy Ghost reminding you. Don’t worry – do what you know to b right.
•From Nigeria: Now that I am a member I feel persecuted at school and in my neighborhood – what should I do? Remember you are in good company. Go through the scriptures to see how the prophets and Jesus Christ dealt with persecution. Be a good example and try doing kind things for those who do unkind things to you.
•From Sierra Leone: How can we, as Young Men and Young Women, be effective in our callings? You should be agents and act, not be acted upon. Pray, study the scriptures, rise up and do what you know you should. Don’t wait until you are told, do it on your own. In Moroni we read the nothing evil comes from God and nothing good comes from Satan. Don’t sit and wait. Go and do good.
In conclusion Elder Bednar said that they had many more question than they had time to answer but he told the youth that it is important to ask and then act in faith and he promised that all those throughout West Africa who have been praying for an answer would receive answers even though it was not addressed tonight. His wish for the youth is that they would learn to love living the gospel, that they would learn this both through good and bad experiences, but they must always be grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These two marvelous events of being taught by an Apostle of the Lord will long be remembered in the Africa West Area. Our heartfelt thanks are extended to Elder and Sister Bednar for their sacrifice and service, and to our Father in Heaven for sending such fine leaders to teach us how to live the gospel and return to Him someday.