Calvin Sowah, age 20, is serving a mission in London England. He is the second of three boys. Winfred, the oldest, served a mission in Nigeria and is now enrolled in school at BYU Idaho. He was the first to fulfill a dream their mother has cherished ever since she heard a general authority say that parents should prepare their sons to serve a mission. Reginald, 17, is still at home with his parents while he finishes high school here in Ghana. The Sowah family resides in the Haatso Branch in the Adenta Stake in Accra.
Their parents each joined the Church before they met and married. Their father is now a banker, and their mother owns an ophthalmic practice. Theirs is a family dedicated to preparing missionaries. Calvin recalls the schedule they kept in order to do this. The family would wake up at 4:00 a.m. so that the boys could attend seminary at the bishop’s house at 5:00 a.m. Their family devotional, which focused on scripture study was held at 4:45 before leaving for seminary. Seminary ended at 6:00 and by 6:30 the whole family left the house for school and work. When school was not in session, the family devotional continued.
Calvin caught the missionary spirit his first year of high school. He was studying Joseph Smith’s history from the Pearl of Great Price and, says Calvin, “I got so enthused about it that I wanted to share it with the whole world. When I went to school I told my friends, “Listen up! This is true!” That approach didn’t go over very well. They resisted, got angry, and argued back. From that experience, Calvin says, “I learned that the better way is to set an example, avoid contention, bear testimony and let the Holy Ghost direct me.” Much later, when talking with one of his long-time friends, Calvin disclosed that he was a Mormon. The friend had never heard this and was very surprised. “He posed all sorts of questions about the Church and the temple. That was really when I started to feel like a missionary. By this time I knew better than to make him feel bad about his religion. I just answered his questions as best I could and shared my testimony. Though he wasn’t particularly convinced after the first discussion, he kept asking more questions and that kept me on my toes.”
Pearl of Great Price
“My parents gave us a lot of counsel,” Calvin says. “Sometimes it would get on my nerves, but I knew it was all for the better. I have learned that whenever they have counseled me to do something and I do it, I see the fruits of it, and it has been beneficial to me. But when I have gone against their counsel—trouble. I have bad consequences from it. It’s like there are prophets in the house.”
While in school, Calvin accompanied the hymns in sacrament and priesthood meetings, and did it skillfully. When they were younger, he and his older brother found a simple electric keyboard and a Church keyboard instruction manual in their home. At first they played with the instrument a bit, but then started practicing it in earnest every night. Though they didn’t have any lessons, they both got to the point of actually playing a song and performed for Family Home Evening. Both boys have accompanied the singing at Church on their missions. “We learned on our own, with God’s help,” Calvin says.
Before his mission Calvin served as the first assistant to the bishop in the priest quorum as well as the assistant ward choir director. Leaders and visitors to the Sunday morning young men class noticed that after class was over, Calvin would quietly shake all the other boys’ hands and encourage them, and give them an extra warm welcome if they were new or facing challenges. “They are my brothers and friends,” he said.
At one point in his schooling, Calvin wanted very badly to join a college preparatory club at the American Embassy, where outstanding students met to learn about future educational opportunities and to prepare for college-level work. Applying for membership in this club required submission of one’s high school transcript; on the basis of that and an interview, the applicant was either accepted into the club or not. Calvin realized that although his grades were generally very good, his physical education grade was not, and it would likely keep him out of the club. He knew the grades students received did not always reflect what they deserved, and that this was especially possible in physical education, where being close to the physical education master could make a favorable grade more likely. So Calvin went to the school administrator in charge of the records, told him of his desire to join the club, and explained the situation with the transcript. The man rubbed his thumb across his fingers a few times, indicating that a little money would make it possible to change the grade, and said, “Bring something.”
Evidently it was not uncommon for a student to get his transcript altered. And surely, Calvin thought, if altering was ever justified, it was in this case, where there was reason to suspect that care had not been taken in determining his grade. He talked with his mother, who, he says, ”Is the kind of woman who wants her children to choose for themselves. She gives you the direction you need, but ultimately she wants the choice to be yours.” Calvin brought some money to give to the administrator, gave some of it, and said he would give the rest once the grade was changed. Then he tried to leave the school and return home, wanting everything to be as if nothing very important had happened. “But I could not leave,” Calvin says. “I was feeling very, very bad. My mind kept going back to primary, remembering my teachers telling us that cheating is wrong and asking myself many questions:
‘Are the teachings of the Church not true?’
‘What if my children in the future ask me about how I got in that club? Will I tell them I cheated?’
‘Are you going to stoop to this level?’
“I just knew that if I let this thing continue, there was no way I was ever going to feel comfortable. I went back to the office and told the administrator, ‘I just cannot do this. I want my transcript just the way it was.”
“I went home and told my mom. She was very proud of me, and I was very happy. I said to myself, ‘Yes, I made the right decision.’ I did get into the club, but I had already decided it would be all right if I didn’t. At the times when we are tempted to do something that is wrong, we must stick with what we know to be true.”
Calvin’s testimony began to grow in junior high school, when he “went on a search” to learn if there is a God. He recalls thinking a lot about the matter, and says that one day a great realization hit him. Whether he liked it or not, when he compared those who are living the gospel with those who are not, the sharp contrast was obvious. Those who live the gospel are prosperous and enjoying living, and those who do not “are in a region of darkness.” I came to the conclusion that God lives.”
Asked to bear his testimony, he says, “What Christ did for every single one of us, very few understand, but I feel I am growing in understanding. He has promised us that if we will believe in and follow Him, He will prepare a place for us. And I know without a shadow of doubt that our leaders are called by a real God who sees us and knows us individually and is ever ready to help us. All we have to do is just succumb to his will and we will be fine.”