Read yesterday’s article from Safe Journey about the moving faith of the people of Ghana.
Meridian Magazine’s Editorial Team will be in Ghana for the temple dedication, taking you to a front row seat at this remarkable, history-making spiritual milestone. With scores of photographic images by Scot F. Proctor and personal interviews with African missionaries and Saints, you will be able to feel the energy and excitement as the light dawns in what used to be called the dark continent. See these articles next week on Meridian—reporting from Ghana.
Early in the morning of February 16, 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited a prospective temple site in Accra, Ghana and later that day told 6,700 Saints assembled in Independence Square, “You’ve gone a long time without a temple. When I was here five years ago, we tried to find a place to build a temple. We didn’t find anything and we didn’t say anything to anybody…This morning we approved the purchase of a beautiful piece of ground.” The 3.6 acre site is in a residential neighborhood on one of Accra’s main thoroughfares.
President Hinckley told the Saints that the temple would take several years to complete, but said, “When it’s completed you won’t have to travel all the way to London, or all the way to Johannesburg, to have the blessings of the Lord.”
The LDS Church News (Feb. 21, 1998) reported, “For Joseph W.B. Johnson, news of the temple is something he has waited 15 years for. He is one of the Church’s pioneers in West Africa, having in 1964 started a congregation patterned after the Church after he read LDS literature and the Book of Mormon. He and others in his unofficial congregation were baptized after the missionaries arrived in Ghana in 1978. Brother Johnson said that he had a dream several years after he was baptized that the spirits of people who had died asked him what he was doing for them. ‘What could I do?’ he pondered, not having access to the temple. ‘Now we can start doing the temple work for those of our ancestors,’ he said after President Hinckley announced the temple.”
A “Green Beret” Assignment
Not many days after this announcement, Elder Pace was called by one of the senior Brethren and asked if he would be willing to take a “green beret” assignment. There was no need to tell him where it would be, as years earlier on a trip to Africa, he and his wife, Jolene, had both had the distinct impression that some day they would live and serve in Africa.
Elder Pace described the living conditions for them in Africa, “Our home in Accra was beautiful and as comfortable as one could make it. I came to refer to it as the world’s most expensive camper. The reason for this is that water had to be stored in tanks outside. We had a three-filter system for our water. The first one took out the solids, the second iodized the water, and the third took the taste of iodine out of the water. We had a septic tank that would back up once in a while. Tanks of butane gas were brought in to run the stove. We had a diesel generator for electricity, since the city’s power was on a cycle where it was on for twelve hours and then off for twelve. However, the generator was strong enough to run the home’s air conditioners and our comfort level was therefore high. As long as all of those things were working, life was very pleasant—until you left the house. And yet repairs were constant.
“The biggest frustration was the telephone. Whenever it rained, the phones wouldn’t work. Heavy rains brought floods inside the house and septic tanks backed up. The construction of the house left much to be desired. Nevertheless we felt guilty living in such opulence as we started to mingle with the locals.
“We brought several appliances from home, which ran on 110 volts instead of the 220 that is common in Africa. To get along we therefore had to purchase several converters. We brought a hot-air popcorn popper which shook our confidence in being very creative with converters. Every time we plugged it in it would blow a fuse and send out sparks. One of the first things we bought was a fire extinguisher for each floor. We had been told that if a fire broke out, the house would burn down before the fire department could arrive. We came to believe that because of what we saw with the police department. If you have a problem requiring police attention you have to go pick them up…
“The day after we arrived some Church employees took us to the market. That was a culture shock. As soon as you get out of the car you are besieged by people either looking for a handout or selling something. You have to fight your way into the store. Once you are inside another shock awaits you. These are not Super Targets. They are about the size of a Seven Eleven. They have quite a few imported commodities, and you are thankful to see something familiar once in awhile, even though it is very expensive. Occasionally you will discover something like Aunt Jemima’s pancake flour and shout for joy. You shout until you get home and discover that the weevil have invaded it before you got your chance.”
In Ghana, a mosquito bite throws you into panic that you might get malaria. Shopping is a continuous adventure. Every fruit or vegetable must be scrubbed with bleach before you can eat it. Travel is tedious, delayed and unreliable. The stifling heat and humidity enervate you. Chapels are cooled by fans, but they usually don’t work because the electrical power fails.
The people are wonderful, but the physical conditions are often grueling. But by far the most difficult challenge for Elder Pace was the government opposition to building the temple. The groundbreaking was delayed again and again because the temple had not been approved by the city planning commission, a process which was met with considerable opposition.
“Related to the delay in the temple approval process,” wrote Elder Pace, “were other manifestations of opposition. The papers were preparing to run an article entitled ‘The Mormons Are Coming.’ One of the subsections of the article was ‘Why the Mormons Teach against Christianity and How.’ We marshaled our public affairs people and tried to have it nipped in the bud, but in the end we were unsuccessful.”
The temple approval process was a roller coaster. Elder Pace wrote, “On June 29 , we got the best news about the temple since President Hinckley announced it a year and a half earlier. My journal reads: ‘We had a letter handed to us that said the temple had been approved contingent on a couple of minor concessions on our part. We are holding back getting too excited until we are sure what it means.’
“A day later: ‘We had a meeting with our architect and a member of the planning commission.
It looks like the letter is for real and we can start as soon as we are ready. The pressure is on our own people now to get bids. We still may be three months away, but at least everything is in our control. This is very exciting. We also got news that we will be piloting a family history project that will allow work to be done from oral histories. This will allow the most humble of the Africans to take their ancestors to the temple by just knowing names and relationships. This will be an exciting couple of years the way things are coming together.’
“And then only two days later: ‘When I got home, Carl Champagnie came to the house all discouraged because he had just left the planning committee and had been given another letter that was to supersede the letter we got last week. This letter stated the temple was to be excluded from the plan. He was so discouraged. The committee’s shabby treatment of our case is matched only by their lack of professionalism. We keep trying to rule out discrimination against the Church, but we can’t see any other reason for this.
“’We have all been a little down due to the new temple problems. I see no alternative than to keep fighting. That piece of ground just seems so right. If we abandon it, we assume we will have a very difficult time finding another acceptable piece, and even if we located one we have no guarantee it would be approved if indeed our problems are political.’
“A few days later: ‘We had a meeting with our attorneys and architects this afternoon on the continuing saga of getting the temple approved. The latest version is that the mayor was not in the meeting when they sent out the letter last week and he was upset they didn’t consult him and sent out the second letter. We decided to have the attorney and architect meet with the mayor and try to resolve the question as to why we are having these problems. Once we know the real reason we are being refused we can prepare an appeal. If that doesn’t work, we will be going to a higher level.’”
By August 31, the Church was appealing to the highest authorities in Ghana for approval. Elder Pace wrote in his journal, “We understand President Rawlings, Vice President Mills, and the mayor of Accra are meeting to discuss the temple. I don’t know how we could get at a higher level than that. In my opinion we have now done all we can do… I’m ready to leave it in the hands of the Lord.”
“At War with the Adversary”
“Earlier Elder Pace had given a devotional to the Church employees where he spoke of the opposition that often comes when a temple is built. He said, “’We have been at war with the adversary as far back as our premortal existence. We are in a war now. Opposition to the work continues.’ I then quoted President Wilford Woodruff:
“’There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it’ (Deseret Evening News, 17 Oct. 1896).
“I also quoted at length from George Q. Cannon, who spoke on the same theme:
‘Temple building brings increased power. Every foundation stone that is laid for a temple, and every Temple completed according to the order the Lord has revealed for His Holy Priesthood, lessens the power of Satan on the earth and increases the power of God and Godliness, moves the heavens in mighty power in our behalf, invokes and calls down upon us the blessings of the Eternal Gods and those who reside in Their presence.
“’I fully believe that when that temple [Salt Lake Temple] is once finished there will be a power and manifestations of the goodness of God unto this people such as they have never before experienced. Every work of this kind that we have accomplished has been attended with increased and wonderful results unto us as a people—an increase of power and of God’s blessings upon us. It was so in Kirtland and at Nauvoo; at both places the Elders had an increase of power, and the Saints, since the completion of and the administration of ordinances in those buildings, have had a power they never possessed previously. . . .
“’Every temple that we build excites additional hatred, increases the volume of opposition, the volume of hostility and the threatenings of the wicked. Every temple that we have thus far completed—and every temple of which we lay the foundation—has been another testimony in favor of God and has brought strength to the people of God in enlisting the hosts in the eternal world upon our side; but at the same time there has been stirred up, from the very depths of hell, all the damned.
“’Satan and his legions unite with their agents upon the earth in an endeavor to destroy this work and to do everything in their power to obliterate it from the face of the earth; hell is enraged at the work we are doing; hell is stirred up at that which we are accomplishing. Satan sees that which he dreads, . . . and seeing this he is determined to exert every power, every influence that he can muster for the purpose of preventing the spread and growth of this work.
“’Satan rages as he views his domain trenched upon, his captives delivered, and the souls of men wrenched from his grasp by the labors of the living for the dead in and through those sacred ordinances that belong alone to the Gospel of the Son of God, administered in holy places by His chosen servants and handmaidens. And it must not surprise us if the rage of the arch-enemy of mankind increases and his emissaries grow more relentless and cruel, more brutal and inhuman in their efforts to stay this work, as the number of temples increases and the thousands of Israel go in thereto to minister the ordinances of salvation for their ancestors and departed friends.
“’He [Satan] understands very well that if the children of men will enter into such holy buildings and receive the ordinances there administered and be faithful thereto, his power over them is lost forever, and his kingdom must go down. The struggle with him is a desperate one. He wishes to retain his supremacy on the earth—the territory he has usurped and over which he held dominion, by all the trickery and violence of which he is capable, for so many generations.
God designs to overthrow him, to break his power and to have His children live for one thousand years free from his domination. Great issues are involved in this struggle; but God’s Kingdom will triumph, and His people will be freed from the thralldom which Satan seeks to impose’ (Gospel Truth, 366).
“After sharing those statements, I said: ‘I wonder if we realize the magnitude of this time and this place. We come to work each day and get into a certain routine. Soon we will see the ground broken for the temple and we will watch it go up. Will we fully appreciate and comprehend the magnitude of the moment?
“’When that temple on Independence Avenue is dedicated it will be like an atomic bomb has been dropped right in the middle of Satan’s stronghold in West Africa. It will be the most significant thing that has affected West Africa since the atonement and resurrection of Christ. It will be the beginning of the end of Satan’s hold on these countries.
“’In addition, think of the thousands of years some of your ancestors have been waiting to have their temple work done. I can assure you there are those on the other side of the veil who are more excited than we are.
“’I hope we understand what a pivotal time in the history of West Africa this is. For some reason we have been chosen to be laboring in the vineyard at this significant time. We need to make certain we remain worthy of the trust. Those in this room have been blessed for the time being to spend nearly every waking hour in bringing to pass the Lord’s purposes. I hope we will never lose sight of that eternal perspective, even when we are in the middle of some duties that may seem a little mundane. We should be the happiest employees in all of Africa.’
“That presentation was the genesis of talks I would give throughout all of West Africa in 1999. It became a battle cry to the Saints to make certain we were all awakened to the magnitude of our responsibilities as members of the Church in Africa.”
Tomorrow: Meridian brings you the third and last excerpt from Glenn L. Pace’s Safe Journey, An African Adventure, called “Euphoria.”