Elder Joseph W. Sitati of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at the “Black, White and Mormon” conference Friday, October 9, 2015, at the University of Utah on the topic of “Race and the International Church.” Elder Sitati, who is from Kenya, addressed self-reliance, race and the growth of the Church in Africa.

In referencing the Race and the Priesthood gospel topic pages found on LDS.org, he stressed, “The doctrine of the Church confirms that people of all backgrounds living or who have ever lived on the earth are children of God and are equal before Him. None will be denied their blessings.”

He continued, “Most active adult African Saints who have joined the Church since [the revelation on priesthood for all male members] know that this is a reality of the past, and have found individual answers in the restored gospel of the plan of happiness that give them understanding and peace regarding the unfolding events of the gathering of the Saints in these last days. Those who have found answers choose to look forward to the future with faith and assurance that all things are before the Eternal Father, that His justice is to all men and that His redeeming love and mercy are extended to all who turn to Him with full purpose of heart.”

Elder Sitati said there are many examples from history that teach that “it is the focus on things that define and highlight differences between people that has unleashed the forces that led to some of the greatest suffering of the children of God in all ages of time.”

Elder Sitati noted that in just 30 years, there are now more than 450,000 Latter-day Saints living in Africa, and the continent has some of the highest new member retention rates in the Church today. The Church has been proactive in responding to both spiritual and temporal needs of the Saints in Africa.

“Three years ago, in 2012, the First Presidency built on the foundation established by the Perpetual Education Fund to set up self-reliance services, a doctrinally based, fully-supported initiative providing resources to support members in international areas in their efforts to become self-reliant,” Elder Sitati said.

Self-reliance services is not a new department of the Church but is an expansion of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s vision for the Perpetual Education Fund addressing the practical, temporal and spiritual needs of members in developing nations. Self-reliance materials and resources can be found in the Gospel Tools app on mobile devices, on LDS.org and through local leadership.

“The Church continues to proactively respond to the spiritual and temporal needs of the Saints in Africa,” Elder Sitati concluded.