President David Oryang of the Woodbridge Stake Presidency, teaching primary children about the Church in Africa.

President David Oryang of the Woodbridge Stake Presidency, teaching primary children about the Church in Africa.

Dear President Albright,

Joseph Oryang is the son of David Oryang (of the Woodbridge Stake Presidency) who is the son of–I don’t remember his first name. so I’ll plug in a good Uganda name -“John.” John was a young man growing up in the hills of Uganda who along with his brother rose up early each morning to head for the hills to stay with and protect the families growing herd of goats. 

They would spend each day from early morning to late evening tending to the goats and protecting them from wild animals, and making sure they had food and water.  The two brothers were just lads, about 10 and 11, and destined to spend the rest of their days in the foothills of Uganda, except for a “disaster” that hit Uganda livestock.  A deadly disease coming from Europe invaded Uganda that was devastating to the native goats and nearly all of the goats in Uganda died from the disease, including all of the families small herd.  The Oryang family no longer had any chance at temporal success.  The family was destitute and desperate.  

In the middle of this incredible set back, John decided to strike out on his own as a young teenager and see what was on the other side of the mountain.  With his meager belongings strapped to his back, he walked the many miles to the “big city,” probably Kampala where he somehow got himself enrolled into a school and worked hard to obtain a high school diploma and did so well academically that he was eventually awarded a scholarship to attend a university which paved the way for another round of luck as he was awarded an opportunity to attend Oxford in England.  

Graduating with honors,  he returned to his native land and was immediately rewarded with a good paying job with the Uganda Government, which now made him a man of influence and privilege.  John married and began to raise a family under this newly discovered rank of “Man of Importance” which gave his children privileges that they never would have dreamed of as a Goatsman of Uganda.


David, his son, grew up under this new family influence which got him admitted to the better schools and eventually landed him a scholarship to attend the University of Washington, where he worked his way through school and ended up obtaining a significant degree.  Along the way, he met the missionaries and was baptized and then met the woman of his life and his story began to take deep roots. A U.S. government job gave this driven man an opportunity to rise in Washington D.C. circles as a man of prominence and influence.  His testimony and leadership skills were soon recognized by both the Lord and his priesthood leaders and as of 2014 he was serving as a counselor in the Stake Presidency of the Woodbridge Virginia Stake.  

I invited President Oryang to speak at a Launching Leaders program, where he shared his exciting and entertaining story. We were all dazzled with the events which brought him to America and to become a family of prominence in the Church and Government.   

As he concluded his story and appropriate application to each of our lives, I stood up and said the first thing that came to my mind: “What if the Goats had not died?”

President and Sister David Oryang with President Albright.

President and Sister David Oryang with President Albright.

We then speculated about the difference in his story had the goats never died…His father and his uncle might have spent the rest of their  lives herding goats in Uganda, raising their family – enter David – and eventually Joseph – and the family might have been known to this day as the finest Goat Herdsman in Uganda,  but Mozambique would not have been the testing ground for their 6’6”  strapping missionary son nor would the Gospel or Education or Stake Presidency or Washington DC government  influence have been in the Oryang family history.  

The applications to nearly all of our lives are endless. Nearly everyone encounters numerous disasters in their lives and at each one we wonder if life can – or should – go on.  My own polio and stuttering problems as a child were events in my own life when I thought my goats had died.

Like Mandela and Joseph Smith and Victor Frankel and David Oryang , we will all look back and hopefully see our own “Dead Goats Story” as a stepping stone to something great or historic or life altering or heroic or phenomenal or virtuous or of good report or praiseworthy: the very things we came to earth to discover or to do. But often, we needed the goats to die before we found our oil and made our mark…and made a difference in the world.

Meanwhile take good care of your goats, it may not be time for them to die!

With love from beautiful Heber Valley where I haven’t seen a goat in many years…wonder if they all died here as well?

James Ritchie