The Real Elder Price
The Real Elder Price, Part 6: The Dedication
Elder Oaks laid his hands on my father's head and set him apart. Until he spoke the blessing, I had not been aware that Dad was worried about his unfinished tasks and projects. When Elder Oaks instructed him to not concern himself with what he was leaving behind, my father openly wept. The blessing also included a promise that my parents' children would be watched over, that others would be brought into their lives to help and support them.
And so Mom and Dad went to Eastern Europe, where my family and I visited them a year later. One of their missionaries said to me, "Your father is the most inspired man I have ever met."
Since I knew my father much better than this young man, that pronouncement was two degrees shy of mind-boggling. "My father?"
"The most inspired man I've ever met!"
That generous imagination and the Mormon sense that anyone who answers the call to discipleship may be duly empowered had added a divine dimension to the man I called simply Dad.
In my own little family, we have also experienced this magnification. My husband and I were released from our calling at the Missionary Training Center when he was asked to be our congregation's bishop.
I remember the voicemail that let me know a change was before us: "Brother Young, the stake president would like to meet with you. Sister Young, we'd like you to come as well." I knew immediately what was before us, and knew that our time in the MTC was about to end.
In his office, our stake president pulled a letter from his desk. It authorized him to extend this call to my husband. I did not want to leave the missionaries, and Bruce had no idea of how difficult this stewardship would be.
We said yes.
Such is the line of authority we Mormons accept. There are some things only a stake president or a bishop or an apostle is authorized to do. This hierarchal order has troubled some, who think we worship men rather than God, and put them on absurd pedestals if they have high callings. (Well yes, we do have rather high pedestals, which is a natural outgrowth of the LDS claim to continuing revelation and the amazing possibility that there are still prophets on earth.)
|Elder Holland with branch president Bala and others in Yaounde, Cameroon|
According to this line of authority, only an apostle will dedicate a land for the preaching of the gospel. It was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland who dedicated Cameroon (part of the DR-Congo mission) when "my" missionaries were there.
His dedication of Cameroon was the fulfillment of a 133-year-old prediction, articulated in the Deseret News on December 7, 1877:
Stanley the traveler has furnished the world with a complete map of the course of that mighty river, the Congo, down in Africa. A fresh field is opened to missionary labor. The benighted tribes of the wilds of Africa will not long be left without the knowledge of the world's Redeemer. This is the great and last dispensation in which all that is hidden shall be disclosed, and all nations and lands with their history and relationship to each other will be made manifest. The emancipation of the colored race in the United States and opening up of the long hidden regions of interior Africa are indications of the workings of the Almighty towards the lifting up and final redemption of this branch of the human family. The fullness of the gospel may not reach them for years. But the angel which restored it to earth proclaimed the glad tidings that it should be preached 'to every nation and kindred and tongue and people.'
Margaret Blair Young is the president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—six novels and two short story collections. Three of the novels were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history (documented) of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, which is currently under contract with the Documentary Channel and showing nationally. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western United States, and particularly Black Mormons. She teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.