Recording the Stories of African Saints

Recording the Stories of African Saints May 18, 2024


It's pretty small! 09i8uiyu
A public-domain CIA-created map of the West African nation of Benin

Dr. Jeffrey Mark Bradshaw, vice president for special projects at the Interpreter Foundation, is in Africa at the moment in connection with the Foundation’s effort (under the title of Not By Bread Alone) to document some of the stories of the Saints there.  He has kindly been sharing photographs with me from his travels thus far, and I thought that you might enjoy seeing some of the faces of our African brothers and sisters.  The photos and the captions are Jeff’s.  I apologize for the fact that the first series of photographs is so small.

Thus far, they have been in various parts of the West African nation of Benin.  On Monday, some of them will travel to Rwanda.  There are marvelous stories to be had in these places, as the Restoration continues to unfold.

The grand Hotel Tahiti, in Benin
We checked out of Hotel Tahiti, on the southern coast of Benin.


The beach was spectacular, though we really didn’t have time to experience it. Looking south, there was nothing between us and Antarctica except lots of water.


Our first stop north was at a hospital in Calavi. The new (six weeks ago) district president for the northern part of the country, Donatien, was there with his wife for an operation on his son for a cleft palette. We recognized his truck in the parking lot—the symbol for the NGO “The Land of Bountiful” with its motto of “Watered for growth in love.”


The district president for the north of Benin
His shirt gave him away, too: “Let God Prevail.” We rescheduled our appointment with him for Sunday on our way back to Cotonou.


Their very sober driver and his wife
In Bohicon, further north, we interviewed Mathurin Gandji, our driver, and his wife at the orphanage they help manage for the NGO. His life was in ruins with alcohol and despair. He had a dream where he was told that he was going to enter a Church. He asked, “Which one?” and then was awakened by his mother knocking on the door saying that two young men were there to see him. You can imagine the rest of that part of the story . . .


Orphans at an LDS-run orphanage
Children from the orphanage, with Robert [Bradshaw] and Chris [Miasnik]. A few of the children had been removed from their homes for petty crimes. The Gandji couple and others there love them, teach them, help them all stay in school and to learn a trade until they turn eighteen.
This sweet child came too late for the photo, but did get some of the lollipops that Chris handed out.


Another radiant couple of African Latter-day Saints
We interviewed Théofile Iwoktan and his wife at the Church. More beaufiful stories of the Lord’s hand bringing them out of poverty and hopelessness to the joy of service in the Gospel.


Verdant hills. saiuyu
As we drove further north, we started to see hills of solid rock with beautiful greenery.


A BYU professor's rented home in Benin
Finally we got to the rented home of Spencer and Alyssa James. Spencer is the brother of Robert’s wife Camille and is on leave from BYU in Parakou on a Fulbright scholarship, teaching and furthering his research on African families.

For further information on Professor Spencer James and his research, see here.

The Church at work in Benin. [-o9i9uyg8i
After our Come, Follow Me discussion on Abinadi’s review of the ten commandments, we prayed and went to bed, exhausted. You can see Robert and Chris rubbing their eyes.
Brother and Sister Cataria, leaders in the branch in Parakou, are just as beautiful, sweet, and faithful as they appear in this photo.


This is the future of the Church
These two boys sat for an interview. They could answer any question we asked them—including what they were studying this week in their families for Come, Follow Me at 5 AM each morning (the answer: King Benjamin’s speech. The older boy told me his favorite part was Mosiah 3:19, then repeated the verse by heart and explained what it meant). He also explained the first five priinciples of the Gospel from the fourth article of faith—at first i thought he made a mistake, but then he went on to explain the principle of “perséverance” (enduring to the end) as the fifth principle. They are both deacons.  [Jeff Bradshaw is on the left of the photo, while Chris Miasnik is on the right.)
We met with Clarisse, Spencer James’s dean at the university.


Is there anything we can do to help?
Spencer’s office is in this building. A desk, no bathrooms, one light bulb that works.


Besides his research and teaching in the Sociology Department, Spencer gives presentations at the American cultural center at the university. A group was watching a movie in English and was going to discuss it afterward.

“The Standard of Truth,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

James Jordan Lincoln Hoppe Martin Harris
Lincoln Hoppe as Martin Harris, in the 2021 Interpreter Foundation theatrical film, “Witnesses”
(Still photograph by James Jordan)

From one of the Interpreter Foundation’s websites:

At age 86, Martin Harris requested that Brigham Young be told of his desire to visit Utah: “Tell him I should like to visit Utah, my family and children—I would be glad to accept help from the church, but I want no personal favor. Wait! Tell him that if he sends money, he must send enough for the round trip. I should not want to remain in Utah.” Upon learning of Martin’s request Brigham Young said, “I want to say this: I was never more gratified over any message in my life. Send for him! Yes, even if it were to take the last dollar of my own.”

At age 88 Martin traveled via train to the Salt Lake Valley. The Deseret News on August 31, 1870 reported, “He is remarkably vigorous for one of his years, his memory being very good, and his sight . . . being so acute that he can see to pick a pin off the ground. We are glad to see Martin Harris once more in the midst of the Saints.” Upon gazing at the rising Salt Lake Temple and tabernacle on Temple Square, Martin exclaimed, “Who would have thought that the Book of Mormon would have done all this?” He died in Clarkston, Utah on July 9, 1875 at age 92 and was buried with a Book of Mormon in his right hand and the Doctrine and Covenants in his left.

What might Martin have thought of seeing faithful Latter-day Saint students of the Book of Mormon in West Africa?



"It has been determined that the death of choral music in High School can be ..."

Music! Again!
"Hauntingly prophetic, indeed."

Two simple stories
"Off-topic post.I was wondering if any of the psychologists or other scientists on this forum ..."

A Global Effort on Behalf of ..."
"In It's a Wonderful Life!, George Bailey enters a phase of being entirely focused on ..."

Two simple stories

Browse Our Archives