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.'
Of course, the article is imbued with the prejudice of its time and the concepts that undergirded colonialism, but the Mormon view of ever-increasing light and progress is unmistakably present, as is the understanding that all mankind comprise the "human family."
It also responds to the fictional Elder Price's singing "I believe that in 1978, God changed his mind about black people." No, the principle that "all are alike unto God" is eternal. God has never changed His mind about that, regardless of what any mortal has said.
And so Elder Holland dedicated the land of Cameroon for the preaching of the gospel. I'll let the missionaries describe the events in their own words:
Elder Henry Lisowski: It turned out we would NOT be able to go to the dedication after all. So, we eight missionaries sat silently at 7:30 in the morning, looking out toward the mountains, and waiting as our country was dedicated. There was no parting of clouds, no brilliant rays of sunshine frying the wicked, and no falling fireballs. But it was still pretty cool.
|Elder Jeffrey Holland on Dedication Hill|
Elder Jared Wigginton: We heard of the power of the Spirit that was present [at the dedication]. Elder Holland's prayer compared the missionary work to the rock upon which it was given in the hill—a rock of Christ with the potential to roll and grow beyond measure. He put to shame with Apostolic authority that Africans were 'fence sitters' in the pre-existence and admitted that the reason for the Priesthood restriction is still not known today. He edified us. I understand so much more clearly why I am serving.
Elder Chiloba Chirwa: We shook the hand of Elder Holland. I will never forget the experience of today. He pronounced a blessing upon all the people of this country, and I know that everything he said in his dedicatory prayer will be fulfilled. I am still trying to compose myself. What a privilege it was to gaze into those piercing blue eyes and listen to his apostolic voice.
Elder Kendell Coburn: We had the wonderful opportunity to have a zone conference with Elder Holland. The most powerful thing he did was to bear testimony of the Savior. His apostolic testimony was one of the most powerful moments of my life. My joy is full. I am overflowing with happiness and peace. And I am so grateful to be a missionary here in Africa.