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Rare Videos of the First Baptisms in West Africa

Rare Videos of the First Baptisms in West Africa

By 1978, men and women of faith all around West Africa had been waiting patiently for years for the opportunity to be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anthony Obinna and his extended family and friends formed a small congregation in their village near Owerri, Nigeria, and studied the Book of Mormon. Joseph William Billy Johnson, Rebecca Mould, and R. A. F. Mensah founded similar congregations of unbaptized Latter-day Saints in Ghana. Some of these individuals and groups had petitioned Church leaders for missionaries for over a decade.

Then on June 8, 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball announced that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color” (Official Declaration 2) and that all worthy Latter-day Saint men and women could participate in temple ordinances.

This dramatic announcement lifted a restriction that had long been in place and opened the way for Church growth and local leadership in most of Africa. Church leaders moved quickly to ensure that the blessings of this revelation were extended widely to members in West Africa and other parts of the world.

Within weeks of the June 8 announcement, Edwin Q. Cannon and Merrill J. Bateman went on a fact-finding trip to help Church leaders decide how to proceed. The result of that July trip was the call of two pairs of missionaries to West Africa in September of 1978: Rendell and Rachel Mabey and Edwin and Janath Cannon. The Mabeys and Cannons arrived in Nigeria in November, carrying with them a handheld video camera. With that camera, they captured some very significant events in modern Church history.