The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is alive and well in Ghana, according to an Area Authority Seventy who spoke to a packed audience Thursday in the Harold B. Lee Library auditorium. Elder Emmanuel Abu Kissi (pictured), a respected doctor and prominent church figure in Ghana, explained several cultural differences in the country, and discussed the state of the church in Africa.
Kissi said he saved most of his comments to be read in his book, "Walking in the Sand," which details the history of the gospel coming into the land. The title is based on a Ghanaian expression, which means "alive and well," describing the Latter-day Saints in the country.
Barnard Silver, who attended the presentation, first met Kissi 18 years ago as he and his wife were opening Cote d'Ivoire, the country west of Ghana, for missionary work. During this experience, Silver met with much opposition, but remembers visiting Kissi's medical practice and realizing how important it was for the community that a man with such a great heart and extensive history of service accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"Dr. Kissi is one of the great pioneers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Silver said. "He has helped us understand how all cultures that come under the banner of the gospel of Jesus Christ meld into one culture of service to others."
During a question and answer session following the presentation, Kissi explained this point, saying he was not concerned about the American culture dominating the African traditions through missionary work.
"Jesus Christ came and we have one culture," Kissi said. "Every American Latter-day Saint belongs to the LDS culture. And if you come to Ghana, the Latter-day Saints there have the same culture."
Kissi also expressed his pleasure about the dedication of the temple in Accra, Ghana, which he views as a great blessing given through faith.
Kissi spoke of the many problems in its construction, including opposition from many other churches that were fearful of the LDS church drawing away their membership. These churches persuaded the dictator and for a time the LDS members had to stop worshiping in the church. After that, they were told the temple could not be built because the area was zoned for high-rise buildings and because a church would be too noisy for the surrounding area.
"Finally, all of this was sorted out," Kissi said.
Kissi said eventually people could accomplish what they needed to because the community recognized the spiritual aura surrounding LDS meeting places.
Dale LeBaron, former BYU professor of church history, has written extensively about African countries where the church was established after the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. He said although he found Kissi's remarks interesting, he wished he had shared more personal experiences from his life.
"He and his wife have such amazing conversion experiences and then they've done so much to help the church get established," LeBaron said. "He is an ultimate pioneer in Ghana and he's just an amazing person. Their conversion is just unreal, the way it happened."
Chelsea Shields, a senior from northern California, majoring in anthropology and African studies, has attended the University of Ghana and visited the nation with BYU students studying traditional religion. She said the most interesting part of the gospel conversion for her is that most Ghanaians believe in religious pluralism. They believe if one religion is great, they might as well have three or four.
"It's interesting to see how the church is over there - people have accepted it as itself," Shields said. "Meaning, people who join the church abandon traditional beliefs. They have abandoned other religions and taken it on as the true church. It's an interesting concept, because traditional Ghanaians hold many different ideas of God."