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Mormons: A look at church Kenyans crucify for ‘devil worshipping’

County_Nairobi

Once individuals convert to a certain faith, they feel like they are the ones riding the royal yacht to heaven as others row leaking canoes in the direction of hell- Ken Ouko, Sociologist The Mormon Church in Kenya is perceived by some to worship the devil We attend a service to find out the truth about the church with 13,000 members in Kenya

How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord, they hummed in the warm, airy house of God, a stone throw away from the fortified British High Commission.

And there I stood on the front pew, a journalist bubbling with sin, notebook in hand, worshipping with the Mormons and wondering whether curiosity would kill the cat. Would they eat me? Would we dance naked around a fire? Would the devil emerge? Was there any truth to all the stereotypes I had heard?

We were at the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints in Upperhill. The Nairobi Kenya West Stake Conference was in session, with Elder Ullises Soares of the Presidency of the seventy presiding.

President Darius Mobe, the third senior most Mormon in Kenya stepped forward.  A small, black suited businessman with a lawyerly and pious mien, his voice rung clear, reading out a raft of pronouncements that were promptly ratified through acclamation by the congregation.

The proceedings were all formal and proper- like a courtroom, an academic conference or parliament. The chamber exuded the consensus of an ancient African baraza, which is fitting because the history of the Mormons is traced to the Red Indians that fabled indigenous American tribe that is as close to Africa as the Acacia is to the Savanna.

An hour earlier, I had posted my intention of worshipping with the Mormons on Facebook, and the gasps of horror had come fast and furious. Many comments were comical, but most proved that quite a number of Kenyans hold this church, and its following, with suspicion.

“Did they also tell you they don’t frown upon polygamy?” Lawrence Omolo quipped. “Mormons? Riiiiswa!” Milly wa Shim wailed. “I hear you enter the church backwards, no? Greg Musyoka posed. “That’s a bunch I have never understood,” said Mkamara Mawanda.

The most telling post was from Patrick Maina Citrus: “Demonic powers fall and die in Jesus’ name…”

Well, no demons emerged. We didn’t dance naked around a fire. We simply worshipped as one would in any Christian church. Except that those who preached did not scream of hellfire, worm money out of the congregation, speak in tongues or thrash on the floor possessed by the Holy Ghost.

An offertory basket was not passed around either and there were no telling comments from the pastor about those who have not paid tithe or contributed towards buying the pastor a car.

So where did these stories about worshiping demons emerge? George Munene, the church’s top cleric in Kenya, underlines why Mormons are misunderstood.

“Being a Kenyan and understanding the Kenyan culture, we typically tend to associate unfamiliar things or things out of the norm with devil worship, especially when they involve religion. When people don’t understand others, they judge them,” he says.

His view is reinforced by University of Nairobi lecturer, Ken Ouko, who also explains why most faiths feel superior to others.

“Religion is much like a rehabilitative indulgence that authenticates the idea of starting over.  Once individuals convert to a certain faith, they feel like they are the ones riding the royal yacht to heaven as all others row leaking canoes in the direction of hell,” Ouko muses, adding that mainstream Christians refrain from trying to understand what are considered “deviant religious set-ups” and rashly dismiss and brand them “devil worshipers”.

Part of the mystic surrounding Mormons has to do with the fact they are a relatively small congregation that don’t shout about their faith and little is known about them. 

President Munene explains that the Mormon Church, with only about 15 million followers worldwide, has remained relatively small despite being nearly 300 years old because “the church is not determined by masses, but by those willing to live the gospel of Jesus Christ”.

“We do not seek attention through advertisement. Sometimes we are picked up by mainstream media for key events that take place in the church, but it is not the church’s policy to advertise or put ourselves out there to seek or attract attention,” he says, adding that the church mainly recruits new membership through its missionary programme. 

In a story for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Leslie Conder says the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found in the 13 Articles of Faith. Mormons believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Both The Book of Mormon and the correctly translated Holy Bible are believed to be the word of God.

The structure of the Mormon Church is the same as that of the church that Christ organised while on Earth, so it is led by a living Prophet called the President, and 12 apostles, also known as the Quorum of the 12, Conder writes.

Russell Nelson, who is set to visit Kenya on April 16, is the current President of the church. In the event of death, the oldest among the Quorum of the 12 assumes the position of Prophet or President.

There are 13,000 Mormons in Kenya, with churches in Kasarani, Kangemi, Riruta, Upperhil, Buruburu, Athi River, Ongata Rongai, Ngong, Kabiria, Lang’ata, South B, Chyulu, Mombasa, Misikhu, Kitale, Eldoret, Kisumu, Busia and Naivasha.

Prominent Mormons in Kenya include Mabel Muruli who ran for governor in Kakamega last year; Kiambu gubernatorial aspirant Johnson Mwaura; Engineer Joseph Sitati who is based at the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, USA; retired URTNA and French TV journalist Solomon Luvai; international business professional Darius Mobe and University of Nairobi Economics lecturer; Dr Laura Lalampaa. The first African converts in Kenya were baptised in 1979

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