Back in 1830, a young American man, Joseph Smith, was in turmoil. He wanted to serve in a church where he would grow his faith and find a home but he didn’t know where to plant his roots. There were many churches then.
After Jesus Christ’s apostles had died, there was a vacuum left, and many took it upon themselves to start their own churches. First came the Roman Catholic Church led by Constantine and later the protestant churches.
So Joseph retreated into the woods, hoping to find an answer in his sojourn. And true to form, in 1823, two figures appeared to him in a vision; God and Jesus. “Which Church do I join?” He asked them.
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“Don’t join any. They are all wrong. Their creeds are an abomination in my sight…”
“And so, the church was restored through Joseph Smith. And so it was aptly named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” says Jadmire Ndivo, President of the Nairobi West Diocese in Kenya.
I am seated at the head of the table in a mini-conference room at the church offices in Upper Hill. I had expected to be meeting one person, but with me are five people comprising the public affairs team and the President of the West Nairobi Stake (diocese).
“As I had told you, I needed to organise the public affairs team for the interview and we also have another team that we have contacted elsewhere to approve this meeting,” Jadmaire explains after a short prayer to commence the interview. The team later introduces itself. Among them is a senior education specialist in the Ministry of Education.
Moments later, Jadmire goes on to explain that an angel of God, Angel Moroni, appeared later to Joseph Smith to reveal the other testament of Jesus. The angel said that there was a book written on gold plates which told the story of ancient Americans and that it contained the full version of the Gospel as delivered by Jesus to those early inhabitants of America.
Joseph then found the golden plates as directed by the angel, translated and dictated the holy book now commonly known as the Book of Mormon.
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There are 13,000 Mormons in Kenya, but it has been a matter of curiosity and controversy that any black people would attend the church at all. This is because, until 1978, the Lord had not allowed black people to be ordained to priesthood or participate in temple ordinances.
In 1978, God revealed to Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, that blacks could join priesthood. Soon after, in 1980, the church in Kenya was opened.
“We believe that we are all children of our father in heaven, whatever race. In the Old Testament there were Jews and Gentiles because of their origin,” Jadmire explains.
“Priesthood came in God’s due time. We don’t know why it took so long for the church to open to other races. We cannot say why our Father in heaven took so long to open the church priesthood to the blacks till 1978.”
To grow their numbers, they go on recruitment missions. They are often seen walking two by two as they preach their gospel, always neatly dressed, likely in suits and with badges identifying them as Mormon missionaries.
The current leader of the Mormon Church is Prophet Thomas S. Monson, and he has 12 apostles. They say that he receives revelations from God, and that means it is as good as scripture.
Once a Prophet dies, he is succeeded by another one. He acts on behalf of God. “These men act as mouthpieces for God. Just as Moses spoke for God to all the Israelites, living prophets give instructions and counsel to all people today,” says a Mormon website.