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LDS Church in Africa #BlackHistoryMonth

It’s Black History Month at Gospel Tangents.  This is our final conversation with Russell Stevenson and we’ll talk the LDS Church in Africa.  Did you know that Nigerians in the 1960s and even in the 1950s I learned have asked for LDS missionaries to come teach the gospel to them.  It’s pretty surprising that they did this without any LDS presence in Nigeria.  Russell Stevenson will talk more about this in our next conversation.

Russell:  Throughout the 1950s, a number of church leaders are getting letters from various Nigerians across the river in Igboland, elsewhere begging for missionaries, asking for some kind of missionary presence.  The initial response by David O. McKay and others was some level of skepticism.  Maybe they are just looking for an opportunity to make money.  They are just looking for white people to give them business, maybe looking for a new source of patronage now that the British influence was beginning to recede.  By 1960 it was officially turned over to Nigerians.

In 1960 David O. McKay and the First Presidency, they send Glen Fisher, who has once been a mission president in South Africa to see what’s happening on the ground.  Are these potential converts legitimate?  Do they in fact want to join the LDS Church, or are they just looking for some kind of business opportunity?  Glen Fisher returned with a report that was gushing by saying these people are the real deal.  They crave Mormonism.  They crave the LDS Church.

So they go there and they come away with the same conclusion that Glen Fisher had come away with, that these people are the real deal.  They are legitimate.  They in fact crave Mormonism.  In fact Lamar Williams went further.  He said, “Ultimately we cannot keep the priesthood from these people.”  Essentially it’s only a matter of time.

GT:  What year is this?

Russell:  This is in 1961.

GT chuckles:  ’61.  That’s pretty prophetic!

Russell:  Yes.  I should note too, this isn’t the very first time you have Nigerians communicating this kind of thing to missionaries.  We have evidence all the way back to 1950 of a Nigerian reverend approaching missionaries in New York City asking for a missionary presence.  This is all throughout the post-war period.  I’m only talking about the period in which the activity is most sustained.

Find out more about what happened with the LDS Church in Africa!  I hope enjoyed our previous conversations with Russell on Elijah Ables, his mission, the temple/priesthood ban, and his attempts to get his endowment.  Check out all of these episodes for #BlackHistoryMonth!…..

 

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Trouble in Cincinnati: Ables’ Time in Ohio #BlackHistoryMonth

Following Elijah Ables’ Canadian mission, he returned for a short time to Nauvoo where he helped Joseph Smith escape from a mob from Missouri.  Then he went to Ohio and encountered more Trouble in Cincinnati!  Russell Stevenson continues our focus on #BlackHistoryMonth, and discusses some of the race riots and other difficulties Elijah Ables encountered in Ohio.

Russell:  In about 1842, or it might have even been the fall of 1841, there had been a massive race riot break out in Cincinnati between local white workers and the African-American community.  It was quite violent.  Many prominent abolitionists found themselves under fire.  Their homes, their offices, their businesses were all targeted for mob attack, and it’s reasonable to suppose that Rees E. Price would have found under attack as well.

So the fact that Elijah could navigate these white spaces, it tells you he had the skill to be in both worlds.  And yet, in spite of this ability, in spite of this comfortability with white spaces, we know that in 1843, I speculate due to some of these heightened tensions that had developed due to this race riot, that locally, three apostles:  Heber C. Kimball, Lorenzo Snow, and Orson Pratt, they banned Elijah from preaching to people not of African ancestry.

GT:  Ok, so approximately what year was that?

Russell:  Not approximately, it was 1843.

GT:  1843, so he had some restrictions placed on him.

Russell:  Yes.  I can’t emphasize enough, though, it was not a priesthood restriction.  They had the opportunity.  If they wanted to take the priesthood from Elijah at that time, they could have.  That was the perfect opportunity to do so.  They did not.  In the minutes that tell us about this episode, he is explicitly identified as a Seventy and there is no comment made about him losing priesthood, and two years later, there is a newspaper article again referring to Elijah’s workings in that branch where he is also referred to as a Seventy.

Russell also talks about speculation Elijah may have helped with the Underground Railroad to free blacks from slavery!

Russell:  Now did that lead to some sort of collaboration in helping with the Underground Railroad?  That’s a very interesting speculation.  It also goes beyond the evidence.  Trust me, I would love to know that Elijah played an active role in assisting with the Underground Railroad.  We just don’t know that.

Don’t forget to learn more about Elijah’s Canadian mission, and his work on the Kirtland Temple.  Check out our conversation…..

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Ables’ Canadian Mission & Escape from the Mob #BlackHistoryMonth

February is Black History Month and we’re continuing our conversation with Russell Stevenson.  He’s the biographer of Elijah Ables and in this next episode, we’ll talk about Ables’ Canadian mission.  Did you know that he had to escape from a mob?

Russell:  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at approximately the same time, Elijah is being chased by a tar and feather mob.  He runs to the home of Sarah Beckstead.  Who is it that ends up defending Elijah’s life?  It isn’t the man of the house, but it is Sarah Beckstead, who comes out with a rifle in hand and opens fire on the mob and they quickly disperse.

GT:  Oh wow.

Russell:  Sarah Beckstead saved Elijah’s life that night.

GT:  Wow, that’s crazy.  I’m trying to remember, but I believe that there was a charge of murder against Elijah Ables.  Is that right?

Russell:  Yes, yes that is correct.  There were rumors being spread that he had committed several murders in fact.  It’s likely that played a role in his persecution as well.

Here’s a couple of other noteworthy moments from Able’s Canadian mission.

Russell:  We know that he played a role in ordaining another man to the priesthood, William McIntire.  That is again clear from very good contemporary evidence.

GT:  So this is a black man ordaining a white man to the priesthood?

Russell:  Yes.

GT:  Wow, that’s pretty cool.

Russell:  Yes.  We know that Elijah had success in converting a woman by the name of Eunice Kinney.  Eunice Kinney was a woman living in Madrid, New York and she said as she heard Elijah speak, even though he didn’t have the same ability to read and to engage written texts as others did, she felt the spirit so powerfully when he preached.  She wanted badly to affiliate with the saints and to become acquainted with the saints, based on his testimony alone.

Don’t forget to learn more about Elijah’s Ohio conversion and work on the Kirtland Temple.  Check out our conversation…..