Eket Branch 1983

I have been feeling very teary all week, since the announcement of the Temple in Eket at General Conference last Sunday.  I was so overcome with the announcement, I had to leave the room and cry for awhile.

Here are some photos I took of our first meeting place in Eket—at the home of our neighbors, Samuel and Cecilia.  He was our first Branch President and she was the leader for the women and children.  We met in the front room of their mud home—it was a small room, maybe 10×10 with just the window you see in the picture.  There were Christian Jesus posters on the walls.  We sat on wood benches from their compound.  The children sat on the floor.  Bob Inyang, who liked to wander the roads of Eket, led the music with a switch that he used on the children when they didn’t sit still.  We sang without accompaniment and the tunes were interesting variations on our hymns.  He’d begin a hymn by saying, “One, two, ready go!”  His favorite was “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”  It was hot and cramped in that little room.  The singing was loud.  The talks were always interesting and given with great enthusiasm.

After we outgrew that room, we secured a building across the street (pic below).  We built all the benches so we’d have something to sit on.  We were able to get a keyboard from the mission and Mary Ellen and I took turns playing so they could learn the tunes (it was hard to correct some of their variations).  I was called to be the first Relief Society President there.  We had about 5 or 6 women.  I remember teaching a lesson on keeping a clean and tidy house.  The next week Cecilia went home and put new mud on her walls.  I remember one of the sisters asking, “what is a drawer?” when the lesson talked about cleaning out your drawers.

It was all such a wonderfully magical pioneering time in Eket.  I loved my time there.  I loved the members there.  I am so grateful for a living prophet and for temples spotting the earth, even in Eket.  What a blessing.

Hurrah for Israel.

This photo is in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

Ann Laemmlen with Doraty Bassey in Eket, Nigeria

From Wikipedia:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nigeria

Area Africa West
Members 211,219 (2021)
Stakes 62
Districts 17
Wards 467
Branches 291
Total Congregations 758
Missions 7
Temples 1 Operating, 2 Announced, 3 Total
Family History Centers 70

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nigeria.
At year-end 1983, there were 2,255 members in Nigeria. In 2019, there were 192,144 members in 722 congregations making it the largest body of LDS Church members in Africa.

Membership in Nigeria
Year Membership
1983 2,255
1985 5,500
1989 12,000
1995 28,000
1999 42,746
2004 68,777
2009 88,374
2012 103,898
2015 142,033
2019 192,144
*Membership was published as a rounded number.
Source: Wendall J. Ashton; Jim M. Wall, Deseret News, various years, Church Almanac Country Information: Nigeria

In the 1950s and 1960s, several thousand native Nigerians became interested in joining the LDS Church, despite the church having no formal presence in the country. In November 1962, LeMar Williams was set apart as a mission president in Nigeria. However, he was not able to get a visa as an American. N. Eldon Tanner, a Canadian, went to Nigeria and began negotiations with the Nigerian government. While he was there, he dedicated Nigeria for the preaching of the gospel. Ambrose Chukwuo, a Nigerian college student studying in California, read Mormonism and the Negro and sent a letter to a Nigerian newspaper condemning the LDS Church’s teachings on blacks. The newspaper published Chukwuo’s letter and the letters of other students with similar opinions. The Nigerian government did not give the LDS Church a permit to proselyte and church president David O. McKay postponed proselyting plans.

In 1965, Williams obtained a visa to go to Nigeria and began preparing to set up a mission in Nigeria. Since black Nigerians couldn’t hold the priesthood, Williams was going to baptize those who were ready and set up auxiliary organizations that could function without the priesthood. Black Nigerians would be allowed to pass, but not bless the sacrament. However, several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles expressed concern about teaching black people and called for the program to be terminated. After a unanimous vote, they decided to end the program. They contacted Williams and told him to leave Nigeria immediately. The Biafran war in 1967 further postponed church work there.

With the 1978 Revelation on Priesthood, plans were again began to start the church in Nigeria. Ted Cannon and his wife, Janath, along with Rendell N. Mabey and his wife, Rachel, were sent to Nigeria, arriving in November 1978, five months after the revelation. They based their operations out of Enugu, and the first branch they organized was with Anthony Obinna as president. Most of the earliest converts they baptized were in various villages throughout south-eastern Nigeria and had been meeting and seeking church membership for years, if not decades.

At first Nigeria was administered by the church’s International Mission. In 1983 a Nigerian, mission was organized, which originally also covered Ghana.

In 1988, the church’s first stake in Nigeria was organized in Aba, with David W. Eka as president. In 1993, the second stake in Nigeria was organized in Benin City.

In 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley became the first church president to visit Nigeria, presiding at a large meeting in Port Harcourt. In 2000, Hinckley announced plans to build a temple in Aba. The temple was dedicated by Hinckley in 2005. In 2009, the temple was closed as foreign temple worker missionaries were withdrawn due to violence in the area. The temple was reopened in 2010 with a Nigerian as temple president and all temple workers being Nigerian.

By 2018, there were over 50 stakes in Nigeria. In that year church president Russell M. Nelson announced plans to build a temple in Lagos, Nigeria. The first stake in Lagos had been organized in 1995, and in 2015 it had gone from 3 to 5 stakes. The LDS Church was still most heavily concentrated in south-east Nigeria, with Akwa Ibom State alone having 12 stakes.

Much of northern Nigeria had no LDS Church presence and many areas in mid-Nigeria had only begun to have significant organizational presence of the church in the mid-2010s.

By mid-2019 there were 58 stakes in Nigeria, with the 58th stake being the 3rd based in the capital city of Abuja. The Abuja stakes were far and away the most northern in Nigeria, with the district in Jos containing the only other units of the church even close to that far north. The growth had in some places been very fast, with Yorubaland (not including heavily Yoruba Lagos State) having gone from no stakes in 2013 to 5 by 2019.

Other states that saw significant growth were Delta State, that went from a few branches in a district outside the state in 2015 to three districts and a stake in 2019. Benue State in the more central area of the country had one branch in 2015, and did not get a district until 2017. By 2019 the state had 3 districts.

Nigeria Benin City Mission (created July 2013).
Nigeria Enugu Mission
Nigeria Ibadan Mission
Nigeria Lagos Mission
Nigeria Owerri Mission
Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission
Nigeria Uyo Mission
The LDS Church announced creation of new Owerri mission in Nigeria in 2016.

Nigeria currently has 1 operating temple and 2 temples that has been announced.

Aba, Nigeria
2 April 2000 by Gordon B. Hinckley
23 February 2002 by H. Bruce Stucki
7 August 2005 by Gordon B. Hinckley
11,500 sq ft (1,070 m2) on a 6.3-acre (2.5 ha) site
Classic modern, single-spire design – designed by Adeniyi Coker Consultants Limited

Lagos Nigeria Temple (Announced)
7 October 2018 by Russell M. Nelson

Benin City Nigeria Temple
5 April 2020 by Russell M. Nelson

Eket Nigeria Temple
2 October 2022 by Russell M. Nelson

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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