I remember one evening I came from work, and then I heard on the news from the radio that the activity of the Church has been frozen, that it was disturbed. I was devastated. We were told not to meet as a congregation, and the doors of the meeting houses were all locked. Security men were detailed to make sure no one entered the meeting houses. We've got to know that all the missionaries have been asked to go back home. They have been told to leave within a week. [MUSIC PLAYING]
On June 14, 1989, the government of Ghana banned LDS Church meetings.
As long as the ban lasted, the 9,000 Church members in the country would have to keep the faith on their own. [MUSIC PLAYING]
The freeze was very hard for me personally and for my family, especially my dad. The Church was our everything, and all of a sudden it was just all gone. We can't do all of that anymore. It was like being orphaned.
It was like being orphaned. We were surprised. We didn't know what the Church had done or what the members had done for it to warrant such a freeze. What? In fact, how can the Lord allow His Church to be handled this way? The government had taken action against the Church because of widespread misunderstandings and misinformation. Now, without missionaries and meetings, many observers expected the Church to disappear from Ghana.
When we heard the news about this freeze, friends of mine came to my shop. I own a shop. I am a fabric dealer. They all ran to my shop, and then they said, "We told you that the Church is no good. You see the government said the Church is no good." Our friends were wondering with us what was wrong. We said, "We don't know. We don't know anything. Maybe you can help us. What you find wrong with us?" We didn't know what to do until we had a message from the Brethren. We can organize our sacrament meetings in our various homes. During the freeze, our living room became the sacrament hall. I prepared the sacrament and passed it to my young family. We dressed in our Sunday best as though we were going to Church. We sang a hymn. He blessed the sacrament and passed it around as though we were in Church. And we really felt the Spirit. It made me respect and honor my priesthood all the more because how can I be harsh on my children during the week or quarrel with my wife during the week and then have them together for sacrament? So our homes became sanctuaries--yes, that is the word--sanctuaries of the Spirit. If you close all our meeting houses, you can't come and lock up my home. And if I close my mouth, you can't close my heart. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talks about the need to build families and then come together to learn and then bring the family into the presence of God. So the family was a unit of the Church and could operate in the home when authorized. So this is exactly what we did. The Church teaches us the principles, and we govern ourselves. If there's no Church leader there, they've given you all you need to be able to carry on. We realized that the Church is not the meeting hall that had been taken away by the authorities but in our own hearts. Although Church members were careful to keep a low profile, the freeze was a difficult time. A few Latter-day Saints were reported by their neighbors or arrested for questioning. One of our sisters had been arrested and sent to the police station for worshiping in her house. So we went there together to find out what is happening. I remember, the police officer in charge just asked me one question: "Are you also a member of that Church?" I said, "Yes. And I'm proud. I have always been a proud member." So we were locked behind bars for three days. A landlord reported a member who was having a short Sunday service at his hall in his room, and then he was arrested. And he spent a couple of days behind bars. People would say that, "Oh, the Church is gone forever. That is a bad church, and the Lord doesn't want it to come back." A lot of people who walked to my shop said, "Are you still waiting for those people? Are you sure they are not deceiving you?" And I said, "The challenges are there to help us grow." One thing that it did to all of us was that it enabled us to learn the gospel, you know, because wherever we went, we had to defend the gospel. And if you didn't understand the gospel, how could you defend it? This was a challenging time. Now we are not meeting every Sunday, but still we wanted to find out how people are doing. So we did a lot of fellowshipping. Not only the assigned families. We visited each other. Sisters were meeting, not meeting as a large group, because we don't want a situation, because people were watching. But two or three members will go to a sister's home and see to our motto, which is Charity Never Faileth. Those who need support, we support them. Those who need babysitting, we do babysitting for them. Those who are sick, we help them to visit the hospital. And being a midwife and a nurse, I always counseled a lot of the sisters. My wife and I were new in the Church. And we didn't know much about how the Church does things. My home teacher came to us and told us that on every Sunday he would come and pick us up where we can organize our sacrament meeting at his home. And he really lived by his word. If we didn't have a home teacher during the freeze, it would have been catastrophic. During the freeze, a lot of members visited me in my shop place. And then I talked to them about the Church. And they asked me, "Sister Sono-Koree, are you sure this Church will come back?" And I said, "I believe. I have faith that the Church will come back again. Study your scriptures. Study it. Then have faith and just move on. Everything will be fine." In November 1990, after 18 months of waiting, Church members finally received word that Ghana's government had lifted the freeze on Church activities. It had been a long time since we had been away from church, almost one and a half years. And you can imagine the joy of learning that the government found no fault against the Church, finally, and that it had approved that we come and meet again. We started calling on telephone. "Have you heard the news? Have you heard the news? We are going back." And we were very, very happy. And I remember the first meeting up with the priests. It was so joyous. I'm sure it's like what it would be like when you pass through the veil and went to the other side. Brothers came in. Sisters came. We had each other. We had a wonderful sacrament meeting. We had the freedom to go to church as brothers and sisters. It was something special in our life. Almost all of us came to bear our testimony about what happened during the freeze. It was wonderful. The Spirit was strong. We don't need to blame any government for what happened to us--no one. It is the Lord who allowed it to happen for His own purposes. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, "no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing." No. This whole event opened the way for missionary work. It gave us the opportunity to talk about the Church. And when the Church's activities were de-frozen, a lot of people came. We had the opportunity to explain things to people who wanted to know the truth. So when we came back, not long after, the Church became a stake. In this world, there are a lot of challenges. But challenges are there to help us to grow. So when you cultivate the virtue of patience, when you are strong and endure to the end, you wear a crown. I am now complete. I'm clear. I'm clean. I'm strong. We've been through the furnace. We've come out refined. [MUSIC PLAYING]