Education Aids Gospel Understanding
March 2007

“Education Aids Gospel Understanding,” Ensign, Mar. 2007, 78

Education Aids Gospel Understanding

When Stephen Abu Jr. went to high school in Abomosu, Ghana, he carried his books in a plastic shopping bag. As a college student in Utah, he enjoyed the benefits of a backpack. Whether he carried books in plastic or canvas, Stephen’s goal remained the same—to get an education.

Stephen was the first of his 70 classmates at Abomosu Presbyterian Middle School to attend high school and the first to attend college. In 2004 he finished his business marketing degree at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

After overcoming great odds to become a college graduate, Stephen is now giving back to his home country by rebuilding schoolhouses and improving education in Ghana.

“Education is key to understanding and accepting the gospel,” Stephen says.

A Father’s Example

Influenced by his father, Stephen Abu Sr., Stephen was able to gain an education and accept the gospel. A principal of the Abomosu Presbyterian Middle School, Stephen’s father always encouraged him to gain a full education. Stephen was the first of his five siblings to attend high school.

Stephen’s father joined the Church after his brother introduced him to the gospel. He soon began spreading the gospel in the Atiwa district of Ghana.

“Our white shirts and ties made us unique in the village, and many mothers encouraged their children to join the Church,” Stephen said. “The mothers liked our outward cleanliness and the standards that the members of the Church lived by.”

Neighbors would gather at the Abu home for family home evening. Brother Abu Sr. said many children did not fully understand what was being taught but loved to sing.

“Family home evening was new to us as a family and to our culture,” Stephen said. “Rarely do you find an African family sitting and eating together, let alone counseling together as a family. For my dad to organize a forum where each could share his or her feelings on the direction of the family was a sign of his humility.”

By the time the full-time missionaries arrived from Accra in 1984, Brother Abu Sr. had prepared 84 people for baptism. The Abu family has built a legacy of faith in Abomosu, Ghana.

True Liberty Found in the Temple

After serving a mission in Nigeria, Stephen began attending school at Utah State University in 2001.

“While I was flying into JFK [New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport] on my way to Utah, the person I sat by tried to show me the Statue of Liberty,” he said. “Try as I did, I could not see it because the plane tilted whenever I stretched to peep through the window.

“When I arrived in Salt Lake City, my cousin drove me past the Salt Lake Temple, which I had seen only in Church magazines and videos. I felt so calm seeing the temple, and I thought, ‘This is the true statue of liberty,’ for if we enter the temple and keep the covenants we make with the Lord, we will have true liberty.”

While studying at Utah State University, Stephen attended the Logan LDS Institute. There he met his wife, Sonya. The two were sealed in the Logan Utah Temple on April 23, 2003, following Stephen’s sealing to his parents.

Jesus, Others, You

Stephen now works as the director of humanitarian affairs for World Joy, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Utah dedicated to helping developing countries, specifically Ghana. Stephen believes improving literacy in villages will help his people accept the gospel, the greatest gift in his life.

“Many of our brothers and sisters who are illiterate find it difficult to fully grasp the mission of the Church,” he said. “Those who cannot read and write usually stay away from worship service when they are given a speaking or prayer assignment because they feel inadequate. This sometimes leads to their inactivity. Being educated will allow them to read and understand the scriptures and Church manuals. The gospel is the reason I have decided to go back and help my people.”

Stephen Abu Jr., who overcame great odds to receive an education, is now helping others do the same.