Church History
The Light Breaking Through

“The Light Breaking Through,” Global Histories: Haiti (2019)

“The Light Breaking Through,” Global Histories: Haiti

The Light Breaking Through

The Saints in Haiti shouted and wept for joy in April 2015 when Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the construction of a temple in Port-au-Prince. For Fritzner Joseph, who was serving a mission in Haiti with his wife, Gina, the announcement brought back memories from 1983. That year, he ascended Mount Boutilliers with then-Elder Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as Monson dedicated Haiti for the preaching of the gospel. As they looked over the sprawling capital city just before the prayer was offered, clouds rolled in, obscuring their view. “Let Thy Spirit shine upon [Haiti],” Monson prayed, “and bless the membership of the church particularly.”

“When we opened our eyes,” Joseph recalled, “we could see the city. It was bright again.”

The light breaking through the clouds that day became a metaphor for Joseph as he witnessed the development of the Church in Haiti. “My life began when I found the Church,” he reflected on his 1979 conversion. “The kingdom of God came first.” In 1981 he became the first Haitian to serve a full-time mission and was assigned to Puerto Rico. As a Haitian Creole speaker trying to learn Spanish from his English-speaking instructors, Joseph had felt discouraged. A letter from Alexandre Mourra reminded him that through faith, God could teach him the language.

After his mission, Joseph married Gina Michel and started a family. In 1988 he took a job overseeing the Church’s seminaries and institutes in Haiti. He felt strongly that his work was significant. At a time when most converts in Haiti were college-age men and women, Joseph said, “They will create strong families, a strong church, and a strong country.” In 1991, after political unrest forced foreign missionaries to leave Haiti, Joseph became president of the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission, where all his missionaries were his former institute students.

Over the next three decades, Joseph watched as Saints supported each other through economic challenges, political upheaval, personal tragedies, and natural disasters. “We’ve had some dark days and challenges in our country. But after that, the light will come,” reflected Joseph. “That’s what happened when he [President Monson] announced the temple. Oh, what a blessing.”

Fritzner and Gina, who traveled 2,300 km (1,430 miles) to Washington D.C. in 1990 to become the first Haitian couple to be sealed in the temple, rejoiced at the chance to help others prepare to attend the temple. “With the challenge to get ready for a temple,” Joseph said, “we are here to work hard and give the best we can.” In September 2019 Fritzner and Gina Joseph became the first president and matron of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple.