Beginning in the mid-1940s, many Nigerian Christians learned about the Church by reading tracts and magazine articles or by word of mouth. Adewole Ogunmokun, for example, was deeply impressed after reading about the Latter-day Saints in a magazine. “For a number of days I dreamt dreams,” he wrote, “until I became convinced that I was not only dreaming but [had] seen visions of new hope coming to my nation and Africa as a whole.”
Between 1959 and 1961, Nigerians interested in the Church sent more than 50 letters to Church headquarters, pleading for missionaries to be sent and for the Church to be established in their country. “God alone is our record how greatly we long for you,” Honesty Ekong wrote in one letter. LaMar S. Williams, a member of the Church’s Missionary Department, corresponded with multiple groups committed to the restored gospel and sent large quantities of Church literature to be distributed in nearly 100 congregations with thousands of converts awaiting baptism.
Moved by these reports, Church leaders considered establishing a presence in Nigeria. Despite the Church’s restriction at the time on ordaining black men of African descent to the priesthood, President David O. McKay emphasized that Nigerians were “entitled to other blessings of the Church, including eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom,” and urged action. Church representatives visited with Nigerians who had embraced the gospel and petitioned government officials for missionary visas.
In 1963 the Church announced plans to establish a mission in Nigeria, but opposition to the Church in the Nigerian press soon stalled the visa process. Over the next two years, efforts to secure visas were unsuccessful. When political violence rocked Nigeria in the late 1960s, plans to establish the mission stalled and the thousands of Nigerians awaiting baptism pressed on alone. During that time of trial, many gave up their hope of becoming members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while others continued longing for the day the Church would come to their country.
In the early 1970s, some help came at last. Ime Eduok, who had been baptized while attending college in California, returned to Nigeria and helped organize a coordinating committee for congregations that had embraced Latter-day Saint teachings. “My counsel was that … they should stand firm and wait with patience,” Eduok said. “The Church has not given us authority to organize the Church in Nigeria,” he told them, “but we can get ourselves prepared.” Together with stalwarts such as Anthony Obinna and Kalu Oku, Eduok ministered to believers, shared instruction, and trained future leaders.