Restoration and Church History
The Church Comes to Nigeria

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The Church Comes to Nigeria

One evening Anthony Obinna dreamed of a beautiful building he had never seen before. Several years later, while confined to his home during the Nigerian Civil War, Obinna read an old issue of the Reader’s Digest. He was stunned to see the building from his dream in an article about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“From the time I finished reading the story,” Obinna recalled, “I had no rest of mind any longer.” He immediately told his family about his discovery, but more than a year passed before the political situation in Nigeria allowed Obinna to contact Church headquarters. In 1971 LaMar S. Williams of the Church’s Missionary Department sent him a copy of the Book of Mormon and other Church literature but informed him there were not yet plans to organize the Church in Nigeria.

Despite his disappointment, Obinna continued the correspondence and shared the gospel with friends and neighbors. In 1975 he became a member of Ime Eduok’s committee to coordinate unofficial Latter-day Saint congregations in Nigeria. Within a few years, 71 people were regularly attending the meetings Obinna held. The group built a small church, which they called the LDS Missionary Home, and posted a sign on the roof announcing it as the home of the “Nigerian Latter-Day Saints.”

Nigeria: Anthony Obinna

Anthony and Fidelia Obinna (center) with members of the unofficial Latter-day Saint congregation in Owerri, circa 1974

In November 1978, soon after the Church announced the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members, Rendell N. and Rachel Mabey and Edwin Q. and Janath Cannon became the first missionaries sent to West Africa. Almost immediately, they sought Obinna and soon met him at the Missionary Home. “It has been a long, difficult wait,” Obinna said, “but that doesn’t matter now. You have come at last.”

Elder Mabey told Obinna that the other congregations needed to be visited and estimated it would be six weeks before they could return to baptize his group. Obinna protested. “No. Please,” he quietly implored. “Please, if it is humanly possible—go ahead with the baptisms now!” Mabey agreed, and on November 21, 1978, 19 converts were baptized in the Ekeonumiri River. Anthony Obinna was the first.

Anthony Obinna was called to preside over the newly organized Aboh Branch with his brothers Francis and Raymond as his counselors. Obinna’s wife, Fidelia, was called as Relief Society president.

“We are happy for the many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple you spent supplicating the Lord to bring us into the fold,” the Obinna brothers wrote to Church leaders after the branch was established. “We thank our Heavenly Father for hearing your prayers and ours,” they added, expressing gratitude that “revelation has confirmed the long-promised day, and has granted the holy priesthood to us, with the power to exercise its divine authority and enjoy every blessing of the temple.”