Esohe Okuonghae’s father was determined that his children be well educated. Her mother, who had never been educated, cared for and supported all nine children in the family as they focused on their studies. Esohe later attended the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, where she studied law. During college, she met and married Edward Ikponmwen, but her father insisted she remain at home until she completed her education.
After graduation, Edward and Esohe built successful careers and welcomed five children into their family. Feeling that churches were more interested in public displays than religious devotion, the Ikponmwens did not attend church services.
In 1992 Esohe was serving as a magistrate in Edo state, with an office near her mother’s home. During one visit home, she found her nieces and nephews reading a book to her mother, Dianah, who was illiterate. Eshone’s initial curiosity about the book gave way to concern, however, when she learned it was the Book of Mormon. Certain that the book was dangerous, Esohe confronted her brother, Osadolor, who had brought it home. He assured her that the book and the church that had given it to him were good, but Esohe was unconvinced.
Later, Esohe found her mother writing in a big book. “Which book is this?” she asked. Dianah explained that the church that had given them the Book of Mormon also organized literacy courses, and she was learning to read scriptures and write letters to a daughter who had emigrated. “I saw my mother so happy,” Esohe recalled. Seeing that, Esohe began to reconsider her assumptions about the Church. “I haven’t heard that churches teach people how to read and write,” she told her mother. “There must be something there.” The following Sunday, she attended the local ward and was struck by the peace she felt.
As she met with the missionaries, Esohe had many questions. For more than a year, she and a colleague, Belinda Kalu, used their legal training to weigh the Church’s claims and doctrines. Still, her questions persisted. One week, however, Wilfred Idemudia, the bishop of her ward, invited her to not only ponder but to pray about the things she was being taught. After praying for some time, she had a dream that confirmed the truthfulness of the restored gospel to her. She and her daughter were soon baptized.
Just as she saw others serve her mother, Esohe Ikponmwen made service in the Church and the community a priority. She has served as the president of her stake’s Relief Society and in 2017 was appointed as the chief judge of Edo state. “Justice is the will of God and injustice is not of God,” she said after being sworn in. After the ceremony, when asked about her attitude toward her work, she quoted King Benjamin from the Book of Mormon: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings,” she told reporters, “ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).