Leaving Tradition Behind and Trusting the Lord
April 2024

“Leaving Tradition Behind and Trusting the Lord,” Liahona, Apr. 2024.

Young Adults

Leaving Tradition Behind and Trusting the Lord

Prophetic counsel about lobola left us puzzled about the future.

photograph of authors

Photograph courtesy of the authors

Young adulthood is an empowering time of life. As two sisters who are navigating discipleship in South Africa, we are constantly having experiences that solidify our faith and excite us about the future. But sometimes, this time of life can be confusing as we make decisions about education, jobs, and especially whom to marry.

Or, in our case, figuring out what getting married will even look like for us.

An Unexpected Challenge

In South Africa, there is an ancient practice called lobola—commonly known as “bride price”—that is still followed in some African nations today. “[Lobola] is a token of appreciation from the groom’s family to the bride’s family. In the olden days the groom’s family would give the bride’s family anything that was of value to them.”1

Traditionally, cattle (seen as sacred in many African cultures) were often given to the bride’s family to represent a spiritual connection forming between the two families. But these days, lobola is more often paid through large sums of money. The price is now influenced by the bride’s education, job, and societal status.2

Paying lobola is meant to demonstrate how valued the bride is by both her family and the man she intends to marry. It symbolizes a union between families. So, throughout our lives, we had always strived to be respectful, successful, intelligent women. We wanted to make our family proud and pay them back for raising us well.

But in 2014, when we were both in early young adulthood, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then serving as Second Counselor in the First Presidency, came to speak to the members in Africa. We felt the pure love that God has for each of us as he spoke. However, during his talk, he taught that the tradition of lobola was no longer in line with the gospel. He discouraged the practice, saying: “The consequences of [bride price] are manifold and lead to behavior that is unbecoming for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. … The Lord’s way is the real path to bring families together forever.”3

Our entire culture takes part in this custom, and we always expected to as well, so we were puzzled after his message.

Our first thoughts were humorous: “We did not work this hard to not get any cows!”

But truly, we were confused. If Heavenly Father didn’t want us to practice this tradition anymore, when most people in our culture refuse marriage without lobola, how could we follow Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and respect our culture and family? The gospel already seemed peculiar to our family members who weren’t part of the Church, but now it was going to become even more difficult for them to understand.

When we saw some members leaving the Church because they couldn’t understand this teaching from a living prophet, we realized we needed to take our questions to Heavenly Father.

Seeking Answers

When we joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as teenagers, we promised each other to always help each other stay close to the Lord, no matter what. We decided that wherever life took us, we would always hold on to our faith because we had seen how living the gospel leads to true joy.

So, when we were struggling to understand Elder Uchtdorf’s message, we remembered that promise. We were reminded of the importance of prioritizing a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and trusting in Their promised blessings. We both focused on deepening our faith in Them to rebuild that trust.

When I (Phindi) was praying to Heavenly Father for guidance about dating and marriage, I had a thought come to mind. An Apostle of the Lord was inspired to come to my country and talk about a tradition specific to our culture because Heavenly Father knows us individually. He knows what may be limiting us, and He has our best interests at heart when it comes to the covenant path.

Durban South Africa Temple

Photograph of Durban South Africa Temple by Matt Reier

I sincerely pondered this truth and realized that Heavenly Father truly doesn’t want our eternal marriages and families to be limited by worldly traditions. Thinking about this helped me see how lobola is often being corrupted, especially when the steep price prevents some couples from getting married at all. I started to realize I could trust Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ more than my own knowledge, even if it was hard.

I (Samu) turned to the scriptures to find answers for my anxieties about the future. I have always believed that this gospel has room for questions and encourages us to gain knowledge and seek personal revelation. So I studied the Book of Mormon more than ever before. Over time, I felt the truths in that book confirming that I could trust the words of today’s prophets. I felt my heart changing and my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ deepening.

As I continued to worry about what my future would look like in regard to dating and marriage, I remembered the truth given from Nephi that “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). And with that, I know I can trust Him and have hope in His promises.

As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, life is about learning to “let God prevail”4 and to “overcome the world.”5 Knowing this helped us to gradually deepen our trust in Heavenly Father. Even if we don’t know how marriage will work out for us, we know that as we keep our covenants and focus on our relationship with Him and Jesus Christ, we will be blessed with miracles as we let go of this tradition.

The Most Important Relationship

Relationships and dating can be hard and uncertain for anyone seeking temple marriage anywhere in the world. When we are left longing for an eternal companion, the future can sometimes feel daunting. Trust us—we personally face so many unknowns about how life will work out when most of our culture won’t consider marriage without paying lobola.

But despite the odds against us (and whatever odds, cultural barriers, or challenges you may be facing regarding dating and marriage), we truly believe Heavenly Father will continue to help all of us navigate and fulfill our righteous desires as we put our trust in Him. When we focus on our relationship with Him and Jesus Christ, everything else about the future is less daunting and more full of hope.

Sometimes we feel like we are missing out, and we wonder if it would be easier to simply give in to the customs, expectations, and standards of the world. But when we ponder the blessings and the joy that the Lord has in store for us as disciples of Christ, we realize that we are not missing out at all. We are in the hands of a loving Father in Heaven, who will guide us to unimaginable blessings.

In the meantime, we continue to do our best to progress spiritually and temporally. We build beautiful relationships with friends, family, and each other. The relationships we have with our loved ones—and especially with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ—will always help us feel connection and love and give us the strength to continue on the covenant path.

Some righteous desires may seem impossible as we navigate the ups and downs of young adulthood. But as we continue to keep our covenants and seek the Lord, we hold on to hope for temple marriages. Until then, as President Nelson taught, we can always seek and expect miracles.6 We really do experience the joy, blessings, and, yes, the miracles of living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We hope you know that miracles and blessings are in store for you too.

The authors live in Gauteng, South Africa.


  1. Olwethu Leshabane, “Let’s Talk about Lobola,” Art of Superwoman, Oct. 22, 2021,

  2. See Leshabane, “Let’s Talk about Lobola,”

  3. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in a broadcast to all stakes in Africa, Nov. 23, 2014.

  4. Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Liahona, Nov. 2020, 92–95.

  5. Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, Nov. 2022, 95–98.

  6. See Russell M. Nelson, “The Power of Spiritual Momentum,” Liahona, May 2022, 99.