“One who possesses
much wisdom has it in the heart, not on the lips.” Ugandan
my neck of the bush in Africa, delicate issues are handled with
proverbs and anecdotes. One remarking on the consequences of extreme
permissiveness might say, “If you raise a python it will
swallow you up,” or make the point with a story.
example, a Kenyan fable tells about a kind man who lived in a hut.
During a chilly rainstorm he made fire to warm himself. Soon he
heard a knock on his door. Standing before him when he answered the
door was a shivering elephant sure to die if it remained in the
the hut was too small, the elephant suggested it be allowed to shove
in its trunk only. Later, it asked to squeeze in its forelegs.
it said if it doubled over its entire body could fit in. Once more
the man said ok. Not long after the elephant said the space was too
tight for it and the host. Since the host had been enjoying the
warmth of the fire all the while, it argued, could he please step
outside so it could have enough room to stretch its limbs?
that the elephant kicked the man out.
this manner of speaking came naturally to me in Africa, I have been
unable to put the legacy of indirection and tact to effective use
among Americans who think proverbs are outmoded.
a recent meeting, the action taken by Church authorities declaring
same-sex marriage apostasy and policy regarding children from such
homes came up for discussion. Someone remarked hearing homophobic
comments in her group. Others suggested getting a levelheaded leader
to douse the controversy at an expanded meeting.
I had a chance to speak, I spoke not to my immediate audience but
wondered how saints back in Africa would be affected by developments
in the developed world. Africans struggling with the testimonies of
decades-old membership, I observed, often look for their devotion to
covenants, ministry, and service to those who have had the restored
gospel for almost two centuries.
wondered what happened to “Follow the prophet,” which
even my three-year-old grandson chants to me at home.
added that Africans grappling with basics like food, shelter,
security, and unending tyrannies would be confused about the scary
drama rocking lives here. I recalled the group suicide committed by
the Nephites as a result of pride and feared what might happen if
blessings got in the way of our progress.
was bewildered we could raise our hands to the square in October and
commit to accept prophetic guidance but turn around in November to
receive revelations for the very prophet we had covenanted to follow
knowing he would never lead us astray. Disagreeing with the prophet
and turning in resignation letters for doing his job seemed like
rebellion to me.
hardly finished when a young man, his eyes glazed and darting daggers
screamed at me. “While having unfaltering faith in the
Brethren,” he shouted, “what becomes of compassion?”
felt like sharing Revelation 18:4 with him: “And I heard
another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that
ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her
plagues,” but calmly replied that the Brethren had in several
communications addressed the issue of love and respect for all.
recalled that early in the history of the Church Prophet Joseph Smith
taught how to reprove sharply when necessary, but to show an increase
of love soon after lest the one corrected should take the one
disapproving his failings for an enemy.
making his remarks, the bishop deftly changed the topic. But the
issue stayed on in my mind. Before 1978, some in Africa sat outside
chapels, the howling elements notwithstanding, listening by the
windows, to gospel teachings.
once noted that, “What people believe prevails over the truth.”
The early African saints knew this too. They stoutly defended the
Church and waited on the Lord’s timetable for misguided folk
beliefs that had crept into the Church to peter out.
a new convert I found the book Mormon Doctrine disturbing and
said so to my district president, Christopher Odock. He said ours was
to have faith in the priesthood, for though men make mistakes the
priesthood was unerring.
on his teaching, it hit me that the author of that book stood a good
chance of becoming the president of the Church. I had no way of
knowing if he could have reversed the historic 1978 policy if he did
not pass on, but knowing the Lord is at the head of the Church was
Smith, a past president of the University of Southern Virginia,
writes, “Prophets do see around corners, anticipating the
unanticipated, and in doing so bless lives with God-given justice,
love and mercy.” Brother Smith is a learned man and ought to
one needn’t be distinguished to have a testimony. Ordinary
folks like my nine-year-old Tina, I, and more than 15 million others,
know what truth is. Testimony anchors us amidst swirling and
resonating storms and fashionable doctrines of the day.
well documented, it is not knowledge that comes from the pages of
books but from the very fountain of intelligence itself. It is wisdom
that predates writing, for Adam knew and taught it to all his
children. He left them in no doubt there was safety sustaining the
prophet and aligning with the Lord.
the son who didn’t quite get it, chose ignominy and damnation
for time and eternity. The generation of Noah in turn chose to turn
from the gospel. The disastrous consequence made instant history.
the tumult, uncertainty and doubt running through history, anytime
the gospel existed on earth, the imperative has been, “Follow
the prophet, for he knows the way.” Those who ignore it do so
at great peril.
be sure, the way is not only narrow but thorny and prickly too. Many
who have walked it say it is watered by sweat, tears, and blood.
Christ, the Chief Prophet, who personally experienced the scourge and
agony of the way, remarked it is not simple. Paul and other early
apostles all warned it is rugged and those who of their own free will
elect to walk it must not be fainthearted.
knowledge helped many at the Council in Heaven to avoid being misled
into perdition. With it, Nephi saw his father for who he was, though
within the family and society many maligned old Lehi.
same knowledge lit the way for those who succeeded Joseph Smith.
Against the gloating of those who murdered him and their near
certainty the Church would fall into disarray following that
atrocity, followers of Joseph Smith went ahead to turn hardscrabble
deserts into bountiful farms and flourishing cities.
narrative put forward by modern evil makes it so deceptively
persuasive that it is difficult to reject its appeal even when it
clearly stands in direct opposition to the great plan of salvation.
It never ceases to amaze me how folks who would frustrate the plan of
happiness, hope for peace, and joy, which can only come from
Imo Ben Eshiet was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Raised in his village, Uruk Enung, and at
several cities in his country including Nsukka, Enugu, Umuahia, Eket and Calabar, Eshiet is a
detribalized Nigerian. Although he was extensively exposed to Western education right from
childhood in his country where he obtained a PhD in English and Literary Studies from the
University of Calabar, he is well nurtured in African history, politics, culture and traditions.
Imo is currently a teacher in the high priests group in the Summit Ward of the Greensboro North