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June 09, 2015
African Voice
Feeling like a Full Moon
by Imo Eshiet

If you have ever lived as I have done most of my life where the equator sits astride the earth, you would have seen the lesser and the greater light in their full glory. There the sun burns with such energy and power you cannot but feel a certain awe even if you are atheist.

When the peripatetic moon orbits itself to receive the fullness of light, the glow of our natural satellite becomes an incandescent performance.

Folk belief has it that at full moon everything fills out. Babies born at such times are believed to be chubby and big. Even animal and human organs are thought to swell with health at full moon. Verifiably, the seas swell and heave from the pull of the moon.

As I sit here writing this column, I am feeling like a full moon — and with good reason. The night after this article appears, my third and last son will have returned from serving at the Washington D.C. North Mission. The first two had served at Lagos, Nigeria, and Springfield, Illinois, Missions. Now you know why I am feeling not only like a full moon but also like an enlarged coast.

More, I am feeling like a man who has returned a big favor. I am feeling like a man who has paid back a burdensome debt. I had benefitted from missionaries who left behind their parents, dates, and sacrificed school or career development just so they could share the blessings of the restored gospel. Getting my sons to return the favor had been one of my most cherished dreams.

It is tempting to think I am bragging, but I am witnessing to a prophecy fulfilled. Back in 1994, when my family was contacted by missionaries, I was such a wearying cynic they had to throw everything at me to get my attention. I remember that during one of their visits they brought Dr. Christopher Njor Odock, then a ranking federal government official and the Calabar Nigeria district president.

Though a brilliant political scientist, Dr. Odock is not given to talking much. As he sat listening to the discussion and watching me make a fool of myself arguing against what I later found out to be the truth, he smiled and prophesied that my sons should serve missions. I hadn’t even accepted the gospel the missionaries were teaching me and had no idea what their district president was talking about.

At the time my first son was eight and his brother six years. The third was due in a month, so what could he possibly mean? Even when I finally joined the Church I had no desire for my boys to spend two years walking the street chasing after folks who thought they were better off without God.

My dream for them was to pursue college degrees and then get on with their lives and leave home so that I too and their mother could catch up with fun that my humble beginnings never gave me a chance to enjoy.

With time, however, that perspective gave way as I gained more and more insights into the gospel and thus came to appreciate the need for missionary work. How else could one truly become like the Savior without first of all becoming an under-shepherd?

Missionary service, I soon learned, was a calling to participate in Deity’s work to bless humanity not only with immortality but to bring all who are willing to accept the fullness of his love, back to His divine presence.

This insight came with a certain sense of urgency to surrender my puny will to the will of the Savior. In our family council we discussed what was of eternal consequence in our lives and the privilege we had to build the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

Before long, as the boys came of age they all made the decisions by themselves to go on mission. The path to this choice was not easy, but everyone agreed it was the thing to do.

Fortunately an orphaned cousin we brought to live with us had not only accepted the gospel too but went ahead to serve a mission, thus setting a wholesome example for my sons who were much younger. Soon another kid who also came from the village to live with us after his father passed also joined the Church and went on mission. We were already a home with two returned missionaries.

One of my sons who had already finished college chose to serve a mission before gunning for a career or graduate school. Before long his two kid brothers dropped out of college to do same.

I endorsed their decision because as a teacher I had spent my entire life dispelling ignorance and superstition. There were so many quirky folk beliefs that passed off as truth and weighed down the lives of so many people.

During my discussion with the missionaries I was able to see through some of the mind-boggling sophistry and deception I had accepted without questioning. Some precious truths in the Bible, as I came to realize, were twisted out of socket. Deity, for example being Spirit, was everywhere present but having no body of flesh and bone, could not and has not been seen by any man.

In addition, He had cut off communication with mankind ever since the last ink of His last revelation to John, as we were taught, dried up. No one ever ask if indeed the Book of Revelation was actually the last revelation to be received and written in the Bible. Also either due to deliberate omission or miseducation not much attention was paid to the wording of the end of John’s prophecy:

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18–19).

This prophecy was used to teach us to hate and reject the Book of Mormon.

Though the definite article, “this” is clearly used to indicate John’s specific prophecy, the injunction was in my culture generalized to cover the entire sixty-six books of the Bible. It did not matter that similar warnings occurred elsewhere way back in the very first books of the Bible.

This misperception of the truth was what early European missionaries taught us when they started scouring our West African coast long before Christopher reached the Americas in 1492. When I interrogated the false teaching, I was mindful that part of the package the Europeans brought was the apostate religion available to them at the time.

It was our responsibility to unlearn the falsehood. Maximilien Robespierre had it going for us when he observed that, “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

This was one of the reasons I strongly felt my sons were right wanting to be part of team Light. And with the three of them out and back, I am feeling as fulfilled as when a lesser light receives a fullness from a greater light.

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