March 11, 2009

Book Notice: Brother to Brother

Rendell N. Mabey and Gordon T. Allred, Brother to Brother: The Story of the Latter-day Saint Missionaries Who Took the Gospel to Black Africa. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984; 161 pp.

Brother to BrotherOne of the greatest obstacles to the missionary advance of the Mormon church in the 20th century was its notoriously racist view of Africans. Beginning with Brigham Young, generations of Mormon prophets and apostles characterized blacks as inferior and deformed (bearing the dreaded “mark of Cain”). Young declared that “a man who has the African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of priesthood” and warned his brethren that “The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to destruction.”

Not surprisingly, early Mormon proselytizing efforts in sub-Saharan Africa concentrated on white-dominated South Africa and Rhodesia. But after the LDS church’s 1978 “Official Declaration—2” granted Mormon males of African descent the ability to hold its priesthood, the cult has been spreading rapidly across the continent. According to the church-owned Deseret News, noted scholar Philip Jenkins predicts that “African Latter-day Saints will number between 3 million and 4 million in the next quarter century”—a trend that itself presents Christians with a new and growing missionary challenge.

Brother to Brother provides the story of the first Mormon missionaries to black Africa. Written by Mormons and for Mormons, this book offers invaluable insights into the early stages of LDS growth in Africa. Though it’s now out of print, it’s obviously an important reference for our ministry.

From the Inside Cover:
The call came from President Spencer W. Kimball in the fall of 1978: Take the gospel to Nigeria and Ghana. Two specially chosen couples were the first ones called on that demanding but exhilarating mission to Black Africa. This book tells their exciting story.

The welcome mat was spread conspicuously. Not only did they benefit from the widespread Christian beliefs; there were even groups awaiting conversion and baptism, and some of these had set up unauthorized “branches” of the Church. Now was the day of their deliverance. These fine people—unworldly, simple of taste but strong of faith—welcomed the missionaries with great joy, responded willingly and anxiously to their gospel message and counsel, and eagerly received baptism—by the hundreds. Branches and districts were then officially established, and the Lord’s kingdom set down its roots there.

This is the story of faith, patience, persistence, and the ultimate reward—the initial gospel ordinances and all that comes from membership in the true Church. Moving stories abound within the main story: Anthony Obinna and his thirteen-year wait for baptism; the dramatic conclusion to a twenty-four-hour fast; the first baptism; Sunday Ukpong and his bicycle; and always, in those “faraway places with strange-sounding names,” the story penned by faith and conviction.

Written in a flowing, pleasing, narrative style, the book is authored jointly by Rendell N. Mabey, the missionary leader, and Gordon T. Allred, well-known writer on Latter-day Saint themes. It draws heavily on the former’s detailed manuscript journal of over thirteen hundred pages.

For every reader whose heart is in the Lord’s cause of spreading the gospel worldwide, reading this book will be a moving and thrilling experience.