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LDS apostle makes historic move in Gambia

Christofferson dedicates the country, with only 23 Latter-day Saints, to the preaching of the faith’s gospel during West African tour.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle D. Todd Christofferson with his wife, Kathy, and other senior church leaders make their way to the overlook near the Atlantic Ocean in Gambia on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, where the Latter-day Saint leader would dedicate the West African country to the preaching of the faith's gospel.

The number of Latter-day Saints in Gambia nearly doubled in one day this past week — to 23.

But leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expect that tiny tally to multiply now that apostle D. Todd Christofferson has dedicated the small West African nation to the preaching of the faith’s gospel.

“Dedication opens the possibility now for us to be registered to establish the church formally,” Christofferson said in a video, “and to begin to plant the seed and to grow.”

During the trip, Christofferson, his wife, Kathy, and others in the church delegation met with Gambian President Adama Barrow, his wife, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, and Vice President Isatou Touray in the capital of Banjul.

“The meeting is the best meeting I ever had since I became a first lady,” Bah-Barrow said in a news release. “It’s the mighty God [who] works in miracles. I’m happy about this visit, and I hope this is a beginning. … And we will continue in strengthening and changing the lives of people of this country.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Kathy, meet with President Adama Barrow in Gambia's capital of Banjul on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

On Thursday at dawn, Christofferson, the first Latter-day Saint apostle to tour West Africa in two years, offered a prayer at an ocean overlook to formally dedicate Gambia.

“As the sun begins to come now, we see it as a new dawning for the nation. Not just a new day, but a really a new day, a new era,” Christofferson said in the release. “I mentioned in my dedication prayer that this is an oft times unremembered place, but it’s God’s creation. These are his people. He remembers them.”

Christofferson and the church delegation also attended a baptism for 11 people, the release noted, giving the Utah-based faith 23 members in the country of about 2.5 million.

Earlier in the week, Christofferson visited a West African country with exponentially more members: Nigeria, home to 210,000 Latter-day Saints and three operating or planned temples.

In the capital of Abuja, he huddled with Vice President Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo.

“You’ve got to appreciate a meeting that begins and ends with prayer,” Christofferson said in a separate news release. “...We talked about some of the history of the church, especially in Nigeria, mentioning the growth that we’ve seen.”

The church has focused its humanitarian efforts in the nation on vision, clean water and neonatal care.

“I appreciate the social service works that the church is doing in the area of clean water, immunization and several other things,” Osinbajo said in the release. “For faith-based organizations, it is an article of faith that you must contribute to the development of society.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, apostle Neil L. Andersen toured West Africa, where the faith has seen some of its most dramatic growth.