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African LDS couple tells of the organization of the LDS Church in Togo

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Ludovic Attiogbe was born in a small nation in West Africa called Togo. He lived there with his mother, father and little sister. Attiogbe remembered when he was a small boy, his father, Dieudonné Attiogbe, moved to work in London.

While his father lived in England in 1989, Dieudonné Attiogbe became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he returned home, he was excited to tell his family about his new religion. However, the LDS Church did not exist in their little country.

Knowing how important it was to have the church in Togo, Dieudonné Attiogbe started investigating to see if he could bring a branch of the church to his family and neighbors.

LDS Church in Togo

“He started sending letters to the church headquarters in South Africa, and the church in South Africa sent a letter to Salt Lake about my father asking if he can organize a group,” Ludovic Attiogbe said in an interview.

When Dieudonné Attiogbe received a response that gave him tentative permission, he was overjoyed. The letter included the names of 70 people who were from Togo, were baptized abroad and had returned to Togo.

“It said, OK if you can contact those 70 people and they respond, with them you can organize the group,” Ludovic Attiogbe said.

Dieudonné Attiogbe sent 70 letters in the mail, hoping for quick responses.

However, he only received five replies.

“He wrote the church again and said, ‘OK, I have five, can I still do something?’ He was told he could start having his own group, but everything would be on his charge, besides the (copies of the) Book of Mormons that were sent to him from headquarters,” Ludovic said. “With those five people, he started a group.”

Over the next few years, African Area President James O. Mason worked with Dieudonné Attigobe to legally organize the LDS Church in Togo. In July 1997, the Lome Togo group was organized with Agnon Ameri Didier as presiding elder. Two years later, the Lome Branch was officially organized.

Because there were no LDS missionaries serving in Togo at the time of Ludovic's baptism, a returned missionary from Ghana was assigned to help Dieudonné Attigobe teach the gospel once a month to those who were interested in learning. The first missionaries were assigned to serve in Togo in February 1999, according to MormonNewsroom.org.

“So I wasn’t taught by missionaries, I was taught by my dad and his friend,” Ludovic Attiogbe remembered.

Eventually the five people who replied to the letters met up with Dieudonné Attiogbe, and he received permission to baptize his family. Ludovic Attiogbe was baptized in 1997, which changed the course of his life.

“I was a little boy and there were only a few members, so basically the whole group fell on my dad’s shoulders,” Ludovic Attiogbe said. “On Sunday, I prepared the place where we did sacrament meeting, which was two blocks from where we live, so I would grab some chairs and take them to the room, then walk back and carry more chairs.”

He was only 12 years old, yet he still remembers people pointing and laughing at him as he carried the chairs to and from their church building. He was a very shy boy, which made the situation even worse. The people in town would mock his family, especially his father, for “coming back from London and creating a church to get money.”

However, he said, the trials he faced were no comparison to the joy he felt once the meetings started.

“I felt comfortable, peaceful and quiet,” Ludovic Attiogbe said. “I felt like I was part of the church even though I didn’t know much. My heart was in the church and I felt like it was my place. The road was long and difficult, but in those difficult moments I realized I was closer to the Savior than I had ever been when everything was perfect. In those moments I feel like I am closer to the Savior and he is closer to me because he once suffered, too.”

Love of music

Another blessing of having the church in his life came in the form of music. Ludovic Attiogbe developed a love for the piano. Because most churches in Africa use drums and other loud instruments, he said, listening to piano music was another unique aspect of the LDS Church in Togo.

“We would play the music for church on a small tape player, and used some music that headquarters sent to us, and we would just play and sing it,” Ludovic said. “This is how I learned how to play the piano. I used to listen to the hymns and try to find the note with one finger. Sometimes I would try to play with the congregation if I knew the hymn. After that, a missionary came to teach me how to read notes.”

This love of music would eventually help him connect with the woman who would be his wife. Ludovic Attiogbe's wife, Benedict, moved from the Ivory Coast to Togo when she was 17 to go to school.

“I met Ludo at church,” she recalled. “He was the choir coordinator. I think he knew I loved to sing, so he organized a choir. We wouldn’t really talk, I would just see him at church and at choir practice because he was the pianist. He was just kind of shy.”

Eventually, after they were both in a small group musical number, Benedict and Ludovic Attiogbe became close friends. Less than a year later, he gave up everything he had, including his job, when was called to serve a mission and was assigned to Zimbabwe.

“Finding a job is almost impossible in Togo,” Attiogbe said. “Before my mission I applied somewhere and I got a job, which was amazing."

When the time came for him to serve his mission, there were issues with obtaining his visa and he was unable to leave. About 20 days later, however, the Missionary Training Center president in his area called and asked if he would be ready to leave for his mission the next morning, and his assignment had been changed to the Ivory Coast.

Because he was sent on his mission so quickly, he didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to his friends or his mother, who was in another town when he needed to leave.

“Not saying good-bye to my mother was difficult,” he said. “A few months later, I learned my mom passed away. Then a war in my mission started, and sometimes there was no money to buy food. It was all difficult. Finally, we had to take the last plane in the Ivory Coast to leave the country. I came back to Togo, and now we are here. It was not easy.”

Coming to the U.S.

Ludovic and Benedict Attiogbe have since moved to Logan, Utah, for Ludovic to finish his education at Utah State University. Throughout this big change in their lives, they have relied on one thing: the consistency of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“The thing that surprised me when we moved here was that the church was not different,” Ludovic Attiogbe said. “It was the same thing, the same behavior sometimes. This is the same everywhere. We are all the same. There is no difference. We believe in the same thing. We take the sacrament the same way. The things you hear in Togo, you hear here.”

Both Ludovic and Benedict found a familiar sense of comfort when they went to an LDS church in America. The only difference, Benedict said, is that in Africa “we sing faster and louder.”

“One day at Institute (of Religion) in the United States, Ludo was playing the piano and he stopped to ask if everyone was really singing,” Benedict Attiogbe said. “Everybody started laughing because they know we sing louder than the piano sometimes. So, yes, maybe the culture is a little different, but the spirit of the gospel is the same. People are nice, and there is no difference.”

When Benedict Attiogbe joined the church when she was 15, she knew the gospel was true because she felt happy when she came to church and she was “filled with joy” when she would study the scriptures.

“I could really see the difference between having the gospel and not,” she said. “In this church you are learning and you are giving something. You can speak in church and you can have a calling — that was so awesome to see a church do that. You are both learning and teaching.”

Benedict Attiogbe said that she finds joy in teaching the gospel, even though she is still learning.

“I don’t know where I would be without the gospel,” she said. “I’m not perfect, but I am confident that God knows I’m always doing my best. Coming here was a big deal because it was like starting a new life. I don’t know if we could be brave enough to do that without the gospel.”

Throughout their lives, Ludovic and Benedict Attiogbe have learned to have confidence in God’s love for them, and to put the gospel first.

“I don’t know how I survived in the mission when my mission president told me my mom passed away, but for some reason I found the peace and strength to continue serving people,” Ludovic said. “I couldn’t do that without the Lord. I couldn’t do that without the gospel. I couldn’t do that without the spirit there to strengthen me and comfort me. The gospel has been a blessing. It has made me what I am today.”

Today, there are 17 congregations with 3,804 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Togo area, according to MormonNewsroom.org.