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The last thing I expected to see on Baptism Beach was a temporary slaughterhouse operating illegally on the shore of the Gulf of Guinea.
I was on a reporting trip in Africa and had arranged for our photographer to meet with five of Ghana’s original members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the same beach where they were baptized in 1978, five months after a revelation made priesthood and temple blessings available to all church members.
The photo shoot was imperfect. The slaughterhouse was in the foreground. In the background, the rising ocean had reclaimed the sandy beach. In between the two was a rocky ridge.
But it was still memorable. Ravell Call took terrific photos. Robert Myers, the first person baptized, and his wife and three friends walked gingerly across the rocks and shared their memories with me as waves crashed below and seagulls called overhead.
Those memories came back this week when the Church News published a story about another reunion of early pioneers of the church in Ghana who gathered to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the death of Joseph W. “Billy” Johnson, who had waited 14 years for the church to send missionaries to Africa so he and his congregation could be baptized.
Remarkably, more than 16,000 people across Africa were waiting to join the church by the mid-1960s.
Please read my story on the poignant, pent-up desire for baptism, Johnson’s leadership and the mass baptism on Baptism Beach in December 1978 here.
My recent stories
About the church
President Russell M. Nelson pledged $2 million per year for three years to humanitarian collaborations by the NAACP and the church. The first project kicked off in a San Francisco food desert. Read about it here.
Live audiences will be welcomed to three performances of the annual Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in December. Here’s how to sign up for tickets — the deadline is Sunday! — and other details. And here’s a comprehensive look at the 50-plus previous guest artists and narrators at the Christmas concerts.
I was surprised how little I knew about the man who arrested and brought to trial some of the men he believed killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Fortunately, Trent Toone was at the Church History Museum’s Evenings at the Museum series recently and wrote about Minor Deming here.
A Connecticut newspaper reports that a couple of weeks ago, 450 church members planted over 250 trees in 30 locations around Fairfield County near the New York border to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. The project had been delayed by COVID-19. Here’s the story from Good Morning Wilton.
The Idaho sheriff who pulled a gun on a Young Women’s group was sentenced to three years’ probation and 10 days in jail. Last November, the church group was taping “thankful turkeys” — thank-you notes in the shape of a turkey — on doors in their neighborhood. They left one on the sheriff’s door for his wife. He came out, grabbed the Young Women leader by the hair and held a gun to her head, threatening to shoot her if they group didn’t leave, the East Idaho News reported.
Hopefully, these comments from the creator of “The Chosen” put an end to the weird allegation that the show used a Book of Mormon quote. Read what he said here.
What I’m reading
If you want to read something fun about a goofy subject with a noble sensibility at its center, then read “The secret identity of the NFL’s last barefoot kicker” on ESPN.com. I read the first two paragraphs to my wife, because the final sentence of that story lead is the kind everyone wishes they’d written themselves.
I’m devouring the Robert Crais novels about detective Elvis Cole. Not sure how I missed these, as they are over 20 years old, but he’s a tough-acting, wise-cracking guy with the softest heart. I just finished the seventh book, “Indigo Slam.”
My wife and I have started watching the ABC TV series “Alaska Daily.” It gets many things right about being a reporter and working at a newspaper. I love a whodunit where the investigators are journalists.