Mali has joined Senegal and Guinea as the most recent African countries to welcome The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At a ceremony to formally welcome the church, Minister of Religious Activities, Daniel Thera, said:“We are not closed. Mali is an open country for all religions.”
A presidential candidate of the country in 2013 and 2018, Yeah Samake, who has also served as the Malian Ambassador to India, added, “we are loving, caring people. Muslims are very tolerant, but our constitution is secular. All religions are welcome in Mali, and all Muslims are welcome to worship any god they see fit.”
“It was a historic and memorable day for the people of Mali, and for the Latter-day Saints in general, but (especially) for the Saints in Mali”, said Samake, who is also a Latter-day Saint.
At the ceremony held in the capital city of Bamako, religious and community leaders joined with government dignitaries to mark the official recognition of the church as a religious association in Mali.
Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy, President of the Africa West Area, spoke of the contribution Latter-day Saints in Mali will provide. “At the very core, (members of) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek to live according to the following words, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, might, mind and strength. That is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. We truly believe those words.”
Elder Nash first met with the office of the Ministry of Religion in Bamako on January 22, 2019, where he received word of the official recognition of the church and had the opportunity to express thanks to the Malian government on behalf of the First Presidency.
“I was blessed to start coming to Mali before the church was organised here”, shared Elder Nash. “And I have some people that I’ve grown to love very deeply.”
In a country of 18 million people, there are about 50 Latter-day Saint families in Mali. This formal recognition allows the Church to better minister to its members and allows for missionaries to be called to serve. There are currently four full-time missionaries of the Church serving in Bamako.
The recognition also allows for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be taught to all Malian citizens regardless of their religious affiliation.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated Mali for the blessings of the gospel of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in 2017. That year, the first congregation was organised in Bamako. Today, 68 members claim membership in the church. There are two congregations and meetinghouses.
In recent years, the church has provided $4.3 million in humanitarian aid to residents in Mali, including assistance with improving health; aiding the homeless, including refugees; and disaster response. Elder Nash said, “And in a quiet but significant way, we will continue to help.”
Mali joins Senegal and Guinea as the most recent African countries to welcome the church. The church is also officially recognised in the following countries in the Africa West Area: Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
The church has seen dramatic growth in Africa in recent decades, where Church membership has grown from a few Latter-day Saints in the 1970s to just over 650,000 members today in nearly 2,300 congregations.
The church is a worldwide organisation with more than 16 million members meeting in more than 30,000 congregations, with materials published in 188 languages.
“More and more people will come, ask and wonder what this Cchurch is all about”, Elder Nash said. “It all begins with the love they have for God and then the love we have for each other. We are honored to be here with you.”