Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Benin

Published: Monday, Jan. 25, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 8,792,000; Members, 253; Branches 1;Percent LDS, .003, or one in 351,680; Africa West Area; Ghana Cape Coast Mission.

In 1998 Claude P. Toze, a citizen of Benin, met Mathias Eguko, a Nigerian member of the Church living in the capital of Cotonou. Eguko shared with Toze the missionary discussions and a copy of the Book of Mormon in French. Sacrament meetings were first held at Eguko's home and later at the home of Bryan Ermatinger, an employee of the United States Embassy. In the meantime, war erupted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in August 1998 and all non-Congolese missionaries were evacuated from that country. Among the evacuated was a missionary couple, Normand and Sharon Langevin. They were re-assigned to neighboring Benin for one month in September 1998. It was here that the Langevins taught the final discussions to and baptized Claude P. Toze on 4 October 1998. Toze was the first citizen of Benin to be baptized.

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assigned Benin to the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission on 21 January 1999. Demoine A. and Joyce Findlay were the first of several missionary couples assigned to support Church members in both Togo and Benin and work for legalization of the Church in those two countries. They lived in Togo and periodically visited Benin.

On 23 January 2001, Verne and Kathleen Davis become the first missionary couple assigned to live in Benin full time. They continued the work begun previously by the Findlays to gain legalization of the Church in Benin, and they also gave support to Church members meeting in the capital of Cotonou.

The BYU Singers toured Benin in May 2001 and were so impressed with the members that they donated blue ties and blue dresses to be worn when legal recognition came. On 7 March 2003, after years of working with government officials, the Church finally received legal recognition. That Sunday the blue ties and dresses were worn in celebration. The following month four young missionaries, Reid Schellhous, Brandon J. Smith, Jean-Boscoh Kouassi, and Ambroise Gbahouo, were assigned to Benin.

Reorganized from the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission to the Ghana Cape Coast Mission on 1 July 2005.

Sources: Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; "Sunday School Group in Benin Prepares Way for Legal Status," Church News, 31 May 2003; "Ties, dresses help celebrate legal recognition," Church News, 21 June 2003; Claude P. Toze as told to Peggy Proctor, "First Member in Benin Africa," Meridian Magazine, 21 Dec 2003; Verne and Kathleen Davis, Telephone conversation, 7 May 2004.