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

Country information: Ivory Coast

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 20,617,000; Members, 13,245; Stakes, 3; Wards, 23; Missions, 1; Branches, 9; Percent LDS, .06, or one in 1,557; Africa West Area.

Located on the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa next to Ghana, Ivory Coast has a population that speaks tribal languages and French, and belongs to tribal religions and Islam.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, isolated LDS families lived and worked in Ivory Coast as diplomats, Peace Corps, or in the oil and sugar industries. They maintained contact with Church headquarters through the International Mission. Cherry and Barnard Silver, who worked in Ferkessedougou, held meetings in their home from 1974 to 1976.

Records indicate that a few Ivorians in the 1980s heard about the gospel and wrote to Church headquarters requesting that missionaries be sent and that the Church be established in Ivory Coast. Leaders in Salt Lake City responded by sending literature.

During the 1980s, Ivorians living in Europe joined the Church and eventually moved back to Ivory Coast. While in Germany, Philippe Assard, a native Ivorian studying engineering, and his German wife, Annelies, were converted and baptized in 1980. Assard was later called to serve on the high council of the Dusseldorf Germany Stake, preparation for later leadership callings in Ivory Coast. Before returning to his homeland in 1986, Elder Russell C. Taylor, first counselor in the Europe Area Presidency, gave Assard a list of members living in Ivory Coast and asked him to find them.

Lucien and Agathe Affoue joined the Church in 1980 in Lyon, France, where he was a student. In 1984, the Affoues returned to Ivory Coast. They were disappointed to discover that they were the only Latter-day Saints living there at that time. A couple of years later they rejoiced when the Assard family wrote them and invited them to Sunday worship services in the Assard's backyard. In October 1988, the Affoue family moved from Abidjan to Bouake, where they were instrumental in establishing a branch.

On 4 September 1987, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Ivory Coast. He met with local members, including Terry Broadhead, who worked at the U.S. Embassy. Elder Ashton called Broadhead to serve as group leader. Soon, the small group began to meet in a rented facility near the Broadhead home.

Cherry and Barnard Silver returned to Ivory Coast in April 1988 as the first missionaries. They were only able to serve nine months because of terrorist threats against U.S. citizens. In January 1989, the Silvers were reassigned to Zaire, where they completed their mission. Also in January 1989, Terry Broadhead was released as group leader and Philippe Assard was called as the first Ivorian branch president.

In April 1989, Robert M. and Lola Mae Walker, who were serving in the Ghana Accra Mission, were assigned as lead missionary couple in Ivory Coast. With the presence of missionaries, the Church began to grow. On 3 September 1989, the Abidjan Branch was divided and the Cocody Branch was organized. On that same day the Abidjan District was organized with Douglas Arnold, an employee of the U.S. State Department, as president. Two years later, in January 1991, Philippe Assard was called as first Ivorian district president, and on 19 April the Church received legal recognition in Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast was transferred from the Ghana Accra Mission to the Cameroon Yaounde Mission on 30 June 1992. The mission consisted of Ivory Coast, Republic of Central Africa, and Cameroon. This mission was originally envisioned to be the center for missionary work in French-speaking Africa.

However, the focus shifted to building up Ivory Coast as a center of strength before moving into the other countries, that meant that missionary couples serving in Cameroon and Republic of Central Africa were transferred to Ivory Coast. Members in Cameroon and Republic of Central Africa were cared for by periodic visits from the mission president in Ivory Coast. In May 1993, the Cameroon Yaounde Mission was moved and renamed the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission.

As the Church continued to grow, permanent meetinghouses were built. In February 1996, the first stone was set for the Yopougon meetinghouse. A year and a half later, on 18 August 1997, the meetinghouse was dedicated. At that same meeting the Abidjan Ivory Coast Stake was organized with Philippe Assard as president. Three years later, on 27 August, the Abidjan Stake was divided and the Abobo Stake was created, the 22nd stake in West Africa.

In 1990, local records indicate a membership of 350. In 1995, membership was 2,800. In 1999, it was 5,402. In 2001, membership was 6,893. In 2002, it grew to 7,840.

On 1 July 2005, four countries of the Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission, Benin, Togo, Cameroon and Central African Republic, were reorganized to become part of the Ghana Cape Coast Mission.

Membership in 2003 was 8,456.

Sources: Robert L. and Beverly K. Mercer, Interview, 1994, Church Archives; Philippe Assard, Interview, 1999, Church Archives; Lola Mae Hoover Walker, "Brief Overview of Church Growth in Ivory Coast," 1990, Church Archives; Ivory Coast Abidjan Mission, Annual historical reports, Church Archives; "Ivory Coast Grants Recognition of the Church," Ensign, August 1991; Hermine Horman, "Gospel Flourishes in Ivory Coast," Ensign, September 1995; Chirley Roundy Arnold, "Legal Recognition Granted to Church in Ivory Coast," Church News, 25 May 1991; Robert L. Mercer, "Pioneers in Ivory Coast," Ensign, September 1997.

Stakes—3

(Listed alphabetically as of Oct. 1, 2009.)

No. / Name / Organized / First President

2387 Abidjan Ivory Coast 17 Aug 1997 Cyr Philippe Assard

2569 Abobo Ivory Coast 27 Aug 2000 Kalogo Norbert Ounleu

2728 Cocody Ivory Coast 26 Aug 2006 Zahui Dominique Dekaye

Mission — 1

(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)

(271) IVORY COAST ABIDJAN MISSION

06 B.P. 1077

Abidjan 06

Cote d'Ivoire

Ivory Coast, West Africa