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

Country information: Kenya

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 39,003,000; Members, 8,416; Stakes, 1; Wards, 5; Missions, 1; Districts, 1; Branches, 27; Percent LDS, .02, or one member in 4,634; Africa Southeast Area.

American Church members and their families working in Kenya in the 1970s held Church services in their own homes. They formed small branches, one in Nairobi and one in Nakuru, that reported to the International Mission.

Elizaphan Osaka and his wife, Ebisiba, and their two oldest children, Margaret and Jairo, were baptized on 21 October 1979, the first Kenyans to be baptized in their country. The Osakas lived in the small town of Kenyenya, which is about 200 miles from Nairobi. Boyd V. Whipple, president of the Nairobi Branch, regularly visited the Osakas and welcomed them to their home when the Osakas traveled to Nairobi. Working with the approval of President Whipple, Osaka held meetings to teach the gospel in four villages. However, due to the remoteness of these villages and the lack of missionaries, nothing became of Osaka's efforts.

The first missionaries to serve in Kenya were Elders L. Farrell and Blanche M. McGhie. They arrived in Nairobi in September 1980 with the charge to teach the gospel, associate with civic and government leaders, strengthen the Latter-day Saints, and to explore the possibility of registering the Church in Kenya. Missionary work progressed slowly in the 1980s, in part, because the Church was not registered as a legal entity in Kenya, and also because only one missionary couple was sent at a time into the country. By 1985, there were 62 Latter-day Saints in Nairobi.

For nearly 12 years Church representatives tried to obtain legal recognition in Kenya. In 1989, because the Church was not registered, the Africa Area Presidency decided to withdraw missionary couples. This absence lasted nearly two years. On 5 February 1991, Joseph W. Sitati, who had joined the Church in 1985 and had been designated as "lead elder" in Kenya by the Area Presidency, was invited to meet with Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi.

Sitati explained to the president why he thought the Church should be granted legal status. On 25 February, Sitati and a few other Church members met with Kenya's attorney general, who reported, "The President is very pleased with you." The attorney general then pulled from his desk a certificate of registration. As a legally recognized organization, the Church could purchase property for meetinghouses and dramatically expand the missionary effort.

After receiving legal recognition, the Church began to grow more rapidly. The Kenya Nairobi Mission was organized in July 1991 with Larry King Brown as president. The mission included Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and later Ethiopia. More than 30 full-time missionaries serving in Kenya freely preached the gospel and baptized converts. At the end of 1991, there were 333 Church members in Kenya. The first meetinghouse in the country, built for the Langata Branch in Nairobi, was completed in July 1994. By the end of 1994, Church membership had grown to 1,836.

The Church in Kenya was also established in a rural and remote area of the country known as Chyulu. In 1979, Gideon Kasue was working at Hunters Lodge where he met American Church member Dennis Child who was working at the Kiboko Range Research Station for the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock Development. The Child family befriended the Kasue family and shared the Book of Mormon with them. Gideon's sons, Nickson and Benson, traveled to Nairobi in 1985, where they were baptized. In 1986, the Kasue brothers were called as the first two Kenyans to serve missions: Benson went to the California Los Angeles Mission and Nickson served in the Washington D.C. North Mission.

In 1980, Julius Kasue, another of Gideon's sons, was introduced to the gospel in the Child home. Julius then returned to his home in the Chyulu area, where he organized Sunday School groups and taught from Church literature that had been given to him. The missionaries asked Julius to stop conducting Sunday School classes because he did not have the priesthood. Julius waited patiently for nearly five years to be baptized. This happened in February 1986. Following this event, a small branch was organized and meetings were held at Gideon Kasue's home.

In spite of Chyulu's remoteness, the gospel found fertile soil and the Church began to grow. In times of famine, the Church literally saved the lives of many Chyulu inhabitants by shipping food. Wells were dug and Church members were taught farming techniques that would lead to self sufficiency. By January 1993 the Chyulu Kenya District had been organized. Mission records indicate that in April 1998 there were nearly 600 Latter-day Saints living in the Chyulu region.

Three new meetinghouses were dedicated in the Chyulu District on 2-3 November 2002 by Elder Robert C. Oaks of the Seventy and Africa Southeast Area president. At the time, there were 1,300 Church members in the district. The dedications exemplify the phenomenal growth of the Church in the bush area of Kenya between Nairobi and Mombasa.

President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Nairobi on 17 February 1998. He spoke to about 900 members who had gathered from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Somalia and promised them the work would continue to grow in eastern Africa and that a temple would one day be built in Kenya if the Latter-day Saints continued to "walk in faith and patience." President Hinckley was the first Church president to visit eastern Africa.

The Nairobi Kenya Stake, the first in Kenya, was organized on 9 September 2001 with Joseph W. Sitati as president. At April 2004 General Conference, Joseph W. Sitati was called as an Area Authority Seventy, the first from East Africa.

Membership reached 6,285 in 2003.

On 1 July 2005, the four countries comprising the Kenya Nairobi Mission, namely, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, were reorganized to include Kenya and Tanzania.

On 4 August 2005, President Hinckley met in the Grand Regancy Hotel in Nairobi with some 800 members of the Church as part of an seven-nation tour of Asia. Members came from as far as Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and Kampala, Uganda.

Sources: E. Dale LeBaron, "Pioneering in Chyulu, Kenya," Ensign February 2001; Lowell W. Dobson, Chyulu Branch History, Church Archives; Kenya Nairobi Mission history, Church Archives; John L. Hart, "This Work Will Grow and Grow in this Land," Church News, 28 February 1998; Gerald W. Jensen and Carolyn Jensen, "First Stake in Kenya Created," Church News, 29 September 2001; "New Meetinghouses Foster Goodwill," Church News, 7 December 2002; "Visiting Far Corner," Church News, 13 August 2005.

Stake - 1

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

No. / Name / Organized / First President

2600b / Nairobi Kenya Stake / 9 Sep 2001 / Joseph Wafula Sitati

Mission — 1

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

(265) KENYA NAIROBI MISSION

Upper Hill Road

Next to Citigroup

PO Box 46162-00100

Nairobi, Kenya