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

Country information: Sierra Leone

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 6,440,000; Members, 8,054; Districts, 2; Branches, 17; Mission, 1; Percent LDS, .13, or one in 800; Africa West Area; Ghana Accra Mission.

Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa and has a constitutional democracy. The official language is English, but tribal languages are common. The ethnic make-up of Sierra Leone is diverse: 20 native African tribes 90 percent (Temne 30 percent , Mende 30 percent, other 30 percent ), Creole 10 percent (descendants of freed Jamaican slaves), refugees from Liberia's recent civil war, small numbers of Europeans, Lebanese, Pakistanis, and Indians. The major religions include Muslim 60 percent, indigenous beliefs 30 percent and Christian 10 percent .

Michael Samura, a native of Sierra Leone, was baptized in Holland in 1981, and shortly thereafter returned to the capital city of Freetown. He wrote to the International Mission requesting that the Church be established there. Though the Church was not yet ready to send in missionaries, the International Mission presidency sent Church literature and encouraged him to live the gospel. Samura began to tell people about his new-found faith. Soon, groups of people interested in the Church were holding informal meetings.

Elizabeth Judith Bangura and Monica Orleans were baptized in Ghana and formed a study group in Freetown in January 1988. Christian L. George was baptized in Germany, given the Melchizedek Priesthood, and had been through the temple. He returned to Sierra Leone and presided over the first approved meeting held on 18 January 1988 at Goderich, a suburb of Freetown. In May 1988 two missionary couples, Claire J. and Iliene M. Fisher and C. Erwin and Colleen Waite, arrived in Sierra Leone. On 11 June 1988 the first 14 converts were baptized in Sierra Leone.

The Goderich Branch, the first branch in the country, was organized on 7 August 1988, with Christian George as president. In May 1989, Elder Richard G. Scott became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit Sierra Leone. He met with Church members and blessed the land in prayer from the top of Leicester Peak.

The Liberia Monrovia Mission, which included Sierra Leone, was created on 1 March 1988. The first president was J. Duffy Palmer. The mission offices were moved to Freetown in May 1990 because of the unrest in Liberia. Later, as civil war developed, the Liberia Monrovia Mission was discontinued in February 1991, and the area was transferred to the Ghana Accra Mission.

In December 1990, Elder Robert E. Sackley of the Seventy organized the Freetown Sierra Leone District with Michael Samura as president. The Bo Sierra Leone District was organized in July 1991.

In the early 1990s, the Church experimented with home group meetings. Church members living in the same general vicinity met at someone's home for Sunday worship services. These meetings would cut down on expenses that often prohibited people from attending meetings in meetinghouses that were often far from their homes. Once a month, these groups combined for a large branch meeting. In July 1992 the home group meetings were discontinued in Sierra Leone. The local Church members wanted to meet in the larger branches.

In May and August 1992, missionary couples were temporarily removed from Sierra Leone because of civil unrest. By year-end 1993, 89 Sierra Leonians were serving full-time missions, including 41 from the six branches of the Freetown District.

In February 1995 missionaries once again left Sierra Leone and did not return until April 1997. However, the Church members were not left alone during this time. Mission president Larry B. Duke flew to Sierra Leone and visited districts in Wellington, Bo, and Freetown. During this time, missionary work by district missionaries continued and people were baptized.

After being in Sierra Leone for only a month, missionaries were again evacuated by the U.S. military at the end of May 1997 because of riots and chaos that followed a military coup.

In 1999, membership numbered 3,564. In 2001, membership was 4,265, and in 2003, membership was 4,782 in three districts and 16 branches.

Ground was broken for the first meetinghouse in Sierra Leone on 13 October 2004 in a city called Bo. Presiding at the groundbreaking was the Sierra Leone District President Mohamed Turay. He was accompanied by civic leaders and prominent tribal chiefs, who lauded the building as a great asset to the area and a symbol of cooperation and good will between the community and the Church.

Membership in 2003 was 5,168.

The first mission, Sierra Leone Freetown Mission, was organized 1 July 2007. It was created from a division of the Ghana Accra Mission.

Sources: Miles Cunningham oral history, 17 September 1993, Church Archives; Correspondence in Church News office from Christopher N. Chukwurah, Ghana Accra Mission, 14 March 1994; Ghana Accra Mission papers, 1967-1988, Church Archives; Robert B. Tueller, and Verne and Shirley Nelson oral history, 13 March 1998, Church Archives; Church News, 6 November 2004.

Mission — 1

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

(347) SIERRA LEONE FREETOWN MISSION

P.O. Box 263

Freetown, Sierra Leone

West Africa