The Beginnings of the LDS Church in South Africa

The Beginnings of the LDS Church in South Africa

At the semi-annual conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held on August 28-29, 1852 and presided over by President Brigham Young, 106 elders were called to depart immediately to serve missions in various areas throughout the world.  Of these, three were to travel to the Cape of Good Hope, Africa. The three selected were Jesse Haven, formerly one of the presidents of the Fourteenth Quorum of Seventy; William Holmes Walker, a member of the Thirteenth Quorum of Seventy and Leonard I Smith, a member of the Fourteenth Quorum of Seventy.  Jesse Haven was called to preside over the mission, and he and his companions set out from Salt Lake on September 15, 1852, traveling via England and arriving at the Cape of Good Hope on April 18, 1853.

In Jesse Haven’s diary he recorded his feelings as he stood on deck and viewed the town:“Thinks I to myself, here we are, thousands of miles from home – without money – without friends – bearing a message to the people that is hated and despised by this generation/and all who deliver this message are persecuted and their names cast out as evil.  Yet we faltered not – fainted not – feared not: we felt that the Lord had sent us to deliver the message, and by His help we were determined to accomplish what we had been sent to perform.”  (Quoted from the daily journal of Jesse Haven –commenced September 15, 1852 and ended November 20, 1853,  Journal A, ms, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and used in a History of the South African Mission 1852 – 1903, by Evan P. Wright.)
Sketch of new cape town missionaries.jpg

On May 23, 1853 the three Elders went on to a mountain in Cape Town called the “Loin’s Head” and there officially organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Cape of Good Hope.  Elder Haven prophesied that the Church now organized in the Cape would go forth in the colony and would continue to increase until many of the honest in heart would be made to rejoice in the everlasting Gospel.  At this meeting they also renamed the Lion’s Head as Mount Brigham, Heber and Willard.

The first converts came on May 26, 1853 when Joseph Patterson and John Dodd were baptized by Elder Smith.  Shortly afterwards Elder Walker baptized Henry Stringer.  By the time these first Elders left to return to their homes in December 1855, they had baptized 176 people.

Other full-time missionaries did come to continue the work but in 1864 they were withdrawn completely and the members left behind had to do all the proselyting themselves.  During the period 1857 to 1865, 281 converts emigrated to Utah. (Wright, Evan P., A History of the South African Mission 1852-1903)

On July 25, 1903 missionaries once more arrived in South Africa. This time the work continued and expanded greatly over the years with missionaries not only in Cape Province but also in Easter Province, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, and Transvaal.  With the outbreak of World War II all full-time overseas missionaries were again withdrawn from Africa on November 9, 1940 and did not return until October 16, 1946.  The Church continued to grow and on March 22, 1970 the first stake on the African continent was organized by President Marion B. Romney of the Council of the Twelve.