Look, It’s Zion

    City of Zion

    I was born in the African region of the Democratic Republic of Congo where my family attended a local church called Sayuni—the Swahili word for Zion. Shortly after I was born, my father left to work in Kenya. A civil war in the Congo, however, forced my family to flee. I walked approximately 50 kilometers in a single trek, quite a record for a four year old. By the grace of the Lord, we were reunited with my father, and under his direction, we became devoted members of a different Protestant church.

    Searching for the Living Christ

    As a young boy, I began seriously reading the Holy Bible. I believed that it contained God’s word. I observed, though, that the Christian world—with its many denominations, doctrines, and beliefs—was divided and chaotic. Some clergy were hypocritical, but there were also sincere ministers. My father is a good example. He always tried to expound the word of God as best he could. So, amidst all the doctrinal confusion, I knew that I could always find honest preachers out there. I longed for “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).

    After high school, I received a scholarship to study at the University of Waterloo in Canada. I was thrilled and grateful for this opportunity. A few months before I left Africa, I dreamed that the Lord was leading me to a vast space of exceedingly greener pastures and prosperity. I arrived in Canada in August 2013 and spent the first few years trying to adapt to the culture. I was living in a world of great spiritual confusion with high material abundance. My spirituality was rapidly declining.

    One day a friend and I were walking down a street near campus discussing religious and lifestyle matters when two young men approached us. We chatted briefly about Joseph Smith, and they gave us pamphlets about Another Testament of Jesus Christ—the Book of Mormon. I put the pamphlet in my pocket, lost it, and forgot about the whole encounter for over a year.

    Reading scripture

    It was a custom of mine, however, to search out Bible scriptures and check online how different Christian scholars interpreted particular texts. One night, I was researching out a verse in Isaiah chapter 11. By happenstance, I opened a website that referred to Joseph Smith, and I remembered talking with two missionaries. My curiosity was piqued. Even though I knew that many Christian leaders asserted that God only spoke in times past, I wanted to learn what this supposed modern-day prophet had to say.

    Learning from a Latter-day Prophet

    I readily accessed the prophet’s writings online—the Joseph Smith Papers.

    Joseph Smith papers

    Never have I been so edified and enlightened. My individual studies culminated when I read the great “King Follett Sermon” wherein Joseph stated, “God himself who sits enthroned in yonder heavens is a man like unto yourselves.” With such grand claims, Joseph Smith had set himself apart from the rest of all Christian scholars. I thought that he was either a blasphemer or a modern Prophet of God.

    I was so impressed with his teachings that I reached out via Facebook to find the nearest local ward. Two missionaries—Elder Luke and Elder Myers—were sent to minister to me. For weeks they taught me from both ancient and modern scriptures. I learned about “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:4).

    missionary work
    Oswald with the missionaries

    I knew that I had found the true gospel when the missionaries explained the plan of salvation. The Lord had raised a latter-day Prophet to lead Israel out of obscurity. I accepted baptism by one with priesthood authority. On Sunday, Elder Jackson laid hands on me, by the authority of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, and I “received the Holy Ghost” according to the pattern of Christ’s ordained Apostles (Acts 8:17).=

    Gift of the Holy Ghost

    For over a year I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This has been a journey with its frequent ups and downs. I have failed many times, but I continue learning. More than ever before I am convinced that I have found the restored Church of Jesus Christ. I recently received my patriarchal blessing, and that priesthood declaration was further assurance that the Lord knows me personally and that His servants are inspired of the Spirit.

    Understanding Growth and Progress

    I would like, however, to address a serious matter. Specifically for me as a black man, I learned that the blacks have had a controversial history within the Church. The stories of Elijah Abel and early black pioneers always reduce me to sentiment. But as I tracked the progress of humanity in general, I could see the hand of the Lord expanding the cause of the black man. Did it not take a Civil War in the United States and many other noble lives like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. to break loose the chains binding the black man? I think the Lord has fought the cause for the black man, who now stands as an equal to any other race in the affairs of Zion.

    sacrament meeting

    Even the race issue aside, a vigilant observer will still find that when the Lord Himself organized His Church, He clearly said that He is bringing it forth “out of obscurity and out of darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). Members of the restored Church were to be lead from ignorance into wisdom. The acquisition of pure knowledge is a gradual process: “here a little, and there a little” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:21). So when reading the history of Zion, we cannot expect to find a perfect people gathered in Kirtland, Missouri, and later in the Salt Lake Valley. Our great pioneers were flawed—like ourselves. Nevertheless, the Lord accepted their sacrifices of establishing a new Zion in Utah that is growing out of obscurity to become the light for the whole world. We should expect to find an imperfect people growing in knowledge, wisdom, and virtue.

    Seeking to Be Fully Converted

    I have found the fullness of the words of the Lord in Canada. Will I soldier on and endure to the end, or will I fall by the way? My hope is that, as Jesus prayed for Peter, I can become fully converted and “strengthen [my] brethren” (Luke 22:32). To this end, I add my testimony that the Messiah lives, that He has raised unto us a mighty Prophet like Moses, and that the Lord has re-established the foundations of Zion. Long ago, King David prophesied that the “salvation of Israel were come out of Zion” (Psalm 14:7). So look up to Zion, for “not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed” (Isaiah 33:20).