There is no better title for this week’s blog post. On Sunday, I attended a meeting in Accra with Elder D. Todd Christopherson, Elder Paul V. Johnson and Elder Alfred Kyungu (Elder Kyungu is in our Area Presidency). In attendance were all of the stake, district, and mission presidents from Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. It was a meeting filled with…Priesthood Power!’
It was such a joy to be there especially with the District Presidents that fall under the Ghana Kumasi Mission. All of these men have been called since we arrived and all of them are new this year to this meeting. I know they too felt the power of the meeting and the counsel that was given,
Being able to be taught by Elder Christopherson, Elder Johnson, and Elder Kyungu was an additional treat. Elder Johnson was the General Authority who reorganized the Klein Stake Presidency in 2006 when Paul Oscarson who had been our Stake President was transferred to Salt Lake City by his company. Brent Rawson, who served as first counselor to Paul, was called as the new stake president and I was called as Brent’s first counselor. I mentioned this to Elder Johnson, and immediately he remembered the stake conference and said, “Wasn’t it President Rawson who was called?”. For as many stake conferences as he has done over the last 17 years, for him to not only remember the conference but the name of the man who was called was quite impressive.
Here is a run down on the topics that were presented.
- Elder Christopherson – Spoke of the statue of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the World Peace Dome in India. He then connected that event with the gathering of Israel, a topic that President Nelson has studied in depth for 30 years. He invited us all to study President Nelson’s talk on “Overcoming the World” before the next General Conference coming up in April.
- Elder Johnson talked about the new training for Bishops across the world. The desire is for bishops to get the same level and degree of training as the stake presidents. He made the statement that a bishop sees the greatest influence of the atonement of Jesus Christ in the lives of members.
- Elder Kyungu spoke about the importance of reading, knowing, and focusing on the Handbook of Instructions.
- Elder Johnson reviewed Mosiah 26:11 and the importance of membership councils. He highlighted the changes to membership councils at the stake level where the high council is no longer involved in the process (or very rarely).
- Elder Christopherson referenced D&C 82:14 and explained that one of the “beautiful garments” that Zion must put on is a fully functioning priesthood. D&C 105:5 talks about Zion being built upon the law of the celestial kingdom. He then referenced section 126.96.36.199 in the handbook outlining the process when a bishop or stake president needs fast offering assistance. Reading Luke 22:31, he explained how Satan desires to sift members of the Church in addition to taking down leaders. Therefore, the handling and care of Church finances is of utmost importance.
- Elder Kyunga shared a story about his father appearing to him in a dream about wanting his son to provide the temple ordinances for him. His father had been a pastor and had come to love the Book of Mormon, but never joined the Church. After his death he came to his son in a dream. This was the basis for discussing the Area Plan for “Growing your Tree in 2023”. Elder Christopherson had some fun with the snappy quip when he said we all needed to get our work done in 2023 because it would not rhyme next year. He then said, maybe we could just change it to “Doing more in 2024”.
- Elder Johnson talked about marriage as an equal partnership between husband and wife. He quoted Moses 3:20 and referred to the concept of “help meet”, explaining that there was not “help” that was “meet” for Adam. In other words, after all of God’s creations, there was no one equal to man. And so God created woman as his “help” and equal to him in all ways. He quoted D&C 121:34-38 and talked about the significance of the power of heaven being inseparably connected to the rights of the priesthood and that the powers of heaven can only be handled upon the principles of righteousness. He explained that when we exercise force, we are using our own power and not the power of heaven. I think it was his father who taught him that “You don’t change a heart with a fist”.
- Elder Kyungu then closed out this section of the training with a call for every young man to become prepared to serve a mission as invited recently by President Nelson. He asked all of us priesthood leaders to help make that happen. Currently the Africa West Area produces only half the number of missionaries who are serving in the Area. He challenged the leaders to change this dynamic and prepare more missionaries to answer this prophetic call.
Elder Christopherson then spent about 45 minutes teaching us. Clearly this was the highlight of the day. His topic was faith in Jesus Christ. It was wonderful. He started by reading 2 Nephi 2:11,13. While I will talk more about this at our upcoming zone conferences, I will include the essence of what he shared.
Without the law, there would be chaos because cause and effect could not be predicted, Today when we break a law, we call that sin. “Sin” is the cause, and the result is “Misery”. On the other hand, when we keep the law, we call that righteousness. “Righteousness” is the cause, and the result is “Happiness”. He used the whiteboard to draw the diagram of this. He taught us that knowing consequences ahead of acting is a huge blessing and benefit. The world tries to confuse these consequences (calling evil good and good evil) and now there is an effort to eliminate God’s “laws” altogether. Examples are marriage between two members of the same sex, legalization of drugs, and eliminating gender. These are just a few examples among many and the list continues to grow. The only way that a person can go from Misery to Happiness is to apply the doctrine of Christ: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Ghost, and then Enduring to the End. The power to do this rests in Jesus Christ. The power is not in the atonement, it is in Jesus Christ. He then read D&C 45:3-4 and explained that when we testify of Jesus Christ, we are testifying that He can change us and make us clean. Elder Christopherson went on to explain that if someone comes to us and wants to receive the Telestial Kingdom, we have nothing to offer him. If he wants to receive the Terrestrial Kingdom, then we can only advise him to “be a good man”. But if he wants to receive the Celestial Kingdom, then we can help him, and the temple president (he was also in attendance) can help him even more. He told us that we have the Book of Mormon that teaches these doctrines necessary for celestial life so clearly and simply.
He went on to talk about Alma 33:22, about how Jesus Christ is the word that we are to plant in our hearts, and then nourish that seed with our faith. This is part of our mission vision and something we teach every new missionary that comes to the Ghana Kumasi Mission. From verse 22, he pulled out 5 points and then declared these 5 points as “The Word of God”. That was a new concept from what we have been teaching and it really resonated with me. Here are the 5 points.
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God (we must know and understand this at a deep level)
- He will come to redeem His people
- He will atone for our sins
- He will resurrect
- He will be our Judge
Elder Christopherson concluded by talking about the saving ordinances of the Gospel and how our faith grows when we have His promises in our life. Every saving ordinance is personal and when we receive each ordinance, we are referred to by our very own name.
Following this inspiring instruction, Elder Christopherson spent the next 45 minutes answering questions from Priesthood Leaders. Two comments I captured that I will mention. 1) Priesthood is the authorization to act. Faith is necessary to make that Priesthood power effectual. We have to experience faith in Jesus Christ to exercise the Priesthood. 2) We teach being changed to become like Jesus Christ. It is not about grace or works, it is about who we are becoming (this in response to a question about the scripture that says we are saved by grace, not by works).
At the end of this marvelous leadership session, Elder Christopherson left us with a blessing. I wrote it down as best I could and then asked Elder Appianti to help me fill in things I missed. I then asked President Tabi for his insights as well. I think between the three of us, we have captured most if not all of the blessing. I am grateful to have been there to receive it.
“I bless you to have greater power to resist temptation and over time, to completely overcome it as it will not be appealing to you. Satan’s temptations will become powerless in your lives because of your righteousness. I bless you that you will be inspired as you counsel people. The right words, scriptures, and new understanding will come to you. I bless you that your scripture study will yield greater understanding. I bless you that your marriage may be strengthened and that your spouse may find confidence in your assignments. That you will have greater unity with your family and it will be sweet to you. I bless you that your example will be a great blessing to others. I bless you that you will receive answers to your prayers and you will have the ability to understand those answers. I bless you that you will have the character of Christ in your life.”
As an aside, it was great to be able to with with President Cobinah, the stake president from Kenema where we served. We also ran into Ibrahim Yorpoi, a young man from Kenema that we knew when we served there. I met a number of stake presidents that have missionaries serving in our mission. It is always a joy to meet them and tell them how well their missionaries are doing.
Okay, lets back up to Monday. For the last several weeks we have been playing basketball on Monday morning over at the mission office. It has been a lot of fun, even though I have really allowed myself to get out of shape. I am working on getting back where I need to be and basketball on Mondays is a perfect antidote for the stresses of mission leader life. Tom Rogers, an American who lives here in Kumasi with his family (they do some amazing work with families, rescued women, and literacy) has been coming and playing with us. While he is a bit younger than me, it is so much fun playing with another “mature” man who has so much “court-smarts”. Thus far we have been able to team up together. He loves basketball as much as I do and is a much better player. It has been really good exercise and and very rewarding camaraderie and brotherhood.
Monday was also go home day for 5 of our missionaries. Each one of them having served as a leader in the mission and on the Mission Leadership Council. They were wonderful missionaries and made a difference in the Ghana Kumasi Mission. We had them come into the office by 2 pm so at 3 pm I could go over the YSA Self-Reliance presentation that Elder and Sister Case pulled together. It is a wonderful resource for these young single adults returning home as it explains the resources that are available to them to help them get established, marry, and raise a family. After the presentation we came to the Mission Home and had a nice dinner from Aboude’s and then played a few rounds of Preach My Gospel Jeopardy. The missionaries had a great time and we really enjoyed spending the evening with this amazing group of consecrated disciples.
On Tuesday, just as these 5 wonderful missionaries left the Kumasi Airport headed home, we had 7 more new energized missionaries arrive. Quite a diverse group! Tonga, Australia (Samoan descent), Philippines, Nigeria, DR Congo, Zimbabwe. Seven missionaries, six countries. We are a melting pot here in the Ghana Kumasi Mission! We went through the orientation and devotional before dinner and then let them get to bed early. They had been up since 3 am and were very very tired at the end of that long day.
On Wednesday morning, we had almost all of the trainers come in for some training on becoming a Finder of the Elect as well as instruction on companionship study and companionship unity. It went well. I am grateful for good Assistants that carry much of the load in bringing new missionaries up to speed and helping them prepare to be missionaries in the field.
After we completed the training, we drove to the Bantama Stake Center, arriving about 10 am, where missionaries were coming and going as they were matched with their companions. I took the opportunity to pull a few missionaries aside that I needed to speak to. We love the spirit we feel at transfers and the goodness and enthusiasm of these young single adults as they begin anew in a different part of the vineyard.
Part of my role as Mission President is to also set apart and release missionaries coming from and to our member districts. Whenever I am available, this is something I do myself. When I am not available, I am grateful to have two good counselors to help me. On Wednesday afternoon we had two missionaries leaving and one coming home. On Thursday evening, we had one more who came home. Left to right below: Abraham Fordjour and Locadia Kanyir (both leaving to the MTC and then onto the Nigeria Lagos Mission). Emmanuel Adjei returning from the Ghana Cape Coast Mission and Benjamin Manu, returning from Nigeria Benin City Mission. These young missionaries go with anticipation and promise and return with testimony and conviction. The missionary program of the Church is so inspired!
On Thursday, we held our Mission Leadership Council with the following agenda. It was a great meeting and we had some excellent discussions on every single topic. I am so grateful for the Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders, and my Assistants who really work hard to push the mission to new heights. We look forward to seeing how some of these discussions will translate to the zone conferences.
We had 10 new leaders called into the MLC this transfer, meaning this was their first experience working together as a council. We loved the way the new leaders were welcomed and we are grateful for their confidence in contributing and helping to keep the mission moving with the new wind…
On Friday I had a meeting with my two counselors, but this time it was a meeting on Seminaries and Institutes. Since they are both S&I professionals, we discussed how the mission can support greater involvement in S&I. I love these two men for their goodness and desires to move the work of the Kingdom forward.
My other meeting was with Peter Amoah-Ohenakwa. He is the Facilities Manager for the Northern part of the mission. His service to us and the mission has been absolutely stellar. He is working hard to find land for us in as many branches as possible to build our own meetinghouse rather than convert a house for use. These ATL buildings (ATL stands for “alternative to lease”) really stand out in the communities where they exist. They create a bigger draw for those the missionaries are teaching and they tend to make the members feel a greater connection to their branch. I am grateful that he is taking so much time and interest in making this happen in our districts. I don’t have that kind of support in any other place except our own mission Facilities Manager.
It is hard to believe that February has now finished and the month of March is upon us. It is as though the leafs of the calendar are flying off the wall. We are grateful for the associations we have made with so many. We are grateful for the missionaries in the Ghana Kumasi Mission who are really working hard to gather Israel and improve their own lives. We are grateful for the challenges, the struggles, and the successes. We know whose work this is and we give all the glory for whatever good happens in this mission to Him. Gathering Israel one last time is the greatest and most important work on the face of the earth, and the best news is that we get to do it Together, in Ghana.
6 thoughts on “Priesthood Power”
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog! I just wanted to tell you I went to BYU at the same time as Becky Rogers and we were both in the music program. They are doing amazing things as are you and LaDawn.
Paula, the world just keeps getting smaller. We love the Rogers and all of the unbelievable things they are doing here to bless the people of Ghana. Hurrah for Israel!!!
This is wonderful even as I got all the steady experience you had with Elder Christopherson
Thanks so much for bringing out those wonderful blessed from him to you people I enjoyed every beat of the write up.
You are a blessing.
President and Sister Kunz,
We love receiving the updates on your mission. We have a lot of interaction with Africa through our service mission for BYU Pathway. Our mission was supposed to be part time, but based on the amount of time that we spend it is almost full time. Some of your new senior missionaries coming to Ghana have Kingwood connections. Their daughter Kristin Jamison is in our ward. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names.
Hi, President Kunz I always feel thoughtful when I read the update on your mission. And I realize the importance of keeping a record of my daily activities.
Thank you. Keeping a journal will bless your life forever, as it has mine.