Billy Johnson (Mormon)
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Joseph William Billy Johnson (17 December 1934 – 27 March 2012) was one of the first converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in Ghana, and was its first stake patriarch. Prior to his baptism, he had worked for many years to spread the doctrines of the LDS Church to many of his fellow countrymen. He was baptized a few months after the 1978 Revelation on Priesthood.
Early life in the church
Johnson was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He grew up in the Roman Catholic faith. In 1964, Johnson learned about the Book of Mormon from Frank A. Mensah. Upon receiving a copy of the Book of Mormon, Johnson started "Latter day Saint" congregations in Ghana independent from any other Latter day Saint sect.
Although he was not able to be baptized at this time, Johnson did receive support and encouragement in sharing the faith with others from Latter day Saint expatriates who occasionally lived in or visited Ghana, such as Merrill J. Bateman.
His leadership prior to baptism
In 1976, Johnson set out to contact all Mormons within Ghana and found the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church). However, no further contact was established with the RLDS Church. After sharing the message of Mormonism with many in Accra, Johnson moved to Cape Coast, Ghana, where he set up at least ten congregations there and in the surrounding areas. Some of the Cape Coast group of these independent Latter Day Saint congregations in Ghana schismed when ongoing contact was not established with the LDS or RLDS churches in 1976. Some of the individuals in this group formed the Apostolic Divine Church of Ghana, however, this sect only lasted a few months.
Baptism and later religious achievements
Johnson was finally baptized into the LDS Church on 9 December 1978 a few months after Spencer W. Kimball received his revelation that allowed black people of African descent to hold the priesthood.
Johnson was the first branch president of the LDS Church in Ghana. Later he served as a district president. In 1990, when the Ghanaian government decided to suspend the activities of the LDS Church in the country thinking it was a CIA plot, Johnson and his wife were serving as missionaries. They were the only missionaries who served from then until mid-1991, a period known in the church as "the freeze".
After the end of the freeze, stakes were organized in Accra and Cape Coast, and Johnson became the first stake patriarch in Ghana. In 2004, the Accra Ghana Temple was completed, the second LDS Church temple to be built in Africa.
- Kissi, Emmanuel A. (2004), Heiss, Matthew, ed., "Walking in the Sand: A history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Ghana" (pdf), Studies in Latter-day Saint History Series, Provo, Utah: BYU Studies and the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, ISBN 0-8425-2544-0, retrieved 26 August 2011
- Johnson, Joseph William Billy, "We Felt the Spirit of the Pioneers", in E. Dale LeBaron (ed.) "All are Alike unto God": Fascinating conversion stories of African Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1990) pp. 13–23.
- Kissi, Emmanuel Abu. Walking in the Sand: A History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2004).
- LeBaron, E. Dale "Joseph W. B. Johnson" in Garr, Arnold K., Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, ed. Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000) pp. 577–578.
- Morrison, Alexander B., The Dawning of a Brighter Day: The Church in Black Africa (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1990) pp. 104–118.
- Haney, Veronica A., "The Documentary of Patriarch Joseph William Billy Johnson of Ghana"
- LeBaron, E. Dale (3 November 1998). African Converts Without Baptism (Speech). BYU Devotional. Marriott Center, Brigham Young University.