The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Africa

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As of 1 January 2011, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported 59,807 members in 11 stakes, 152 congregations (72 wards[1] and 75 branches[1]), three missions, and one temple in South Africa.[2][3]


The first Latter-day Saint missionaries to what is now South Africa, Jesse Haven, Leonard I. Smith and William H. Walker, arrived in Cape Colony at Cape Town on 19 April 1853. The first LDS branch was organized at Mowbray in August 1853. The mission closed in 1865 with most of the converts having emigrated to Utah.[4]

The mission was reopened in 1906 under the direction of William H. Lyon. The first LDS meetinghouse was built in 1916 also in Mowbray.[5] Most early converts were of British descent, and often people born in Britain. In 1905 Lyon baptized a man with the last name of Dunn who was the son of a Scottish father and a Zulu mother.

Another early convert of African descent was William Paul Daniels, who joined the LDS Church in 1915 while visiting relatives in Utah. He met on multiple occasions with Joseph F. Smith before returning to South Africa.[6]

Starting in 1927 until 1970 the mission published a monthly periodical originally known as the Cumorah Monthly Cross. The South African Government put very low restrictions on LDS missionaries coming in after World War I, not allowing any until 1921.

The Church did not translate any literature into Afrikaans until 1951, and it was not until 1972 the Book of Mormon was published in Afrikaans. No general authority visited South Africa until David O. McKay visited in 1954. As of 1953 the LDS Church owned only two buildings in South Africa, but the new mission president that year, Leroy H. Duncan, brought about 3 more Church owned buildings under his tenure including one in Durban. During the 1950s the Church began to send many Canadians as missionaries to South Africa, since as fellow citizens of the Commonwealth they did not fall under visa restrictions.

Evan P. Wright served as mission president over the South Africa Mission in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Wright repeatedly expressed to the First Presidency the difficulty in establishing the church in the region caused by the church-wide ban on ordaining men of African descent to the priesthood. This was especially problematic because Wright required even men who appeared white to prove a total lack of black African ancestry before they could be ordained and records were often unavailable. Six missionaries had been given the duty to work on genealogy research for the purposes of establishing which people were eligible for the priesthood.[7] During McKay's visit to the mission, he changed the policy to allow men to be ordained without any genealogical research in cases where "there is no evidence of his having Negro blood in his veins."[8]

A stake was organized in South Africa in 1970. Because of local laws and the Church's policies restricting priesthood ordination and full temple participation, missionaries baptized very few people of black African origin because without being granted the priesthood they could not hold their own meetings and the government would not allow them to meet with whites. There were some black South Africans, like Moses Mahlangu, who were closely affiliated with the Church but not baptized. Mahlangu held regular worship meetings teaching from the Book of Mormon and spent large amounts of time teaching of the Book of Mormon to people in the African townships starting in the late 1960s. He was also in regular contact with the mission presidents. After the 1978 revelation on the priesthood, Mahlangu, his family, and many other people still waited to be baptized, likely because of lingering feelings of racism among some members of the church. Finally, they were baptized September 6, 1980.[9]

As of the early 1990s the majority of Latter-day Saints in South Africa were English-speaking white people, mainly of British origin. The number of black members of the LDS Church was on the rise though.[10] At some point between 2000 and 2005 the LDS Church reached a point where half the members in South Africa were black, and the percentage of blacks in the membership has continued to rise since then.[11]

In 1984 the South Africa mission was divided with a new mission formed in Cape Town. Zimbabwe, which had been under the South Africa Mission since the start of LDS meetings there in the 1950s, was made its own mission in 1987 and in 1990 Durban was made its own mission. When missionary work began in Madagascar in 1991 it was under the auspices of the Durban Mission, but Madagascar was made its own mission in 1998. Mozambique was under the Johannesburg Mission from the arrival of missionaries there in 1999 until 2005. Botswana was under the Johannesburg Mission from the arrival of missionaries in 1990 until 2013. In fact Botswana was part of the Roodeport South Africa Stake from 1995, when that stake was organized with Christoffel Golden as president, until 2012 when a separate stake was organized in Botswana. The Botswana Mission currently includes some areas of South Africa.

Two Black South Africans have been called as mission presidents. One, Jackson MKabela, was called to serve as mission president in Zimbabwe. He had previously been an area seventy and his wife Dorah had been a member of the Young Women General Board. Mkabela had become the first blacck man to serve as a stake president in South Africa in 2005.[12] The other, Thabo Lebethoa, was called to preside over the South Africa Cape Town Mission. He was serving as stake president of the Soweto Stake at the time of his call.[13]

The Book of Mormon has also been translated into Zulu and Xhosa.

Membership History[edit]

Year Membership[14]
1930 682
1940 1,571
1950 1,372
1960 2,901
1970 5,637
1975 6,091a
1979 6,831a
1985 13,100b
1989 17,000b
1995 24,000b
1999 29,220c
2004 40,482c
2009 48,112a
2012 57,546a
  • a Actual Membership for January 1 of the respective year
  • b Estimated membership for Dec 31 of the respective year
  • c Actual Membership for Dec 31 of the respective year



Johannesburg Temple from skyline.jpeg

36. Johannesburg South Africa edit


Johannesburg, South Africa
1 April 1981
24 August 1985 by Gordon B. Hinckley
26°10′40.98359″S 28°2′21.10199″E / 26.1780509972°S 28.0391949972°E / -26.1780509972; 28.0391949972 (Johannesburg South Africa Temple)
19,184 sq ft (1,782 m2) and 112 ft (34 m) high on a 1 acre (0.4 ha) site
Modern adaptation of six-spire design - designed by Church A&E Services and Hartford & Hartford

166. Durban South Africa (Under Construction) edit


Durban, South Africa
1 October 2011
9 April 2016[17] by Carl B. Cook
Announced by Thomas S. Monson on 1 October 2011[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b LDS Meetinghouse Locator.Nearby Congregations (Wards and Branches).
  2. ^ "Facts and Statistics: Statistics by Country: South Africa", Newsroom, LDS Church, 31 December 2011, retrieved 2012-10-18 
  3. ^ "Country information: South Africa", Church News Online Almanac, Deseret News, 1 February 2010, retrieved 2012-10-18 
  4. ^ LDS Church Almanac, 2010 Edition, p. 575
  5. ^ H. Dean Garrett, "South Africa", in Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, ed., Encyclopedia of Latter Day Saint History, (Salt Lake City:Deseret Book, 2000), p. 1160-1161
  6. ^ LDS Church Almanac, 2010 Edition, p. 576
  7. ^ Wright, Eval (1977). A History of the South African Mission. 
  8. ^ Prince, Gregory; Wright, Robert (2005). David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. University of Utah Press. 
  9. ^ Turley, Richard E., Jr. and Jeffrey G. Cannon, "A Faithful Band: Moses Mahlangu and the First Soweto Saints," BYU Studies Quarterly 55, no. 1 (2016): 31–36
  10. ^ article on the LDS Church in South Africa from Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Though
  11. ^ profile on LDS Church in South Africa
  12. ^ article on Mkabela's call as stake president
  13. ^ Mormon newsroom article on Lebethoa
  14. ^ "Country information: South Africa", Deseret News Church Almanac (multiple almanacs from various years), Deseret News 
  15. ^ Walker, Joseph (1 October 2011). "LDS general conference opens with the announcement of six new Mormon temples". Deseret News. Salt Lake City. Retrieved 1 October 2011. .
  16. ^ "Mormon church president announces plans for new temples in Utah, Wyoming, Colombia, Africa". Washington Post. AP. 1 October 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011. .
  17. ^ "Ground Broken for Durban South Africa Temple: Construction to begin on the nation's second temple", Newsroom, LDS Church, 2016-04-09 

External links[edit]