The Church Historian's Press


Our Father in Heaven Has a Mission for Us

An original recording of this discourse is available at (courtesy of Church History Library).


Salt Lake City, Utah

April 28, 2012

sister missionaries with two women

Judy Brummer as a missionary in Queenstown, South Africa. Circa 1980. A native of South Africa, Brummer (pictured here, second from the right) was the first Latter-day Saint missionary fluent in the Xhosa language. (Photograph in family possession. Courtesy Judy Brummer.)

Judy Bester Brummer (b. 1956) grew up on a farm in South Africa, where her father, Johan Bester, raised Merino sheep for wool, Angora goats for mohair, and cattle to compete in agricultural shows.1 Her mother, Gwenna Rundell Stocks Bester, managed their home and homeschooled the children until they turned ten, when by law they had to attend school. The family had long-term relationships with their servants, who were members of the Xhosa tribe.2 When Gwenna arrived at the family ranch as a new bride, Maggie (Notholi Dikane) was the cook; when the elderly Gwenna moved into a care center many years later, Maggie was still the cook. Jane (Nowinsi Xhashimba) was the housekeeper, and Lizzie (Nowinele Skeyi) did the laundry.3 Lizzie’s daughter Sindie (Sintombi Skeyi) and Jane’s daughter Tombe (Ntombisi Xhashimba) were Brummer’s best friends. Of the girls, only Brummer spoke English, so the friends always communicated in Xhosa.4

The first Latter-day Saint missionaries assigned to serve in Africa arrived in South Africa in 1853, but work proceeded sporadically until missionaries returned permanently in 1944.5 The first South African stake, in Johannesburg, was organized in 1970, followed by one in Durban in 1981 and another in Cape Town in 1984, both close to the time Brummer served a mission in Queenstown.6 Membership growth was slow in part because many nineteenth-century converts immigrated to areas with larger concentrations of church members.7 There were also long periods when war disrupted missionary work in the country. Further, before 1978, the church restricted men of black African descent from priesthood ordination and black men and women from temple worship; as a result, church membership in South Africa was primarily white, and the church was mainly established in the English- and Afrikaans-speaking areas. Serving from 1980 to 1982—a few years after the restriction on priesthood ordination and temple worship ended—Brummer was among the first wave of missionaries to proselytize primarily in the townships and tribal homelands of black South Africans. Her fluency in Xhosa proved crucial to her missionary work. After her mission, she also helped translate large portions of the Book of Mormon into Xhosa.8

After her mission, Brummer married South African André Brummer, who had been leader of her missionary district during the last months of her mission.9 Raising young children, they tired of the high crime rate in their country, where they had to unlock four or five security gates for their child to go outside and ride a bicycle. They moved to Utah in 1993 for André to study international relations at Brigham Young University, and they stayed as he found employment with an online genealogy company.10

Brummer estimates she has given versions of the following talk hundreds of times since 2001, speaking two or three times per month.11 Most often she speaks in Utah, although she has also traveled to speak in California, Texas, Arizona, and Oklahoma.12 She says that she makes this effort because she believes, based on what listeners have told her, that “people’s testimonies have been strengthened.”13 The text presented here is an excerpt of a version of Brummer’s talk, given at a ward meetinghouse in Salt Lake City; it was recorded by Dan and Edith Baker, missionaries serving in the Family and Church History Mission at church headquarters.

I am very honored and happy to be here this morning and thank you all for coming. I am so grateful.

As I tell you the story about how I grew up in South Africa, I want you to think and ask yourself this question: Does our Father in Heaven prepare a way ahead of time, or is this all one big coincidence?

I grew up on a ranch in the Karoo in South Africa.14 I was born to a Methodist family. I love my Methodist family; they are very hardworking, good, honest, decent, farm, country-bumpkin people. I am truly grateful for the heritage that I have and to be born into that family.

My mother attended the most expensive private school on the African continent; she went to Rhodes University, and she had two university degrees.15 She passed away two summers ago at the age of eighty-five.16 In those days it was extremely unusual even for white women in South Africa to have had that type of education; because she had no brothers, the education was afforded to her. My mother had a bachelor of science degree in mathematics. She was a very intelligent woman, and personally I don’t believe that you have to have a bachelor of science in mathematics to read the Bible and to figure out that one and one and one are three separate individuals.

I had a Methodist mom who taught me Mormon doctrine. Another thing that I’m eternally grateful for is my mother, and I hope that every mother here today tries to do this for her children or her future children. My mom taught us about the power of God. She taught us that Almighty God is not called “Almighty” for nothing. He can do anything, anywhere, anytime. How grateful I am to have grown up in a home where you believe that Heavenly Father can reach out to you and intervene in your life or answer your prayers. How much more likely is it you will ask for his help if you truly believe he can do anything, anywhere, anytime?

The longer I live, the more I believe that my mother had quite a lot in common with Moroni, who in the very last chapter of the Book of Mormon uses the word “power” not once, not twice, but nine times.17 And let us remember that Moroni was not typing on a laptop; he was carving on golden plates when he wrote in Moroni 10: “Deny not the power of God.” Then he repeated: “If ye deny not the power of God …” I think Moroni wanted us, in these last days, to acknowledge, remember, and believe in the power of the Almighty.18 I am extremely grateful to my mother for teaching me those two things.

If you grew up in the Karoo where I grew up, at the age of six you were shipped off to an all-white boarding school in the city because of apartheid.19 Parents were not allowed to homeschool their children if they lived in the outback, unless the teaching parent was qualified as a teacher. Think of the movie Australia—we lived in the outback in this white homestead.20 If you stood in the front yard and you did a 360-degree twirl, there was no sign of any other human habitation. My father owned a 10,000-acre ranch, and so I thought he owned the whole world when I was growing up.

In South Africa there are eleven official languages, and if you were white, you grew up speaking English, if you were of British heritage like me; or you grew up speaking Afrikaans, like my husband did. It’s mostly Dutch with a bit of German and French mixed in it. The Black African people are from nine different tribes, and they each have their own language. For instance, the Zulus speak isiZulu, the Sotho speak isiSotho, the Tswana speak isiTswana, and the Xhosa speak isiXhosa. The families that we had living on our ranch spoke isiXhosa. They were of the Xhosa tribe. I am sure you’ve heard of Nelson Mandela or Thabo Mbeki; these are Xhosa men belonging to the Xhosa tribe, and they speak isiXhosa.21

Our servants all belonged to the Xhosa tribe, so as a baby, I learned to speak two languages at once. I have no recollection of learning to speak Xhosa. I just grew up and thought, “Well, when you look at a black person you click your tongue, and when you look at a white person you speak English.” As a baby I had no idea that I was even learning two languages at once, but they were both my “mother tongue” because I had one white mother and three black moms that raised me.

I’m going to fast-forward now to when I was at boarding school. Because my mother had those two degrees, she was permitted by the strict government guidelines to homeschool us for four years. Instead of being shipped off to a white boarding school at the age of six, I only got shipped off to a white boarding school at the age of ten. By the time you are ten years old, if you have been speaking a language for ten years, it is pretty much bolted into the back of your brain and you don’t forget it. Some of the white kids that grew up in the area forgot the African languages when they got sent off to the white schools. But think about my mother—because she had this education, which was extremely unusual, I was permitted to stay on the ranch until I was ten.

When I was at boarding school during high school, I read a book by a minister called The Cross and the Switchblade, and I remember thinking, “What a noble thing to do.”22 David Wilkerson, that minister, wrote about how he used the gospel to lift people who were downtrodden after World War II. I thought perhaps I would do the same thing. So when I left boarding school and graduated from high school, I went to Rhodes University and signed up to study some social science classes. I thought perhaps I could do some social welfare or social work.

I had a friend from boarding school, and she looked at me one day and said, “Judy, you speak Xhosa fluently. Why don’t you sign up to study Xhosa?” because I needed one more subject. When you are eighteen you are always looking for the easy way out. She said, “That will be an easy thing for you to study.” So purely by accident, I signed up for a Xhosa class. I could speak it fluently and I had spoken it my whole life, but I had never learned to read and write it. I found myself in a Xhosa class with a white professor, who had spent many hours trying to learn this clicking language. Xhosa is the most difficult language on the face of the earth, because when you speak Xhosa sometimes you are making sounds by inhaling and other times by exhaling. When you speak English, you are exhaling, and all the sounds are made by blowing air out of your lungs, but when you speak Xhosa it is different.

In the middle of 1978, around about the same time that our beloved prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, received the revelation that every worthy male member can receive the priesthood—I am sure some of you in this room can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing that day23—at that time, I was still Methodist and I was living in Cape Town, the most beautiful city. In fact, if you ask any international pilot, they will tell you that Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town are the two most beautiful cities. They have the mountains and the ocean. I was living in Cape Town in 1978 with a very good friend of mine from boarding school, Vivienne. At the time, I landed a job that was nothing as noble as social work. It was the most glamorous overpaid, underworked job in all of Cape Town. A friend of mine that was studying advertising saw there was a full-page advertisement in the Sunday paper, and she looked at me and she said, “Judy, they’re describing you here. You should apply for this job, and it’s so overpaid.” I said to her, “I already have a job, and I’m really not going to bother.” So she wrote a letter on my behalf, and I landed this overpaid, underworked job, which was for Christian Dior cosmetics. I had a brand new car each year, and I had to travel around the southwestern tip of South Africa and represent Christian Dior and go to five to eight stores a day. You could do that in an hour or two and then go to the beach for the rest of the day.

My roommate, Vivienne, said, “Judy, you are the luckiest person on the earth. You have the perfect family, the perfect boyfriend, and now the perfect job.” She made me feel guilty. You do have a certain amount of guilt when you grow up in a country where there are a lot of underprivileged people and you are so blessed. So we decided to go to church to say thank you for our blessings. There were four of us girls: my roommate, Vivienne, and me; and two friends from upstairs. We decided we would go to church to say thank you for Judy Bester’s job. My friends had perks too. They got all the half-empty testers that I had to take back when I gave a full tester to a department store, so my friends always smelled of Christian Dior.

As we went to different churches in the middle of 1978, we started to go to church to say thank you for my job. We would go, and every Sunday we would look at each other and say, “We are never going back there again.” Then the next week we would try a different church and say the same thing, “We are never going back there again.” Eventually we gave up. The four of us sat down together and we made a pact that we would not attend any of those churches again. That was the most boring thing you could possibly do on a Sunday. So we decided that we would read our Bibles and be “good people,” which we were not, and we would go to Clifton Beach every Sunday. We gave up our search altogether.

You can guess who came knocking on our door. I always said that Heavenly Father knew better than to send elders to that door where those four crazy girls lived. There were two South African sister missionaries. Anyone here who has raised a missionary or supported a missionary or been on a mission, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, because I can remember this day as clearly as if it happened yesterday. Vivienne, my roommate, and I were playing field hockey outside. We had a coach and he really tried to whip us into shape. We were sweaty and had just walked in the door of our apartment in Rondebosch, Cape Town.

It was January of 1979. Now January is watermelon season; it is midsummer in the Southern Hemisphere, and we were in the kitchen quenching our thirst with watermelon when there was this big, loud knock on the door. I went to the door and I saw these two sisters. I was twenty-two years old at the time and Sister Dicks was twenty-two years old, Ronell Dicks—she’s now Ronell Wrench—and Sister Louise Bell. She was an older lady in her forties and a widow. Sister Dicks was a brand-new green missionary and was quite nervous, and in one breath she said, “Good afternoon, we are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—more commonly known as the Mormons—would you like to know more?” I looked at her name tag and I saw the Savior’s name, and that was before they’d even enlarged it. I remember thinking, “How did we miss that church?” Then I suddenly thought I had better ask my roommate, Vivienne, if she would like to hear as well, because a few weeks prior I had allowed a homeless man into our flat—when I say flat, I mean apartment—and we could not get rid of him. My roommate Vivienne was quite cross with me and said, “Don’t you let any more weirdos into this flat.” I said to the sisters, “Just wait a minute and I will ask Viv.” I took a few steps to the right, and I said to my roommate, “Vivienne, would you like to hear about the ‘Morbid church’?” She had a mouthful of watermelon which she spat all over the kitchen table, and she was holding her stomach and was hysterical. You will understand that we laughed at things that are not really funny. I started to laugh and the two of us just stood there and we were just guffawing, just hysterical.

All of a sudden this thought came into my head: “Don’t you dare laugh at those girls; you would never have the courage to do what they are doing. Allow them in.” So I went to the door and said to them, “Please come in.” They sat us down, and we had two friends that came from upstairs, and they taught us the very first discussion. I remember clearly how they taught about the First Vision, about this young farm boy—and I love farm people.24 We are really simple people and I related. There’s something special about farm people; I just love farm people.

When they said he was a farm boy from upstate New York and fourteen years old, and he didn’t know which church to join, that sounded vaguely familiar. Then he went into a grove of trees; and then he asked God, the Eternal Father, which church he should join. And the heavens were opened and Almighty God, our Father and Jesus the Son, two separate beings, appeared to the boy prophet Joseph Smith; and they personally restored his church back to the earth in these latter days. I remember thinking, “Wow.

The First Vision took place in the year 1820. I remember my very first thought was, “This is the most significant event in all Christianity since that very first Easter of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And how come it takes 160 years for that news to travel across the Atlantic?” I could not believe that I had never heard of the First Vision before. We considered ourselves educated and enlightened, and yet we had never heard of the most significant event, the most important event.

My first thought was, “What’s the matter with BBC and CNN?” My father was a news junkie and he subscribed to all the news magazines. We had all the newspapers, he listened to the news on the radio at least five times a day, and yet we never heard—I felt a little peeved and cheated. So I thought, “I better start telling my family about the Restoration.” I was on the phone telling them, I was so excited. I told everybody about what the missionaries taught me. I called all my family and friends afterwards, after each lesson.

I was very startled at the reaction. I received an avalanche of anti-Mormon literature. Even three ministers were sent to our flat to tell me not to join this evil cult from America that had a false prophet. I was quite cheeky, fortunately. When the ministers came in their black robes and white collars to tell me not to join the Mormon church, I asked them, “Why?” And one minister said, “Oh, because they’re not Christian.” I defended the Mormons; I said, “I beg your pardon, reverend, how can you possibly say that Mormons are not Christian? They have name tags with the Savior’s name, and I’ve been to their church a few times and it’s written in brass letters and stuck on the bricks outside.” I said, “How can you possibly say they’re not Christian?” And he said, “Because they don’t belong to the WCC.” I said, “What’s the WCC?” He said, “The World Council of Churches.”25

Fortunately I had some ammunition. I said, “Excuse me, I have just read my Bible from cover to cover. Can you please show me the chapter and the verse where Jesus says you have to belong to the WCC? I was just reading in James chapter one, and it tells us how to recognize pure religion.26 And I believe the Mormons are the best Christians I have ever met. I have been to their Relief Society; they run around and take casseroles to the sick, and they look after people’s children when they are having babies, and they take care of the widows, and they take care of the poor. They do this awful thing: they fast once a month and give their money to the poor.” I said, “In James 1:22 it says, ‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,’ and in verse twenty-six it says, ‘If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.’ Verse twenty-seven: ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’”

I remember telling the minister that these Mormons were the most unspotted people I had ever met, that they lived their religion.

I was baptized in April of 1979. The reason I was baptized was because I prayed with a sincere heart, with real intent of changing my worldly ways. I asked God to please tell me if the Book of Mormon was the word of God, and the Holy Ghost witnessed to me, in my heart, with such power that I could not dismiss it as an emotion. I knew from that very prayer that the Book of Mormon was the word of God. I can still remember that feeling. I have a very bad memory generally, but I remember kneeling with a missionary on either side of me and asking God, knowing that he was quite capable of telling me if the Book of Mormon was the word of God.

I remember that feeling in my heart. It burned a hole in my heart. It wasn’t just a slight feeling—it was a very powerful feeling—and from that prayer onwards, I knew that the Book of Mormon was the word of God, and no minister could tell me that this was not the church that Jesus himself restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. But even earlier, I recognized the truth when the missionaries knocked on my door. I felt the Spirit. I am so grateful that they were worthy to have the Holy Ghost with them as they taught me and my friends, though none of my friends were baptized.

A year later I decided to go and serve a mission. That was when my family thought I had crossed the sanity line. My mother called me. (They were still living in the country, and the Methodist minister was telling them that the Mormons were not Christians.) I told my parents, “I believe with all my heart that this is the church that Jesus has brought back to the earth in preparation for his second coming. I believe that with all my heart.” They said, “Don’t resign that overpaid job; you will never find a job like that again, and we’re not going to support you during your mission or after your mission.” Once again I was very cheeky and said, “I know this is the Lord’s church. Don’t worry about me; he’ll take care of me in eighteen months if I just have the faith to walk that plank. He will catch me when I get to the other end.”

In 1980 I told my branch president that I would like to go on a mission, and two weeks later I was in the mission field.27 It was an urgent call from Salt Lake City because somebody heard that I could speak this clicking language. There was an African man who called himself Bishop Kowa who had some church literature given to him, and he decided he was not going to wait 160 years for the missionaries to come and teach him, so he got a piece of corrugated iron, painted on it “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” and put it outside his mud hut in Steynsburg and went around preaching the gospel.28 He had congregations all around the Ciskei and Transkei, East London, Cemazili, Sada, Illinge, and more. All these places he had preached the gospel.29

I heard this from an AP [assistant to the president] missionary that was on a mission at the time. He said that Bishop Kowa decided to register the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Africa, only to discover it had already been registered by the headquarters of the church in Salt Lake City. So he wrote a letter to the prophet, President Kimball, and asked if he would like to merge with his church. The letter was written in Afrikaans; I think he thought maybe President Kimball would understand Afrikaans. The letter was translated and sent back and forth.

In about 1979 they sent two missionaries, both South Africans; one was Peter Boyton.30 They sent him to visit this Bishop Kowa, who now had a large number of people in his church, and he was living off the tithes of the people. Bishop Kowa could not understand English, and these two elders could not speak the clicking language. Since there was no communication, they were eventually pulled out. Then the mission president had heard that I could speak this language. Two weeks later I was in the mission field, and we were speaking to Bishop Kowa. That was 1980.

The Lord had prepared people of the Xhosa tribe, through Bishop Kowa, and by the time we got there, there were congregations of people to teach. I interpreted for the American and the South African missionaries on my mission. I spent eighteen months in Queenstown, which is about two hours away from where I grew up. We traveled the Transkei and the Ciskei, teaching these people.31 Bishop Kowa would come with us and he would say, “You must listen to these people.” We had an enormous amount of success because the people were prepared by the Lord.

We baptized thirty, forty, fifty people at a time. I remember once we had fifty-four people ready for baptism, and we only had a couple missionary and my companion and myself, so there was one priesthood holder.32 We had to phone East London and say, “Send us some elders, because it is not easy to baptize fifty-four people with an elderly gentleman.”33 My mission president, Lowell D. Wood, told me on the phone, “I’m awfully sorry, but we’re not transferring you, because you’re the only one who can speak Xhosa.” So I spent my entire eighteen-month mission in Queenstown. Eventually they brought in more missionaries until we had twelve missionaries in that area, and what an experience. I loved my mission. I was on such a high learning curve since I had only been in the church for one year, but I learned the basics over and over again. I am so grateful that I was able to sell everything I had and go on a mission.

The church does everything in order. When I was on my mission I was asked to translate a number of things, and I think the very first thing I was asked to translate was the name of the church, and that is: Ibandla lika Yesu Krestu Yaba Ngcwele beMihla yokuGqibela. Have any of you seen the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy? Well, that is a similar language.34 When we were teaching people and baptizing people, we had the Bible in Xhosa, which was a very poor translation, but nevertheless we had a Bible. But there was no Book of Mormon in Xhosa. So when we were teaching and the missionaries read out of the Book of Mormon to teach the gospel, I would just translate it verbally. Things like the sacrament prayer and the baptismal prayer, I wrote that on paper so that they could be said the exact same way each time.

What an honor and privilege it was for me to see these people who I love come to the gospel. I had grown up with the Xhosa people, and I absolutely love them. They are very spiritual people, very humble people. I remember that every time one of them got the priesthood, I would look at this little twelve-year-old boy and I would say to him, “Do you know that you have more authority than most ministers that are famous and recognized on the earth?” It would just blow me away to think that those little twelve-year-old barefoot boys had the priesthood. I cannot describe to you the joy and the thrill to see these people as they were baptized and see how the gospel lifted them out of some of the dire situations that they were in.

One of my favorite scriptures is found in John 8:32. It says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The truth, as taught by the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the best truth you can possibly have. That is the best freedom you can possibly have. I remember telling these African people, “You might be oppressed under apartheid, but you now have the priesthood. You now have the greatest freedom on earth.”

If any of you know about Africa, there are a lot of problems, not just in South Africa, with things like witchcraft, ancestor worship, AIDS, and things that have brought the African continent to its knees. The gospel helps people; it lifts people out of that state. It is such a thrill for me now to receive letters from people that we baptized thirty years ago. Their children are serving missions and going to the temple. I cannot tell you the joy. I just heard a few weeks ago that South African missions had the highest retention rate as far as people staying in the church.35

As I was on my mission, I was often asked to interpret when people confessed their sins because the church leaders were all white. People would have to tell me their sins, and then I would have to tell the stake president or the bishop. I would just think to myself, “Some of these sins are so bad and scary!” I said to my mission president one day, “I often think, ‘How can I make it sound a little bit better?’” because these American leaders were not familiar with witchcraft. A person would say, “This one is putting a curse on that one,” and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, how can I translate this?” Some people had actually committed murder. My mission president said, “If you do not say it exactly like it is, if you misinterpret it, their sins are going to be on your head.” And I said, “Thank you, I have plenty of my own sins. I am going to say exactly as they say from now on.”

After my mission, Elder Brummer—now I have to confess my own sins, because I was Judy Bester when I started, and toward the end of my mission, Elder Brummer was my district leader. Okay, I married my district leader after my mission. Elder Brummer came to me and said, “The church needs to buy your air ticket or train ticket. Where are you going?” I had sold everything I had to go on a mission, and when I started my mission I had a suitcase of fabulous clothing, but after eighteen months I had a suitcase of worn-out clothing and not two pennies to rub together. I had no idea where I was going, and remember how cheeky I was to my mother? There was no way I could go home like a prodigal daughter. So I kept saying to Elder Brummer, “I’ll tell you next week,” and he would come up to me and say, “We need to buy you a plane ticket. Where are you going?” I said, “I’ll tell you next week. I’ll tell you next week,” because I had no clue where I was going to go with no money and worn-out clothing.

Then about three weeks before my mission ended, I got a telegram, not from my boss in Cape Town but his boss at the head office in Johannesburg—a telegram is like a text message on paper, for you young ones. I still have that telegram. It said, “Contact me urgently, Alec.” So I ran and I called my boss’s boss and he said to me, “When are you finished being a nun?”36 I think nonmembers do not quite understand the vocabulary in the church. I am sure you know that Mormons speak differently. We have a different vocabulary. I said to him, “I have three weeks left on my mission. I am not a nun.” And I said, “I finish on that Friday.” He said, “Monday morning, eight o’clock, I want you in the Durban office.” I got the exact same job, only on the east coast. They gave me a 50 percent increase in salary. Guess who I called? My mom. And guess how cheeky I was then? I said, “Guess whose church this is? Didn’t I tell you that if I did this eighteen-month mission, the Lord would take care of me afterwards? And he did.”

I know, my sisters, that the power of God should never be denied. We need to have the faith to walk that plank, and do what our Heavenly Father wants us to do, when he wants us to do it, and know that he will take care of us when we get to the end.

After my mission I was asked to translate a few things for the church, and one of them was this pamphlet Ubungqina Bukamprofethi UJoseph Smith, the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.37 Elder Brummer and I traveled to the Salt Lake temple and we were married there because there was no temple in South Africa in 1983. We moved right back to South Africa, lived in Johannesburg for about ten years. We have four children now, but at the time we only had three children. The church’s translating department came to my door in North Johannesburg and said, “We have enough members of the Xhosa tribe, good, honest, tithe-paying members, to now translate scriptures into their language.” I remember my very first reaction—yours most likely would have been the same: the most correct book on earth, as Joseph said,38 into the most difficult language on earth—my first reaction was to run and hide. I made all the excuses. I said, “Well, my husband is the bishop right now, I have three little kids at my ankles right now—there’s no way I can do it.” I said, “There is a university with a black Xhosa professor. I am sure he can do it.” They gave the black professor Selections of the Book of Mormon, and he did not understand the English, the thees and thous, and so he just wrote a different story. They gave him a few chapters, and they brought it to me to proofread. My friend said she can still remember how furious I was because he just made stuff up and he thought, “Oh, they will never know.”

So then I spoke to Bob Eppel, who was over church translating in South Africa. I said, “You know this is just not good enough. I am not volunteering to do it, but I just want you to know it is not good enough.”39 One day the translating people came to my home in Johannesburg. It was a couple from Salt Lake and a couple from South Africa, and they had Elder Gene R. Cook with them of the Seventy.40 They said, “You pick three sisters in the ward to come and babysit your kids, to take turns every day while you do the translation, and we will pay them. We really feel strongly that you need to do this work.” Elder Cook laid his hands on my head, and he gave me a blessing. Everybody in that room knew that that was why I was born to a Methodist mother who taught me Mormon doctrine. That was why I was allowed to stay on that ranch for ten instead of six years, and that was why I signed up, accidentally, for a Xhosa class.

Had I known back then I was going to join the church and be asked to translate scripture, I would have stayed in that class a lot longer and paid more attention.

In closing, I would like to tell you three things that happened to me which did not take place when I was translating pamphlets or other things. I translated the Gospel Principles manual,41 some materials for the Relief Society and Young Women, and some songs. But these last three things took place only when I had the Book of Mormon, the Selections of the Book of Mormon in English, and I was translating it into Xhosa by hand.

The first was opposition. We were hit with enormous opposition. My kids got sick; one child almost died. Opposition did not just affect André and me; it also affected my three babysitting friends who were going to make the work possible.

One day we sat down and we said, “What’s going on?” There were broken legs and smashed cars, sick children, and almost dying children. Then suddenly we realized that the adversary did not want the Book of Mormon to be translated into the mother tongue of about eight million people, because when you read the Book of Mormon in your own mother tongue it touches an extra heartstring, and that I know. We refused to be depressed, and we rolled up our sleeves and said, “We’re going to fight back, and we’re not going to let Satan win,” and then the opposition dissipated.

The second thing that happened to me: I was reading the English Book of Mormon and I understood it with a clarity that I cannot even explain to you. It was so clear. It was almost like I was there. I knew exactly what every word meant in English. So it was easy to translate into Xhosa, which does not happen to me now. I understood it with a clarity that I cannot explain, even the portions from Isaiah. I kept saying to myself, “I feel like there is a lightbulb that lit up in my brain. I am not usually this smart,” and I know now that it was a gift from God. I did not do it alone; I had help.

I know this very, very certainly because one day I got out of bed on the wrong side, and I snapped at everybody in my family. I was in a bad mood and I went to translate and I could not do it. I was stuck on one word. I had the Xhosa Bible and I was trying. I was cross-referencing dictionaries, and I remember saying to myself, “I am not enjoying this at all. This is suddenly not easy,” and it was because I was in a bad mood and the Spirit left me. The gift of translation was removed hastily when I behaved badly. So I thought, “It is much easier to humble yourself and to repent,” and the next day I was fine again.

The third and the final thing is the characters of the Book of Mormon. I know that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets who lived on this continent, and that they cared about us enough to write for us so that we can have the truth in the last days about God, the truth that makes us free. I felt the different personalities. I felt the different characters. Sometimes when you are translating, there is not the perfect word; there are two words, or three words. I would pray and I would ask Heavenly Father, “Please help me to know which word Alma would use.” And instantly I would know. Some of the prophets felt more strict, and some more lenient. Just like when you have a different stake president or a different bishop, the church is still true but they have their different personalities. I felt the personalities of the prophets who wrote in the Book of Mormon. I know that they were helping me, and the veil was very thin. I did not do it alone, and I know that they were very close to me. I know that the Book of Mormon is the most powerful book; it changed my life from night to day, and I have watched it change many more souls’ lives from night to day.

I would like to close with bearing you my testimony. I am going to try to translate it into Xhosa, since I can still speak Xhosa. I have very many Xhosa friends who call me regularly on the telephone, so I still speak it all the time, but I can’t remember what I said two seconds ago, so that is the reason why it is not going to be perfect.

I would like to leave you my testimony that I know that God can do anything, anywhere, anytime; that he is Almighty; that he loves us with an infinite love. [Speaking Xhosa] I know that Jesus is the Christ, that he atoned for my large sins and your little sins equally. [Speaking Xhosa] I know that the Holy Ghost witnesses truth to the hearts of human beings. [Speaking Xhosa] I know that this is the Lord’s work. I felt the passion that Moroni had when he said we are going to be triumphant in these last days and that we need to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.42 We need to prepare this earth for our Savior’s return.

I am so happy, and I know there is a fine line between being unashamed and being proud and I am right up against that line. I am so unashamed that I am almost proud of being a Mormon because I truly believe that you are the best Christians on the face of this earth. And I leave this with you and I thank you for your dedication, for your efforts to build this kingdom. I am so grateful for all of you and for the opportunity to be here today to share my testimony. I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Cite this page

Our Father in Heaven Has a Mission for Us, At the Pulpit, accessed July 21, 2024