Senior leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted the First Lady of The Gambia during her first visit to Utah this week.
First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow was invited to Church headquarters by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles following his journey to The Gambia in February. It was the first time an Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ visited the West African country.
“They had given us such a warm reception and been so open about the things they’re doing, and we saw the potential for collaboration,” said Elder Christofferson, who was present for a meeting with the faith’s First Presidency on Wednesday, August 17, 2022.
“And though it’s a Muslim country, it’s one where religious freedom flourishes and [is] very open,” he added. “So, we talked a little about that and gratitude for their tradition of religious freedom.”
The first lady of The Gambia traveled to Utah to explore Church education and humanitarian sites, and to meet with state government representatives. On Tuesday, the delegation went to the Brigham Young University campus in Provo to listen to a devotional given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the Marriott Center.
“The pioneers of that university were visionaries because, when they talk of [BYU], education was not well accepted in the world,” Bah Barrow said.
On Wednesday, Her Excellency toured the Church’s Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, where she learned about the Church’s global efforts to help those in need.
“Going to the dairy, seeing what is happening there, and we learned a lot and would go and replicate a few things that we have seen there,” Her Excellency said. The delegation saw volunteers bottling salsa and processing cheddar cheese. They also sampled the Church’s popular chocolate milk, which is distributed in bishops’ storehouses around the country.
Elder Christofferson said the Church has sponsored humanitarian projects in The Gambia in recent years.
“Our monetary support for clean water for emergency assistance, disaster assistance, and medical resources and care is about $1.7 million over the last three or four years,” Elder Christofferson said.
The Gambia First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow is greeted by members of the Young Women, Relief Society and Primary general presidencies at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday, August 17, 2022. From left to right are: Sister Tracy Y. Browning of the Primary general presidency, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon, Her Excellency Fatoumatta Bah Barrow and Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson.2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Members of the general presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations hosted the delegation for lunch. Later in the day, members of the First Presidency met with the first lady to talk about the beliefs of the Church, shared values and possibilities for further collaboration with others to the people of The Gambia.
The Church of Jesus Christ received official status in The Gambia earlier this year following Elder Christofferson’s visit with President Adama Barrow and the first lady.
“It’s a mutually beneficial association,” Elder Christofferson explained. “They provide a climate, a setting where the Church can grow, and our members individually can contribute.”
The Church’s first branch was established in the country on June 10, 2022. There are currently 26 members of the Church in the Banjul Branch, and two full-time missionaries serve in The Gambia. The branch will soon send out its first missionary.
When Elder Christofferson arrived in Banjul in February, there were 11 Latter-day Saints. Eleven more were baptized the evening of his arrival. “I can take credit for doubling the population of the Church in one day in The Gambia,” he chuckled.
“I think the government is pleased to see the kind of people [that] we are, [that we] can have an influence for good in their nation along with the resources that the Church can provide,” Elder Christofferson added.
“You are warm people. Everyone is smiling and it shows love, and you [have] already accepted us as family. And that’s what we believe in The Gambia — we believe in family,” the First Lady said.