Safe Journey: An African Adventure; Walking in the Sand: A History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ghana


GLENN L. PACE. Safe Journey: An African Adventure. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003.

EMMANUEL ABU KISSI. 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.

While both volumes were published by LDS Church–owned presses around the same time, and both deal with the experiences of General Authorities primarily in West Africa, it should be emphasized that these are two very different accounts of many of the same places during roughly the same time period. Readers should approach Walking in the Sand as a general, and quite thorough, introduction to the details of expansion of the Church in Ghana. It is written by a firsthand witness to many of the early developments and setbacks to Church growth in that region, and it culminates in the dedication of the Accra Temple in 2004. The book is also valuable because the author personally knows most of the local leaders, early missionaries, and General Authorities sent to work in Ghana. This is an insider’s view of Church history in Africa from a Ghanaian who witnessed the Church struggle and yet continue to develop its own African identity. On the other hand, Safe Journey portrays an outsider’s limited understanding of African culture and society in the late twentieth century. Thus, observations about Africa that are not related to Church activity and its members often seem unnecessary and out of place.

Safe Journey pivots between two broad themes: the author’s own experiences as a General Authority handling routine activities and crises, and a personal analysis of people, things, and places. The book is most successful with the former theme. The earliest involvement in Africa for Glenn L. Pace, now a General Authority emeritus, came in 1985, when he headed the Church’s humanitarian relief efforts to victims of drought in Ethiopia. The drought was unquestionably one of the two worst natural disasters in the last twenty-five years in Africa—the other being the Mozambican flood of 2000. This introduction to catastrophe is significant for the author since the book begins with the same question that a majority of travelers from the Western world ask themselves when visiting or living in the Third World: “Why all this suffering?” Attempts in this book to answer that question dwell on issues that range from theological to sometimes satirical. The author’s personal thinking about the suffering question utilizes several pre-1978 statements on Africans and the priesthood, specifically those addressing the succession of premortal behavior and its implications for mortal station and privilege. Younger readers might not be acquainted with these references, and they may find his reasoning on this issue peculiar or offensive. However, Elder Pace does warn that it is “dangerous to jump to conclusions as to the exact whys and wherefores. If we are not careful we can begin to make judgments about people and their circumstances of birth. . . . Each of us as a daughter or son of Heavenly Parents have received the genes of godhood.”