It can be easy to take Sabbath day worship for granted. Most members of the Church live within a reasonable distance of a meetinghouse that they can plan on attending every Sunday. It’s likely that priesthood holders will be there each Sunday, preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament. But for 9,000 Church members in the African country of Ghana, these simple blessings disappeared suddenly. Their story of faith, compassion, and adaptation serves as an example of true Sabbath day worship.
On June 14, 1989, the government of Ghana banned all activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the country. This ban became known as the “freeze.” Meetinghouses were locked up, and foreign missionaries were sent home. Without a place to meet, and with no indication of if or when the freeze would end, members worried about the future.
In response to the freeze, Church leaders authorized members in Ghana to hold sacrament meetings in their homes. Families met together, often including in their meetings others who lacked confidence to worship on their own. The Church in Ghana functioned at the family level.
Charlotte Acquah, describing the small meetings held in the home with her husband, William, and their children, said, “We dressed in our Sunday best as though we were going to church. We sang a hymn. He blessed the sacrament and passed it around as though we were in church. And we really felt the Spirit.”
“It really made me respect and honor my priesthood all the more,” said William. “How can I be harsh on my children during the week or quarrel with my wife and then have them together for the sacrament?”
Sabbath day activities weren’t limited to taking the sacrament. “During those times after every sacrament meeting, we had to visit with other Church members to hug them, to keep their faith, to encourage them,” recalled Charlotte.
These members’ efforts to teach the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy were effective. Charles Sono-Koree, who was a new member at the time of the freeze, explains that seeing his home teacher’s devotion convinced him “to follow his good example.”
“I want to keep the Sabbath holy,” said Joseph Larbie. “The Lord says that is what really shows the relationship that we have. If we don’t respect His day, I don’t know how to give my respect to Him.”
When the government finally lifted the ban in November 1990, the Saints in Ghana rejoiced to meet together openly in their meetinghouses once again. With strengthened faith and new perspective, they approached Sabbath day worship with greater appreciation and reverence.