LDS Church leaders in Accra, Ghana, are hoping to change the minds of government leaders who expelled missionaries from the African country earlier this week.
"Our church leaders in Ghana, the native members of the church, are working with government leaders to resolve the situation," said Jerry Cahill, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We're hoping there'd be a resolution to it, that our missionaries can stay. At present we're just taking a hopeful stance."In a statement announced on the state-owned radio Wednesday, LDS Church and Jehovah's Witness missionaries were given a one-week deadline to leave the country. The government also ordered churches closed.
Both churches, as well as two small Ghana sects, Nyame Sunkwa and Jesus Christ of Dzorwulu, were banned from the country "for conducting themselves in a manner that undermines the sovereignty of Ghana while disturbing public order."
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asked the State Department to keep him informed of all developments, said Art Kingdom, Owens' press secretary.
Kingdom said the State Department was surprised by the Ghanaian order. However, U.S. officials didn't believe the missionaries were in any danger.
The State Department questioned whether reports of the expulsion on state-run radio is really a formal and irrevocable order, and it asked the U.S. Embassy in in Accra to speak directly to the Ghanaian government regarding the matter.
LDS leaders in Africa had no advance warnings of the order. "They learned about it over the radio when it was broadcast," Cahill said. "They were caught unawares by it. There were certainly no specific warnings that we were aware of here."
The order is thought to affect eight married couples, another missionary and a couple working for the church's educational system. Seventy-two of the 89 LDS missionaries in the country are native citizens and presumably not affected by the order.
The LDS Church has 6,000 members in Ghana and some 50 local congregations. The Jehovah's Witnesses church has 34,000 members in Ghana. Of Ghana's population of 13 million, 43 percent are Christian. The other major group, 32 percent, adheres to traditional local beliefs.