LDS Church News

Jamaicans’ journey of faith to the LDS temple

By Crystal Powell

For LDS Church News

Published: Monday, June 9 2014 11:47 a.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 9 2014 11:47 a.m. MDT

Jamaican youth take part in a For the Strength of Youth conference. The conference led to a trip to the temple in April.

Raul Sandoval

Jamaica is a beautiful Island in the Caribbean, where the members of the Church who show a willingness to follow Christ through daily sacrifices, have developed a very strong faith through their obedience to the commandments.

Jamaica does not have a temple; therefore, members and their families must travel to Panama; the United States of America; or Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to enjoy the privilege of temple worship.

In December 2013, the Caribbean Area Presidency announced that, for the first time, the young men and young women of Jamaica would have the opportunity to take part in a “For the Strength of Youth” conference. A wave of excitement quickly spread among the 14- to 18-year-olds and their families. The excitement was not only about going to a new country, but more importantly, it was a chance to visit the temple and create a legacy for their families.

Youth from all over the island attended family history workshops organized by the Church’s local family history centers. The goal for each individual was to compile necessary information for 10 of his or her ancestors. Most of the 127 youth were able to achieve the goal, resulting in over 1,000 family members being identified and recorded. This became a powerful family history project.

From April 22 to April 25, a total of 127 youth participated in the “For the Strength of Youth” conference. During the same period, 51 adults and 13 children had the opportunity of attending the temple — the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple — for the first time.

This remarkable experience, the largest temple trip ever from Jamaica, was achieved through months of preparation and individual sacrifice, including replacing passports, preparing critical documents, combating illnesses and dealing with opposing work commitments.

The temple trip culminated with 18 families being sealed, many with two or more children, and 1,016 baptisms being done mostly by the youth.

Royce Britton, the Seminaries and Institute coordinator in Jamaica, who played a leading role in organizing the youth conference, noted that it “was truly an incredible and amazing experience. It felt like we were in Zion. … Testimonies have been gained and strengthened; many youth and young adults, I feel, have been converted through this experience.”

The opportunity to personally perform the ordinances for those family members they researched added joy and fulfillment to the entire project and is an experience that none of them will soon forget.

Rita Banhan, a member of the Church since 1984, waited almost 29 years until her husband, Donald Banhan, chose to be baptized. Together, with their two daughters, they were finally able to be sealed, an experience, she notes, that she has prepared for every day since that time. She described the trip as bringing about “cherished moments in the congregations of the Church [that] united our hearts, not just in families, but as brothers and sisters in Zion.”

Faith and sacrifice have been a daily part of life for Ruth-Ann Cerene, Shirlette Octavia and Tonnie Krystal Brown, the three oldest girls in the Brown family. Their mother and father had wanted to go to the temple with their three daughters, but they could not afford the cost for all of them.

The parents decided to go as a couple and be sealed so that any future children would be born in the covenant. Indeed, there were three more children added to the family. The parents passed away, and the three older sisters had not been sealed to their family. Wanting the promised blessing of an eternal family, the sisters sacrificed and exercised faith in preparing themselves spiritually and temporally to be able to go to the temple. They immersed themselves in scripture study, prayer and fasting in order to receive inspiration and help from Heavenly Father.

It took years for them to save enough money to finally make the trip to the temple. Their goal and dream was finally realized, and feelings of joy filled their lives as they participated in vicarious baptisms and the long-anticipated sealing to their family for all eternity.