The Rev. Rosemary Cosby, pastor and founder of Christian churches in Salt Lake City and Indianapolis, and founder of a regular radio broadcast in Indiana, says she has hardly begun to spread the word of God.
"I want to spread the gospel throughout Indiana and, someday, to many other places," she said this week.The Rev. Cosby was in Salt Lake City to officiate at the fifth annual convention of the Faith Temple Pentecostal Church Inc., which ends Sunday.
More than 500 people, including ministers and church officials from throughout the United States, are attending the convention, and most, if not all of them, are in Salt Lake City to meet and hear Cosby and her husband, Bishop Robert C. Cosby.
"During this week, I've shared my testimony about the Bible and about God and his son, Jesus, and held Bible classes for convention participants," The Rev. Cosby said.
Once the convention is over, she said, she will go back to Indianapolis. She and her husband divide their time between the Faith Temple No. 2 there and Faith Temple No. 1 at 1510 S. Richards St.
Listening to The Rev. Cosby, nestled on a couch in her comfortable home on the east bench near Sandy, it is difficult to imagine her as a young mother struggling to get from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City in 1961 with four small children and little or money.
The Rev. Cosby says God brought her to Salt Lake City and, during the past 27 years, has helped her build a congregation of more than 500 in Utah and more than 1,000 in Indianapolis. More than 3,000 correspond with her because of her weekday broadcasts in Indianapolis.
She and her husband are teaching scores of people to become ministers through their ministerial organization, Contenders of the Faith of Jesus Christ Inc. She said they expect to certify and license more than 100 ministers this year.
Soon, she said, with the help of her family, her congregation and these ministers, she expects to open more churches all over Indiana. "It is what God is telling me to do," she said. Eventually, she said, she would like to start churches in other areas of the country.
How did she arrive at her present position? She left school in the ninth grade. "I loved school, but I became discouraged and quit. For several years I worked in drug stores in Indianapolis and at 26 was married. My husband ran off and left me with four little children to care for.
"I was baptized during this time and about two years later I had a vision while I was at my church, the Christ Temple Church, and God told me to `Go seek souls.' He would speak out of my mouth in English and when I asked where he wanted me to go, he would say, `Salt Lake City.' "
She related the experience to some older members of her church, and they told her to take the messages seriously. "I didn't know where Salt Lake was. I had never been very far from home. When I asked the bus company what the fare was, it turned out to be a fortune, so I knew it was a long way away."
That was in 1959. Two years later, after a great deal of prayer and inner struggle, she and her four children, Debra, 7, Ernest, 8, Rozie, 11, and Pam, 12, set off for Salt Lake City, 1,700 miles away. Some friends drove her to St. Louis. Once there, she didn't have the fare to Utah and only had enough to take her family to Kansas City, Mo.
Once there, she and her children walked to Kansas City, Kan., got a ride to Topeka, then another ride to Junction City. "I told my children we weren't going to hitchhike. We'd just walk and if someone befriended us, that was God's will. I prayed all the time that he would help us, and he did."
People helped her and her children in Topeka and gave them a vacant mobile home to stay in and some groceries and a small amount of money. She told her story to the pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Topeka and he asked her to preach and put a story about her in the local newspaper. Hundreds of people from all over Kansas came to hear her.
The church gave her and her children a train ticket to Salt Lake City, and on the way she stopped in Denver a week to preach. "I made friends almost immediately. God opened ways for me."
Finally arriving in Utah after weeks of hardship and discomfort - but filled with joy at the help she had received from strangers along the way - The Rev. Cosby stopped first in Ogden, found work as a cleaning woman, saved her money and later moved into a small basement apartment in Salt Lake City, where she started holding church services.
"I couldn't get a job. I scrubbed floors and did whatever work I could, but it wasn't steady. I didn't want to take welfare, but my daughter Rozie, who was 11 then, was critically ill. I had tried to keep her at home and care for her, praying for her recovery, but people found out she was sick and the police came and made me put her in a hospital.
"She recovered in a short time and while the doctors had diagnosed her disease as rheumatic fever, they admitted later they could find no laboratory evidence she had ever had it. I believe she was cured by prayer."
The Rev. Cosby said those days were a great struggle for her to keep her family together. She knocked on doors as a missionary and soon had dozens of people calling on her. She continued to hold church services in the living room of her basement apartment.
A member of the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith Inc., she was ordained in October 1964. In 1965, she purchased land along the Jordan River near Indiana Avenue, held church services in a garage there for a time, and in 1967 built a church there.
She became a member of the board of the California and Western States Council of the denomination, served on several area committees and in 1967 she hosted the church's National Mid-Winter Bishop Board Meeting.
Since then, she has ministered in several major cities throughout the country, including meetings in Memphis, Nashville, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles and Indianapolis.
She said the Pentecostal church she grew up in did not teach that Jesus is the son of God, "but only that God is everything. I believe that Jesus is God's son and I believe in a literal translation of the Bible. That is what I teach and preach."
In 1982, The Rev. Cosby purchased Faith Temple No. 1 on Richards Street and established a private school in the former church building on Indiana Ave. From 1978 to 1982, she and her husband operated The Southern Plantation Restaurant in Salt Lake City where, she said, "We served the best soul food in the world and featured gospel entertainment, called The Southern Comfort."
She closed the restaurant in order to have time to return to Indiana and open another church there, Faith Temple No. 2, and begin her radio ministry.
Honored by the governor of Utah, the mayor of Salt Lake City, President Reagan, senators and others, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity degree in 1985 by Trinity Hall College and Seminary.
"God has guided my footsteps and provided help whenever I needed it," she said. "When he told me, years ago, to `Go seek souls,' I believed him and have followed his direction ever since."