News Release

The Continuing Restoration of the Church in South Sudan

After an 11-year pause due to civil war, the Church once again has legal status and a new branch in South Sudan

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Sudan know something of the power of prayer and faith.

In 2013, when civil war engulfed their country, some 2.2 million South Sudanese fled to neighboring countries such as Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to avoid the war. The government’s Bureau of Religious Affairs ceased operation during the conflict, preventing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from applying for the required annual registration.

The Church’s approval to be in the country lapsed, leaving Latter-day Saints without a registered Church.

As the winds of peace were stirring a decade later, so too were the faithful yearnings of the local Saints. In August 2023, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Kenya. While in Nairobi, a group of South Sudanese refugee Saints living with local Church members met with him and the Africa Central Area President Elder Ian S. Ardern and his counselor, Elder Thierry Mutombo.

These young men told Church leaders they wanted to serve missions. Four have since received mission calls, one to Zimbabwe and three to Uganda.

“I was moved by the faith of these young men from South Sudan. Theirs is the faith that moves mountains,” Elder Rasband said. “Their dedicated service will inspire and bless them and their families forever. Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ — the Prince of Peace — will help them be better ambassadors of peace in their precious homeland.”

Around the same time, several South Sudanese Saints and the Area’s legal counsel began working to restore the Church’s legal status. As they were working to accomplish this earlier this year, an ordinary conference call turned into an impassioned plea for the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in South Sudan.

Ismail Lazaro Zangbayo, who hosts worship meetings in his home, told area leaders on the call that the Saints were eager for the Church to return to their country.

“The people here have been traumatized by war, and the gospel is the only thing that will fully heal them,” he said.

As the meeting closed, Zangbayo echoed the same note in his benediction.

“We know that even as the Lamanites and Nephites [in the Book of Mormon] fought, the only thing that brought them peace was living the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Zangbayo prayed. “We know that we can find peace again in this land only through the gospel of Jesus Christ, that there may be no more desires in the hearts of men to war with each other. We know that You will bless us with what we seek and restore the Church in South Sudan.”

Within days, that prayer was answered. Government officials expressed willingness to renew the Church’s legal status in a much simpler way than had been expected.

“It seemed too good to be true — but it was true,” said Associate Area Legal Counsel Elder Jeffrey N. Redd.

On February 7, 2024, the Church’s legal status in South Sudan was renewed. And three months later (May 26, 2024), 82 Latter-day Saints gathered at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Juba for the reorganization of the Juba Branch. Some had come from great distances. For example, several Saints who had earlier fled north to Sudan had recently returned to South Sudan because of conflict in their neighboring country.

“I have prayed to see this day for many years,” Rina Regina said as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Now my children can be baptized.”

Rebecca Amet shared similar feelings.

“Love brought me into this Church, love has kept me in this Church,” Amet said. “God has done something good for my family today. Now they can be baptized.”

Baptisms have not been performed in South Sudan since the civil war began.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first received legal status in South Sudan in 2009. The return of the Church comes at an important time. More than half of the country’s 11 million people are under age 18.

Elder Redd said, “The Lord has opened and continues to open many doors for the South Sudanese Saints. These good and faithful people are blessing their country.”

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