News Release

Thousands Attend ‘Strengthening Families Conference’ in Abuja, Nigeria

Conference sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ was broadcast throughout the world

More than 4,000 people attended the 5th Annual “Strengthening Families Conference” at the Abuja International Conference Center in Abuja, Nigeria, June 21 and June 22, 2023, with tens of thousands participating online worldwide.

Sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the conference brought together educators, religious leaders, and Government and Community leaders from throughout the world to discuss important issues relating to families. Musical guests included the Bonner Family and the Festival of Praise Choir and Orchestra.

The master of ceremonies for the conference was Eugenia Abu, one of Nigeria’s frontline broadcast journalists. The chairperson of the conference was HRH Alh. Dr. Yahaya Abubakar CFR, the Etsu-Nupe and ruler of all Nupe people. The guest of honor was His Excellency, Fr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, governor of the Enugu state from 2015–2023.

The theme of this year’s conference was strengthening marriages. Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, General Authority Seventy and President of the Africa West Area, was the keynote speaker on the first day of the conference, along with his wife, Sister Wendy Nielsen. “The Church of Jesus Christ believes marriage is sacred and was ordained of God before the foundation of the world,” Elder Nielsen said. “We define a successful marriage as one where both spouses make the conscious decision to love and respect each other throughout their marriage. God’s love naturally radiates from their union.”

Sister Nielsen said, “Our ability to reach a fulness of happiness and joy in this life, and to achieve glory and exaltation in the life to come, are inextricably linked to our marriage covenants and the development of God-centered families.”

Elder Nielsen presents Family Values Award to Charles Inojie, television celebrity and actor/writer for the hit show 'the Johnsons'. 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Elder Nielsen presented the Family Values Award to Nigerian television personality Charles Inojie, star and writer for the popular television comedy series “The Johnsons,” which provides a positive view of African families and is revered throughout the continent.

Several speakers and goodwill messages shared throughout the conference represented the diversity of nationalities and depth of experience in the Africa West Area.

“Same rights, same obligations,” stated Justice Finda Matturi Jones, senior justice in Sierra Leone. “Equality in marriage is part of God’s divine purpose for developing strong families.

Rt. Reverend Oscar C. Amoah, an Anglican bishop from Kumasi Ghana, stated, “In the Catholic Church we teach that the future of the world is dependent upon how we protect the family. Family should be the center of our lives. The future of the world is dependent on this.”

The immediate past deputy governor of Enugu state in Nigeria, H.E. Lolo Cecilia Ezeilo, asked, “Who is teaching our children? If it’s not the parents, it’s social media or contemporary personalities. It’s up to the parents whether or not they are taught the values of God or the values of the world.”

Elder D. Martin Goury, and Area Seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ from Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire, discussed conflicts in marriage. “In order to maintain our commitment to love, cherish, and honor our spouses, we need to yield ourselves and our rights, first to God and then to one another.”

From the United States, Sharon Slater, president of Family Watch International, spoke on how to strengthen families by immunizing children against modern-day pressures. “One of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother, and for a mother to love their father, setting a positive example,” she said.

Yovo Kokouvi Ketowotsa, a traditional chief of the Kpogan Village in Togo, urged young people to marry, not to wait or live together. “Don’t let age or finances stop you from marrying. Marriage is the key to the stability of a family. Observe God in your marriage and things will work out.”

Panels consisting of law, religion, and education experts from various countries in West Africa discussed some of the issues surrounding and specific to marriage in Africa. Questions came from different countries and from the local audience.

One of the panels of law, religion, and education experts discuss issues of marriage in Africa law during the 5th Annual "Strengthening Families Conference" at the International Conference Center in Abuja, Nigeria, held June 21-22.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“Marriage is an occupation, not a hobby,” said Pastor Tunde Dada of the Shining Light Church in Abuja,  Nigeria, during one of the panel discussions. “It requires work, dedication and sacrifice. Good marriages don’t just happen. They are the result of two people working together to raise up a family to God.”

During another panel discussion, A J Suleiman, professor oflaw at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, stated, “We must choose to produce light. God created Adam and Eve with all of their differences to bring light to the world. We bring light through yielding and reconciling within our marriages.”

Closing remarks at the conference were given by Her Worship Binta Janneh Jallow, deputy lord mayor of Kanifing Municipality in the Gambia.

The conference was highlighted by several inspiring musical performances. The first day of the conference included performances by the Bonner Family from the United States, Mitchelle Ajeigbe from Ghana, and the Festival of Praise Choir and Symphony from Nigeria. Performances on the second day were by Doris Cecilia Ogana, DeeDiva and orchestra, the Nigerian National Dance Troupe, and a combined three-stake choir from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Abuja who sang a rendition of “Families Can Be Together Forever.”

More than 20 booths representing various religious and community based groups, media and businesses were available for conference participants to visit.

In 2024, the “Strengthening Families Conference” will be held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. At the close of the 2023 conference, Elder Goury welcomed Sekou Aboidji Ehublah Marthe from the Ministry of Family, Woman and Child in Cote d’Ivoire and officially transitioned the conference to Abidjan.

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