A Long Time in Coming

Meet Joseph Wafula Sitati, introduced today as a new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He is the first [black] African General Authority and only the second black General Authority (the first being Helvécio Martins, a Brazilian who served five years in the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1990 to 1995).

Elder Sitati

(Joseph and Gladys Sitati)

Elder Sitati is 56 and was born in Bungoma, Kenya. He is married Gladys Nangoni Nassiuma, with whom he has five children. In 1991, the Sitatis became the first Kenyan family to be sealed in the temple. Elder Sitati has served in a broad range of callings in the Church, including district and branch president. On September 9, 2001, Elder Sitati was called to serve as the first president of the Nairobi, Kenya Stake. He later served as an Area Seventy from 2004 to 2007, when he was called to his current position as president of the Nigeria Uyo Mission. Professionally, Elder Sitati is former executive with Total Oil and a former director of public affairs for the Church in Africa.

18 comments for “A Long Time in Coming

  1. Rolf
    April 5, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Elder Sitati is an amazing man (I met him when he was an Area Seventy and he came as a visiting speaker to Mozambique, where I was working). For clarification, though, there have been previous Seventies who were African (in terms of being from Africa, though not black–all from South Africa). Elder Christoffel Golden of the current Seventy is from South Africa.

  2. JDD
    April 5, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Don’t forget Elijah Abel! He was ordained a seventy in 1836, perhaps by Joseph Smith himself.

  3. Marc Bohn
    April 5, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Sorry if my post was unclear. There have been Area Authority Seventies who are African called since those positions were established by President Hinckley in 1997, but no members of the First or Second Quorums of the Seventy.

  4. Marc Bohn
    April 5, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Comment #2 – That is true, but being a “seventy” used to be a much more common local priesthood office until Spencer W. Kimball reformed and reconstituted the First Quorum of the Seventy back in the 1970s. When he did so, calling local seventies at the stake level was discontinued and they were all absorbed into the local Elders Quorums or High Priest Groups (though I think they still retained their “seventy” designation for life).

  5. Mark B.
    April 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Actually, Marc, the dissolution of stake seventies quorums did not occur at the same time as the 1976 organization of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

    We had a stake seventies quorum in our stake which was organized in 1985.

  6. Dan
    April 5, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Good on the Lord…

  7. April 5, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Elder Christoffel Golden has been a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 2001, and he is African.

  8. Marc Bohn
    April 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Mark B – Interesting. For some reason I had been under the impression that the two events occurred near in time. Good to know.

    Kim Siever – Good point. I should have been more specific in saying black African.

  9. Kim Siever
    April 5, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Which is what we reported on Our Thoughts. ;)

  10. J. Michael
    April 5, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Elder Sitati is a powerful leader and a man totally without guile. He is also an excellent golfer who plays only with irons.

  11. Eddie
    April 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I believe that it was sometime in the mid 80s when the practice of ordaining men as Seventies was discontinued. Something I seem to recall from my youth.

  12. Ray
    April 5, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Fwiw, we have one seventy remaining in our ward who was never ordained a High Priest.

  13. WMP
    April 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Perhaps a decade or so in the 1st Quorum of the 70, and then…

  14. aloysiusmiller
    April 6, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    This kind of blog creeps me out. It seems patronizing.

  15. Marc Bohn
    April 6, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I couldn’t disagree more Aloysius.

  16. aloysiusmiller
    April 8, 2009 at 9:26 am

    I grew up with my father reading us the 2 Nephi 26:33. The words “all are alike unto God” meant a lot to me.

    Six men were called to be members of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Why was one singled out here? Because of his race? Isn’t singling someone out because of their race “racist”?

    Elder Sitati is called of God by prophecy and by the laying on of hands. That is enough for me. I sustain all the men who received priesthood callings at conference.

  17. Marc Bohn
    April 8, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    “I sustain all the men who received priesthood callings at conference.”

    Certainly, as do I. But I also celebrate the call of a person of color to the highest circles of leadership within the Church. There is nothing racist about that.

  18. CCharles
    April 11, 2009 at 3:28 am

    There is nothing racist or patronizing in discussing Sitati’s calling. It is so sigfinicant in the history of Mormonism. I’m actually surprised that there is such a deafening silence about it in the larger media (SL Trib for instance). Has it been dwarfted by the call of Elder Andersen? In my opinion, Sitati’s calling is part of a larger process by which the Church is rising to its status as a worldwide religion by building a strong “visible” leadership base in places that have previously been neglected and where the Church needed to send a clear message: note the calling of Elders Caussé (France), Teixeira (Portugal), Yoon Wan Choi (South Corea) and even that of President Uchtdorf.
    Of course, those non-Utahn and non-American brethren do not represent their individual countries, nor do the Americans for that matter; they have not been chose to please people but there is no doubt in my mind that their callings do have an impact a positive impact on the Church’s image abroad and people (mormons and non-mormons) pay attention to that. Believe me, it did make a difference for the Saints in Bordeaux (France) to hear a Seventy (Elder Caussé) in their own language and not through the filter of an interpreter.

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