THE HISTORY AND MIRACLE OF THE RE-DEDICATION OF THE LAND OF SOUTH AFRICA ON THE 2ND DECEMBER 1973
Written by Ike Swatzberg
I was converted from Judaism and baptized by Ronald Alfred Kunitz, my brother-in-law-a very worthy member of the church. He has since served a s a bishop in South Africa, at the time of writing a bishop in Tuela, Utah, U.S.A.
I married Edwina, his sister, in 1966, April 2nd, after I was baptized in March 1966. Between us we have four children who were all members of the church. The boys who I brought into the union of a previous marriage served honorable missions in RSA and Zimbabwe.
I have ad some callings in the church, one as bishop. My most precious calling, which still lives in my memory, was as a counselor to mission president, Robert P.Thorne. I also served as a counselor to presidents Lowell D. Wood, Phillip Margetts, Maurice Bateman, Richard Clarke, and Peter Mourick. Each of these brethren and their lovely companions have had a profound influence in my life.
On the 31st October 2014, a young sister at the Primary Program related the story of the dedication of the Land of South Africa by three missionaries on Lions Head in Cape Town, Cape Province in the 1800’s My mind went back to November 1973. I…decided to record the experience and miracle of the re-dedication of our choice land by our beloved Spencer w. Kimball at the mission home, Cumorah, Johannesburg, South Africa.
In a mission Presidency meeting, President Thorne announced that President Kimball was coming to the RSA. He was then the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Thorne stated that the work was slow and the missionaries were not as successful as he had hoped. He was inspired to approach President Kimball to re-dedicate the land of South Africa when he visited in December.
After a telephone call to Church headquarters, President Kimball graciously agreed. A date, the 2nd December, at 7am was established. This was just before the commencement of a conference of our one and only stake in the old Transvaal. We duly notified all the leaders and missionaries to be present at the appointed hour at Cumorah.
I must mention here that recording equipment was not as sophisticated as today. I was moved to ask and did receive permission to record the re-dedication. I set up the equipment the night before.
I woke at five am on the 2nd of December to the sound of pouring rain and the telephone. Bob Thorne said, “Isaac, it is raining cats and dogs here.” In view that the gathering was in the garden of Cumorah, with at least 150 people expected, I could sympathize with his concern and worry. The mission home was too small and to divert the members was too late. “Pray,” I said. “What do you think I have been doing?” was the reply. “Let’s continue,” I said. I telephoned C Lionel Bibb, the other counselor, and suggested he joins us in our perspective homes. I do not know what the others said, but ‘Ale Fiddler on the Roof’, I begged and pleaded for a ‘miracle’.
Edwina and I left for Johannesburg. The rain did not abate. We arrived at Cumorah. Some members had arrived drenched. We entered the home. We all milled about. Chairs were not set up. My recording equipment, still covered, stood forlornly on the veranda. The rain cascaded down.
Ten minutes to seven…the rain stopped! Sunshine broke forth through the trees. The chairs were hastily arranged. We assembled. At seven o’clock President Kimball smilingly appeared. He had a full-scrap notebook in his hand as also a yellow pencil. This still sticks in my mind. President Thorne called the meeting to order. An opening song. An invocation. President Thorne called upon President Kimball. I started my recorder, praying it would work.
In his well known, beloved and instantly recognized voice, he started. “Our Heavenly Father, Our Eternal Father, Oh God, Our Eternal Father, we come before Thee this morning…And we dedicate it in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, whom we praise and honor and worship. Amen.”
The service ended. The chairs were brought on to the veranda. In the stillness I remember a dog barking, silence. Suddenly the heavens opened, the rains cascaded down and continued all day.
I sti;l have the tape recording. After having the contents typed, I forwarded a copy to President Kimball. He advised it was correct. I then had a booklet printed. I caused a copy to be covered in a leopard skin and sent it to him as a keepsake.
The miracle did not end there, soon after this event he became the twelfth prophet of the church. In the prayer he asked his friend and Savior for the following, “Open their hearts that the government may open doors.” The missionary quota to South Africa was lifted soon there after and we are allowed to ‘bring in’ as many missionaries as we need.
“Let peace envelop this land.” The transition without bloodshed twenty-one years on. “Freedom of belief…” now entrenched in our Constitution.
“We are grateful for this great Stake, the first of many to dot the cities.” We now have eleven stakes and many wards and branches with local missionaries, serving in the three missions in the RSA.
We look forward to the day oh Father, when all the processes might converge to bring a Temple to this land. There stands our Temple, a light to the world.
I have seen God’s miracle. I have witnessed and heard a great prophet’s supplication to our Father in Heaven. I have lived to see the answer to his humble entreating of a wonderful God and His Son, who answers righteous prayer.
I testify that Joseph was a choice prophet who restored God’s church, now also in this land we love.
May we not let God’s gift to us be in vain.
In the sacred name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
The following transcription of the Re-Dedicatory prayer was provided by the recorder, Ike Swatzberg.
Re-Dedication of the land of South Africa
Dec. 3, 1973
Spencer W. Kimball
“Our Heavenly Father, our Eternal Father, O God, our Eternal Father, we come before thee this morning in deep reverence, in deep humility and in deep gratitude for all the blessings that Thou has showered upon us. We are grateful for this day. We are grateful for the privilege we have, gathering together in this beautiful spot on Thy landscape. We come to Thee today as leaders of the Stake and of the Mission in this land to re-dedicate the land, that the people may open their hearts, that the government may open doors, that the things which we teach, which are all clean and righteous and faith building and character building, that they may reach the great masses of people in this area. Let Thy great kindness conquer and subdue the unbelief of this people. Change any stony hearts there may be to hearts of flesh, and dispel the cold mists of darkness which dilute the beaming rays of the sun.”
“Father, we are grateful for the many blessings. We are grateful that we know Thee, that we know that Thou are our Father, in very deed, the Father of our spirits. We are grateful that we know that Thou art our Father, in very deed, the Father of our spirits. We are grateful that we know Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Elder brother, who is also the God of this land, and has created many things. We are grateful that the Gospel was established by Him. It is the Gospel. It was created before the world was organized. And now, it has been given to the earth at different dispensations, and again restored to us this day. We are grateful for the priesthood, which is the power that Thou hast given us to act in Thy stead, and all the gifts and blessings we are thankful for. Father, we grateful for the revelations that come from Thee to Thou servants and through them to Thy numerous handmaidens and servants in this earth, to bring knowledge and power and faith and testimony to them. We are grateful for all the opportunities and privileges, for this is a Church of the people, where everyone has some opportunity to serve and magnify and to develop himself. We are grateful for the scriptures which have come through the prophets of the past, and to show us the true way of life. We are grateful for the prophets of yesterday and the prophets of this day, from Adam to this day. We are grateful for all that has come to us in the joys and privileges, from Joseph Smith to President Harold B. Lee. We are grateful for each of the eleven prophets who have presided over this Church, and this world. We thank Thee our Father for this beautiful land, with its flowering trees and bushes and plants, with its greenery, with its soil that is deep and rich. We are grateful Father for all the flora and fauna thereof. We are grateful, our Father, for the wealth that lies under the surface of this land, for diamonds in great profusion, and gold and valuable things. The things of life are found in rich abundance; we are grateful that they provide for our people, employment, and the blessings of the land. We are grateful for warm-hearted people who live in this city and this land, and these provinces. And we are begging of Thee now, to put all in order, so that they may receive the Gospel through the missionary effort. Father, we are grateful for the seeds that have been planted in this land, the seeds of righteousness, the seeds of truth and honor and integrity. And we ask Thee to harvest; to help us harvest those seeds that have been planted.”
“Let peace envelope this land. Bless the leadership of this country to the end that Thou people might have always freedom of belief, opportunities to teach, and the chance to learn and get acquainted with the people. Touch the hearts of the magistrates, the leaders of this land, and cause them to open the doors to the righteous efforts of our people, who will proselyte and bring many to knowledge of the truth. Bless all those good people in this land, the honest in heart who have a sense of righteousness, who want to do right. Help them, Father, that they may open their hearts, and that they may be listening and ready for the Gospel, the great luxury of Christ, the Prince of Peace. Father, from the center of Thy center stakes, far away, will continue to come missionaries, who, with the local missionaries will find and teach and convert and baptize. Bless their efforts, make them fruitful. Open the doors to them, Oh Father, inspire the missionaries that they may be rich in purpose and diligent in service, that no hungry or thirsty soul may ever miss the privilege of hearing and accepting the truth. Let not their enemies prevail against them. Let not weariness of taciturn or carelessness prevent the conversion of the many people. Bless the seeds that have been planted and let them come forth in beautiful flower. Bless all the conversions, Father, and all the people who accept the Gospel, that they may live Thy commandments. Thou hast promised us, Father, the fullness of the earth and all the good things that come from the earth, for food, and raiment and houses and barns and orchards and gardens and vineyards and for all the food and the raiment, the taste and smell, for the strengthening of the body and enlivening of the soul. And for all this we are grateful.”
“Now in this 120 years in which the Gospel has been on this land, we are grateful for the progress that has been made. We are grateful for this great Stake, the Beginning and the first of many to dot the cities and the areas of this nation. And we ask Thee to cause that the people may respond. Bless all the saints in this land who will make the effort to find interested people and make connections so that they may receive the truth. Bless all the missionaries with health and strength, especially with discernment and inspiration, that they may be impressive in their proselyting, numerous thousands may be convinced, and comforted and converted, that they numbers may increase, and Wards and Stakes and Branches may dot this land, that it will grow in numbers and in power. We look forward to the day, Our father, when all the processes might converge to bring a temple to this land, wherein all the youth and the people of this land may have their endowments and the blessings that are available to righteous people. We ask Thee now to bless the Presidency of the Church and the Kingdom, and the Brethren who assist them. Bless their extended efforts, that Thy work might continue to go on and progress. This land has been dedicated before long ago, but now we rededicate it for Thy Holy purposes where the sons and daughters of Israel may gather and sing praises unto Thee. Thou, Oh Father, who didst covenant with Abraham, Thy friend, and who didst renew that covenant with Isaac, and confirm the same with Jacob with an oath that Thou wouldst remember their seed forever. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have long ago closed their eyes in death and made the grave their mansion. But their children have been dispersed among the nations of the earth, including this land.”
“May we pray now, Our Father, for this land, this beautiful land. Cause that the soil may bring forth grass and feed the flocks and the herds and let the fields smile with plenty. Let the flocks and herds multiply upon the hills and in the valleys. Let this be a beautiful land, and industrious people, and a health filled climate. Father, let Zion grow, let Stakes multiply. Let people become more righteous. We pray all these things, Our Father, and call to Thine attention the good people that have already gathered here, who have already accepted the truth, who have had the courage to set aside the world and to accept into their hearts the truths of the everlasting Gospel and all that it includes. And so we now rededicate this great land of South Africa to the preaching of the Gospel, to the conversion of the people, to the transformation of lives. And ask Thee, Our Father, to keep it in mind, to keep it in Thy sight, to never let it be forgotten by Thee. Now we bless all these good people and we dedicate it in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer whom we praise and honor and worship. Amen”