David W. Eka (1945– )

David W. Eka
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David William Eka, engineer, elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), first president of the Aba Nigeria stake, was born in Etinan, Nigeria, on May 20, 1945. His father, William Udo, was a carpenter, and his mother, Lucy Eduok Inyang Eka, was a homemaker. William and Lucy had eight children; David was the eldest child.

Eka was born in a Protestant mission in Etinan and grew up learning carpentry from his father. His participation with his father’s carpentry shop helped meet the family’s economic needs. When the Nigerian Civil War (also known as the Biafran War, 1967–1970) broke out, Eka volunteered for military service. During an engagement, Eka and other soldiers were in a bunker. He states that a divine voice instructed him to leave the bunker. He attempted to persuade his fellow soldiers to leave yet they refused. Just as Eka cleared the bunker, a bomb exploded and killed those who remained inside. From then on, Eka decided to dedicate his life to serve God.

After the war, Eka married Ekaete Dennis Akpan in 1975 and also obtained a job with Mobil Oil. He decided to study at Teesside Polytechnic (now University) in northern England to increase his chances for promotions at Mobil. He studied engineering while Ekaete studied business management. While there, he received a letter from an uncle living in California, informing Eka that he had converted to the LDS faith. Eka returned to Nigeria to finish his National Youth Service commitment in 1979 by accompanying LDS missionaries in Nigeria. He did more than follow the missionaries; he helped translate the messages of missionaries and also edited a translation of the Book of Mormon into the Efik language. He was baptized in the LDS faith on September 8, 1979.

After Nigeria gained independence from Great Britain in 1960, government leaders were wary of potential outside influences such as proselytizing by non-Nigerian Christians. LDS President David O. McKay was also cautious in his approach to proselytizing in Nigeria. McKay permitted baptism of Nigerians in the 1960s but maintained the ban on blacks in the priesthood. McKay worried about upsetting Mormons in apartheid South Africa, but he also disapproved of black-white couples. Eventually, McKay sought to openly proselytize in Nigeria, but he informed government leaders of the priesthood ban. In 1965 the Nigerian government denied Mormon visas, in effect, forbidding Mormon missions (but not the LDS faith) in Nigeria. One year after the LDS Church lifted its ban on black priests in 1978, over one thousand seven hundred Nigerians were Mormon and in 1980, the LDS Church formally established its West Africa Mission.

By the time Eka returned to Nigeria in 1979, the ban on blacks in the LDS priesthood already had been removed. His wife was still in England, finishing her studies, and when she returned to Nigeria, she also converted to the LDS faith. In 1988 the first stake in Western Africa was created in Aba, Nigeria. Over one thousand Nigerian Mormons were present to sustain (mutually dedicate and pledge of support to) the Aba stake, and Eka was named its first president. Since holding the presidency, Eka has held numerous other church positions, including an Area Authority Seventy of Africa, an administrative position within the LDS Church. He and his wife have six children.