5: Filming “An Impossible Meeting with MOBUTU” (Episode 2)

With this blog post, we are pleased to announce the release of the second episode in the Not by Bread Alone series, “An Impossible Meeting with Mobutu.” This episode tells the story of the miracles that began to unfold around the time President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation on the priesthood (told in part in a previously posted short film; see Blog Post 3).[1] To this initial, inspiring experience, we add the stories of John K. Carmack, Oscar W. McConkie, Jr., Judith McConkie, David M. Kennedy. They tell of how an unlikely series of events that began with a Congolese man named BULA led to a four-hour lunch meeting at Gbadolite, the remote palatial estate of MOBUTU SESE SEKO, the former ruler of the DR Congo. In that 12 February 1986 meeting, approval was granted for official recognition of the Church in that country.

We are grateful for the many miracles that made it possible for us to obtain the following firsthand accounts relating to these stories.

John K. Carmack, telling the story of how he became acquainted with BULA.[2]

John K. Carmack. Elder Carmack, as a new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1984, was called to be a counselor in the presidency of the International Mission. Now in his 94th year, he marveled at the unfolding of events as he gave his oral history: “You have to know the Lord’s hand was in all that. From my appointment to be first contact [for Africa for the International Mission, to my non-member] brother-in-law’s friendship with the lady that knew BULA—who got BULA involved with us, who [in turn] got us with MOBUTU. None of that [would have] happened without the Lord’s hand.” [3]

Judith S. McConkie and Oscar W. McConkie, Jr. saw their encounter with Reverend MBAKI in Kinshasa as a fulfillment of prophecy.[4]

Oscar W. McConkie, Jr. and Judith Stoddard McConkie. After Oscar was commissioned by President Kimball to open the way for legal recognition of the Church in the DR Congo, he and Judith made visits together to the country. Their stories of their encounter with MOBUTU and others are entertaining and inspiring. Oscar passed away at the age of 94 in 2020 and Judith at the age of 91 in 2021.

Top: BULA with prominent boxing figure Mohammed Ali; Bottom: BULA with USA Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.[5]

Antoine “Tony” MANGUNGU BULA NIATI. Beginning with his prominent role in arranging the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing event between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman, BULA became well known in international circles as a diplomat and long-time special advisor to MOBUTU. His developing friendship with Church members, including a visit to Utah in October 1985, led to the meeting with MOBUTU in the following February and the official recognition of the Church in the DR Congo by a presidential order signed on 12 April 1986. Our episode includes rare historic archival footage of BULA in public settings.[6]

Junior Banza tells of his family’s experiences while they lived near the Tata Raphaël stadium in Kinshasa from 1980 until their move to Masina in 1985.[7] This stadium is where the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing event took place in 1974.

Junior Banza. During the filming of narration at the Tata Raphaël stadium in Kinshasa, Junior told us that his family lived a five-minute walk away in the KAUKA neighborhood from 1980 to 1985 after their baptism in Switzerland and return to the DR Congo. As a boy he used to come here after school two or three times a week to watch soccer games. His uncle was the supervisor for the stadium and would let them in anytime they showed up. While they were living nearby about 1982, Dr. Ron Larson, who worked as a physician for the US Embassy in Kinshasa, was authorized to hold Sunday School at home and invited the Banzas to join their family each week.[8]

The 1952 stadium where we filmed on 27 May 2023 was originally named the Stade Roi Baudouin stadium and was later renamed the “Stade du 20 mai” in 1967 after MOBUTU’s political party was created. It is the second largest stadium in Kinshasa, capable of holding about 50,000 people. In 1996, the stadium was named “Tata Raphaël” (“tata” means father in Lingala) in honor of the Catholic Father Raphaël de la Kethule de Ryhove (1890-1956). He was known as a “creator of schools, builder of stadiums,” and founder of local sports associations.[9]

Stade Tata Raphaël. A final miracle of the filming was that we were able to film narration scenes in the stadium. In 2023, the stadium was going through major renovations. After showing a letter we had giving official government permission to film throughout the country, we were let into the construction site. However, it took us more than an hour of waiting and praying before we finally met with a friendly supervisor who allowed us free rein to do our filming.

Jeff Bradshaw sparring with Chris Miasnik in the stadium on 15 July 2019.[10]

You should know that the 1974 match of Ali and Foreman was not the last boxing event held in the stadium. Jeff and Chris served as young missionary companions in Brussels, Belgium and later served together with their wives Kathleen and Angie as couple missionaries during and after the opening of the Kinshasa Temple in 2019.

View Notes, and References

[1] See https://notbybreadalonefilm.com/en/you-can-take-your-hand-off-africa-now-a-new-short-film-about-president-kimball-david-m-kennedy-and-the-revelation-on-the-priesthood/ (English); https://notbybreadalonefilm.com/fr/tu-peux-maintenant-retirer-ta-main-de-lafrique-un-nouveau-court-metrage-sur-le-president-kimball-david-m-kennedy-et-la-revelation-sur-la-pretrise/ (French).

[2] 221104-Carmack oral history@19-54 to 20-15.png . Still image from 221104-Carmack oral history.mp4.

[3] Oral history video by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw taken at the Carmack home in Salt Lake City, UT on 4 November 2022. Video ID: IMG_016432.MOV.

[4] Still images from oral history video by Matthew K. Heiss and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw taken at the McConkie home in Salt Lake City, Utah on 8 January 2019. Video ID: 190108-McConkie Oral History Interview-BDMV 05.mov at 00:26:02 and 00:27:00.

[5]Photo IDs: Bula with Ali-image-2451243-20240308-ob_436a78_fb-img-1709895282133.jpg ; 751217-Bula and Kissinger photo scan-trim.png.

[6] The documentary film footage used in the episode appears to be no longer available on the Internet.

[7] Still image from IMG_003115.MOV (27 May 2023).

[8] Junior tells these stories in IMG_003114.MOV and IMG_003115.MOV (27 May 2023).

[9] Photo by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw on 15 July 2019. Photo ID: 190715-Stade Tata Raphael-Rumble in the Jungle stadium-DSC04103.png.

[10] 15 July 2019. For an account of this visit, including scenes of the stadium at the time and a brief history, see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, “Adventures in NDjili part 2.pdf” (28 July 2019).


Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw