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Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, Second Counselor in the Africa Central Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joined other religious leaders from the National Council of Religions for Peace (Conseil National des Religions pour la Paix – CNRP) and members of the DR Congo government at the “kick-off” meeting of a nation-wide marriage project on May 25, 2023 in Kinshasa, DR Congo. This marriage project is a cooperative effort between the Church, the CNRP, and the national government to develop new laws and promote practices that encourage and protect marriage throughout DR Congo.
Legal marriages (which are necessary for temple ordinances) are hindered by heavy financial burdens in this large central African country. According to tradition, the bride’s family demands a dowry, or “bride price,” from the groom and the government typically requires this to be fully paid prior to marriage. The size of this “bride price” has greatly inflated over the recent years, in many cases now amounting to thousands of dollars. In addition, some mayors have been charging exorbitant fees of several hundred dollars for marriage licenses and ceremonies.
These factors have combined to make marriage unaffordable for most Congolese, forcing them to delay marriage or cohabitate without legal recognition. The average GDP per capita in DR Congo is about $600 USD per year, or $50 per month, according to the World Bank.
To address this challenge, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the instigation of former Africa Central Area President Elder Joseph W. Sitati and the current President Elder Matthew L. Carpenter, has worked with other religious leaders in DR Congo since 2021 to encourage the Congolese government to pass laws and adopt other practices that promote marriage and lower financial barriers.
For example, as a result of the marriage project the Ministry of Gender, Women, and Children is sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal to demand an excessive dowry payment, encourage usage of a symbolic dowry (giving gifts rather than cash), and permit the partial exchange of a dowry before contracting marriage. It also would limit the amount a mayor can charge for a marriage to the equivalent of $22 in the cities and $11 in rural areas.
The Church, the CNRP, and government officials intend to educate the population about these measures in meetings and conferences that are being planned for many other cities in DR Congo, following the successful “kick-off” meeting of May 25, 2023.
At this meeting, Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, who is from Kinshasa DR Congo, shared the Church’s teachings about the importance of marriage to God’s eternal plan. “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” he proclaimed, “and the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” He added that the stability of nations is based on the strength of families.
Monsignor Donatien Nshole, President of the CNRP, strongly endorsed legal marriage as the basis of strong and stable families. He added that excessive dowry demands have been abused in this poor country, which have discouraged people from getting married legally. He welcomed proposed changes in the law to relieve this burden.
To underscore the importance of legal marriage, the CNRP invited a district mayor (“bourgmeister”) from Kinshasa to perform civil marriages for five couples. One of them was Brother and Sister Kakirage Kifulumba of Kinshasa. They expressed feelings of joy and peace, because now that their marriage is legally recognized they can be sealed for time and eternity to each other and to their children in the Kinshasa Temple. This is scheduled to take place within two weeks.
These marriages were an example of what can happen when the costs of civil marriages (including “bride price”) are greatly reduced.