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PROVO — Mormon missionaries from the United States entered Botswana again last month after a four-year prohibition, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said on Thursday.

Flake described how Botswana agreed to allow American missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he delivered the keynote address at BYU’s Religious Freedom Annual Review.

Botswana issued a blanket prohibition on visas for foreign missionaries in late 2013, just after the LDS Church established the Botswana/Namibia Mission. Foreign missionaries with visas and permits were allowed to complete their service, said LouJean Wilson, who served alongside her husband, Merrill Wilson, the first president of the mission, from 2013-16.

The number of Mormon missionaries in Botswana dropped from about 60 to fewer than 10, Wilson said. Until last month, the only Mormon missionaries in the country had been young Botswanan men and women.

Wilson said Botswanan government officials were protecting their people.

“They’d been taken advantage of by some religious groups,” she said. “Neither the government nor the people were hostile to us. They were loving and kind to us. We had reasons to believe this was God’s will at the time.”

Flake said extensive dialogue and diplomacy failed to change the government’s mind.

To read the full article on the Deseret News, click here