I Was an “Aladura”
AS TOLD TO “AWAKE!” CORRESPONDENT IN NIGERIA
IT WAS early one morning. The sun had not yet risen, and I was awakened by the ringing of a bell. The noise of the bell and the message being called out caught my attention. “Wake up and pray! Wake up and pray!”
Outside was a man dressed in a long, white robe with a red band around the waist. An old Bible was in his hand. He was going toward a building that was about sixteen feet square; it was his place of worship. The songs coming from this place stirred something inside me. I wanted to know more about these people, so I began to associate with them. That is how I became an Aladura.
Soon I too was roaming the streets at dawn reminding people of our basic tenet—prayer. Yet, contrary to our urgings, most people just awoke and went about their various occupations. And so we were just like timekeepers for them. Yet we would not be deterred but would lament at their worldliness and pray on their behalf.
Three months after embracing this religion strange things began to happen: I began to see visions and started to utter predictions and foretell events. Soon I became a prophet who could speak and interpret strange languages. I also became spirit possessed. Now I could feel invisible hands and a spirit operating in me and moving me to action. This brought me popularity, and in a short time everybody in Ilesha and its suburbs became acquainted with me. People would come to me to have their future foretold.
Later I moved to Lagos, where I became more prominent. I was held in honor and highly esteemed, and people would bow down and do obeisance to me. What was this religion that I had joined?
Cherubim and Seraphim Church
We were called the Aladuras. Adura is a Yoruba word meaning prayer. The prefix Ala (“one who”) is added to Adura to indicate one who prays. The name Aladura is used by the Yoruba people of western Nigeria, whereas in eastern Nigeria the movement is simply called the ‘spiritual healing church.’ Most are, however, familiar with the longer name ‘The Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim.’
The man regarded as founder of this religion was Moses Orimolade, who was born in western Nigeria. At about the time of World War I he began to preach, even though he was lame and illiterate. He claimed to see visions. His constant theme was the power of prayer. Later it was decided to form a society, and after three days of praying and fasting a woman claimed to have a vision in which she saw the letters SE. A clergyman offered an interpretation: that this meant SERAFU (Seraphim). Later the additional name KERUBU (Cherubim) was added. So the name Cherubim and Seraphim became the designation of the society.
Popularity and Spread
After I became an Aladura it became very easy for me to see what made this religion so popular. Some, like me, had been attracted by the music and singing. Others are drawn by the faith-healing claims to the revival meetings, which are usually held in public places. Those who have problems or desire to know the future or want help of some kind are told about prayer. In fact, prayers are offered for every conceivable thing: For barren women to have children, for market women to prosper in their trade, for the unemployed to obtain jobs, to call down evil upon ‘enemies,’ and so forth. Many are proud that this is an ‘indigenous’ movement and that it is not affiliated with any foreign faith-healing movement.
This religion spread rapidly. However, it is by no means a united organization. Many splinter groups were formed, so that today it is very difficult to give an accurate number of the different groups of the movement. Some groups have been able to establish branches in other West African countries, such as in Cameroon and as far away as Sierra Leone.
Finding the Bible’s Truth
From time to time there were unanswered questions in the back of my mind. But I did not let this hold me back from my career as a prophet in this religion. Then one day I met one of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. I was skeptical of what he was saying and never for a moment did I think that he would be able to show me that the Bible would answer all my questions. Yet deep inside me was a yearning to know the truth.
“No,” I told him, “I don’t want to have any of your books.” However, I did agree to meet with him regularly for Bible discussions. During three months I had one shock after another as I discovered that hellfire, the inherent immortality of the human soul, Trinity, Easter, Christmas and many other doctrines of our church were not beliefs of Jesus Christ and his disciples. They were, I found, not taught in the Bible.
Now I had many doubts in my mind concerning the Aladura belief. I met with many of the other prophets, but no satisfactory answers were given to my questions. For example, to one of them I said: “I remember reading in a magazine that one former member of our church had accused us of ‘seducing women worshipers, fleecing the innocent of their money and of all kinds of spiritual deception.’ This same man added: ‘The spirit of God does not worry people, throwing them down on the floor in paroxysms of gyrations.’ I know some of these things to be true. Now what do you have to say?”
My question was answered by vague comments, and no Bible scriptures were given. I became convinced that the Christian witnesses of Jehovah must have the truth.
Contrast in Meetings
What a surprise the first meeting I attended at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses! For twenty-two years I had been used to prayer sessions at which we would offer prayers, read some portions from the Bible, and then sing, dance, clap hands and beat drums. Then as all of this would reach a crescendo, someone would thunder out in some strange or foreign tongue. He would then go into a frenzy with body contortions. As he shouted “Halle-leeu,” all in the audience would respond “Hallelujah.” Either he would interpret his ‘tongue’ or someone else in the audience would claim to do so. Then would follow a long prayer interrupted at every phrase by a loud “Amin” (Amen) from the audience.
Now at the Kingdom Hall I saw real peace. Here is where I truly learned that God is a God of order and peace, not one of confusion. (1 Cor. 14:33) All who spoke from the platform or commented from the audience did so in our everyday speech. No one was needed to ‘interpret.’ Prayer was offered at the beginning and close of meetings and in a dignified yet honest, humble way. No one interrupted. Nobody was carried away in a frenzy by either the singing or by what was said. Yet how delightful to the ears was the singing of Kingdom songs!
As I came to know the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, I found that many had formerly been Aladuras. One experience I was told further illustrates the contrast between the Witnesses and the Aladuras.
Before meeting the Witnesses, a man and his wife were very concerned as they were not able to have any children. They decided to go to see a doctor but were persuaded at the last minute to visit an Aladura prophet. This prophet prayed and said that he saw three stars, which meant that in three months the wife would conceive. Ten pounds ($28) and a bed were given to the prophet, but after three months, no result.
More money was paid, more prayers were said and another three months elapsed. Then the prophet said that he saw in a vision the mother-in-law walking in church with her head upside down. “She is a witch,” he said, “and the one hindering your wife from conceiving.” The man was told that his wife must keep away from her mother. So for two and a half years she did not visit her mother, even though she lived only three hundred yards away! Still there was no child.
Then another prophet told them to move, so they moved to Lagos. More money was spent on getting another prophet to pray with the wife at the beach for seven days every month. After five months the frustrated couple decided that they had been foolish and had wasted their time and money for almost four years. So they went to the doctor they had wanted to see at the beginning. The result was that after three months the wife conceived and later gave birth to a daughter. It was after this that they met Jehovah’s Christian witnesses and learned the Bible’s truth. And they learned it free of charge.
I now felt as if I was coming into light after being enveloped in a dark cloud. I was now free from possession by wicked spirits, for the Witnesses keep free from every kind of spiritism, knowing it is condemned in the Bible. (Gal. 5:19-21; Deut. 18:10-12) It was not difficult for me to break from false religion and to leave the Cherubim and Seraphim church. Even though I received much ridicule from many of my former associates, I was no longer an Aladura.
I was free, and it was the Bible’s truth that had set me free. Then came one of the happiest days of my life when, in 1966, I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah. What a privilege it has been since then to serve in the ministry in a proper way as a true servant of Jehovah God!