As Country Manager/Managing Director of Forever Living Products (Nigeria and Benin Republic), Mr. Cornelius Tay, had a large dose of commitment to a network of thousands of FLP business owners in two countries. But he now devotes more time to his family and more especially, to God. Tay, who was recently appointed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as one of the Mission Presidents across the world, spoke with Mary Ekah on his new office and more
You were recently announced as one of 168 new Mission Presidents of the Church called to serve worldwide. How did this happen?
The announcement that was made at the beginning of this year, and published by the Deseret News, in Salt Lake City, and online came from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose responsibility it is to prayerfully consider, choose and assign new Mission Presidents to serve from time to time as part of the missionary programme of the church worldwide. What this means is that a new set of 168 Mission Presidents will continue the great missionary work of the LDS Church across the world. These people are going to be engaged in missionary activities and helping thousands of young full time missionaries from different countries around the world to carry out their missionary activities of inviting all to come unto Jesus Christ and helping families find happiness through the Gospel of Christ. The First Presidency of the Church, in the U.S. Headquarters, and the Apostles who work with them have prayerfully considered these 168 persons, and they had concluded that these are the people that God wants at this time to help push the missionary work of the Church forward in various countries. And it means that these people must now detach from their normal private activities and take this as full time assignment. As for me, it is a humbling feeling that I have been considered worthy to do this. It is something I had always prayed will come at one time or the other in my life; that I will be able to devote all my talents, my resources and my time to help in the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people wherever I am asked to go. So, for the next three years, I will be engaged in full time missionary work. I am very grateful that the opportunity is being extended to me and I also believe that it is God’s will that this is what I shall be doing.
This is purely religious work. You just retired from Forever Living Products (Nigeria/Benin Republic), where within a few years you raised the stakes, guiding the company from the 14th position in global sales to the 3rd position by 2014. Has that got anything to do with your present assignment from the church?
One of the reasons I considered this new assignment divine, and God’s will for me, is because a few years back, I had decided that I will bring my professional career in advertising and marketing management to a close in recognition of my 40 years in that line of business. I started my career when I left the University of Ibadan in 1975 and went straight to my first advertising and marketing communications appointment as Client Service Manager at ROD Publicity Limited, one of the earliest indigenous advertising companies in Nigeria. And from there, I made my modest impact in the Nigerian and international accounts advertising industry. I switched my career in 1990, when I founded CT&A Direct Marketing Limited, which enabled many companies to utilise integrated marketing communications to build brands more effectively. And by 2007, I was approached to manage one of the leading multi-level marketing companies in the world, when I took on the assignment to become Country Manager/Managing Director of Forever Living Products International Inc. for Nigeria and Benin Republic. So, by 2015 I had given 40 years of my life to this line of business. It was therefore not surprising that I had to retire in 2015 to spend more time with my family – my wife, children and grand children, and to begin writing, because I have a lot to share. So, basically, it was time for me to move on to something else. I believe that every experience that one has gained in one’s career will always be helpful. Even when I retired in 2015, I set up Cornelius Tay and Associates (the consulting arm of CT&A) to help people with marketing and management issues. Since I left Forever, I have been offering free professional marketing and management advice to companies and individuals who approached me. It is something that we call “Consult for Free” service. And anyone who wanted to know how to do business in Nigeria or promote products or services or build brands, I encouraged them to approach CT&A and through that platform we are able to offer them guidance on a pro bono basis. Now, I am leaving all of that and I am going to be working for Christ, talking to everyone about the great love God has for this world and all people. I am going to be devoting the rest of my life in the service of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. And I believe that this is what will give people everywhere the ultimate happiness that the world is searching for.
They want you to grow the church further in the country. Just like you did in FLP. It must be worth the pay?
There is no monetary benefit or reward in the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. I am not saying money is a bad thing in itself. It is the love of money that is bad. Whenever we see a shift to the love of money, when money becomes a “god” in the affairs of a people, we have seen what happens. – Greed, avarice and destruction. I am grateful that in my life I have had enough for my needs. In times of difficulties, true faith has enabled me to call upon God for the basic needs of my family. God has blessed me. I have never lacked. In my entire career, I have operated at the pinnacle of the career, whether it was in advertising or in marketing, or in management, I have operated at a very high level. I have been part of major accomplishments for companies, for brands, for people. But in all of these accomplishments, money has never been the object of all my career successes. In all the places I have been able to work, in all the assignments that I have been able to handle, in all the tasks that I have been asked to perform, in all the wonderful success stories that I have been a part of over 40 years of my career, money was not the driving factor. The driving factor was a desire to do something that is above average, which is exceptional. It is the joy of accomplishing great things that has always been the driving force for me. Money should not be the factor that should enable one to want to accomplish the best result in anything you are doing, any endeavor but selflessness, and the ability to make other people happy around you, to share, to empower people to be happy. These should be the identifiable factor. My belief is that what brings happiness, above all else, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have not been given targets to meet or promised a financial reward. I am simply asked to speak of Christ and encourage all to find happiness through His Gospel. This is the great work the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking me to engage in. This is not about money.
How then did they choose you?
Since the announcement was made, and people have seen it on the internet, people have wondered: How were you appointed? This is not like a professional appointment. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you do not seek or aspire for positions. You are called by revelation. That means that the Prophet of the Church had spoken God’s wish for me to do this work at this time. This means that the leadership of the Church has considered one worthy enough to carry out this specific assignment that is related to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is not surprising that the men and women of the Church who are called to serve, without pay, accept to serve. This is because from the very beginning, on the way to become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they understand that they would devote themselves to the Saviour, Jesus Christ and seek opportunities to draw nearer Him through service and devotion. So, you don’t have to apply to serve your Redeemer in the Church of Christ, because God knows who He will need in any given time to advance the work of the Saviour. And when you belong to a Church where its activities and programmes are driven by revelation, when the prophet of the Church and the First Presidency of the Church approach you to do something, you must know that it’s the will of God concerning you. For me, this is the essence of pure religion. That is practising the religion of Christ. It is a practical demonstration of your faith in Jesus Christ that you will leave everything at a point in your life and go do the work of God.
How do you intend to reach out to areas where the Church is not on ground in Nigeria?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doing very well in Nigeria. And personally, I believe that God has not finished His work with Nigeria yet. God has a lot more to do with this country. And one of the reasons why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so strongly planted in Nigeria and growing all over the country right now, is because the opportunity is being given for more and more Nigerians to understand the Church, to relate with the Church, and to learn about the Gospel of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, that has been restored for this present time. As more people freely accept the invitation to become more knowledgeable in the things of God and to seek the power that is available to everyone who believes in the Saviour, Jesus Christ and declare their willingness to follow Him, the more likely the fullness of the love of God people will experience in homes and communities everywhere. I have no doubt that God has not finished His work with Nigeria. God is going to unfold His work for this nation. We must engage in well doing to benefit from the blessings in store for us. That is my thinking.