Polynesians are people of choice and cherished gifts, Pres. Monson says

The people of Polynesia are recipients of choice and cherished gifts, President Thomas S. Monson said at a "Voices of Polynesia" centennial devotional Sunday, Aug. 4 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said Polynesia "embraces the great triangle of the Pacific Islands with Hawaii on the north and includes Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji, Rarotonga and other lesser islands - all with wonderful people."As he began his address, President Monson spoke of the visit of Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Tonga, who met with the First Presidency in the Church Administration Building on Aug. 2. (Please see separate article on page 3.)

"I love the Polynesian people," President Monson declared. "Meeting with Their Majesties brought me back to my first visit to the islands over 30 years ago. I've read about Polynesia. I've dreamed about Polynesia and I've seen films about Polynesia.

"There's nothing quite like being in Polynesia," he continued, and then quoted the poet Robert Louis Stevenson as saying, `Polynesia, the sweetest people God ever placed on earth.'

"I like that tribute to Polynesia. I like the tribute that our Heavenly Father gave to Polynesia in the Book of Second Nephi in the Book of Mormon: Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea?' (2 Ne. 29:7.)Great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea.' " (2 Ne. 10:21.)

"What are God's promises? What are His blessings? What are His gifts?" President Monson asked. He then enumerated five of those gifts: the gift of faith, the gift of love, the gift of prayer, the gift of song and the gift of obedience.

Of the gift of faith, President Monson told of his first visit to the tiny village of Sauniatu in Western Samoa. After holding other meetings in the island country, he explained: "I went up to the mountain village and there I met in a little school building with children, and they were all smiling."

He said he felt impressed to personally greet each of the 247 children, but time was limited. Again he felt a strong impression and this time he made his desire known to the instructor, who displayed a broad Samoan smile. He then spoke in Samoan to the children and they beamed their approval, recounted President Monson.

He continued, "The instructor then revealed to me the reason for his and their joy. He said, `When we learned that a member of the Council of the Twelve was to visit us in far-away Samoa, I told the children if they would each one earnestly and sincerely pray and exert great faith like the Bible accounts of old, that the apostle would visit our tiny village at Sauniatu, and through their faith, he would be impressed to greet each child with a personal handclasp.

"They really had faith," said President Monson. "Thus their promise was received. The Lord communicated the message."

Speaking of the gift of love, President Monson told about 84-year-old Tahauri Hutihuti from the island of Takaroa in the Taumotu island group, whom he met in Papeete, Tahiti. As President Monson said goodbye to the Saints after a meeting, each one came by and placed a shell lei around his neck.

When Brother Hutihuti greeted the visiting apostle, he said, "I have no gift for you but the gift of love," and handed him a little shell. "I still have it," said President Monson.

"The money he made as a pearl diver," explained President Monson, "went into a special hiding place beneath his mat, and when President David O. McKay announced that there would be a temple for Polynesia in New Zealand, Hutihuti, the pearl diver, was the first in Tahiti to journey with his family to New Zealand, that they might be sealed for time and eternity.

"Every time I put to my ear that little shell that I received from Hutihuti, I hear the sound of the ocean and I think of him diving that he might retrieve the coins thrown overboard by those tourists who had so much, so that he one day would have something more precious than all of them. For families are forever when temple covenants are remembered."

Of the gift of prayer, President Monson told about Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy, who is a former mission president in Tonga. He and his wife, Jean, had a son, "who was ill nigh unto death."

"But then something happened in Nuku'alofa," related President Monson. "All of the Tongan members of the Church spread the word that the next day would be a day of fasting, a day of prayer, all in behalf of little John Enoch Groberg. And so it was, on every island, in every home, and in every heart of every member of the Church, fervent prayer and faithful fasting."

The prayer of faith had been answered, said President Monson, and the young boy has since grown to maturity and has served a mission.

Speaking of the gift of song, President Monson said, "I've never met a Polynesian who could not sing and sing beautifully. From the little children to the oldest of the elderly, they sing their hearts out in tributes unto our Heavenly Father."

As part of the devotional, several musical groups of various religious denominations performed.

Continuing to speak on the gift of song, President Monson told of a tragic drowning in New Zealand that claimed the lives of two men who were far from home, serving in the Church Educational System. Their young widows and children were overcome by grief and heartache, until they "received a sustaining influence that accompanied them and even today turns tears of sorrow to warm smiles of gratitude."

That "sustaining influence" came when a group of about 25 Maori Saints visited them at their home. "Not a word was spoken, but songs came forth from their lips and hearts," said President Monson "They sang `Nearer, My God, to Thee.' They sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."

President Monson was in New Zealand at the time. Two months ago, he was in Moroni, Utah, and the 99-year-old mother of one of the widows, whose husband was drowned at that time, came up to him and said, "Thank you for being a servant of the Lord to help bring His blessings to my sweet daughter." She expressed appreciation for the Maori singers who had brought comfort through the gift of song.

Concerning the gift of obedience, President Monson asked those attending the devotional "to be obedient to the commandments of God. As you have done so in the past, may you do so in the future.

"My heart," said President Monson as he concluded his address, "has been filled with appreciation for your great gifts."

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