Early beginnings

A five-day celebration here Oct. 7-11 - titled "Pioneers in the Pacific" - honored the accomplishments of the early Church members who helped establish the gospel on several Pacific islands. Following is a summary of the early beginnings of the Church in the Pacific.

1843 - French Polynesia (Tahiti)

In May 1843, Joseph Smith called Noah Rogers, Addison Pratt, Benjamin F. Grouard and Knowlton F. Hanks to preach the gospel in the Pacific. Elder Hanks died before the missionaries arrived on Tubuai in the Society Islands on April 30, 1844. While Pres. Rogers and Elder Grouard went on to Tahiti, Elder Pratt remained on Tubuai where he baptized Ambrose Alexander on June 16, 1844, and Nabota, Telii, his wife, Pauma, and Hamoe on July 22. A week later, Elder Pratt organized the Tubuai Branch. Today, 14,000 members live in five stakes in the area.

1846 - Hawaii

The gospel was first preached in Hawaii in June 1846 by Samuel Brannan. On Dec. 13, 1850, Pres. Hiram Clark and nine missionaries dedicated the Sandwich Islands for the preaching of the gospel. Pres. Clark baptized the first Hawaiian on Feb. 10, 1851, and on Aug. 6, 1851, Elder George Q. Cannon organized the first branch. Today, a temple is located in Hawaii, which has one mission, 13 stakes, and 55,000 members.

1854 - New Zealand

Pres. Augustus Farnham, Elder William Cooke and Thomas Holder arrived in New Zealand on Oct. 27, 1854. William Cooke baptized 10 individuals and organized a branch in Karori. In the 1880s the Church made inroads into the Maori population as several Maori prophecies concerning the true church of Jesus Christ were fulfilled by the missionaries. Today, there is a temple in New Zealand, two missions, 20 stakes, 5 districts and 82,000 members.

1863 - Samoa

Elders Kimo Pelio and Samuela Manoa arrived in Samoa in January 1863. Though sent by an unauthorized leader in Hawaii, these elders baptized 60 to 70 people before Elder Pelio's death on June 3, 1876. Elder Manoa served for many years until Elder Joseph Dean officially opened the Samoa Mission in 1888. Today, in Western Samoa there are 15 stakes, one district, one mission, 54,000 members, and a temple. In American Samoa there are 12,000 members in three stakes.

1891 - Tonga

Elders Brigham Smoot and Alva J. Butler arrived in

Tonga on July 15, 1891. Just under a year later, the first meetinghouse, located at Mu'a, was dedicated on May 15, 1892. The work struggled and the Tongan Conference closed in 1897. On June 13, 1907, Elders William O. Facer and Heber J. McKay reopened Tonga. Today, there is a temple, 40,000 members, one district, 13 stakes, and one mission in Tonga.

1899 - Cook Islands (Rarotonga)

Elder Sidney Hanks first preached the gospel on Tongareva in 1857. The first official missionaries entered the Cook Islands in 1899, but left three years later. On May 12, 1942, Elder Fritz Bunge Kruger and his family baptized the first converts, the Samuel Glassie family. Today, 900 members, in one district, live in the Cook Islands.

1952 - Niue

On Jan. 22, 1952, Fritz Bunge Kruger and his family were sent to Niue where they spread the gospel through holding Sunday School services. In May, Elder Robert M. Goodman and Wallace L. Berrett arrived to proselyte and Elder Thayne Christiansen came a month later. On Aug. 14, 1952, they baptized 26 people. Today, there is one district and 300 members in Niue.

1954 - Fiji

The Church did not officially begin work in Fiji until May 1954. On Sept. 5 of this same year the Suva Branch was organized. President David O. McKay visited Fiji in 1955 and encouraged construction of a large, impressive chapel - which was dedicated in 1958. Today, there are 11,000 members, two stakes, two districts, and a mission in Fiji.

1955 - Guam

The United States military personnel brought the gospel to the Chamorro people on Guam after World War II. President Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated Guam for the preaching of the gospel on Aug. 25, 1955. In January 1957, the first full-time missionaries were called to preach on the island. Today, there are 1,400 members in one mission and one district in Guam.

1961 - New Caledonia

Tahitian migrant workers took the gospel to New Caledonia in the 1950s. In 1961 the Noumea Branch was organized. Seven years later, New Caledonia was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel, and the first missionaries arrived. Today there are 1,000 members and one district in New Caledonia.

1973 - Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides)

Several Tongan families moved to Port Vila in the 1950s. The Church was not officially recognized until July 15, 1973, when Pres. Ebbie L. Davis of the Fiji Mission organized the Port Vila Branch. Two years later, Elders Mokofisi and Malohifo'ou became the first missionaries in the country. Today, there are 200 members and one district in Vanuatu.

1975 - Kiribati (formerly Gilbert Islands)

The gospel was introduced to Kiribati in 1884 when 40 islanders, who were baptized in August 1883 at Koloa, Kauai, returned home.

Almost a century later, the gospel was reintroduced to Kiribati in the mid-1970s by some 50 students who attended school in Tonga. On Oct. 19, 1975, six elders arrived in Tarawa to preach the gospel. Today, there are 5,100 members in one district in Kiribati.

1975 - The Republic of the Northern Mariana Islands

American soldiers took control of Saipan in 1944. Among them was L. Tom Perry, now of the Quorum of the Twelve, and other LDS soldiers who built a meetinghouse. In 1975, Pres. Robert E. Crandall of the Hawaii Mission assigned Elders Callis Carlton and Jeff Frame to Saipan. They established the gospel on the island. Today there are 500 members here.

1977 - The Republic of the Marshall Islands

Elders William Wardel and Stephen Cooper arrived here in February 1977. They baptized Misao and Mirasko Lokeijak on April 23, 1977. Today, 2,900 members live in two districts.

1977 - Federated States of Micronesia

Politically joined, the island groups of Pohnpei, Yap, Chuuk and Kosrae were introduced to the gospel at different times. In March 1977 in Pohnpei, Elders George L. Mortensen and Aldric Porter baptized several members of the Ohry family and Seisero Salmon. The Church was officially organized in Yap in July 1977 by Charles Keliikipi. That same month Elders Don Baldwin and Torlic Tima, a Marshallese, arrived on Moen in Chuuk. Kosrae was dedicated on March 27, 1985. Today, 3,000 members in five districts, live in Micronesia.

1978 - The Republic of Belau

On July 8, 1978, the islands of Belau were dedicated for the preaching of the gospel. The first converts on Belau were Brother and Sister Ronnie Oei and their eight children who were baptized on Sept. 15, 1978. Later, the Sakumas, the first Belauans, were baptized. Today there are 400 members in Belau.

1979 - Papua New Guinea

During World War II, Allied servicemen held the first LDS Church meetings in New Guinea. Missionaries occasionally visited the country in the 1960s and 1970s. Papua New Guinea (PNG) gained its independence in 1975. The Port Moresby Branch was organized in 1979. During the 1980s, PNG was served by the Australia Brisbane Mission. The Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission was organized in 1992 and the first stake was organized in Port Moresby in 1995. Today, there are more than 5,000 members in the "Land of the Unexpected."

1980 - Easter Island / Rapa Nui

Dante Saguinetti and his family moved to Easter Island in 1980. Under the direction of Pres. Gerald J. Day of the Vina Del Mar Mission, Brother Saguinetti was called as the first Branch President. In 1986, Luis Gonzalez and Mara, his wife, who is a native of Easter Island, were the first converts of the Church on the island.

1994 - Solomon Islands

Though earlier attempts had been made, missionary work only became a permanent fixture in the Solomon Islands in the 1990s. Under the auspices of the Papua New Guinea Mission, missionaries have served continuously in Honiara, Guadalcanal, since 1994. The Honiara Branch, the only branch in the country, numbers mroe than 100 today.

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