During a recent visit to Salt Lake City, Western Samoa's prime minister expressed gratitude to Church leaders and members for supplies sent to the islands in the aftermath of a hurricane earlier this year.
At a luncheon Oct. 5 hosted by President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, Prime Minister Tofilau E. Alesana spoke of food commodities and other supplies the Church sent to the Samoan islands after Hurricane Ofa hit last February. The hurricane destroyed several villages in Western Samoa and caused extensive damage on other islands in the South Pacific.The prime minister said, "My country and people received the kindness and generosity of the Church and its members in our time of need. No doubt, the Church has made valuable contributions over the years to the welfare of the Samoan people within the full spectrum of human experience."
President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, was in attendance at the luncheon. He and President Monson were joined by Elders James E. Faust, Russell M. Nelson and Richard G. Scott of the Council of the Twelve.
Also attending were Elder Glen L. Rudd of the Seventy and former president of the Pacific Area, and Elder Douglas J. Martin of the Seventy and current president of the Pacific Area and one of his counselors, Elder Benjamin B. Banks, also of the Seventy.
Wives of the General Authorities at the luncheon also attended, as did several representatives of city, county and state government offices and agencies.
Accompanying the prime minister was his wife, Pitoula Alesana. In their official party were Western Samoa's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Maiava T. Iuloi, and a legal adviser, Andrea Williams.
At the luncheon, held on the 26th floor of the Church Office Building, Mr. Alesana spoke of his long-time association with the Church. "I've seen it at work in my country, in the social and in the spiritual lives of the people," he said.
"The Church has had importance in Western Samoa. I have seen in a close, personal way many of its adherents, and have known missionaries who have maintained ties with Samoa. I have met and visited with President Spencer W. Kimball and President Monson, men who have inspired me greatly."
The prime minister commended the Church's missionaries, calling them "special adherents who have taken your values to all corners of the earth."
President Hinckley and President Monson expressed to the prime minister gratitude for the many kindnesses provided by him and his associates in the government to missionaries and members in Western Samoa.
President Monson, who conducted the luncheon proceedings, presented gifts on behalf of the Church to the prime minister and his wife. One gift was a small replica of "First Steps," a sculpture by LDS artist Dennis Smith depicting parents with a small child between them. The other gift was a crystal honey dish.
The prime minister presented to President Hinckley a large traditional kava bowl, which is used in special ceremonies. The bowl is to be placed in the Museum of Church History and Art.
The prime minister then spoke of earlier associations with President Monson, referring to his visit to Western Samoa in June 1988 in conjunction with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first missionaries to the Samoan islands. At that time, the prime minister and his wife hosted President Monson and other Church leaders at an informal dinner party.
The prime minister said that since President Monson is known as a great orator, he wished to present him a to'o to'o, a Samoan orator's staff, and a fue, a fly whisk made of fibers from pounded coconut husks. The staff and whisk are symbols of high position in Samoan culture.
The prime minister and his party arrived in Salt Lake City Oct. 3. They visited BYU Oct. 4 and attended a luncheon at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies.
At the center, about 40 students from Western Samoa extended traditional island greetings to their prime minister. The visitors toured the campus after the luncheon.
On the evening of Oct. 4, the prime minister and his party attended a cultural program and dinner hosted by the Samoan Ward, Salt Lake Sugar House Stake.
After the program at the Samoan Ward, the prime minister and his party went to Temple Square where they attended the last portion of the Tabernacle Choir's regular Thursday evening rehearsal.