Island stamp honors LDS elder

The LDS Church is one of four churches featured in a multi-colored stamp series, "Religions of the Cook Islands," issued by the Cook Islands government.

Other denominations featured in the series are the London Missionary Society (Cook Islands Christian), Catholic, and Seventh-day Adventists.In the four-stamp series, the LDS stamp is in the lower left hand corner. A border around the series quotes the Savior's instructions to His apostles: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. 28:19-20.)

The LDS stamp features a painting of Elder Osborne J.P. Widtsoe in the foreground and a drawing of an LDS meetinghouse in the background. Elder Widtsoe and a companion, Elder Mervin Davis, arrived in Rarotonga May 23, 1899, becoming the first LDS missionaries in the Cook Islands. (Elder Widtsoe's name on the stamp is misspelled "Widstoe.")

Since the time the stamps were issued in February, they have been well received by serious collectors and by the general public. "The response to the stamp has been wonderful," said Sister Marlene Hamon, who serves in the Cook Islands with her husband, Pres. Trevor C. Hamon, a counselor in the New Zealand Auckland Mission. The Cook Islands, located in the South Pacific 1,800 miles northeast of New Zealand, is in the New Zealand Auckland Mission. "Visitors to our islands have purchased the stamps as gifts and to mail letters."

The idea for the stamps came from the minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The minister, who was chairman of the Religious Advisory Council, suggested in 1985 that a stamp be made for each of the churches of the council, with each stamp representing the first chapel and first missionary of each church. The council took the suggestion to James Little, director of the Cook Island Philatelic Bureau, who favored the idea and forwarded the suggestion to the Cook Islands government.

The stamps were issued last Feb. 19. In March, a special presentation of the stamps was made to leaders of the four churches on the island. Pres. Hamon, on the outer islands on Church business at that time, was represented at the ceremony by Sister Hamon. Representatives of the four churches met with Prime Misnister Geoffrey Henry in his office in Avarua, Rarotonga.

Stamps are available in a sheet with the four churches, or in a sheet of a specific church. Each sheet, containing 12 stamps, costs $2.25, in U.S. dollars, or $4.10 New Zealand dollars. Stamps may be ordered from: Philatelic Bureau, Post Office, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, South Pacific.