One hundred and eighteen years before I arrived in Samoa, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially commissioned Joseph Dean and his wife to travel from Hawaii, where they were serving as missionaries, to Samoa to oversee the building of God's kingdom there.
In 1883, Dean and his wife landed at Aunuu, a small islet of the coast of Tutuila. There they met and were welcomed by Manoa, a Hawaiian man with an interesting story concerning his own journey to Samoa.
Sometime in the mid-1800's a scheming man by the name of Walter Gibson joined the Church in Utah. Gibson made his way to Hawaii where he convinced the saints there that he was the rightful leader of the entire Church because the leaders and saints in Salt Lake City had been destroyed. He had the saints' land deeded to him and he lived like a king at the expense of the Hawaiian faithful. Gibson's plans included the establishment of a kingdom in the Pacific so he ordained apostles and sent them out from Hawaii as missionaries.
Manoa and his traveling companion made their way to Samoa where they had limited success. Eventually Manoa's companion died, leaving Manoa alone to carry on the work by himself. Manoa settled permanently in Aunuu having established a family there. Once while at Pagopago harbor, Manoa found a newspaper which had an article about the Church and its leaders in Utah. Manoa wrote to Salt Lake City requesting that the Church leaders send additional missionaries to Samoa to assist in the work.
Manoa's letter was initially set aside because the leaders in Salt Lake City had never before sent missionaries to Samoa. Later, however, a decision was made to inaugurate the work in Samoa by sending a man from the Hawaii mission (which had since been reclaimed from Gibson, excepting the land) to act as mission president.
When Joseph Dean and his wife arrived at Aunuu Manoa was rebaptized and became an assistant to Dean. A small branch (congregation) was soon established. Thus the Lord's work officially began in Samoa. What started out to be a very small enterprise would later become one of Samoa's largest and most vibrant religious organizations marked by the tremendous faith of its native members.