Monday, September 30, 2013

Samoa in the News: "With love from the people of Samoa"

Traditional Samoan healer scraping mamala bark

Great news from the race to find an AIDS cure, stemming from the work of Mormon ethnobotanist and former missionary in Samoa, Dr. Paul Alan Cox, whose book, Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest, describes, among other things, his efforts to study traditional Samoan medicine in the hope to cure cancer.

Instead, he may have found a cure for AIDS. Read the book, you'll thank me for the recommendation.

Image credit:

Samoa in the News

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Samoa in Church History

A typical Samoan hut in a typical Samoan village

From this April 2001 talk by President James E. Faust, then serving as a counselor in the First Presidency:
Some years ago Albert Peters told of the experience he and his companion had of a man being born again. One day they went to the hut of Atiati in the village of Sasina in Samoa. There they found an unshaven, unkempt, misshapen man lying on a bed. He asked them to come in and introduce themselves. He was pleased to know they were missionaries and wanted to hear their message. They presented the first discussion, bore witness to him, and then left. As they walked away, they discussed Atiati’s condition; he had had polio 22 years before that had left him without the use of his arms or legs, so how could he ever be baptized, being so completely disabled?
When they visited their new friend the next day, they were unprepared for the change in Atiati. He was bright and clean-shaven; even his bedding had been changed. “Today,” he said, “I begin to live again, because yesterday my prayers were answered and you [came] to me. … I have waited for more than twenty years for someone to come and tell me that they have the true gospel of Christ.”
For several weeks the two missionaries taught this sincere, intelligent man the principles of the gospel, and he received a strong witness of the truth and the need for baptism. He asked them to fast with him so that he would have the strength to go down into the water and be baptized. The nearest baptismal font was eight miles away. So they carried him to their car, drove him to the chapel, and set him on a bench. Their district leader opened the service by bearing a strong testimony about the sacred ordinance of baptism. Then Elder Peters and his companion picked up Atiati and carried him to the font. As they did so, Atiati said, “Please, put me down.” They hesitated, and he said again, “Put me down.”
As they stood in some confusion, Atiati smiled and exclaimed: “This is the most important event in my life. I know without a doubt in my mind that this is the only way to eternal salvation. I will not be carried to my salvation!” So they lowered Atiati to the ground. After a huge effort, he managed to pull himself up. The man who had lain 20 years without moving was now standing. Slowly, one shaky step at a time, Atiati went down the steps and into the water, where the astonished missionary took him by the hand and baptized him. He then asked to be carried from the font to the chapel, where he was confirmed a member of the Church.
Atiati continued to progress so that he gained the ability to walk only by a cane. He told Elder Peters that he knew that he would be able to walk on the morning of his baptism. He said, “Since faith can move a stubborn mountain, I had no doubt in my mind that it would mend these limbs of mine.” 9 I believe we can say that Atiati was truly born again!
Image credit: 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Ferry route between Savaiʻi and ʻUpolu islands

From this October 2012 talk by President Boyd K. Packer, of the 12 Apostles:
In 1971, I was assigned to stake conferences in Western Samoa, including the organization of a new stake on Upolu island. After interviews we chartered a small plane to Savai‘i island to hold a stake conference there. The plane landed on a grassy field at Faala and was to return the next afternoon to take us back to Upolu island.
The day we were to return from Savai‘i, it was raining. Knowing the plane could not land on the wet field, we drove to the west end of the island, where there was a runway of sorts atop a coral break. We waited until dark, but no plane arrived. Finally, we learned by radio that there was a storm, and the plane could not take off. We radioed back that we would come by boat. Someone was to meet us at Mulifanua.
As we pulled out of port on Savai‘i, the captain of the 40-foot (12 m) boat asked the mission president if he had a flashlight. Fortunately, he did and made a present of it to the captain. We made the 13-mile (21 km) crossing to Upolu island on very rough seas. None of us realized that a ferocious tropical storm had hit the island, and we were heading straight into it.
We arrived in the harbor at Mulifanua. There was one narrow passage we were to go through along the reef. A light on the hill above the beach and a second lower light marked the narrow passage. When a boat was maneuvered so that the two lights were one above the other, the boat would be lined up properly to pass through the dangerous rocks that lined the passage.
But that night there was only one light. Two elders were waiting on the landing to meet us, but the crossing took much longer than usual. After watching for hours for signs of our boat, the elders tired and fell asleep, neglecting to turn on the second light, the lower light. As a result, the passage through the reef was not clear.
The captain maneuvered the boat as best he could toward the one upper light on shore while a crewman held the borrowed flashlight over the bow, searching for rocks ahead. We could hear the breakers crashing over the reef. When we were close enough to see them with the flashlight, the captain frantically shouted reverse and backed away to try again to locate the passage.
After many attempts, he knew it would be impossible to find the passage. All we could do was try to reach the harbor at Apia 40 miles (64 km) away. We were helpless against the ferocious power of the elements. I do not remember ever being where it was so dark.
We made no progress for the first hour, even though the engine was at full throttle. The boat would struggle up a mountainous wave and then pause in exhaustion at the top of the crest with the propellers out of the water. The vibration of the propellers would shake the boat almost to pieces before it slid down the other side.
We were lying spread-eagled on the cover of the cargo hold, holding on with our hands on one side and with our toes locked on the other to keep from being washed overboard. Brother Mark Littleford lost hold and was thrown against the low iron rail. His head was cut, but the rail kept him from being washed away.
Eventually, we moved ahead and near daylight finally pulled into the harbor at Apia. Boats were lashed to one another for safety. They were several deep at the pier. We crawled across them, trying not to disturb those sleeping on deck. We made our way to Pesega, dried our clothing, and headed for Vailuutai to organize the new stake.
I do not know who had been waiting for us at the beach at Mulifanua. I refused to let them tell me. But it is true that without that lower light, we all might have been lost.
There is in our hymnbook a very old and seldom-sung hymn that has very special meaning to me.
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
Dark the night of sin has settled;
Loud the angry billows roar.
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.
Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best. Cover. Ever.

And if you can't see the video above, here's the link.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Samoa in Church History

The cemetary at Fagaliʻi, where the Hilton children and others are buried.

From this April 1998 talk by President Thomas S. Monson, then serving as a counselor in the First Presidency:
Last week I received a faith-filled letter from Laurence M. Hilton. May I share with you the account of surviving personal tragedy with faith, nothing wavering.
In 1892, Thomas and Sarah Hilton, Laurence’s grandparents, went to Samoa, where Thomas was set apart as mission president after their arrival. They brought with them a baby daughter; two sons were born to them while they served there. Tragically, all three died in Samoa, and in 1895 the Hiltons returned from their mission childless.
David O. McKay was a friend of the family and was deeply touched by their loss. In 1921, as part of a world tour of visits to the members of the Church in many nations, Elder McKay stopped in Samoa, accompanied by Elder Hugh J. Cannon. Before leaving on his tour, he had promised the now-widowed Sister Hilton that he would personally visit the graves of her three children. I share with you the letter David O. McKay wrote to her from Samoa:
“Dear Sister Hilton:
“Just as the descending rays of the late afternoon sun touched the tops of the tall coconut trees, Wednesday, May 18th, 1921, a party of five stood with bowed heads in front of the little Fagali’i Cemetery. … We were there, as you will remember, in response to a promise I made you before I left home.
“The graves and headstones are in a good state of preservation. … I reproduce here a copy I made as I stood … outside the stone wall surrounding the spot.
“Janette Hilton
Bn: Sept. 10, 1891
Died: June 4, 1892
‘Rest, darling Jennie’
“George Emmett Hilton
Bn: Oct. 12, 1894
Died: Oct. 19, 1894
‘Peaceful be thy slumber’
“Thomas Harold Hilton
Bn: Sept. 21, 1892
Died: March 17, 1894
‘Rest on the hillside, rest’
“As I looked at those three little graves, I tried to imagine the scenes through which you passed during your young motherhood here in oldSamoa. As I did so, the little headstones became monuments not only to the little babes sleeping beneath them, but also to a mother’s faith and devotion to the eternal principles of truth and life. Your three little ones, Sister Hilton, in silence most eloquent and effective, have continued to carry on your noble missionary work begun nearly 30 years ago, and they will continue as long as there are gentle hands to care for their last earthly resting place.
By loving hands their dying eyes were closed;
By loving hands their little limbs composed;
By foreign hands their humble graves adorned;
By strangers honored, and by strangers mourned.
“Tofa Soifua,
“David O. McKay”
Photo credit:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Samoa in the News

"Beware of dogs," the Apostle Paul wisely warned.

A recent study out of New Zealand reveals that dogs in Samoa might be a problem for the country's tourist industry.

I was a missionary not a tourist and perhaps had more opportunities for run-ins with island dogs, some of which were positively harrowing. They certainly are sneaky little devils.

My experiences, however, pale in comparison to one of my mission buddies, who was viciously attacked by a dog that then attempted to drag him away by the lower leg. Yikes!

Image credits:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Fautasi boat oarsmen from the LDS Church College Pesega 

From this April 1981 talk by President Spencer W. Kimball:
On Thursday, the nineteenth, [February 1981,] we proceeded to Samoa, where we broke ground in Apia for a temple in those lovely islands. Several thousand Saints sat out in the open during a heavy tropical rainstorm during the entire service. Present for this occasion were the Chief of State of Western Samoa, the Prime Minister, and several members of Parliament.
Early the next morning we had one of the loveliest experiences of our lives, as we visited the Church School of Western Samoa. As we entered the gymnasium, the largest building on the campus, we saw seventeen hundred children sitting cross-legged on the gymnasium floor, crowded in as tightly as little sardines in a can. They ranged from small four-and five-year-old kindergarten children in the front to teenaged high-school youngsters in the back of the hall. What a beautiful, thrilling sight they were as they sang “I Am a Child of God”! They were all dressed in their school uniforms in colors of blue and gold. With their beautiful dark hair and big brown eyes, they presented a picture of youth and beauty that was breathtaking. The tears came to our eyes quickly and without shame. At the close of my remarks, I announced to the students that in honor of the occasion I was declaring a holiday for the rest of the day. Judging by the sound of the applause, I think I may have become an instant hero—at least for that day. After the brief meeting, we left the hall with the haunting strains of the Samoan farewell song, “Tofa My Faleni,” ringing in our ears and warming our hearts.

Image credit:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Mapusaga High School in American Samoa, now American Samoa Community College

From this April 1984 talk by Elder Thomas S. Monson, now serving as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Some years ago I accompanied President Hugh B. Brown on a tour of the Samoan Mission. The members and missionaries in American Samoa had advised us that a severe drought had imperiled their water supply to the point that our chapels and our school would of necessity be closed if rain did not soon fall. They asked us to unite our faith with theirs.
Signs of the drought were everywhere as we left the airport at Pago Pago and journeyed to the school at Mapasaga. The sun was shining brightly; not a cloud appeared in the azure blue sky. The members rejoiced as the meeting began. He who offered the opening prayer thanked our Heavenly Father for our safe arrival, knowing that we would somehow bring the desired rainfall. As President Brown rose to speak, the sun was soon shaded by gathering clouds. Then we heard the clap of thunder and saw the flash of lightning. The heavens opened. The rains fell. The drought ended.
Later at the airport, as we prepared for the short flight to Western Samoa, the pilot of the small plane said to the ground crew, “This is the most unusual weather pattern I have ever seen. Not a cloud is in the sky except over the Mormon school at Mapasaga. I don’t understand it!”
President Brown said to me, “Here’s your opportunity. Go help him understand.” I did so.

Image credit: