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”
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