Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

United States territory: American Samoa

Published: Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009

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AMERICAN SAMOA

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 65,600; Members, 14,740; Stakes, 4; Wards, 30; Branches, 6; Percent LDS, 22.5 or one in 4.5; Pacific Area, Samoa Apia Mission.

Located in the South Pacific, American Samoa is a U.S. territory. The people are Protestant, 50 percent; LDS, 22 percent; and Roman Catholic, 20 percent.

On 24 January 1863, two missionaries from Hawaii arrived in Samoa. Kimo Pelia and Samuela Manoa had been sent by an apostate leader, Walter Murray Gibson. The pair labored faithfully for nearly 20 years without the knowledge or support of the Church. The number of baptisms performed by them was never recorded but ranged between 50 and 200.

After learning of Manoa's presence in Samoa, Joseph H. Dean was set apart by Hawaiian Mission president William King to begin missionary work in Samoa. Dean arrived in Aunu'u (now part of American Samoa) with his wife, Florence, on 21 June 1888. The Deans found that Pelia had died but Manoa was still very supportive and was rebaptized and reordained by Dean on 25 June. The same day, Dean baptized a woman named Malaea, who is considered his first Samoan convert. Dean remained in Aunu'u, but made infrequent trips to the island of Tutuila, and within four months 40 others had joined the Church (mostly on Aunu'u). C. K. Kapule, a Hawaiian whom Dean had asked to join him before he left Hawaii for Samoa, arrived on 13 August 1888. They traveled to Tutuila between 27-30 August 1888. During that time Dean baptized Lealao, the first known male baptized on Tutuila.

Missionary work began in earnest on Tutuila after William O. Lee, Edward J. Wood, and Adelbert Beasley arrived in October 1888. The first branch on Tutuila was started in Pago Pago on 27 May 1893, and before the turn of the 20th century, 12 branches had been organized, despite the difficulties caused by internal political conflicts between the German and U.S. governments. In 1899, the Samoan islands were divided between Germany and the United States. Western Samoa, which consists primarily of the islands of Upolu and Savai'i, became a German colony and Eastern Samoa (American Samoa) became a U.S. territory, of which Tutuila is the primary island. A Latter-day Saint village with a school and a supporting 360 acre plantation was founded at Mapusaga on 10 May 1903. Schools were started in a number of branches on Tutuila between 1900 and 1940. The most typical meetinghouse used during this period were large Samoan fales, an oval shaped thatched roof structure supported with pillars along the outer edge, with no walls.

Missionaries were recalled from American Samoa in 1940 prior to World War II, and local members assumed leadership of the branches. Only the mission president and his wife, Wilford W. and Hannahbel Emery, remained at the mission headquarters in Pesaga, Western Samoa. At the time Church membership in all of American Samoa numbered 650, with nine branches located at Tula, Alao, Aua, Pago Pago, Nu'uuli, Tafuga, Faleniu, Amaluia, and Mapusaga. The Mapasaga school had an enrollment of 112 students.

Mission president John Q. Adams was finally able to visit Tutuila in May 1944. The Church's lease to the village and school property had expired in 1943, but he was able to purchase the property as well as renew the lease for the 360 acre plantation.

Missionaries returned in 1946 and the mission re-established a school on the Mapusaga plantation property and in 1953 negotiated to purchase the plantation land. Mapusaga High School began its first classes on 19 September 1960. In 1965, the U.S. government built a new high school in Pago Pago large enough to accommodate students attending Mapusaga High School. However, almost half the students attending Mapusaga were from Western Samoa. The government eventually allowed Western Samoan children to attend Pago Pago High School, and in 1974, the Church closed Mapusaga High School and leased it to the government as a community college. The Pago Pago Stake, the first in American Samoa, was created on 15 June 1969 with Patrick Peters as president.

In February 1976, 11 General Authorities, including Presidents Spencer W. Kimball and N. Eldon Tanner, visited American and Western Samoa, holding area conferences in Pago Pago on 15 February. The Pago Pago Samoa West Stake was created on 24 August 1980.

In 1989, Eni F. [Hunkin Jr.] Faleomavaega, former lieutenant governor of American Samoa, became a non-voting member of 101st U.S. Congress, the first Samoan Latter-day Saint member elected to this office. President Gordon B. Hinckley was welcomed by a proclamation from the governor during a visit to American Samoa on 13 October 1997, where he addressed 7,900 people, the largest crowd ever assembled in the newly opened Veteran's Memorial Stadium in Pago Pago. President Hinckley returned to American Samoa during a six-nation tour of Asia and the South Pacific in 2000 and spoke again in Veteran's Memorial Stadium to 7,000 people on 17 June. Before the meeting, he was greeted by the governor, Tauese P. Sunia, and other political dignitaries.

In 2002, membership reached 13,406.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, "Samoa," Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1941; R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea, 1986; R. Carl Harris, Samoa Apia Mission History, 1888-1983, 1983; Jennie and John Hart, R. Carl Harris, The Expanded Samoan Mission History, 1888-1900, v. 1, 1988; Excerpts taken from the report of the Governor, American Samoa, Church schools in Samoa, 1940, Church Archives; J. M. Heslop, "Conferences Begin in the South Pacific," Church News, 21 February 1976; Gerry Avant, "Prophet Goes to Islands of Pacific," Church News, 25 October 1997; Samoan Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives.

Stakes — 4

(Listed alphabetically as of Oct. 1, 2009.)

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Pacific Area

488 Pago Pago Samoa 15 Jun 1969 Patrick Peters

1972 Pago Pago Samoa Central 6 Feb 1994 Beaver T. Ho Ching

2324 Pago Pago Samoa Mapusaga 9 Mar 1997 Eugene Reid

1169 Pago Pago Samoa West 24 Aug 1980 William T. Geleai