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

Country information: French Polynesia

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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(Tahiti)

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 287,000; Members, 20,282; Stakes, 6; Wards,51; Branches, 31; Missions, 1; Districts, 3; Temples, 1; Percent LDS, 7.1, or one in 14; Pacific Area.

Located in the South Pacific midway between South America and Australia, the French Polynesia archipelago is a French overseas territory. Tahiti's population speaks French and Tahitian. Most of the French speaking Polynesians are Protestants.

On 11 May 1843, Joseph Smith called Addison Pratt to serve a mission to the Pacific Islands. Pratt was joined by Noah Rogers, Benjamin F. Grouard, and Knowlton F. Hanks. Hanks died during the voyage and the three remaining missionaries first arrived at Tubuai in the Society Islands on 30 April 1844. Pratt remained on the island of Tubuai and Rogers and Grouard continued to Tahiti, arriving on 14 May. Pratt had been to Hawaii as a young man and knew some Hawaiian words that were cognate with the Tahitian language. This helped him make an initial favorable impression with the natives. The first convert on Tubuai was Ambrose Alexander, a non-native shipbuilder, who was baptized on 15 June 1844 and became the first person to join the Church in the Pacific Islands. Ten more joined five weeks later (five Europeans and five natives) and the Tubuai Branch was organized on 28 July.

Grouard and Rogers, in the course of trying to learn Tahitian, taught the gospel to the few Europeans and Americans on the island. The first converts on the island of Tahiti were Mr. and Mrs. Seth George Lincoln, friends made during the missionaries' voyage. The two missionaries separated in October 1844 and began visiting other islands. Rogers experienced little success and returned to the United States in late 1845. Grouard visited the Tuamotu Islands and experienced some success, though at great personal sacrifice and effort. He was later joined by Pratt, and their converts numbered in the hundreds. Pratt returned to the United States in 1848, but came back to Tahiti with his family in 1850. This promising start for the Church was halted when French government restrictions led to the mission being closed in May 1852.

The work was resumed in 1892 by missionaries Joseph W. Damron and William A. Seegmiller, who found that most of the early members had fallen away. They started branches again among those who had remained stalwart, and built meetinghouses that helped speed the work. The largest branch was on Tuamotu and was headquarters for the missionaries. A language-learning program was begun in 1898, and the Tahitian Book of Mormon was finished on 7 July 1899 but was not published until 1904. After the turn of the century, there was a gradual trend toward centralization of the Church in Papeete, the main port of call for sailing vessels. In October 1906, the missionaries completed a new mission home and meeting hall. Having new headquarters did much to elevate the Church in the eyes of missionaries, members, and nonmembers alike.

Elder David O. McKay of the Quorum of the Twelve and his traveling companion, Hugh J. Cannon, visited Papeete on 11 April 1921. Elder Rufus K. Hardy of the First Council of the Seventy visited Tahiti in May-June 1939 and encouraged the calling of local Saints to be branch leaders to free the missionaries to do more work among the people and to expand their effors to the outlying islands. Tahiti was never attacked during World War II, but all foreign missionaries were recalled. Ernest C. Rossiter and his wife, Venus arrived in 1941 and presided over the Church during the war. Local members were called to act in the supervisory positions previously held by foreign elders. Foreign missionaries returned to Tahiti in June 1946. A large meetinghouse and mission home was built in Papeete and dedicated by Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve on 22 January 1950. The meetinghouse later served as the first stake center in Tahiti. That same year, the Church bought an 82-foot two-masted schooner in San Pedro, California. It arrived in Papeete on 8 April 1950. The ship was rechristened the Paraita (or the "Pratt") after the Tahitian name of Addison Pratt. The Paraita was used to transport missionaries, members, and the mission president from island to island. It was eventually sold in July 1961.

Missionary work among the French-speaking people of the islands began in 1955 and a French-speaking branch was organized on 13 October 1957. Completion of the New Zealand Temple in 1958 was a blessing for the Tahitian Saints, who proved to be faithful attenders. On 23 May 1963, in the worst-recorded sea disaster for Latter-day Saint members in the South Pacific, 15 members of the Maupiti Branch, about 160 miles northwest of Tahiti, lost their lives when the boat in which they were returning from a meetinghouse dedication sank on the Maupiti reef. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited the bereaved branch members to offer solace and comfort.

In 1964, the Church constructed an elementary school in Tahiti, and on 14 May 1972 the Tahiti Stake was organized, the first in Tahiti. The new stake consisted of all the former branches on Tahiti and Moorea. On 1-2 March 1976, Presidents Spencer W. Kimball and N. Eldon Tanner, along with nine other General Authorities, met in Papeete for an area conference. The Papeete Tahiti Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, on 27 October 1983. The Pirae Tahiti Stake, Tahiti's second stake, was created in 1982, and the Paea Tahiti Stake, its third, in 1990. In 1991, Saints in Takaroa in the Tuamotu islands observed the 100th anniversary of a meetinghouse built by early members, the oldest in the South Pacific. The imposing building took 20 years to complete.

In 1994, members celebrated the 150th anniversary of the missionaries arriving in their islands. Closer relations with other religions resulted as Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve was formally introduced to the territory's president and full cabinet. President Gaston Flosse and other top government leaders attended several events. President Gordon B. Hinckley was welcomed to French Polynesia by President Flosse on 15 October 1997.

On 11 January 2000, President Gaston Flosse, of the Territory of French Polynesia, Vice President Edward Fritche and 15 government ministers attended a dinner at the mission home in Papeete, hosted by Mission President Ralph T. Andersen and local stake and district presidents. When a new administration building of the French Polynesia presidency was inaugurated in 2000, a 400-voice Latter-day Saint regional choir, composed of members from the five stakes in Papeete, sung at the ceremonies that were part of a weeklong 16th anniversary celebration of the autonomy of the French Polynesia Territory.

Following the 11 September 2001 terrorists attacks on America, Latter-day Saints in French Polynesia joined 3,000 others, including Tahiti President Gaston Flosse, in a memorial service in Papeete for the victims. As part of the service, all American missionaries were asked to go to the podium and sing the American national anthem. Afterwards, President Flosse and other government officials went to the podium and shook hands with the missionaries, symbolically showing their love and solidarity to the American people.

A lease was granted to the Church in June 2002 for property near the University of French Polynesia campus on which to build an institute building. On 27 July 2003, a 400-voice choir of Church members of five stakes sang before a gathering of 30,000 people who gathered to welcome French President Jacques Chirac to Tahiti.

Members held a three-day celebration 8-10 October 2005 in Papeete to commemorate the 160-year anniversary of the arrival of the first missionaries. An evening program included a 500-voice choir performing musical numbers in Tahitian and French to a congregation of about 3,000, with proceedings broadcast to a larger television audience. Also part of the program, a large replica of the whaling ship Timoleon seemed to sail across the stage carrying the first three missionaries to arrive.

MARQUESAS ISLANDS

The Marquesas Islands are approximately 1,000 miles northeast of Tahiti and are among the largest island groups of French Polynesia. The islands were first visited by Elders Edgar L. Cropper and Eli Horton in 1899. They arrived on 30 May and found the inhabitants already committed to either the Roman Catholic or Protestant religions. Subsequent missionaries also had no success and the last missionaries left in July 1904. Tahitian Mission president Kendal Young attempted to establish missionary work in the Marquesas Islands in 1961, but again the missionaries were not successful.

Other missionaries were sent in the 1980s and again had no success. Rudolphe Etienne and Marie Hana Teura Tua served on the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands in 1989 and were able to teach and baptize four large families on 12 October 1991, including Robert O'Conner who became the first branch president on the islands. His wife, Ziella Vivish O'Conner, is a native Tahitian and he is a Marquesian. She had joined the Church in her youth and was the only known member when the Tuas arrived. The first meetinghouse in the Marquesas Islands was dedicated on 11 May 1998.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea, 1986; Yves R. Perrin, L'Histoire de l'Eglise Mormone en Polynesie Francaise de 1844 a 1982, 1982; Tahitian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Kathleen C. Perrin, "Link to the Past, Hope for Future," Church News, 9 February 1991; Kathleen C. Perrin, "150th Year of Church in Tahiti," Church News, 7 May 1994; John L. Hart, "LDS Note 150 Years in French Polynesia," Church News, 14 May 1994; John L. Hart, "Sesquicentennial: 'Spiritual Feast,'" Church News, 21 May 1994; John L. Hart, "Tireless Couple Influenced Many Lives, Church News, 18 February 1995; Gerry Avant, "Prophet Goes to Islands of the Pacific,"Church News, 25 October 1997; "French Polynesian President Meets with Church Leaders," Church News, 26 February 2000; "Choir Sings at Inauguration," Church News, 2 December 2000; "A Common Prayer for Peace," Church News, 27 October 2001.

Stakes —6

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

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Pacific Area

573 / *Arue Tahiti / 28 May 1995

*Papeete Tahiti

Tahiti / 14 May 1972 / Raituia Tehina Tapu

2398 / Faaa Tahiti / 21 Sep 1997 / Benajmin Tauraa Sinjoux

1747 / Paea Tahiti / 15 Apr 1990 / Jean Alexis Tefan

2054 / *Papeari Tahiti / 21 Sep 1997

Punaauia Tahiti / 28 May 1995 / Tetuanui Marama Tarati

1355 / *Papeete Tahiti

Pirae Tahiti / 20 Jun 1982 / Lysis G. Terooatea

1962a / *Raromatai Tahiti / 7 Jan 1994

Uturoa Tahiti Raiatea / 5 Dec 1993 / Michel Just Doucet

Mission — 1

(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)

(3) TAHITI PAPEETE MISSION

B.P. 93

Papeete, Tahiti

French Polynesia

GUADELOUPE

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 449,000; Members, 383; Branches, 7; District 1;Percent LDS, .09, or one in 1,172; Caribbean Area; West Indies Mission.

The Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe is a department of France.

Among the first converts in Guadeloupe was the Claire Dinane family. Dinane came into contact with the Church because of his duties as a customs officer where he met Latter-day Saints. His family soon moved, but a nucleus of members had joined the Church through contact with Dinane. The Guadeloupe Branch was organized 10 June 1982, but was discontinued several months later due to the apostasy of a member of the Church.

In June 1984, West Indies Mission President Kenneth Zabriskie sent French-speaking missionaries to Guadeloupe who had been transferred from French-speaking missions in Europe. Through their efforts the Grande-Terre Branch was organized by Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy on 24 August 1984. The branch was strengthened by Dusan Kolvic, a Yugoslavian refugee who learned of the Church in France, but was not baptized. Kolvic's work as a policeman for the French government required a transfer to Guadeloupe, and one evening he was dispatched to arrest a drunkard who was attacking two missionaries. Kolvic later joined the Church and served as branch president from 1986-1988. Because of Guadeloupe's connection to France, there have been several members from France, who have lived on the island for a few years and brought valuable experience to the Church there. Michel Menardin served as a branch president in Angouleme, France, before moving to Guadeloupe. He was called again as a branch president in 1995.

The first missionary from Guadeloupe was Claude Gamiette who served a mission in Florida from 1991-1993. He has also served as a branch president in Basse-Terre, and in 2004, was called as a counselor in the West Indies Mission presidency. On 19 April 1998, West Indies Mission President Kenneth J. Mason dedicated the first meetinghouse in Guadeloupe at Basse-Terre. Four years later, on 12 May 2002, the Basse-Terre Guadeloupe District was organized with Jean Bernard Otto as president. The district includes three branches from Guadeloupe and one from Martinique.

Sources: Kenneth L. Zabriskie, History of the West Indies Mission, [ca. 1989], Church Archives; Kenneth L. Zabriskie interview, 2003, Church Archives; West Indies Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Elden L. Wood, Autobiography, 1994, Church Archives; Hendrik Dorenbosch, Telephone conversation, 21 June 2004.

MARTINIQUE

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 433,000; Members, 186; Branches, 2; Percent LDS, .04 or one in 2,328; Caribbean Area; West Indies Mission.

The Caribbean island of Martinique is a department of France and is the northernmost of the Windward Islands.

Andre Condoris, a young man baptized in France while serving in the military, returned to his homeland on 9 August 1980 and was the first known convert from the country. In July 1983, West Indies Mission President Kenneth Zabriskie visited Andre Condoris and Joell Joseph- Agathe, who had also been baptized in France. The two members welcomed missionaries Mark Richards, Stan Jones, and David Simons on 4 May 1984, and held the first meeting on May 6. One month later Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy visited and a few months later Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy visited. The Martinique Branch was organized 10 October 1985. The work has been slow in the country partly due to opportunities for members to immigrate to France. Since 1997, Paul Colombe Caussier has been Martinique's branch president.

Sources: Kenneth L. Zabriskie, History of the West Indies Mission, [ca. 1989], Church Archives; Kenneth L. Zabriskie interview, 2003, Church Archives.

NEW CALEDONIA

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 227,000; Members, 1,883; Branches, 8; Districts, 1; Percent LDS, .83, or one in 121; Pacific Area; Fiji Suva Mission.

An overseas territory of France, New Caledonia is a group of islands in the South Pacific east of Australia. New Caledonia is the largest of the islands (about the size of New Jersey).

The first Latter-day Saints in New Caledonia were servicemen stationed there during World War II. Servicemen's groups held meetings in Noumea beginning in 1943. The last group was disbanded in 1946. There is no known Church activity in New Caledonia from 1946 until the 1950s when a few Tahitian members migrated there to work in a nickel smelter. They were organized into the Noumea Branch on 21 October 1961 with Teahumanu Manoi as president. The branch became part of the French Polynesian Mission. Manoi later became the first president of the New Caledonia District.

Missionary work was delayed for many years because of visa restrictions. On 15 July 1968, the first two missionaries arrived, Harold and Jeannine Richards, and their daughter, Jacquelina. Restrictions on additional missionaries delayed James A. Tatton and Lyle W. Parker from entering until January 1969.

Harold Richards negotiated the purchase of property for the Noumea Branch meetinghouse. It was dedicated on 24 December 1972. In June 1975, New Caledonia and the Noumea Branch were transferred to the Fiji Suva Mission. The Noumea Branch was divided on 16 May 1976 and the meetinghouse was enlarged. The Tontouta Branch was organized from the Noumea 2nd Branch on 18 June 1978.

In February 1982, the government lifted its quota on the number of missionaries of French citizenship who could serve in that country and granted permission for four non-French missionaries to enter. With more missionaries Church membership doubled by 1992. In 2001, membership was 1,571. President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Noumea on 17 June 2000 as part of a six-nation tour of Asia and the South Pacific. About 1,000 members crowded into the local meetinghouse to hear the Church leader, and many more gathered outside in tents, where the proceedings of the meeting were relayed via video feed.

In 2002, membership reached 1,631.

Sources: Servicemen's Group (398th Army Service Forces Band), Meeting minutes and attendance records, 1943-1944, Church Archives; Servicemen's Group (New Caledonia), Meeting minutes and attendance records, 1944-1946, Church Archives; R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea, 1986; Fiji Suva Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Noumea New Caledonia District, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Wilford and Ruth Smith, Our Fiji Suva Mission, 1981-1984, 1985; "We Have Been on a Long Journey," Church News, 1 July 2000.

REUNION

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 777,000; Members, 789; Districts, 1; Branches, 4;Percent LDS, .1, or one in 985; Africa Southeast Area; Madagascar Antananarivo Mission.

Reunion is a volcanic island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. Reunion became an overseas department of France in 1947. Eighty-six percent of the people are Christian, while the rest of the population are Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist. French is the official language, while Creole is widely spoken.

The first known members of the Church to live in Reunion were Alain and Danielle Chion-Hock, who were baptized in Montpellier, France, on 19 April 1969. They returned to Reunion in 1969. Shortly thereafter, he Chion-Hocks began holding sacrament meetings under the direction of the International Mission. On 3 July 1977, their daughter Catherine, became the first to be baptized on Reunion. Over time, other Latter-day Saints, mostly from France, moved to Reunion and joined the group. They subsequently made a request to the International Mission that missionaries be sent to the island.

In October 1979, missionaries Joseph and Ruth Edmunds arrived. That was followed by the organization of The St. Denis Branch on 30 December 1979, with Alain Chion-Hock as president. The same day Alain Chion-Hock's sister, Rose Thia Soui Tchong and her two sons, Richard and Jacquy, were baptized, the first convert baptisms in Reunion. On 29 April 1981, Elder Carlos E. Asay of the First Quorum of Seventy and president of the International Mission became the first General to visit the island.

During her missionary service with her husband, Edward, between 1982 and 1984, Louise P. Schmidt introduced the seminary and institute curriculum to the area.

On 11 August 1982, the Mascarene Island District was created. It was renamed the St. Denis Reunion District in 1997. In 1984, the St. Pierre Branch was organized, followed in 1985 by the organization of the St. Paul Branch.

On 20 January 1984, Christopher B. Munday, Richard Fourtina, Alain Jacky Gathercole, and Rene Leon Ernest Montulet, arrived on Reunion as the first young missionaries. Nelly Lycurgue, the first missionary called from Reunion, served in the France Paris Mission from July 1985 to January 1987. In 1986, Reunion Island became part of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, and on 1 July 1988 it became part of the Mascarene Islands Mission. Elder Marvin J. Ashton became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit the island on 23 November 1988.

On 1 July 1998, Reunion was placed in the newly created Madagascar Antananarivo Mission.

Sources: Alain Chion-Hock, "A Short History of the Beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on La Reunion, 1969-1981," Church Archives; Alain Chion-Hock, "Speech given by Alain Chion-Hock at the Sons of Utah Pioneers, Mills Chapter meeting, National Headquarters, Sons of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, Utah, 12 April 2004, (Translation by Vard Lott); Borgna Brunner, "Countries of the World, Reunion," Time Almanac 2004; Louise P. Schmidt, Conversation, 29 April 2004.