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

Country information: Palau (Belau)

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. Population, 20,800; Members, 423; Branch, 1; Percent LDS, 2, or one in 49; Asia North Area, Micronesia Guam Mission.

Palau is a republic in the West Pacific Ocean whose residents speak English and Palauan and are mostly Roman Catholic and Protestant.

There are no records of missionary activity in this 100-plus island group or visits by Latter-day Saints prior to World War II. The first known Latter-day Saints on Palau came as members of the armed forces during the war. There were no other Latter-day Saints on Palau until Heber Butler, a counselor in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission presidency, visited Palau on 15 October 1977 to investigate the potential for missionary work.

Full-time missionary work began when Ron Brown and Stanton Akana arrived on 5 July 1978. Their missionary activities were initially restricted by the Palauan government to the islands of Koror, Arakabesan, Malakal, and Airai. The first to be baptized in Palau were Thaem and Marina Oei and eight of their nine children on 15 September 1978. On 1 December 1978, the Sakuma family was baptized, the first native Palauans, to join. The Palau Branch, later renamed the Meyungs Branch, became part of the Micronesia Guam Mission on 1 April 1980.

Another early convert was Vincent (Ben) Roberto, who was baptized on 19 December 1980 and later served as the first native branch president. By the end of 1981, there were 59 members in Palau. The Airai Branch was created on 27 September 1987 with Bing de Leon as president. The Meyungs Branch was divided and the Koror Topside Branch was created on 18 December 1988 with Walter Mauiur as president. The Koror Central Branch was created on 12 March 1989 bringing the total to four branches with 208 members. The Koror Palau District was organized two weeks later on 26 March with Walter Mauiur as president. The district was later discontinued and the branches reported to the mission. A meetinghouse was dedicated in Meyungs on 20 May 1990. The meetinghouse was later torn down after the branch was dissolved to give greater strength to the Koror Topside Branch.

There is a fluctuating population on Palau, in and around Meyungs, comprised mostly of workers from mainland China. Missionary efforts among them began with Kenneth and Margaret Styles, a missionary couple who served in Palau from 1990 to 1991. Donglong Liu and his wife Mei Li were baptized by Kenneth Styles on 5 August 1990. Liu was the first president of the Chinese Branch. It was later discontinued when many of its members returned to China. On 11 November 1991, Rebluud Kesolei, the first Palauan missionary, was set apart to serve in the Micronesia Guam Mission. Today there is only the Koror Topside Branch in Palau.

Source: Hawaii Honolulu Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Koror Palau District, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Palau Branch, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Micronesia Guam Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Micronesia Guam Mission, A Brief History of the Micronesia-Guam Mission, 1980-1990, 1990, Church Archives; William W. Cannon, Beachheads in Micronesia, 1997.