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

Country information: Papua New Guinea

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 6,057,000; Membership 16,664; Stakes, 1; Wards 5; Districts 7;Branches, 48; Missions, 1; percent LDS, .28, or one in 363; Pacific Area.

Located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea in the Coral Sea and spreading across hundreds of smaller islands, Papua New Guinea is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Its populations speaks Motu, Pidgin English, English, and approximately 713 other village languages. The nation's residents are 42 percent Protestant, 22 percent Roman Catholic, 34 percent indigenous faiths, and 2 percent other Christian denominations including LDS.

During World War II, a number of Latter-day Saints serving in the United States military were stationed in Papua New Guinea. At least two servicemen groups conducted regular Church services on the island from 1944-1945. At the conclusion of the war, the servicemen were transferred to other assignments and there is no record of any other organized Latter-day Saint activity in Papua New Guinea in the following three decades until after the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members.

In 1979, Australia Brisbane Mission President Keith W. Hubbard visited Papua New Guinea. He found that there were a few Papuans who had received the gospel while living outside their country along with a number of Australians who had relocated to Papua New Guinea for employment. On 10 October 1979, he organized the Port Moresby Branch with Athol W. Pike as president.

Australia Brisbane Mission President Dennis D. Flake assigned the first missionaries, L. Douglas and Eva Johnson, to work in Papua New Guinea beginning in August 1980. The following 19 October, the first Papuans to receive the gospel in their own country, Maria Biai, Komara Nana, Sarah Nana, and Rhoda Baka were baptized. Douglas L. and Nita B. Campbell succeeded the Johnsons in November 1980, and during their service, property was obtained for a missionary residence and meetinghouse. On 4 January 1981, the Lae Branch was organized with Kelvin Horsford as president.

On 29 August 1982, Robert Goisisi and Johnson Auda were set apart as the first Papuans to serve as full-time missionaries. By October 1982, membership in Papua New Guinea had reached 475. Many of those converts had heard of the Church by word of mouth and contacted the missionaries to learn more.

By mid-year 1983, nine branches had been organized: Port Moresby, Lae, Arawa, Rabaul, Korobosea, Tokarara, Girabu, Konedobu, and Mt. Hagen. In 1984, the first meetinghouse in Papua New Guinea was completed in Port Moresby.

By March 1987, there were 1,450 members. Many more contacts were made in remote villages. Residents of the Daru Village asked for missionaries, who arrived in July 1990. Just three months later, the Daru Branch had 160 members. During this short time, two full-time missionaries, Brian J. Mott and Benjamin R. Lish were involved in the conversion of approximately 100 people. By 1989 twelve Papuans were serving as full-time missionaries.

The Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission was created in February 1992 with Joseph J. Grigg as president. Elder V. Dallas Merrell of the Seventy created the Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Stake, the first stake on the island, on 21 October 1995.

A plan was implemented by the Church in 2001 to help Papuans become more self-reliant in a region of the country that suffers from high unemployment and high illiteracy. Church Humanitarian funds also helped members develop water sources and sanitation systems and provided medical supplies, textbooks, desks, and repairs to school buildings. Members also learned to grow gardens. In a country suffering an economic crisis, these efforts proved to be "remarkable and dramatic" according to Elder John M. Madsen of the Area Presidency.

In 2003, there were 12,668 members. In 2005, membership reached 14,850.

Sources: Servicemen's Group (Army Post Office 43: New Guinea), Minutes, 1944, Church Archives; Servicemen's Group (Army Post Office 322: New Guinea), Minutes, 1944-1945, Church Archives; Australia Brisbane Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Carol West, "New Guinea: Light and Truth Pouring Into Nation 10 Years Following Church's Arrival," Church News, 16 September 1989; "Literacy Opened 'Whole New World' For Her," Church News, 6 February 1993; "Faith Leads To First Papua New Guinea Stake," Church News, 11 November 1995.

Stake — 1

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

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Australia/New Zealand Area

2109 / Port Moresby / 22 Oct 1995 / Valba Rome

Papua New Guinea

Mission — 1

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

(275) PAPUA NEW GUINEA PORT MORESBY MISSION

P.O. Box 6947

Boroko, NCD.

Papua New Guinea