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

Country information: Tuvalu

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 12,400; Members, 131; Branches, 1;Percent LDS, 1, or one in 95; Pacific Area; Fiji Suva Mission.

Tuvalu, pronounced "too-VAH-loo," is an independent constitutional monarchy in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Its nearest neighbors are the Fiji Islands, about 650 miles to the south, and Samoa, about the same distance to the southeast. Ethnic Tuvaluans are Polynesian, and account for 94 percent of the population. Most Tuvaluans are members of the Christian Church of Tuvalu (Ekalesia Kelisiano o Tuvalu).

When Joseph B. Keeler became president of the Micronesia-Guam Mission in July 1983 he found that Tuvalu was part of the mission but there was no record of any members there. While visiting Tarawa in 1983 he became acquainted with two of his missionaries, Teuai Lekasa and Tekafa Tinai, and learned that they were originally from Tuvalu. They had become acquainted with the Church and were baptized while students at Liahona High School in Tonga. They told President Keeler that there were about 25 members of the Church in Funafuti, Tuvalu's main village, all converts from either Liahona or Moroni High School in Fiji.

Keeler was not able to visit Tuvalu until 9 September 1984. He and his wife arrived unannounced, but Tavita Tapu, another Church member who had joined the Church while attending a Church school, worked at the airport and immediately recognized the man dressed in a white shirt and tie and wearing a missionary tag as probably someone from the Church. He helped the Keelers get a room at the only hotel in Funafuti, then he got on his bike and notified all the members he could find. They met with the Keelers at the hotel that same day and held a testimony meeting. President Keeler assigned Glenn and Shirley Cornwall from Murray, Utah, to begin the work of organizing a branch in Tuvalu and registering the Church with the local government. They arrived in March 1985 and held the very first sacrament meeting in their hotel room on 24 March 1985 with seven present. Two sister missionaries, Nolaise Maumau (a native of Tuvalu) and Kalou Tetapo, arrived in April, and were joined by Elders Tevasa and Popeieta Raponi in May.

The Cornwalls began the process of registering the Church (which required completion of a petition with 50 signatures). Ward and Madge Little replaced the Cornwalls on 25 August 1985 and continued with the registration process. The first Primary was organized in October for all of the non-member children attending the branch. The first baptism in Tuvalu was Tepenga Luka, who was baptized in the lagoon on 14 December 1985. Official Church recognition was received on 16 December 1985. Sixty-two members and friends of the Church had signed the petition.

Tavita Tapu, the first to be called to serve a mission from the Funaafuti Tuvalu Branch, began his mission on 12 March 1986 in the Micronesia Guam Mission. Tuvalu was transferred from the Micronesia Guam Mission to the Fiji Suva Mission on 1 July 1986 (the branch is not in any district).

By 2002, the branch had grown to 91 members.

Sources: Madge Little, Tuvalu, 1986, Church Archives; Micronesia Guam Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Fiji Suva Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives.