Monday, June 8, 2009

Hawaiian Church History

A little Hawaiian Church history for you. On 12 December 1850, just three years after the Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley, ten Elders landed in Honolulu after sailing for two weeks from San Francisco. They ascended a mountain and built an altar and dedicated the islands for the preaching of the gospel. They then split up into five companionships, two remained on Oahu, and the others left for Hawaii, Molokai, Kauai, and Maui.

George Q. Cannon and James Keeler made the two day crossing to Maui, now twenty minutes by jet, and met with the governor at Lahaina who gave permission to preach. Some of the missionaries grew despondent because they couldn't learn the language and left for home. But Elders Cannnon and Keeler remained for 3 1/2 years, slowly learning the language, and starting a translation of the Book of Mormon in Hawaiian, which Cannon would later finish in San Francisco. They sickened when they ate poi, and prayed that God would make it sweet to them, and had no problems after that. One of their most influential converts was Judge Jonathan Napela, who became the anchor of the small branch on Maui. In later years, his wife contracted leprosy and was consigned to the leper colony on Molokai for the rest of her life. Brother Napela joined his wife, where he, too, got leprosy and died before she did. He was the first leader of the small branch of leprosy victims who were members of the Church.

When you sit in a fine restaurant overlooking Lahaina's harbor, you can see the island of Molokai looming in the distance and you can think of the Napela's and others who lived their lives in a leper colony, and you can count your blessings. And you can think of those early missionaries who built up churches on the Islands, where today there are wards and stakes and two temples. Trivia question: What was the next temple built after the Salt Lake Temple was finished in 1893? That's right, the Hawaiian Temple at Laie [pronounced La ee A.] Thanks to the efforts of those early missionaries, and especially George Q. Cannon, who later became an Apostle and a counselor in the First Presidency.

While you're eating Hula Pie, you can also think of the time in 1864, when five brethren landed at Lahaina and transferred from their ship into a small boat which would carry them ashore, but the boat capsized in the heavy waves. Four brethren surfaced, but Lorenzo Snow was missing. They, and others who came to their rescue, found him trapped under the boat and drowned. They carried Elder Snow ashore and worked on him, to no avail. Praying for Lorenzo's life, the impression came "to place our mouth over his and make an effort to inflate his lungs, alternately blowing in and drawing out the air, imitating as far as possible the natural process of breathing. This we persevered in until we succeeded in inflating his lungs. After a little, we perceived very faint indications of returning life. These grew more and more distinct until consciousness was fully restored." And, as you know, Lorenzo Snow, who drowned in the harbor at Lahaina, would become the fifth President of the Church, and live to his 87th year.

Your Mom and I attended Church in Lahaina, and I was greatly impressed with the Priesthood brethren, big, tall, handsome Hawaiian men, all dressed in dark suits and white shirts and ties. I was asked to sing with them in a priesthood choir, right then and there in Sacrament meeting, and, man, did they sound good. I even sounded good, singing with those brethren. I sat next to the High Priest group leader in Priesthood meeting, and he asked me what I had enjoyed most about Hawaii. I thought of the Temple, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the luau, Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, the Dole pineapple plantation, burgers at Cool Cats, whale watching, the splendid beaches, the hotels, the flowers, the palm trees, and the 80 degree weather in January. The best thing was just being with Barbara, of course, but I told him that singing with the Hawaiian Saints in a chapel overlooking the harbor at Lahaina on the island of Maui on a splendid Sunday, was as good, and as Hawaiian, as it gets. He smiled.

I'll tell you, Maui makes you smile. Maui and Barbara really makes you smile.

Love to all of you, Dad.