Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter
HAVING in this work given a detailed account of the opening and progress of the Society Islands Mission under Addison Pratt and others, we now devote a chapter to its reopening under Elders Wandell and Rodger, missionaries to Australia, representing the Reorganization. The peculiar manner in which they were thrown among this people, and their thrilling experiences while there will, we are sure, be read with much interest.
The fact that a people reputed to be naturally loose in morals, and especially so in regard to the sexual relation, did in open conference reject polygamy when presented to them by their missionaries, is a splendid testimony to the purifying tendencies of the gospel as taught by Joseph Smith the Seer and his colleagues, and stamps as false the theory advanced by some that the natural tendency of the doctrine taught by Joseph Smith was towards impurity. Their example ought also to serve as a wholesome rebuke to those who adopted this heretical doctrine.
On November 6, 1873, Elders C. W. Wandell and Glaud Rodger sailed from San Francisco, California, for Sydney, Australia. They were not again heard from until the receipt of the following letter which sufficiently explains itself:
PAPEETE, Tahiti, Society Islands, December 22,1873.
Brother Joseph: In consequence of our vessel springing a leak at sea, we put into this port for repairs. We arrived here on the 13th inst. We expect to sail tomorrow. Knowing that your father had established a
mission here in about 1842, but that in consequence of the influence of the Romish clergy with the French government, our missionaries were obliged to leave in the year 1855, and that the mission had been totally neglected since that time, we thought to make inquiry into its condition. After several days time we found some brethren; and since that time, we have been constantly at work. We were the first white Latter Day Saint missionaries they had seen for eighteen years, and their joy knew no bounds at meeting us. The Saints of this part of this island are mainly located at a place they call "Zion," about four miles from this place. It has been one continual meeting with them since we became known to them. At our first regular discourse, after we had concluded (to our surprise), an elder arose and announced that we were "Josephites!" Yet he said it kindly, and, after some consultation among them-selves, they all advanced and gave us the right hand of fellowship. From this moment they put themselves wholly under our teachings. Providentially, elders were here from Toboni, Paumotu, and Chain Island, who at once received us as the true representatives of the gospel as they had originally received it from the teachings of Elder Addison Pratt.
Bro. Pratt had never taught them polygamy, and after Brigham Young had published that doctrine, they by some means became acquainted with it, and after taking counsel upon it in open conference, they rejected it. They have the Bible and Protestant Mission Hymn-book-they can all read and write-but have no works published by the church; yet in looking over the presiding elder's Bible, Bro. Rodger found that from Genesis to Revelation all the strong passages to prove the doctrines of the church were carefully marked and well worn.
The condition in which we find these Saints reflects the highest credit upon the late Bro. A. Pratt. First, they understand clearly the doctrines of the church; second, their morals are unexceptionable; and in this they are in very great contrast with the other natives generally. As an example, they disfellowship adulterous acts, and exhibit a modest behavior that would be considered perfect anywhere. The family relation is fully established. But of this, more at another time. Bro. David Brown, the leading elder at "Tiona" (Zion), told me that the reason why he had gathered the Saints from Papeete to that place was to keep them from a constant contact with the wickedness of that place, and to keep their children out of the Popish schools.
They have not been without their troubles; when the French government took possession of these islands, the Jesuits immediately commenced their work of propagandism. The inhabitants of Chain Island being nearly all Latter Day Saints, refused to attend their meetings; military force was used, and they were driven to church with the bayonet! Six brethren resisted even unto death! In fact, "Mormonism" has here stood a thorough test for eighteen long years, during which time no white man's voice was permitted to cheer it on its troubled course. Not only was force used, but persuasion also. "See," said their enemies, "the
Catholics and Protestants have white teachers and priests; they have plenty of money to build and adorn, and the Protestants have plenty of books, join us and you will have plenty of friends. But so long as you cling to 'Mormonism,' you will be disliked by everybody. The Book of Mormon is a lie anyhow." But in defiance of all opposing influences they have kept up their organization, holding regular quarterly conferences as (they told us) Bro. Pratt had instructed them to do. At Tiona they have a church with a bell to call the people together-they are about starting a school-they have meetings three times every Sabbath; they partake of the Lord's supper the first Sunday in every month, and what is more than all, they show that genuine Latter Day Saint spirit, which more than anything else distinguishes Mormons from other people. That we should feel a very great interest in these simple, true-hearted Saints, is a matter of course. On Saturday evening last, the Saints at Tiona, elders and people, applied for rebaptism, etc. This was altogether voluntary on their part, for we have as yet counseled none of them so to do; so on yesterday we baptized and confirmed fifty-one persons, made some ordinations, and sent the Chain Island and Toboni brethren home as swift messengers of glad tidings. Today we had to part with these Saints, who, when the parting time came, clung to us like a child to his parent; they threw their arms around us, kissed us, and wept like children. We have promised to consider them within our jurisdiction until you send them an elder, which latter they ask you to do without any unnecessary delay. Papeete is quite a port of call, and the opportunities at Sydney to send them letters, etc., will not be unfrequent. In all the islands there are perhaps five hundred Latter Day Saints, besides their children. They have promised to let us know their exact number so soon as may be. They have loaded us down with fruit; we are taking with us, by their bounty, bananas, mangoes, oranges, pineapples, and cocoanuts [coconuts]. Of course your position has been properly set before them; besides we left copies of our series of tracts, which they will have translated into Tahitian, and become familiar within a month. We also baptized one Englishman and one Frenchman. The Englishman is to be the schoolteacher, and interpreter, etc. We promised to ask you to write to them. We hope you will do so without delay. They think of you as the great latter-day missionary to whom "Atua" (God) speaks good words as he did to your father. We must now bring our very long letter to a close. Remember us kindly to all, and pray for us.
Yours in the gospel,
C. W. WANDELL.
-The Saints' Herald, vol. 21, pp. 145, 146.
Soon after followed a detailed account, which we give in their own words:
On the 6th of November, 1873, Elder Glaud Rodger and myself sailed from San Francisco on a mission to Australasia. Our vessel was the
barque Domingo; our business-to preach the gospel. We cast off from the pier at Stuart Street wharf at three o'clock in the afternoon, and at sunset were outside the Golden Gate and upon the bosom of the broad Pacific. After dark, and when the coast became shut out from our view, we still kept watch on deck until the government light on North Point disappeared below the horizon, when we bid our final good-bye to America, and all that it held dear to us, and went below for the night. On the next morning nothing was to be seen from the deck of our vessel but the vast expanse of troubled water beneath, and the sky above, limited only by an uninterrupted horizon; but the light blue of the water showed that we were still "on soundings;" and the great number of seabirds reminded us that land was at no great distance.
Bro. Rodger was suffering from seasickness; but in a couple of weeks he got his "sea-legs" on, and then he was "all right." . . .
On the second morning the deep ultramarine blue of the water showed that we were "off soundings;" that we were fully upon the bosom of the great deep. Here was the time for a multitude of thoughts to unbidden come, compelling us to a rigid examination of ourselves; showing the sacredness of the trust confided to us, of carrying to a remote portion of the earth the pure gospel of the Son of God, and the message of love that we bear to the misled sons and daughters of the covenant. We can only pray for strength and opportunity; for wisdom, integrity and industry in the pursuit of our calling, leaving results in the hands of Him who hath called us.
On the fifth day out we were called to witness a burial at sea. One of our passengers had suddenly died. . . .
The weather continuing fine, and the wind fair, we made on the average about one hundred sixty miles per day. We watched the North Star in its continual change of altitude, until in latitude twelve degrees north we lost sight of it altogether. I spent a great deal of time in a critical examination of the "Lute of Zion;" "Fresh Laurels;" and the "Sabbath-school (double) Bell;" making selections of the choicest gems for use in Australia. It was a pleasant occupation, and I found myself well repaid for my trouble.
On the l9th of November, in latitude nineteen degrees, twenty-five minutes north, longitude one hundred thirty-five degrees, fifty minutes west, at about nine o'clock in the forenoon, I saw a novel sight; it was nothing less than a sperm whale in the air! He leaped from the water directly across my line of vision; and, during the five or six seconds he was in the upper elements, he must have gone his entire length (about sixty feet). As he struck the water the ocean all around him was lashed into foam. It was grand! Besides him we had seen a large finback, who crossed our bow at a quarter of a mile distant; and a grayback, who played around the ship for perhaps a quarter of an hour. Besides these, and a sperm whale, feeding near the Australian coast, we saw no whales
upon our passage. We saw an occasional shoal of porpoises, and many flying fish.
We are now (December 26) within the tropics where the sun, nearly vertical at meridian, has a terrible power. And such magnificent sunrises and sunsets. Sometimes the heavens all aglow with mimic fire and gold; too bright for the naked eye to gaze at steadfastly (we have a piece of stained window-glass which we can use when necessary), while a lower range of clouds, black with moisture, stands in bold, and oftentimes fantastic relief, in the foreground. . . .
Early on the morning of the third of December we crossed the equator in longitude one hundred forty-five degrees west from Greenwich. The wind was steady and fresh from the southeast. This was an exciting day. We parted the port after-fore shroud; and also a leak in the ship's bows, which had been growing worse for several days, became so bad that we had to shorten sail to keep the ship from plunging. The captain went below to examine. He found the apron split, and a stream of water coming through. The starboard knighthead was also fractured, and it leaked badly when the ship plunged the hawse-pipes under. He stuffed a lot of oakum in the apron, and nailed a piece of board over it to keep it there. This lessened the leak, but the captain and ship's officers determined that it was unsafe to attempt to conclude the passage in her present condition; so we bore up for Tahiti, one of the Society Islands, a little over one thousand miles distant.
THE SOUTH SEA ISLANDS.
From the Pacific Directory we find that the island of Tahiti was first discovered by Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, in 1606. Like many other early Spanish discoveries in the Pacific, this was unknown or unnoticed by the rest of the world, so that when Captain Wallis in the Dolphin discovered it, June 19, 1767, it was supposed to be an original discovery. He took possession of it in the name of George III, by hoisting the British flag. In 1769 Lieutenant James Cook, of the British navy, arrived here for the purpose of observing a transit of Venus across the sun's disk; and while here he surveyed the coast of Tahiti, and discovered several of the northwestern group, to which he gave the name of Society Islands.
In 1774 Don Domingo Bonecheo was, with two Francisscan [Franciscan] missionaries, sent by the Spanish government to establish a settlement. Captain Bonecheo died, and the scheme of settlement failed. Several years now elapsed without any intercourse between Europe and Tahiti, but finally, in 1788, the British ship Bounty, Lieutenant Bligh, arrived at Matavia Bay (Tahiti), for the purpose of transporting breadfruit-trees to the West Indies. She remained here five months, during which time many of the crew formed connections with the native women. After the Bounty had set sail for the West Indies the crew mutinied, and, sending the officers of the ship adrift, they returned to Tahiti. Fourteen mutineers remained
at Tahiti. The others took their wives in the ship and sailed for Pitcairn Island (at that time unknown to Europeans), where they remained undiscovered for many years.
It was in February, 1808, that Captain Folger touched at Pitcairn Island, supposing it to be uninhabited. Imagine his surprise on seeing a canoe come from the shore containing two fine-looking, half-caste natives who spoke the English language as though it was their native tongue. These were the offspring of the mutineers and their Tahitian wives. It appears that the Bounty was well supplied with Bibles and other books, and that the mutineers had determined to bring up their children virtuously and religiously. They succeeded in creating a community, and it attracted a great deal of attention in Europe. "The happiness, simplicity, and excellence of this little isolated community were almost unequalled [unequaled]."
When discovered, three of the mutineers were still living. The British government did not arrest them, but, rather, proceeded to take especial care of their offspring. They were now getting too numerous for the capabilities of the island to support them, and the government in its generosity gave them, as a present, Norfolk Island. This island is situated midway between New Caledonia and New Zealand, and forms a part of the British colony of New South Wales. It is a beautiful island, and early visitors speak strongly in its praise. Says an officer on the spot, in 1847: "It is by nature a paradise, endowed with the choicest gifts of climate, scenery, and vegetable productions."
In 1798 the government established a civil colony upon this island. Subsequently it established a penal colony for doubly convicted, and the more important felons from Sydney. This convict establishment was broken up on May 7, 1855, and on the 8th of June, 1856, the offspring of the mutineers of the Bounty, amounting to one hundred ninety-four persons, were landed here without accident.
"Everything belonging to the Bounty was brought with them, and the island, with its buildings, two thousand sheep, three hundred horses, besides pigs, poultry, etc., were given them as a free and handsome gift from the British government. The island was brought into a high state of cultivation by the convict labor, and its roads, buildings, and gardens were in admirable order." Such is the history of these English-speaking half-castes who are now located within the bounds of the Australian Mission, and who may yet be visited by us.
Returning from this digression we will state, upon the authority already referred to, that the voyages made to Tahiti by the order of George III, excited wonderful attention in England, and one result of them was the formation of a missionary society in London, which in 1796 fitted out a ship to bring missionaries and the Bible into these newly discovered lands
"Perhaps the very success of these missions led to their downfall, for
such was their harsh and intolerant policy, that two Catholic priests, with a third person, a carpenter, were forcibly deported from Tahiti."
This aggression drew down the vengeance of the French government, and in 1842 (about six months before Bro. Addison Pratt sailed from New Bedford for the South Seas), Admiral Thonars arrived and obliged Queen Pomare to sign a treaty which allowed liberty to all French subjects. After various controversies, backed by the presence of a powerful fleet, Captain Brouat, early in January, 1844, landed a strong force, hauled down Queen Pomare's standard, and hoisted the French flag. Since that time the Society group have been nominally under the French protectorate.
"In the abstract, however, French protection is but a name, for their power is absolute, and in a few years there will be no evidence of the years of labor and expense bestowed in rendering this beautiful island and its people civilized, in an English sense.
"The protectors, with their military system, have proven to be bad colonizers; they have neither developed the few resources of the islands, nor greatly changed the character of the natives.
"It may be reckoned that by far the larger number of the inhabitants of Tahiti and Eimeo profess Protestantism, whereas the number of native Catholics does not exceed one hundred in both islands."
THE MISSION TO THE SOUTH SEAS.
In the spring of 1843, Joseph the Martyr appointed Elders Noah Rogers, Addison Pratt, Benj. F Grouard, and K. Hanks, on a mission to the South Sea Islands. These brethren left Nauvoo on the first of June of that year, and embarked at New Bedford on the 9th of the ensuing October. Bro. Hanks was buried at sea on the 3d of November. On the 30th of April, 1844, they made the island of Touboni (the principal one of the Austral group), and there left Bro. Pratt. They then sailed for Matavia Bay, Tahiti, arriving there on the 14th of the same month.1 Bro. Pratt had great success at Touboni; and Elders Rogers and Grouard succeeded in building up a branch of the church at Papeete, the capital town of Tahiti.
On the 3d of July, 1845, Elder Roger sailed for America, and some time after that, Bro. Grouard left the Papeete Branch of the church in charge of Bro. Seth Lincoln [father of Elder G. S. Lincoln, now of San Francisco], and went to Anaa (pronounced, Ah-na-ah), or Chain Island. He was there joined by Bro. Pratt. In a short time they baptized nearly all the inhabitants on the island.
The Pacific Directory unwittingly pays these brethren a very handsome compliment, which we here insert: "A great change has been brought about in the character of these islanders within the last forty years, during which the Tahitian Protestant missionaries have been established at Anaa. . . . They have imbibed better tastes, and the Christian influence has made them more peaceful. . . . Since the establishment of the
1This is evidently an error and should read May 14.
French protectorate over these (Chain) islands, a Catholic mission was established on Anaa, at the village of Tuuhoza, where there are some stone chapels; but notwithstanding the zeal of these propagandists, they have not made much progress till recently."
Brn. Pratt and Grouard labored here, and at Tahiti and Touboni for eight years; during which time they carefully and fully taught their converts the doctrine and the order of the church, and impressed upon them a very high and pure code of morals, which they have not forgotten to this day. Finally, the Papists, finding that they could make no headway so long as the American elders stood between their flocks and them, they influenced the government to order them away.
At this time there were between fifteen hundred and two thousand Saints, distributed over some twenty islands. A persecution now commenced, a few particulars of which we here give. First: The protectorate compelled the white elders to sign a paper in which they obligated themselves to receive no support whatever from the natives, and in which they were otherwise oppressed. Next, a charge of sedition was preferred. Then their meetings were inhibited. Then all religious exercises, even to the family altar. Of course obedience to such orders had to be enforced.
At the time that Bro. Pratt left (May 15,1852), there were a great many of the Anaa brethren in prison at Tahiti, and thirty-eight confined at Anaa. Their crime was for holding meetings after they had been forbidden by the authorities. They were diligently watched, and were forbidden to read, sing, or pray. Those at Tahiti were then compelled to work on Queen Pomare's road, and some of them were whipped so severely that they were sent to the hospital. Such was the wretched condition of the Saints at the time that their spiritual adviser, the man to whom they were attached beyond degree, was compelled by force to leave them to their fate. After he left, their persecutions became even more severe. They were forced to the Catholic Church by the bayonet. In resisting this six lost their lives! The protectorate soon found that the Papal church had given them a very troublesome job, and one that promised to last a good while, and finally, after due consideration, they released the brethren and sent them home.
At the time when this mission was established, there was no foreign market for the products of the islands, and their only market was at Papeete, where a part of the whaling fleet occasionally recruited. Now, all this is changed. The settlement of California by the Americans, and the opening of the port of San Francisco, together with the wonderful impetus given to trade in Australasia, have created an active trade with Polynesia.
The products for export of Toubonia are cocoanut [coconut]-oil, fungus, and ship timber. Of the Tomotou group, Chain Islands: pearls, mother-of-pearl, cocoanut [coconut]-oil, beach-le-mar, fungus, marine shells, and coral specimens. Of Tahiti: oranges, bananas, pearls, tamarinds, cocoanuts [coconuts], oil, coffee, sugar, and cotton. The cotton plant is perennial, and needs replanting
only once in five years, and then only to keep it from becoming a tree. Beach-le-mar is a moss, growing on the rocks near the seashore; it is a food plant with the Chinese, and finds its way to their country via San Francisco. Fungus is a stinted plant that flourishes upon otherwise barren ground, and is valuable for its coloring properties. All these find a ready market in San Francisco.
There are two lines of schooners running constantly between Papeete and San Francisco, via the Marquesas Islands, carrying a monthly mail; and there are quite a number of small schooners and cutters trading between the neighboring groups and Tahiti. There is really no French commerce here, and Papeete is valuable to France only as a port of call, and as a coaling station for its war vessels and transports going to and coming from New Caledonia, its great penal colony, to which so many of the Paris Communists have lately been banished.
We have no data from which to give the amount of exports, except that last year Anaa alone exported two hundred tons of cocoanut [coconut]-oil. The natives furnish this oil to the merchant at about ten cents per gallon, taking payment in goods at really high figures, so that they are the veriest slaves to capital.
But to return to our ship. We are now south of the equator; and past the region of equatorial calms (the Doldrums), and are standing due south for Tahiti. The air of the tropics is delicious; respiration is fuller and deeper than in a cold climate, and one becomes sensible of the pleasure of breathing.
On the 13th of December we made the island. The formation is volcanic, and the main peak rises nearly eight thousand feet in the air. The island is surrounded by a coral reef, with an occasional opening through which vessels can pass. The ever restless ocean dashes its great waves against this reef with a fearful roar that can be heard five miles off; but the inside channel is as smooth as a mill-pond. A miniature steamtug comes outside the reef and takes us in tow, and we head for the western entrance of Matavia Bay.
The French have erected two bastioned earthworks to protect this entrance, one of which mounts six, and the other ten guns. We afterward visited the latter, and found the armament to be eight thirty-two-pounders, and two ten-inch shell guns. . . . We dropped our anchor close in to the quay at Papeete.
Here is the seat of the French protectorate for this and other of their Polynesian possessions. The American and British governments have each a consul; and Queen Pomare (the native sovereign), here holds her court, and exercises a certain authority, but apparently in harmony with the protectorate. Papeete is a town of perhaps two thousand inhabitants. Its mercantile business is mainly in the hands of Americans. The streets are narrow, and in many places the trees on each side join branches overhead, forming a perfect shade They are macadamized,
and kept surprisingly clean. The French Protestants, and also the English, have well-established missions.
The Catholics have a cathedral building partly finished; it is built of coral rock, with door and window facings of basalt. The walls of their monastery are also up; the outside walls of the half-basement are fully five feet thick; and the little square window holes are protected by iron gratings to keep out intruders! We examined this building with a strange interest. Its cloisters, which have their dark history yet to make, are neither more nor less than prison cells; the partition walls of which are fully two feet thick-thick enough to prevent a scream in one cell from being heard in the next! . . . Alas! must this beautiful island, which has neither snake nor poisonous insect upon it, be cursed with such an institution? . . .
We remark that the natives are a great, strapping, well-made set of men; and the women are not lacking in good looks or in splendid physical development. Situated in this delightful climate (latitude seventeen degrees south), entirely within the Tropic of Capricorn, clothing ceases to be necessary for either the health or comfort of the body. It is only used for purposes of ornamentation, and out of regard for the conventionalities of civilization.
The natives are not clothed-they are draped. For instance, the men wear a breech-cloth (a cloth about two yards long, by one wide) wrapped around the loins. It covers the body from the waist to the knee, and over this they wear a shirt. These, with a hat, constitute a male dress. The breech-cloth is a very tasty affair. It is of a very showy pattern, with large white figures on a blue ground, and looks exceedingly well. The natives, high and low, rich and poor, male and female, go barefoot. We saw the Catholic priest parading with his school, and excepting his professional robe, he was barefooted, bare-legged, and in his breech-cloth! The women's dress consists of, first, the inevitable breech-cloth; second, a handsomely made loose gown fastened at the neck, falling well to the feet, and trailing behind (but it is never allowed to trail in the mud). If this gown is of a very gauzy texture, it is worn over a chemise. These, with a stylish bonnet, complete the toilet of the Tahitian lady.
We visited the native houses, and were surprised to find so much cleanliness and neatness displayed, and so little of slovenliness and dirt. They all read and write the Tahitian language; and once in a while we found one who could make himself known in English. We found books in every house; sometimes quite a library. By an examination of their grammar, we find that their language is nearly all vowel, and but few consonant sounds; that is, it is spoken mainly by the throat, tongue, and teeth; and the lips are seldom used.
Apropos of this, how is it that language adapts itself to the climate in which it originates? In Russia, with the aid of consonants, the people are enabled to speak mainly through the lips and teeth, thus shielding the throat and lungs from direct contact with the frozen air.
As we proceed towards the tropics the consonants disappear; the vowels predominate; and in conversation the organs of articulation are thrown open. .
Here is the home of the breadfruit-tree. We see it all around us; it is the commonest tree in Papeete. It is a good bearer, and grows to be a very large tree. We saw specimens of the fruit on the tree, fully two thirds the size of a person's head. When boiled or fried, it tastes like the potato.
Queen Pomare has opened, macadamized, and embowered, a public road, which, following the seashore, extends all around the island, making a most delightful drive of one hundred miles in extent. It is kept in repair by convict labor. We did ourselves the honor of visiting the Queen. She received us very kindly; conversed with us in English, through her niece, the heiress-apparent to the throne; and when we arose to leave, bade us a friendly adieu. She is now quite old-perhaps seventy-five years-but still straight as an arrow, and retaining all her faculties in perfection.
There was an easy dignified grace about both her and the princess that was becoming. Pomare must well remember the time when her people were nude savages, without the redeeming features of their present civilization. Report speaks of great licentiousness in the rude old times; and what marvel, when, on Tahiti, free-love was, and to a certain extent still is, the established order of things; and climatic influences compel all nature to run riot in sheer voluptuousness. But the race is still robust, the blood uncontaminated, as a rule, and the power of transmission is still vigorous and unimpaired.
THE LOST FOUND.
On Friday, December 19, as we were straying out of town on the Queen's road, two middle-aged men accosted us, and wanted to know if we were missionaries. They could not speak a word of English, and we gave them to understand, as well as we could, that we were missionaries bound for Sydney. They still clung to us, frequently using the name, Parato. The fact is, they were brethren of our faith, mysteriously led to accost us, and were inquiring if we knew Addison Pratt. Their persistency became so marked that we began to suspect them of being police spies, and got away from them as soon as we decently could.
We passed along into the open country, and there finding the Queen's road overseer, who spoke good English, we were informed that there was a settlement of Mormons at Tiona (pronounced Te-o-na), five miles west of town. He could give us no names; said there were none of our people living in Papeete; that they had been somewhat persecuted in times past, and for the sake of peace had all settled at Tiona (Zion).
Well, well! and so we have found our brethren at last-at the eleventh hour! for the ship is to sail to-morrow afternoon. We prayed for her detention, and she was detained until the following Thursday (Christmas).
On Saturday, the 20th, we started before breakfast for Tiona. At
Faaa we stopped at a house reported to us to be the residence of Mormons. They were very friendly, gave us cocoanut [coconut]-milk to drink, and furnished us a guide to show us the Mormon missionary (all preachers here are called missionaries). We now found Bro. David Brown, who speaks good sailor English; and through him we soon found the rest of a devoted little branch of the church.
We can not find words to convey to you an adequate idea of the joy of these Saints in beholding us; it had been so many years since they had seen a white elder; and our coming was so unexpected. Bro. Brown is an East Indian; learned his English on board a whaler, and has been here for about ten years. He is a very influential man in the church at Tahiti, though he holds no presiding authority. After introducing us to the Saints he took us to his own house, which he appropriated to our use, and which remained our headquarters during our stay.
All was now excitement in Tiona; a meeting was called for three o'clock in the afternoon; the traditional yellow-legged chicken was duly prepared for our benefit, and at one o'clock in the afternoon we broke our fast on fried chicken, boiled breadfruit, cocoanut [coconut]-milk, etc.
We were quite surprised at the neatness of everything around us; the floor, and the large mats which covered it, answering the purpose of a carpet; the table-cloth and bed were scrupulously clean, reconciling us at once to the (to us) novel manners and customs of our Polynesian Tionars.
The Saints' meeting-house at Tiona is a bamboo structure; is well situated; is comfortably seated; is furnished with a bell, a pulpit, and a communion-table. There is an entrance at each end of the building-one for the brethren-the other for the sisters' use.
At three o'clock we commenced our meeting. The society has a well-trained choir, with Sr. Pipi as leader; Bro. Reipu (pronounced Ra-epoo), her husband, leads the bass. When the hymn was given out the congregation arose and heartily joined in with the choir in a well-executed piece of music. The peculiar accentuation of the language gives character and style to the music; and its novel yet pleasing harmonies corresponded with all our strange surroundings, and excited emotions within us not easy to describe.
After prayer and the singing of the second hymn, we explained to them the history of the church; the death of Joseph the Martyr; the subsequent wickedness and scattering of the people; and finally the Reorganization, with young Joseph at the head.
One peculiarity we noticed was, that they had brought their Bibles with them, and when we incidentally made reference to the writings of the prophets or apostles, these Bibles were at once opened and the quotation examined.
We showed how singularly God had ordered events to bring us to Tahiti, and for a purpose, too, which all could see; and advised them to at once recognize the Reorganization, and labor under the leadership of Joseph.
With the instinct of true Latter Day Saints they applied for baptism, etc. Resting satisfied with the assurance of the brethren that we would not be violating any municipal regulation, we appointed the next day (Sunday), to attend to ordinances; and at the same time gave notice that we should transact important business connected with the Reorganization.
In the evening all hands and the choir met at our rooms and entertained us with, "The Spirit of God like a fire is burning," and other inspiring songs of Zion, all sung in the Tahitian language. But anxious as they were to give us pleasure, they were still more anxious to hear from us; and so we entertained them with a discourse upon the history of the church, in which we averred that polygamy was a device of the Devil to corrupt the Saints and overcome them.
On the next day the morning service commenced at eight o'clock in the forenoon. At its conclusion we found that nearly the entire branch, with certain visiting brethren from the neighboring islands, were intending to be rebaptized. Knowing that this would create an excitement in the public mind, we again questioned the brethren concerning our right in the premises; and being assured by them that it was "all right," we repaired to the seaside, and there in the pure blue waters of the Pacific, Bro. Rodger baptized fifty-one persons.
There were many bystanders present, and a Catholic church stood within the distance of a half mile, while one of its spies was in our midst taking notes of our doings. The baptisms being accomplished, we retired to change, and then to reassemble at the meeting-house.
At the afternoon meeting we confirmed the newly baptized; after which we organized for business purposes, with Elder C. W. Wandell in the chair, and Elder Reipu, clerk. The following native elders were present: From Tonboni, Teapo, and Pe. From Anaa (Chain Island), Tara, Parata, and Tenate. From Tomotou, Teagi. From sundry places, Tave, Paea, Raidoa, and Paita. From Tahiti, Taniera, Reipu, and David Brown. Taniora is the presiding elder at Tiona. He is a gentleman of education and refinement, and was formerly connected with the Protestant mission at Papeete. By a regular vote in each case these brethren were reordained elders, and were appointed to specific fields of labor, with instructions that they were to do no ordaining except for branch government purposes, until they should hear from Bro. Joseph, or until an elder should be sent from America to preside.
That afternoon the Saints appeared in their best. The brethren were dressed in pants, shirt, and coat, scrupulously clean. The sisters modestly and tastefully dressed in the American style; in fact the congregation would anywhere have been considered decidedly respectable. After the meeting the regular old-fashioned hand-shaking had to be gone through with. The meeting, however, had been a very long one; and so many confirmations and ordinations, with the instructions, had made me very tired, and I went to our room and lay down for a nap. I had been
there but a few minutes when Bro. Rodger came and awoke me, telling me that he had been arrested for baptizing without a license.
A Bro. Smith, whom we had just baptized, was arrested with Bro. Rodger. He had unquestionably been mistaken for me. Bro. Rodger returned to the meeting-house, where the officer was, and I started to follow him, but was prevented by the brethren. Amid the wailings of the sisters and the protests of the brethren, Brn. Rodger and Smith followed the officer about a quarter of a mile to a public house, where it was ascertained that the officer was drunk; that he had no papers, and was acting without authority. Our brethren were then set at liberty, and soon they came returning to Tiona with songs of rejoicing upon their heads. During the afternoon, while I was in the meeting-house writing out licenses and letters of instruction, this same officer came and made a great bluster as to what he would do the next day; but he said nothing to me, nor interfered with me in any way.
THE FEAST-THE ADIEUS.
In the morning we all met at the meeting-house, where we well improved the time in instructing the Saints in their duties. At dismissal it was agreed that our adieus could not be delayed longer than to-morrow at noon. The Saints wanted to go in a body to see us on board; but being satisfied that we had in some manner violated an ordinance of the protectorate, for which action we were liable, we thought it the part of wisdom, if possible, to avoid any further excitement.
The next morning we finished our writing; met with the Saints at the meeting-house, and then tried to get away; but a feast was preparing, and there was no letting us off before that was over. So at eleven o'clock in the forenoon we sat down to the feast under the grateful shade of a patriarchal breadfruit-tree. A raised platform was fixed for Bro. Rodger and me, upon which was set for our use boiled breadfruit, raw bananas, cocoanut [coconut]-milk, fried chicken, scrambled eggs, etc., all of which was laid upon a table-cloth of spotless purity.
Our table was at the head of a large oblong circle, some thirty feet across, covered with Tara leaves (a large broad leaf), which gave it the look of green carpeting. Around the edge of this circle the feast was set; the center of the circle being graced by a canoe-shaped wooden vessel, which held a barbacued [barbecued] hog.
However, before we had time to compose ourselves for the work in hand, a difficulty arose in the shape of several dogs, chickens, and a pig, which incontinently broke through this charming circle of hungry Saints, and made a splendid charge on the edibles around them. Then such a time! But in all such contests man will come off victorious; so one brother whipped off his bandanna, festooned it around one of the pig's fore feet, led him outside to a sapling, and there triumphantly tied him! The dogs and chickens also were finally got outside, and a patrol established to keep them there. so order was restored, and then, after lifting
the voice in thanksgiving, to the great Author of all our mercies, we set to in good earnest to do the amplest justice to what was before us.
Bro. Rodger and myself were told that we could help ourselves to such as was set particularly for us, or we could call for anything in the feast. In order to show them that we entered heartily into their arrangements, and felt to be one with them, we immediately called for some of the pig in the canoe. We were rewarded by a general smile of gratification, and the first cut of the pig.
The feast proceeded. It was wonderfully strange to us; all the circumstances conspired to make it so. We had started in good faith for Australia, and here we were at Tiona, in Polynesia! Why should the good barque Domingo (Sunday) spring a leak in fine weather, and in that particular part of the ocean which necessarily made Tahiti our only available refuge? Was it not one of those special providences which occasionally occur to keep us in remembrance of the unceasing watchcare which Jehovah has for the cause of Zion? And who are these whose fine open countenances show the kindly spirit within? They are Latter Day Saints; not all of them old-timers, for it is probable that not more than half a dozen of them ever heard Addison Pratt or any white elder. They have come into the church through the labors of the native elders since Bro. Pratt was compelled by the French to abandon this mission.
The greater part of these Saints have now for the first time heard the voices of elders from America; and how their trusting hearts are drawn to ours! We are to them almost as though we had come from the courts of heaven! Instinctively they lore us; and yet, after so brief a sojourn, we are about to leave them. Such thoughts as these would come to us; but we were unprepared for that exhibition of intense emotion just now to surprise, charm, and capture us, by the irresistible force of its own impulse!
We wrote to you from Tahiti how they, at parting, embraced and kissed us-how they hung upon our necks and wept like children! There were Brn. Brown, Taniera, Avaepii and Reipu, among the rest; and then among the sisters was Sr. Pipi, the choir leader. Poor Sr. Pipi, should her eyes ever see these lines (and they will if you print them), we beg her to rest assured that if our kind wishes can do her good, or add to her happiness, she has them without limit.
That we could remain unmoved amid such a scene, was impossible! Indeed, we were quite overcome, and found it necessary to get away as soon as we consistently could. Bro. Reipu had been selected to see us safe on board; but he was so overcome by his feelings, that a less sensitive brother had to take his place. One sister followed us for fully a half mile; then, kissing our hands, returned weeping toward Tiona.
On our way to Papeete, we had time to discuss the situation. We had not yet been arrested, which fact was almost a guarantee that we would not be. If we should, either one or both of us, we would not pay any fine; but rather, go to prison, believing that God intended us to remain
at Tahiti for a season; but if we were left free to pursue our voyage, we should take it as a sign that God had ordained that the Reorganization here, should be started without placing itself under any obligations, either directly or indirectly, to the Papacy.
We passed through Papeete the cynosure of all eyes, for the proceedings of yesterday had been blazed abroad; the gens d'armes stared; but nobody troubled us. We had two hours of time yet before we needed to go on board, and we went to the house of Bro. Parato, to rest and refresh ourselves. Here we learned that information had been duly laid against us at the proper tribunal; but upon consultation it was determined not to prosecute. The fact was, they were glad enough to get rid of us without creating any further excitement.
Well, so much for our visit to Tahiti. We leave with an improved opinion of the native Society Islanders, and particularly of the Latter Day Saints; and we have a clearer illustration of the innate power of their faith, in their isolated condition, than we have seen elsewhere.
The Saints had many questions to ask us, one of which was with regard to the proper day to observe as Sunday. We at first thought that the Seventh-day Baptists had been there; but it appeared that when the Protestant missionaries first came, they came via Cape Horn; that is, they sailed westwardly from England; and as Tahiti is in the Western Hemisphere, in longitude one hundred forty-nine degrees twenty-eight minutes twenty-one seconds west from Greenwich, they had no occasion to change the day of the week in order to keep their reckoning right. The protectorate, of course acknowledges this, and the Protestant and civil Sunday are the same.
But the first Jesuits came via the Cape of Good Hope; that is, they sailed eastwardly from Paris. Now, as in the other case, the true time from which to reckon was from either Greenwich or Paris; and when they crossed the one hundred eightieth degree of east longitude they should have added one day to their reckoning to preserve the true time. But they persisted in keeping their reckoning just as it was, and, consequently, when they arrived at Tahiti they found their time one day behind that already established. They stupidly refused to change their reckoning, and so the Tahitians to this day have two Sundays to every week.
The fact is, the Papal church has never given up the "plane theory" of the earth's surface. At the trial of Galileo before the Roman Inquisition the Pope, cardinals, and clergy, were so emphatic in their denunciation of the "globe theory," that the present clergy will not admit the truth of the astronomer's theory, without questioning the infallibility of the church of Rome. We showed the Saints that the Protestant Sunday was an astro-theological truth, and to regard it as such. At this point in our narrative, we commenced a demonstration of the "globe theory" of the earth's surface, based upon the fact that the Thursday on which we left San Francisco was Friday in Sydney; but it was so much like a labored
effort to prove that two and two make four, that we threw it aside. The question now arises, What do these Saints need? In the first place they need two competent white missionaries to live with, and labor among them. These men should have a fair understanding of the grammar of the English language, to enable them to readily understand the construction of the Tahitian; they should be well versed in the doctrines of the church; they should be men of fair business qualifications, and of sterling integrity of character. Also, they should have arrived at that age in which they can look upon a woman, if not with indifference, at least with tranquility [tranquillity].
In the second place, they need help to raise them out of their present pitiable condition, in a commercial sense. With a world of wealth in the form of pearls, mother-of-pearl, marine shells, and coral, beach-le-mar, fungus, cotton, coffee, sugar, cocoanut [coconut]-oil, and the finest tropical fruits in the world, they are poor because they are compelled to take in exchange for them the pittance allowed them by their commercial masters. Nothing could be easier than the formation of a joint-stock, or cooperative organization, by the California Saints and these brethren, unitedly. This, in due time, would make the mission self-sustaining; would bring some revenue into the tithing fund, and would make the parties wealthy. Finally, we think it imperative that these islanders be no longer neglected. It is certainly to be hoped that the ensuing April conference at Plano will revive and set in more perfect motion the South Sea Island Mission.
On Christmas day we hove up our anchor and stood out to sea, all in high spirits at the prospect of soon accomplishing the remainder of our passage. On Thursday, January 8, we crossed the one hundred eightieth degree of longitude, and instead of calling the next day Friday, the 9th, we ignored it entirely, and called it Saturday, the 10th. Our time thus corrected would correspond with the Sydney time. . . .
On Thursday, January 22,1874, we entered the harbor of Sydney. I left Bro. Rodger on board to take care of the baggage, while I went on shore to secure lodgings. Went to John Benneth. They were very glad to see me. Bro. Benneth took me to the hatters and fitted me out with a new hat, and then took me to Bro. Ellis's. Had a good talk there. Sr. Ellis had seen us in a dream, and was expecting us. Bro. Ellis went with us to Bro. Pegg's, and from there to Bro. Nichols', where I hired a room, and the next day Bro. Ellis paid for the drayage of our things to our lodgings. We immediately began visiting the Brighamites and distributing tracts.
On Saturday we went to visit Elder Beauchamp, at his lodgings. He is the Brighamite missionary. We urged the privilege of speaking to his congregation on the next day. He refused, and also challenged us to a discussion, we to select the subjects. We returned home, wrote out and sent him the following:
1. "Was Polygamy a tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints at any time during the lifetime of Joseph Smith the Martyr?
2. "In whom is the right of Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Joseph Smith or in Brigham Young?"
Authorities: Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Times and Seasons; and by courtesy, the Millennial Star; time to be equally divided-expenses, ditto. After dilly-dallying for two or three days, he sent us word that he declined the discussion as too unequal and one-sided!
We continued to occupy the time in visiting and distributing tracts. Bro. Rodger visited in the country a few miles and preached. On Sunday evening, February 1, we formally opened the mission by a meeting at our lodgings. Our room was well filled with a select audience. We had a good meeting, and an excellent feeling prevailed. Being now sure that the mission would be successful, we hired the United Temperance Hall for three months, at a rate unexpectedly low. The hall is centrally situated. On Sunday, February 8, we baptized Richard Ellis and Albert Espinall, and held an afternoon and an evening meeting at our new hall. At both meetings the congregation seemed greatly interested. We have an appointment to baptize on Sunday next, and feel that the mission has made a secure lodgment in Australia.
C. W. WANDELL.
-The Saints' Herald, vol. 20, pp. 225-231, 292-297
Previous chapter Table of Contents Next chapter