It's not every day that you get an email about your great-grandfather. This was written by a former mission president in Tahiti and was sent to me by a distant cousin. I'm still not sure how they even had my email address but I do know one thing: I hope I can be even half as good of a person as my great-grandfather was.
Experiences in the Life of Tahauri Hutihuti
By Stephen L. Graham – September 2009
First Member of the Church in his Family: Evidently, Tahauri Hutihuti was the first member of his family to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was previously a member of the RLDS Church (now known as the Community of Christ) or “Sanito” in Tahitian. Following the monumental work of Noah Rogers, Addison Pratt, and Benjamin F. Grouard who introduced the gospel and opened the Society Islands Mission in 1844 (a fourth missionary, Elder Knowlton F. Hanks, died and was buried at sea on their way from Nauvoo to the islands), the mission was officially closed from the mid 1850’s until the early 1890s. During this interval, missionaries from the Reorganized LDS Church stopped in the Society Islands and came in contact with members of the Church. They falsely claimed that the church they represented was the same church as the one represented by Elders Pratt, Grouard and Rogers. They established themselves as such and have continued their presence until the present time. Efforts were made to reclaim these members after the LDS mission was reopened in the early 1890s. The majority of the original members returned, but some did not. Tahauri Hutihuti’s roots had their beginnings in this confusion. His mother was a “Sanito”, but when Tahauri learned the truth of the whole matter, he joined the true Church and remained faithful to the end of his life. (Recounted by Brother Marlowe K. Ashton – Orem, Utah – September 2009)
Tahiti 1963-64: Elder Thomas S. Monson, as a newly-called member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was assigned to the Pacific Islands area following his call in October 1963, and visited Tahiti several times. In a meeting in the old Fariipiti Chapel while the congregation was standing singing “We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet”, Elder Monson looked down from the stand and seeing old Tahauri Hutihuti standing near the isle singing, went down and stood beside Tahauri, put his arm around Tahauri’s shoulders and sang along with the congregation. From those early visits in Tahiti, Elder Monson had a deep interest in this good brother in the gospel. (Recounted by Brother Marlowe K. Ashton – Orem, Utah – September 2009)
Nauvoo Temple Dedication in 2002: During his talk at the dedication of the reconstructed Nauvoo Temple, President Thomas S. Monson, counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, recounted the story of Tahauri Hutihuti as an example of faith in obtaining the blessings of the temple for his family. He told how Tahauri Hutihuti saved his money for many, many years as a pearl-shell diver in the atolls of the Tuamotu islands so that he could take his family to the temple and have them sealed to him. As it turned out, not only did he travel to the New Zealand temple on a couple of occasions, but also traveled to the Laie, Hawaii Temple so that his son Turoa and his wife who had gone there to help establish the Tahitian Village of the Polynesian Culture Center could be sealed to him. (Recounted by Brother Marlowe K. Ashton – Orem, Utah – September 2009)
At the New Zealand Temple – December 1963: Tahauri made his first trip to the New Zealand Temple with the first group of Tahitian to attend a temple as a group, in December 1963. He was accompanied by his second wife, and during the sealing ceremonies for spouses, Tahauri and his second wife stood proxy for each others’ spouses; Tahauri for the first husband of his wife, and she in turn for Tahauri’s first wife. Following the sealing ceremony, President Hawkes, President of the New Zealand Temple at the time, in conversation with Elder Marlowe K. Ashton, a missionary in the French Polynesian Mission who accompanied the group from Tahiti to New Zealand, asked: “Did you see them?” Elder Ashton answered: “See who?” “The ancestors of these people!” said President Hawkes. “They were present and filled the room.” (Recounted by Brother Marlowe K. Ashton – Orem, Utah – September 2009)
Tahauri Quotes Isaiah: I remember speaking with Tahauri Hutihuti one day a few months after my arrival in Tahiti on my first mission in 1963. Tahauri had been out on the grass of the big lawn of the old Fariipiti Mission Headquarters raking leaves. This was a year-round job in Tahiti, rather than seasonal as it is here in the Mountain West, since there are not four seasons, and there are always falling leaves year ‘round. Tahauri loved the gospel and loved missionaries. He got excited when new missionaries arrived and would greet them warmly. One day he came up to me and quoted the following verse in Tahitian:
Isaiah 5:26-28 - 26 And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:27 None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: 28 Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:
I certainly didn’t understand everything he said with my limited experience in Tahitian at that point in time, but I understood enough that I was able to go back and look the verses up and understand and appreciate what he was saying. This was the year that Pan American Airways and French UTA began jet service to Tahiti. Tahauri had been to the airport and heard the roar of the engines, and had seen missionaries come and go and appreciated in a very real way what the Lord was accomplishing. He took me by the shoulders in his hands and said to me looking me directly in the eye: “This is you he is talking about in these verses! You come from long distances quickly and don’t even have to change your clothes or take off your shoes—this is His work—you represent him here among us!” I could feel the enthusiasm and excitement at this thought as he spoke to me with great animation and with a twinkle in his eyes. At this point in his life he had only a couple of teeth on the top in the front, but he was so expressive and animated in his love for missionaries and for the gospel.
(Recounted by Brother Stephen L. Graham at the Sunday evening fireside at the Provo Missionary Training Center – 6 September 2009)