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New Zealand-Māori Church Leader Reflects on his Father's Advice 

“Keep the commandments and trust in the Lord. He will help you reach your potential.”

This is the advice of Ben Matthews, Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Wainuiomata, New Zealand, to the youth of today.

As Ben reflects on the key milestones of his life, he acknowledges how the Lord has been there every step of the way to lead and guide him throughout his life.


Ben is the youngest of eight children and is fluent in his native language – te reo Māori, as well as the Japanese and English languages. His journey with the Japanese language started at age 13 when his father, Ben Matthews Senior, suggested he study Japanese at high school, saying that it would provide more job opportunities in the future.

He decided to follow his father’s advice, and at age 15 was able to participate in a student exchange programme to Fukuoka, Japan. Ben notes that this exchange experience was life changing for him as it cemented his love for the Japanese culture, language, and people.

Although times were financially tough for Ben’s whānau (family) at the time, his father said that the sacrifice would be worth it, as it would help Ben prepare for his Church missionary service at some future time. Unfortunately, Ben’s father passed away the year following the student exchange.

When Ben received his mission call in 2003 at age 19, he was "overjoyed" to discover that he had been called to serve in Japan among the people he had come to love. What added more to his joy was that he was called to serve in the Japan Fukuoka Mission, the same area he had visited as a 15-year-old exchange student four years prior. 

Ben counts himself fortunate that he already had a grasp of the language when he arrived in Japan as a missionary, which allowed him to "hit the ground running" in his teaching abilities.

As he recalled the advice of his father – that the student exchange experience would help prepare him for his mission – he was amazed at his father’s foresight and vision. During his mission he was blessed to be able to visit his Japanese host family and share some of his beliefs with them. He continues to keep in touch with them to this day.

“Dad was inspired. He had foresight and was so wise – and I’m glad that I heeded his advice. The decisions that I made at such an early stage in my life have continued to bless my life,” says Ben.

Ben is also passionate about his own culture, and is fluent in te reo Māori, the native language of Aotearoa-New Zealand. He is pleased to see several key Church documents being translated into te reo Māori, such as, Te Whānau: He Whakaputanga Ki Te Ao (The Family: A Proclamation to the World) and Te Karaiti Ora Tonu (The Living Christ), and he looks forward to other future developments in this area.

Ko Te Pukapuka a Moromona: He Whakāturanga Mai Anō Nā Ihu Karaiti (The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ) was translated into Māori in 1889.

In July, the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network, of which Ben is an Advisory Board member, published an article highlighting Ben's experiences with Japan, including how he was able to translate directly between Japanese and te reo Māori when a group of indigenous Ainu people visited from Japan.


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