News Story

Church and Government Leaders Strengthen Ties

Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder O. Vincent Haleck, President of the Pacific Area of the Church, met with senior government leaders in Tonga on Saturday 18 March.

The visitors met with Tongaʻs Prime Minister, Honourable Samuela ʻAkilisi Pōhiva and other government officials at the Prime Minister’s Office in Nuku’alofa.


They also met with Deputy Prime Minister, Honourable Sēmisi Kioa Lafu Sika; Chief Secretary, Edgar Cocker; Lōpeti Senituli; Poʻoi Pōhiva; and other government officials.

Elder ‘Aisake Tukuafu, Area Seventy, accompanied the visiting Latter-day Saint leaders.

Travelling with Elders Cook and Haleck were Sister Lynette Cook and Sister Peggy Haleck. Sister Lose Tukuafu accompanied her husband, Elder Tukuafu.

The purpose of the visit was to strengthen Church and government ties, and to discuss ways to serve the people of Tonga, together, in the future.

Prime Minister Pōhiva mentioned that the meeting marked “a new day for the government of Tonga and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”


Elder Cook stated that “the Church is a friend to Tonga” and is willing to help in areas where there is a need.


The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the Church for its support after Tropical Cyclone Gita in February 2018, with the rebuilding of homes, provision of food, clothes, and water delivered to those affected.

Part of the cyclone recovery effort was a Church initiative involving the cutting of coconut trees for lumber to rebuild homes.

The Latter-day Saint leaders emphasized the Church’s continued interest in and support of education.

Discussions also covered the preservation of historical sites for the benefit of future generations.

Elder Cook talked about the “BYU Pathway Worldwide” education program, sponsored by the Church and which is available in Tonga. The classes, which help individuals bridge into further tertiary studies, are also available to those who are not members of the Church.

As the discussion came to a close, Elder Haleck expressed his appreciation for the time and effort of Tonga’s government leaders and officials to meet with them.

The meeting concluded with a commitment from both sides to strengthen the relationship moving forward, for the betterment of Tonga and its people.

As part of the visit to Tonga, the Latter-day Saint leaders also met with Papua New Guinean students who attend Liahona High School.


Students shared testimonies of the blessings gained through education and daily Seminary attendance. Some students expressed the love they have for the Tongan families and others who help them throughout their educational journey.

A few students shared how their experiences in Tonga, and as members of the Church, are blessing their families back home in Papua New Guinea.

The visitors then stopped at Hilatali, Tatakamotonga, where the Church was first established in Tonga.

Having the visiting Church leaders and their wives come to Tonga was indeed a blessing to the people and will be a treasured memory to those whom they visited, Elder Tukuafu said.

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