News Story

Elder Nattress Visits Community Where First Baptisms Occurred in Samoan Islands

Aunu’u is a small island just off the coast from the capital city Pago Pago with a spectacular view of the harbour and the rugged mountains that cradle the city in green. Aunu’u has a special place in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it is the location where missionaries baptised the first members in the Samoan Islands in 1866.

Last weekend, members of the Church on Aunu’u were delighted to meet with Elder K. Brett Nattress, from the Pacific Area Presidency, accompanied by Elder Faapito Auapa’au, the Area Seventy for American Samoa, and President Sonny Aiono.

The visitors were greeted by Lotoa Lotoa Jr., the bishop of the Aunu’u Ward. There has been a branch of the Church on Aunu’u for many years. Due to growth, it was made into a ward (larger congregation) in 2018.

Elder Nattress said about his visit, “I was deeply touched by the experience of meeting the wonderful Saints in Aunu’u. Their faith in Jesus Christ and devoted discipleship are inspiring.”

“It was such a great experience and blessing for us to have these Church leaders visit our small Island,” Bishop Lotoa said. “It feels so good to have them set foot here and to shake their hands.”

He said that Elder Nattress wanted to see the island up close so he and his party walked around the entire island before returning to the small chapel for a traditional Samoan lunch of fish and taro. Many ward members were there including some pioneer members who recounted the history of the island and the Church there.

One of the stories shared was about the construction of the new chapel on the island.

“There was a need for a lot of sand to make it possible to build on the site," said Dr Kalilimoku Hunt, National Communication Director for the Church in American Samoa. “The only source was from the deeper part of the ocean which would have been a great expense. On the day that we were coming over to do the work, there had been a lot of rain the night before, but on that morning the sea was calm and the sun was bright. When we got to the site, there was a huge pile of sand on the field where the work was to be done. That is why a lot of the people who saw that called it the miracle of the sand." 

A group of members from the Aunu'u Ward show Elder K. Brett Nattress the site of the 'miracle of the sand.' American Samoa, November 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

After the lunch, Elder Nattress said a reluctant farewell to the Church members of Aunu’u and returned to the mainland via a small boat.

Bishop Lotoa said more about his experience. “I’ve only been a bishop for about a year and in the short time we were walking around together, Elder Nattress taught me so much, like how to take special care of our young people. So today, I had a meeting with each one of them and tried to get them ready to receive a temple recommend so that they can be ready and worthy to start doing baptisms the day the temple opens.”

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