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Latter-day Saint Historians Visit Tubuai, French Polynesia

First Mormon congregation in South Pacific formed here in 1844

On Monday 24 April 2017, new history was made on the historic small island of Tubuai in French Polynesia with a visit by the Historian and Assistant Historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy and Reid Neilson walked in the footsteps of Addison Pratt, one of the Church's first missionaries to Polynesia in 1844.

The visitors and their wives were shown around the island by an enthusiastic group of Church members, including descendants of the first Polynesian converts, Nabota and his wife Terii, who took Pratt into their home and cared for him.

Addison Pratt was an experienced whaling seaman who became a Church member In 1838.  

In Nauvoo, Illinois in 1843 he was called as a missionary to the Sandwich Islands, along with Noah Rogers, Benjamin F. Grouard and Knowlton F. Hanks. They sailed on the whaler Timoleon and Hanks died from tuberculosis one month out and was buried at sea. 

The ship made first landfall at Tubuai, a small island in the Austral group 640 kms south of Tahiti, in April 1844, and Pratt felt inspired to stay there.   


The other two missionaries also settled and served in other parts of French Polynesia doing much to spread the gospel message there.

On 29 July 1844 the Tubuai Branch of the Church was organised with 11 members and by the next February there were 60 converts from the island's population of about 600.

Today more than 700 from the island's 2,300 inhabitants are Church members, meeting in three modern LDS chapels there.

The visiting group enjoyed seeing where Pratt came ashore; where he lived with Nabota and Terii; where first meetings were held in the bush because of local opposition; where fresh water was sourced for living; and an impressive river crossing constructed from large boulders to aid missionary work.

Elder Snow was also introduced to the island's Mayor Fernand Tahiata, a member of the Church.

Pratt returned for a second mission on Tubuai from 1850-1852 and was joined by his wife, Louisa and their daughters and several other missionary families.

The Tubuai Saints who gathered  to meet Elder Snow, sang for the group the song "My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean" in Tahitian, explaining Louisa Pratt had translated it and the island people sang it to the Pratt family when they departed on 6 April 1852.

Elder Snow said visiting the island made the experiences of the Pratt family very real and meeting descendants of those who were with Pratt made it seem close in time.

Local historian Jacques Turina also showed the group Bloody Bay, where in 1789 Christian Fletcher and the Bounty crew, after their infamous mutiny against Captain Bligh, were involved in a skirmish  where more than 20 islanders were killed. The mutineers returned another time and built a fort nearby to repair their ship.

Fearing discovery from passing vessels they left for Pitcairn Island kidnapping a number of local women to take with them.

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