News Story

Church and Diplomatic Leaders Address Wellington Youth

Elder O. Vincent Haleck, president of the Pacific Area of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and His Excellency Mr Leasi Papali’i Tommy Scanlan, High Commissioner of Samoa to New Zealand, spoke to members and guests of the Church from throughout the Wellington region in Porirua on 23 August.

The purpose of the meeting was to encourage youth and young adults to seek learning and education by study and by faith.

Elder Haleck was accompanied at the devotional by his wife, Peggy Haleck. High Commissioner Scanlan was accompanied by his wife, Joyce Scanlan.


H.E. Leasi Scanlan spoke about the Samoan prime minister, Hon. Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi. He said the prime minister came from very humble beginnings, but he had a desire to get an education. He then worked hard to achieve his goals.

Mr Scanlan shared that he also started life in challenging circumstances, but was able to achieve his life goals through education and work.

To pay for the family’s needs his mother washed clothes and young Tommy sold newspapers. Daily struggles made him study harder in school, he said.

“I loved to read.”

In 1973 Mr Scanlan was awarded a scholarship to study in New Zealand. During Christmas vacation while other students went home, he worked at the post office, sending money home to his family.  

After completing his education, Mr Scanlan worked for the Samoan Ministry of Finance and for 22 years as governor of the Central Bank of Samoa. During his time in this role he helped the country to improve banking processes and services.

Looking back, the High Commissioner said, “No matter how poor and tough things are at home, broken home, stressful and painful—you can still achieve.”

“People will tell you: ‘You can’t do it.’”

“Turn around and say: ‘Just watch me.’”

Mr Scanlan encouraged those in attendance at the devotional to “use opportunities that are available to you. It is how we handle and come out of struggles. Parents have made sacrifices for you.”

“Whatever choices you make, set goals. God made each and every one of us unique.  We need doctors, mayors, bus drivers and teachers.  If we do not control and shape our destinies, they will be determined by others.”

In his remarks, Elder Haleck encouraged the youth in attendance to look to the future with faith, inspired by the example of others, including the High Commissioner.

“These stories are not just to make us feel good,” Elder Haleck said. “But to sow seeds. I hope they will fall on good ground.” 

“You are the rising generation. Tonight will pass and be history, the future is where you will spend your life."

Elder Haleck stressed that for Latter-day Saints, education is an eternal principle. “We are here to develop our talents. To receive an education. Seek learning even by faith. To better ourselves, increasing in knowledge. Education is going to be a blessing to your future lives.”

He said that learning begins with “understanding who you are.”

“Faith without works is dead. We need to take steps, or you will not achieve your educational goals and better yourself because you lacked the faith to do it.”

Citing a Samoan proverb, Elder Haleck said: “O le ala ile pule ole tautua, which means: The way to leadership is through service; and the way to prepare to serve is through education."

He also shared a saying in Tongan: “Oua lau e kafo, kae lau e lava.”  

This translates into English as: "Don’t worry about the challenges, these will pass—instead count your blessings from your efforts inspite of your challenges.”

Lola Harris, a young Latter-day Saint from Porirua who recently completed an accounting degree after serving as a Mormon missionary, also spoke. She talked about how her parents encouraged her to get a good education.

“Are you top of your class yet?” her father would say to her often.  “A seed was planted, whether I liked it or not,” she said, smiling.

Her father taped a cookie to the top of her door at home to motivate her to stretch higher, especially in her school work.

Among the guests at the meeting were Porirua mayor, Mike Tana; Porirua deputy mayor, Izzy Ford; Faafoi Seiuli, Porirua City Council; Daniel Kleinsman, New Zealand Catholic Bishops Committee for Interfaith Relations; and local Latter-day Saint leaders.   

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.