What was the Mormon Couch
a. A combined bed/couch
b. An extra long couch for polygamous family’s
c. The original love seat
d. A green couch with orange stripes
The history of the Samoan mission actually commenced twenty-six years before its official opening with a story unique in the annals of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Kimo Belio, a fifty-five-year-old married man with a family, and Samuel Manoa, a single man about twenty-seven years of age, left the Hawaiian Islands under the instructions of Walter M. Gibson on December 23, 1862, to go to Samoa and begin preaching the gospel.
Both men were elders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having ben ordained during an earlier period by Church leaders in the Hawaii Mission. What they did not know at that time was that Gibson had acted without official Church sanction, and they, unknowingly, had accepted what amounted to counterfeit calls.
In 1857, Johnston’s army had been marching toward Salt Lake City to put down a supposed rebellion on the part of the Mormons against the United States government. It was soon obvious, however, that the charges were false. But while the troops were approaching the Utah Territory, there had been great anxiety on the part of Church officials, and all missionaries were recalled to defend and take care of their families.
Walter Murray Gibson joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah on January 15, 1860, and on June 30 of the following year, he arrived in Hawaii. Finding no Utah elders in Hawaii, the enterprising Gibson went about directing things as he saw fit.
After setting up headquarters at Palawai on the island of Lanai, he proclaimed himself “Chief President of the Islands of the Sea and of the Hawaiian Islands for the Church of Latter-day Saints.” He then led members in Hawaii to believe that the leaders of the Church had succumbed to the attacks of Johnston’s army and that there no longer existed a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, except to the extent that it had survived in Hawaii. The illegitimate scheme he hatched was to sell offices in the Church-the higher the office, the more money or goods it would cost an individual.
It turned out that Kimo Belio, who left with Samuela Manoa for Samoa, had been ordained as one of Gibson’s apostles. All of those activities were, of course, illegitimate and disapproved of by the leadership of the Church; and as soon as Church leaders became aware, of the situation, they sent a delegation to Hawaii for the purpose of making necessary corrections. On March 27, 1864, Apostles Ezra T. Benson and Lorenzo Snow, along with Elders Joseph F. Smith, Alma L. Smith, and William Cluff, arrived in Hawaii and held Church court proceedings in which Gibson was excommunicated.
Although members of the Church in Hawaii were informed of the fraud that had been perpetrated on them, Gibson retained, in his own name, all of the properties that he had taken from the people and the land that had been purchased with their funds. Needless to say, the people and the Church were cheated out of considerable assets.
Soon, the missionaries were able to return to Hawaii, and the two faithful missionaries were still serving in faraway Samoa seemed to go largely unnoticed for many, many years.
Although Walter Murray Gibson had proved unfaithful in Hawaii and made callings without authority, the early Hawaiian missionaries whom he sent to Samoa were faithful in the performance of their duties. Much credit is due them, as well as to their families who made some very personal sacrifices for the sake of the work.
Church records indicate that sixty or seventy individuals were baptized as a result of the proselytizing efforts of Belio and Manoa. Their work, however, was confined to the island of Tutuila, though some of those baptized had homes in Upolu, which opened up the way for those who had accepted the gospel-or at least the basic precepts of it-to induce the doctrine in Upolu before the first official Mormon missionaries arrived.
As the years passed, and with little attention given to them, the members who had been converted and baptized by Belio and Manoa slowly drifted away. As for Belio, he died at Tula, Tutuila, on June 3, 1876, at the age of sixty-four. A faithful member of the Church, he had accomplished an admirable work. Manoa, left to fend for himself, took a Samoan wife in 1868 and in 1876 was a forty-one-year-old man with a family.
After Belio’s death, Manoa continued to hold Church meetings until November 3, 1882, when he met with a dynamite-fishing accident that confined him to his home for fifteen months. During that period, natives who had belonged to the Church joined other denominations. For the next six years or until 1888, the preaching of the gospel in Samoa was at a standstill.
One day while aboard a large sailing vessel for the purpose of piloting it safely into the harbor at Pago Pago, Manoa was invited by the captain to go below to the ship’s mess and prepare himself some breakfast. While in the process of kindling the fire, he noticed the name of the Church in a newspaper article about one of its semi-annual general conferences in Salt Lake City. From it, Manoa concluded that the Church did, indeed still exist that the stories Gibson had told them were not true. Since he had lost his right hand in the fishing accident, he asked the captain to help him write a letter to President John Taylor.
Manoa’s letter requesting that missionaries be sent to Samoa arrived at church headquarters in Salt Lake City about nine months later. Unfortunately, it was referred back to the mission president in Hawaii. Since the president of the Hawaiian Mission was total unaware of any missionary activity taking place in that remote location, he simply filed the letter for future reference. There it remained for several years.
In 1887 when Joseph Dean was serving his second mission in the Hawaiian Islands with his second wife, Florence, he discovered that letter. He immediately initiated a series of inquiries that eventually led to his being called as the first official missionary in Samoa.
Knowing that he was probably going to extend his mission from Hawaii to Samoa, Dean made a number of attempts to prepare himself. And entry from his journal read:
“I found out today that there are Samoans here. At sundown, I found them and inquired if they would sell me any Samoan books. They had a Bible, which they would not sell, but I borrowed it and have spent the evening reading it. I am quite disappointed to find that the language is quite different from the Hawaiian. It will take a good while to get it.”
On June 7, 1888, Joseph Henry Dean, Florence Ridges Dean, and Jasper, the couple’s four-month-old baby, sailed from Hawaii on the Alameda. They arrived at the western end of the island of Tutuila on June 17. Since the ship could not enter the harbor, Manoa had made arrangements for a small boat to pick up the Dean family.
After an exhausting three-day wait for favorable winds to return and a harrowing boat trip from Poloa (a small village where they stayed with a native chief by the name of Tauili’ili), they were rowed around the north shore to Tutuila with a stop at Vatia. They bedded down in Onenoa on the northeast corner of the island. They left that place the next morning at 6:30 a.m., arriving at Aunu’u at 11 a.m. Though it was only a distance of one mile, it took them that long to get there because of the rough sea.
On June 21, 1888, the Deans were warmly welcomed by Manoa and his wife Fa’asopo and other members of the village.
Joseph H. Dean told Manoa to invite the people of Aunu’u to the first official Church meeting to be held on Sunday morning, June 24, 1888. In reference to that meeting, he penned the following in his journal:
“The house was crowded and the porch full of people anxious to see and hear. What a consolation it would have been if I could have spoken to them in their own tongue. Manoa gave out a hymn beginning with the words,” Jesu, e ou le aso sa,” Everyone, young and old, knew that hymn by heart and joined in singing it with a spirit and gusto that was not only inspired but almost startling. Manoa offered prayer. After another hymn, I spoke to them for forty minutes as best I could through Manoa as an interpreter. I explained in a general way the object of my coming to Samoa and the character of the work I had come to represent. They seemed much interested and paid attention.”
Lesson Committee, Museum Memories-Daughters of Utah Pioneers, (Salt Lake City, Talon Printing, 2010), 2: 208-211.