- Population: 287,000
- Church Members: 21,245
- Stakes: 6
- Wards: 53
- Branches: 29
- Missions: 1
- Districts: 3
- Temples: 1
- Percentage LDS: 7.1%, or one in 14
On 11 May 1843, Joseph Smith called Addison Pratt to serve a mission to the Pacific Islands. Pratt was joined by Noah Rogers, Benjamin F. Grouard, and Knowlton F. Hanks. Hanks died during the voyage and the three remaining missionaries first arrived at Tubuai in the Society Islands on 30 April 1844. Pratt remained on the island of Tubuai and Rogers and Grouard continued to Tahiti, arriving on 14 May. The first convert on Tubuai was Ambrose Alexander, a non-native shipbuilder, who was baptized on 15 June 1844 and became the first person to join the Church in the Pacific Islands. Ten more joined five weeks later (five Europeans and five natives) and the Tubuai Branch was organized on 28 July.
The first converts on the island of Tahiti were Mr. and Mrs. Seth George Lincoln, taught by Grouard and Rogers. Grouard and Rogers then separated in October 1844 and began visiting other islands. Grouard visited the Tuamotu Islands and was later joined by Pratt, and their converts numbered in the hundreds. Pratt returned to the United States in 1848, but came back to Tahiti with his family in 1850. This promising start for the Church was halted when French government restrictions led to the mission being closed in May 1852.
The work was resumed in 1892 by missionaries Joseph W. Damron and William A. Seegmiller, who found that most of the early members had fallen away. They started branches again among those who had remained stalwart, and built meetinghouses that helped speed the work. The largest branch was on Tuamotu and was headquarters for the missionaries. A language-learning program was begun in 1898, and the Tahitian Book of Mormon was finished on 7 July 1899 but was not published until 1904. After the turn of the century, there was a gradual trend toward centralization of the Church in Papeete, the main port of call for sailing vessels. In October 1906, the missionaries completed a new mission home and meeting hall. Having new headquarters did much to elevate the Church in the eyes of missionaries, members, and nonmembers alike.
Elder David O. McKay of the Quorum of the Twelve and his traveling companion, Hugh J. Cannon, visited Papeete on 11 April 1921. Elder Rufus K. Hardy of the First Council of the Seventy visited Tahiti in May-June 1939 and encouraged the calling of local Saints to be branch leaders to free the missionaries to do more work among the people and to expand their efforts to the outlying islands. Tahiti was never attacked during World War II, but all foreign missionaries were recalled. Ernest C. Rossiter and his wife, Venus arrived in 1941 and presided over the Church during the war. Local members were called to act in the supervisory positions previously held by foreign elders. Foreign missionaries returned to Tahiti in June 1946. A large meetinghouse and mission home was built in Papeete and dedicated by Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve on 22 January 1950. The meetinghouse later served as the first stake center in Tahiti. That same year, the church bought an 82-foot two-mastered schooner in San Pedro, California. It arrived in Papeete on 8 April 1950. The ship was rechristened the Paraita (or the “Pratt”) after the Tahitian name of Addison Pratt. The Paraita was used to transport missionaries, members, and the mission president from island to island. It was eventually sold in July 1961.
Missionary work among the French-speaking people of the islands began in 1955 and a French-speaking branch was organized on 13 October 1957. On 23 May 1963, in the worst-recorded sea disaster for Latter-day Saint members in the South Pacific, 15 members of the Maupiti Branch, about 160 miles northwest of Tahiti, lost their lives when the boat in which they were returning from a meetinghouse dedication sank on the Maupiti reef. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited the bereaved branch members to offer solace and comfort.
In 1964, the Church constructed an elementary school in Tahiti, and on 14 May 1972 the Tahiti Stake was organized, the first in Tahiti. The new stake consisted of all the former branches on Tahiti and Moorea. On 1-2 March 1976, Presidents Spencer W. Kimball and N. Eldon Tanner, along with nine other General Authorities, met in Papeete for an area conference. The Papeete Tahiti Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, on 27 October1983. The Pirae Tahiti Stake, Tahiti's second stake, was created in 1982, and the Paea Tahiti Stake, its third, in 1990. In 1991, Saints in Takaroa in the Tuamotu islands observed the 100th anniversary of a meetinghouse built by early members, the oldest in the South Pacific. The imposing building took 20 years to complete.