New Seventy Elder Wakolo Says Feeding the Missionaries Was “Best Mistake” of His Life

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 31 May 2017

Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Anita Herberta Moimoi Wakolo.

Family
Born June 25, 1967, in Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji, to Taniela Vosa and Temalesi Buadromo Wakolo. Married Anita Herberta Moimoi on August 22, 1987, in Suva, Fiji. Later sealed in the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple in 1995, a year after he was baptized. They are the parents of two children.

Education
Studied management and public administration at the University of the South Pacific. Received a master’s degree in management from the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2007.

Employment
Worked as an Interpol officer for Fiji early in his career; later worked in various capacities for the Church. Most recently, he was service center manager at the Church’s Fiji Service Center.

Church service
Seminary teacher, stake president, Area Seventy, and currently serves as president of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.

For Elder Taniela Biu Wakolo, inviting the missionaries to his house for dinner “was the best mistake I’ve ever done in my life.”

The recently called General Authority Seventy—and convert of 23 years—has dedicated every day of his life since his March 1994 baptism to serving the Lord.

Work ethic from an early age

Born on June 25, 1967, on the small island of Lomaloma, Lau, Fiji, to Taniela Vosa and Temalesi Buadromo Wakolo, Elder Wakolo is the youngest of six children.

“I was raised in a very humble home, but we were rich in terms of love we have for each other,” he said. “My parents taught us how to work together and serve together.”

At age 12, Elder Wakolo left his parents’ home to attend boarding school with more than 500 young men ages 12 to 19. There he learned how to live and study on his own.

“That was great training ground for me,” he said. “It is where I learned self-discipline.”

While away at school, he would often think of his parents working hard at home, making it possible for him to attend school.

“They were always in my mind,” he said. “That pushed me to learn more, to do better.”

While at boarding school, young Taniela met a cousin whose mother was a member of the Church, but it wasn’t until a few years later when he met Anita Herberta Moimoi, a recent convert, that he learned more.

The slow and steady road to conversion

“I dated a Mormon girl; I married a Mormon girl,” he said.

Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Anita Herberta Moimoi Wakolo, in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 3, 2017. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy, just days after his call to serve as a General Authority. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Wakalo was introduced to the Church when she was 19 years old. Although she wanted to be baptized, her father asked her to wait until she was 21. So she continued to attend and soon after her birthday, she was baptized.

“I had the Light of Christ but was looking for more,” she said. “When I saw families sitting together at church I thought, ‘I want that.’”

Not long after her baptism, she was with a group of friends with whom she had attended a young adult conference. The group was walking home after the event and came upon another gathering of friends—including Taniela—and decided to stop and talk.

“He was with his friends and after gave us a ride home,” she recalled. “He asked me if I wanted to go to the movies together.”

After their interaction, she felt he was a good person—he was a policeman and she considered him safe—and decided to go. The couple dated for more than a year and was married on August 22, 1987, in Suva, Fiji. They are the parents of two children.

The Church was always a priority for Sister Wakolo, even though at one point, her husband requested that she not read the Book of Mormon in their home. He had heard things about the Church from other people and decided he didn’t want his wife reading the sacred book in their home.

She continued to be faithful in her Church attendance and callings while still honoring her husband’s request. She also invited missionaries over to their home for dinner often. Those interactions would prove fruitful a few years later when her husband decided to seriously study the doctrines of the gospel.

Conversion didn’t happen overnight for Elder Wakolo, and over the first eight years of the couple’s marriage, he met with many missionaries.

“I completed the discussions four times in eight years,” Elder Wakolo said. “I have many missionaries.”

After completing the lessons multiple times, Elder Wakolo decided to put it all on the line and strike a deal with the missionaries. The group would meet together for three nights. The first two nights, the missionaries would answer Elder Wakolo’s questions on his terms—using only the Bible. The third night, the missionaries could ask Elder Wakolo any question they wanted.

Everything went as he had planned until the third night, when the missionaries taught about how the Church is named after the Savior.

“The Church needs to be named after its owner, [Christ],” Elder Wakolo said. “That was it for me.”

The quick road from baptism to Church service

He was baptized on March 17, 1994, and two weeks after his baptism, he was called to be in his ward Young Men presidency and to co-teach seminary with his wife.

In his calling as a seminary teacher, he enjoyed learning and teaching from the Book of Mormon—the same book he had earlier banned in his home. Today, it is rare to find him without that book in his hands.

“I would lay awake at night anticipating questions,” he said. “It was a great way for me to learn.”

A few months after he was baptized, he accepted the call to serve as branch president. “On Sundays, we would leave at 7 a.m. and be gone until 11–11:30 p.m,” he said. “We would pack food and spend the day with members.”

He and his wife were sealed in the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple in 1995, just a year after he was baptized.

Since his baptism, he has continued serving in many capacities—as a counselor in a stake presidency, as stake president, as an Area Seventy, and at the time of his call as a General Authority Seventy, he was serving as the president of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission.

The couple have been blessed with two children, Jasmin and Glen, whom they consider to be a direct answer to fasting and many prayers. In addition, throughout the Wakolos’ marriage, the couple have welcomed 18 children into their home for extended periods of time.

“We didn’t have much, but we had the gospel, and we invited everybody to participate,” Sister Wakolo said.

Whether it is in a Church calling or with members in their family or community, the Wakolos have made scripture reading, Church attendance, keeping the Sabbath day holy—including watching general conference talks every Sunday—and service top priorities in their lives. As they have served the Lord, they have seen miracles within their own lives and the lives of their family members.

Early in his career, Elder Wakolo worked as an Interpol officer for Fiji and later worked in various capacities for the Church. Elder Wakolo studied management and public administration at the University of the South Pacific. In 2007, he received a master’s degree in management from the University of the Sunshine Coast. Most recently, he was service center manager at the Church’s Fiji Service Center.

Elder Wakolo, who will complete his assignment as president of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission in July, looks to his new assignment as another opportunity to invite and help others become “a true converted disciple of Jesus Christ.”

“I tell every missionary who steps into this mission that I hope they return home a true disciple of Jesus Christ, and of course that begins with us,” he said.

In his new assignment he hopes to accomplish three things—to follow the senior Brethren by being a powerful witness of Jesus Christ, to help others increase their faith and conversion by reading the Book of Mormon, and to help others receive essential ordinances.

“Without essential ordinances, we would not be able to make it back, so it is a matter of life and death,” he said. “That is critical for me.”