“I Had a Dream. You Anointed My Child.”
In November 1889 Elder Edward J. Wood and his mission president, Joseph H. Dean, went to a secluded spot under a banyan tree in Samoa and prayed to the Lord for guidance. A child was ill and the mother, having seen the elders in a dream, asked the missionaries to come to her island to heal the baby. Yet the missionaries were wary. The country was uneasy, the Mormon position was precarious, and the elders were afraid of a trap.
Then, in the midst of prayer, Elder Wood heard a voice assuring him they should go. This was the answer the elders needed, and they were soon on their way. When they arrived, the mother, who had been waiting on the beach for them, greeted them respectfully and motioned for them to follow her to her falé (house).
“I am glad you have come,” she said. “It is all right. Here is my child.”
She lifted a white sheet from the body of the child, who was lying on the floor of the hut. The elders declared the child dead, but the mother insisted she was alive and added, “You do what I saw you do last night in my dream, and she will be well. Have you the authority to do what I saw you do in my dream? You anointed that child with oil; you laid your hands upon her head.”
They could hesitate no longer. They had the authority, so they administered to the child, covered her with the cloth, and left.
Elder Wood heard nothing more of the child or its mother until two years later, when he was called to labor on another island. Much to his surprise, he was greeted kindly by a woman who called him by name. She called to her side a young girl about nine years old, and addressing the crowd, she said:
“This is a living testimony of the great power of the gospel, and the power and authority held by Mr. Wood and his associates. They administered to this child over two years ago. I have never seen them since, but I know they have the power of God with them, and all of you must listen to their message.”
Then, addressing Elder Wood, she explained that she was the daughter of the high chief of the island. She invited him to stay at her home where his needs would be supplied.
The next morning Elder Wood was bitten on the hand by a centipede, the most deadly insect of the islands. Immediately his arm and hand began to swell to the size of a boxing glove. The natives gathered around, expecting him to die. “Give us your last message,” they cried. “You will die within an hour.”
While he was suffering excruciating pain, the high chief’s daughter approached Brother Wood leisurely, shook his hand and remarked: “That is all right, Brother Wood. Have you got any of that oil with you?”
He answered, “Yes,” and asked for his valise, from which he produced a bottle of oil.
The woman said, “Now, do what you did to my child, and you will be all right.”
“I felt when she said that,” remarked Brother Wood, “that I positively knew it would be so. I anointed my hand, and the swelling left, just like taking a glove off my hand.”
She turned to the natives who had gathered around and said, “As I told you, the Lord is with this young man, and his church and his people.”
This miraculous healing helped the work of the Lord to spread rapidly, and in a short time a branch of the Church was established there, with a membership of more than one hundred people.
(Taken from Wood’s Journal, November 1889; a “Tape Recording of Edward J. Wood”; and Thomas C. Romney, The Gospel in Action, Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1949, pp. 262–63.)
“Why on Earth Did You Ask Them?”
Elder Mark Haffner and his companion, Elder Dean Rasmussen, stood on the corner of a Suva, Fiji, street, discussing where they should go next. They were not aware that Sister Ami Petero lived across the street. But she saw them standing there and invited them over to her home. As they stood on her lawn and talked with her, she said, “Won’t you come in and teach my husband the missionary lessons? He is ready to hear them now.”
The elders did not know then that ever since Tony Petero had married Ami, she had prayed that he would someday listen to the missionaries and join the Church. Nor did they know that he had not asked to hear their message. He had made one passing comment to Ami that was complimentary to the Church, and this gave her the courage to invite the elders to her home.
The elders felt the discussion that evening in November 1973 was a successful one. Tony participated and even asked some questions. He was friendly to the elders and appeared to be interested in their message. When the lesson ended, he agreed to meet with them again.
But after the elders left that night, he spoke harshly to his wife. “Ami,” he said, “why on earth did you ask the missionaries to come? You know I’m not interested in your Church.” An appointment had been made for another meeting, however, and even though Tony was against continuing the missionary lessons, he decided that he would be courteous and allow the elders to come again.
But as he listened a second time to the teachings of the Church, he gained a testimony that the gospel was true, and only four weeks passed before he was baptized. His acceptance of the gospel and his rapid progress surprised both his wife and the elders.
Only after he completed the missionary discussions did he tell his wife and the elders of an experience he had prior to the first lesson. He had had a dream several weeks earlier in which he met with two young men who talked to him about a book. When he awakened, the dream had no clear meaning for him; and it did not have much effect upon him except, perhaps, to prompt him to make the complimentary comment to his wife that had encouraged her to invite the elders. When the elders taught him the first discussion and explained the Book of Mormon to him, Tony recognized them as the young men with whom he had spoken in his dream. Even though Tony had appeared to be against the missionaries and had reprimanded his wife for inviting them in, he had known before the lesson ended that he was supposed to hear the message of the restored gospel.
Tony did not enter the waters of baptism without going through some testing of his character. He enjoyed drinking tea and also liked alcoholic beverages. Because the Christmas season with its office parties and drinking was upon them, Tony wondered whether it wouldn’t be all right if he went on one or two more drinking parties before he put such things aside and committed himself to the Word of Wisdom. But the Suva district president visited with Tony and explained that it was best to quit at once and quit completely. Tony could see the point in this reasoning and did exactly that.
Before joining the Church he was a happy-go-lucky fellow, with little direction in his life. Neither was he known as a serious or careful worker at the bank where he was employed. But after he learned about the true purpose of life, Tony decided that he had important work to accomplish. He also concluded that his employers deserved better service from him. Because he worked much harder and more responsibly after he joined the Church, Tony was promoted to a new position as a bank officer only two months after his baptism.
The elders explained the importance of the family to Tony during the missionary discussions, and Tony and Ami decided, even before he was baptized, that they would go to the temple to be sealed as a family as soon as possible. They soon learned that the Fiji Mission was planning to hold its first excursion to the New Zealand Temple early in January 1975.
It was necessary for them to make some sacrifices in order to raise enough money for the trip. Early in 1974 they moved from their home into one that was smaller and less expensive. They also saved in other ways and one year and two weeks after Brother Petero was baptized, he and his wife and their two children were sealed as a family for time and eternity.
Tony is now a member of the Suva District Council. In his capacity as director of the Aaronic Priesthood he organized the first Fiji Mission youth conference. He is now employed by the Church School System as financial comptroller for the Suva LDS Elementary School and new LDS technical school that is under construction.
We Lived on 70 Cents a Month for the Temple
“We had to do some extra things to accomplish our goals,” Brother Vaha’i Tonga simply stated. More than anything else Brother Tonga and his wife wanted to be in New Zealand for the dedication of the temple, but it was not easy for a Tongan Saint to save enough money for such a journey. It took months of preparation and saving, but finally the money was gathered and plans were made.
But the Lord’s church had other needs, and mission President Fred Stone approached the Tongas with a request. “Brother Tonga,” President Stone said, “I want you to get all the money you have saved to go to the temple and bring it over to me. We want to build a chapel in your branch, and if you don’t contribute the money, the building program will pass by your branch and you will have to wait a couple of years to build a chapel.”
“I will do it. Tomorrow I will get the money,” replied Vaha’i Tonga. But it was difficult to give up their dream of seeing the new temple. He related that after President Stone left, “My wife and I talked about our decision. She said, ‘Okay, we’ll do it, but you know I have told my friends and my family that we are going to go to the temple dedication.’ I will never forget what I was prompted to say at that moment. I said, ‘Let us close the door on Satan and keep him out. We will do what the Lord tells us to do.’
“Wednesday morning I went over to the government bank and drew out all of the money. I gave it to my wife and told her to give it to President Stone.
“That night we had a little talk. I said, ‘Honey, the Lord has promised us through our leaders that if we keep his commandments he will prepare some way that we will be able to go to the dedication. We have cows, pigs, and some horses, besides furniture and mats. Let’s sell it all so that we may be able to receive the blessings of the dedication.’
“We began to tell people that we wanted to sell our livestock, but when they came, they said, ‘No, too much money, too dear for us to buy those things.’ This was on Thursday, and Friday was not successful either. On the following Monday the ship, the Tofua, was to leave.
“On Saturday morning three families came who needed some cows, pigs, and other things, and we received between $500 and $600 in about half an hour. I told my wife that we had the money and would be able to go.
“I went over early Monday morning to Nuku’alofa to give President Stone the money. In surprise he asked, ‘Where did you get the money?’
“‘We sold some of our things so that we may go to the dedication.’
“‘Brother Tonga,’ he said, ‘the Lord will bless you.’
“At the temple we realized many blessings. We were the first witness couple and the first couple to be sealed in the New Zealand Temple. I was the leader of the Tongan chorus and President McKay had me lead the entire congregation in the closing hymn of the dedicatory service.
“When my wife and I were sealed to each other, something touched my heart. Our children were not with us, and tears came to my eyes. When we arrived home I promised our four children that if they would help, we could go to the temple together. I thought to myself, ‘How can you say, be a good boy or be a good girl, if I am not sealed to them in the temple?’ I had the feeling that they were not mine.
“For two years we sacrificed almost everything. I divided my pay from school for each one of us, and we saved that. But we paid our tithing and fast offerings. We were left with 70¢ in our hands each month. This is how I lived with my family, on 70¢ a month for two years. We lived on what we could grow and gather. I remember my wife would wake up early in the morning to make our salads with bananas and coconut milk. My children could not buy candy or shoes or go to movies because they were saving to go to the temple.
“In addition to my regular teaching job at Liahona High School, I did some other work as it came along. To save on transportation costs I also rode my bicycle to district meetings in Nuku’alofa, seven miles away. I was a counselor to the president of the mission MIA and had to travel from branch to branch. I rode my bike on these assignments. Most of our district meetings began at 6:00 A.M. so I had to leave home very early in the morning.
“When the deadline came for getting our money in, my five-year-old said, ‘Dad, let me go and count my money.’ She counted it and said, ‘I’m through, I’ve got enough money to go to the temple.’ The two oldest boys said they had about $235. After saving for two years the little one had saved $65. I had saved almost $1,300 for my family.
“Through sacrifice we were able to take our family to New Zealand to be sealed in the temple. We had to do some extra things to accomplish our goals, but it was a great blessing to us.”
The Word of Wisdom Blessing
As President Ernest C. Rossiter and his wife sailed into the harbor at Takaroa, three days’ distance from Tahiti, they noticed with concern that the coconut trees on the island were yellowed and the fronds hung limp. The next morning they found that this was a grave concern to the natives on the island too. In a solemn council, the villagers approached President Rossiter with their problem.
With great dignity the chief called him by his native name and said, “Ereneta, for many, many months we have been trying to raise money to pay off our debts to the white traders. The Lord has not favored us. Our coconut trees have a blight. The fronds of our coconut trees are limp, and the nuts fall to the ground unmatured. The traders threaten to foreclose on our plantations unless we pay what we owe them. We enter the pearl diving season each year, but return owing the traders more than we had before going. As you see, we are sorely in need of your help to save all our possessions.”
President Rossiter was deeply grieved and asked for a three-day period of fasting and prayer to give him time to ponder the problem of the natives’ indebtedness. His investigations brought him to a startling conclusion: the people were not keeping the Word of Wisdom nor paying their tithes and fast offerings; they were not honoring their priesthood.
On the afternoon of the last day of the fast, President Rossiter called for a congregation of all the Saints. There, in the island meetinghouse, the power of the Lord came upon him, and with great force he revealed his findings and called the people to repentance. He told them that if they would humble themselves before the Lord and keep all of his commandments, he would bless them and restore their plantations to a healthy green condition, and they would bear fruit abundantly.
Then President Rossiter inaugurated his plan to help the people pay off their debts. He returned to Tahiti, and after much persuasion he was able to lease a ship and supplies to be used by the natives during the pearl shell diving season. He brought this vessel to Takaroa, where the natives, with their animals and possessions, boarded the ship and sailed to the pearl diving grounds on another island.
There, under President Rossiter’s supervision, the people set up their homes, established strict sanitation practices, and began the long hours of arduous shell diving. The people were more thrifty and worked harder and longer than they had ever done, and at the end of the season the divers had brought up 75 percent more shells than any other group of divers on the island. But some of the traders were jealous of their unity and success, and they banded together to keep the price of pearl shells down. These traders offered President Rossiter and his followers only 15 cents a pound, while they were paying other groups 20 cents.
But President Rossiter stood firm. He refused to sell at that price and announced that the shell would be stored for another year until the price was raised. Storage was unnecessary, however, because the biggest trader relented and agreed not only to pay 30 cents a pound, but also to transport the natives to their homes free of charge.
Over $50,000 was raised that season from the sale of the pearl shell, and the same system was used during the next two seasons. At the end of that time the natives were completely out of debt. In addition, they had paid their tithes and offerings and attended their sacrament meetings.
At the end of the first season, as they approached their island home, each native anxiously watched the shores of his beloved homeland. As they drew near enough to clearly see the plantations, tears of thanksgiving and gratitude filled the eyes of all the faithful native Saints. There in the bright morning sunlight, the fronds of the coconut trees had all changed from a sickly green to a deep, waxy hue, and the nuts were in greater abundance on every tree than ever before.
In three years their debts were paid, their plantations were redeemed, and the Saints were humble and thankful to the Lord for these great blessings. The words of the Lord were fulfilled: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say.” (D&C 82:10.)
“Leave the Village or Die!”
Why does a son honor his father? Sekeli Sale Manu, the second youngest in a family of eleven children, could tell you why he does, for when he speaks of his father, Sale, it is with a reverence that stirs the heart.
When Sekeli was ten years of age, his father and family were called as missionaries to go to Sataupaii, Western Samoa, to establish a branch of the Church in that village. The Mormons were hated and persecuted there, and on one occasion an angry mob, led by a local minister, attacked the Manu family while they were visiting the sick. Sekeli can still remember being pushed to the ground, along with all of his brothers and sisters, while the minister pushed Sale up against a tree with a machete at his throat and said, “Why do you steal my sheep?”
“Because you deceive this people and you do not know what is the truth,” Sale Manu responded. Threatened that he and all his family would be killed if they did not deny the faith, Sale Manu responded, “I will not deny that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.” The threat was not carried out, but harassment continued and finally a note from the village high chief came: “Leave the village or die.”
Sale Manu paddled his outrigger canoe two days and two nights to see President John Adams and ask him what to do. President Adams instructed Sale to pray about it and assured him the Lord would answer his prayers. Again two days and two nights were spent upon the waters returning to his family, praying for guidance, and when he returned he gathered his frightened family around him and said, “It is the Lord’s will that we stay on this island and in this village, and if necessary, seal our testimonies with our own blood that we do know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”
On December 24, 1945, their gardens were destroyed, their trees felled, and their pineapples uprooted. The village high chief said they must be gone by morning or they would be burned alive.
Christmas morning found the Manu family kneeling in prayer, dressed in their finest clothes. There were not enough white shirts for the boys, so Sekeli went without. When the mob set fire to their house, the family retreated to the cookhouse, and this too was set on fire.
A huge bonfire was built as commanded by the high chief, and the Manu family was given one last chance to leave the village. Sale Manu stood his ground. “I am here because my church is true and I will never deny my testimony. I am ready to die and seal my testimony that I do know that the Mormon Church is the true church of God.”
The huge bonfire forced all to stand back. The high chief said, “Sale Manu, I gave you a chance to save your life and the lives of your family. What do you have to say?”
Sale Manu responded, “We are ready to die! What are you waiting for?”
The high chief became faint. “Now I know that you are a man of God, and I cannot do this great thing,” he said. The villagers left one at a time. The huge bonfire burned out. That evening the police came and arrested the high chief, the minister, and some forty others. Later, in a packed courtroom, the judge was determined to make an example of the persecutors. To Sale Manu he said, “Whatever you declare to be a just punishment for these men, including years of imprisonment, I will grant you. There will be religious freedom in these islands.”
But Sale Manu replied, “I forgive them. Let them go home to their families with the understanding that they leave the Latter-day Saints alone.”
The judge decreed: “From this time forth the Latter-day Saints may preach anywhere on the island, and if they have enough people to build a chapel, they may surely do it.”
Hundreds of villagers joined the Church, and within a couple of months all but a handful of the 900 people living in the village had been baptized. When they asked Sale Manu where they should build their chapel, he took them to the ashes of the huge bonfire, where hot coals had burned their mark into the ground. Today a ward chapel stands on this spot and is one of the largest buildings in Western Samoa.
Sale Manu went from village to village to the end of his life preaching the gospel. During his last assignment, as branch president in Fagomalo, the village of his birth, he met a subchief who was almost convinced he should join the Church, but never quite managed to make the commitment. He said, “Sale Manu, if you will be faithful to the end of your days, I will join the church.” Prior to his death, Sale Manu purchased a burial plot that faced the front door of this man’s home. Needless to say, after Sale Manu died, this subchief and all his family joined the Church. The subchief later became branch president.
Today, all of Samoa is covered by stakes; it is the first country in the world to be entirely organized into stakes of Zion. Of all the discourses Sale Manu delivered, none was more powerful than the ten simple words he spoke to his son, Sekeli, just before he died. “Sekeli,” he said, “you be the kind of father that I was!”
Is it any wonder that Sekeli Sale Manu honors his father?