Land of Natural Beauty

Halfway between the continents of South America and Australia in the South Pacific Ocean, you will see on a large map 14 small specks. These are the Society Islands and Tahiti is one of these islands.

Tahiti is famous for its natural beauty of mountains, waterfalls, beaches, and warm sunshiny climate. From the air Tahiti looks like an hourglass with an inactive volcanic cone at each end. The island is 38 miles long and is completely surrounded by a coral reef.

Rice, sugar cane, coconuts, and fruits such as bananas and oranges grow well in Tahiti because of the fertile volcanic soil. Coconuts are particularly valuable to the Tahitians (see page 25.)

An important industry in Tahiti is pearl diving. Oysters, which sometimes contain pearls, live in the lagoons, and the divers go to depths of 100 to 125 feet to seek the valuable jewels. Beautiful mother-of-pearl, shells grown by oysters and abalone, are also gathered to be made into jewelry and other items. These colorful shells average about eight to ten inches in diameter.

The island people love the out-of-doors and spend most of their time fishing, swimming, and hiking. The Tahitian children are taught to weave hats and mend fish nets. They enjoy playing soccer and have a special love and talent for music.

Because of the warm and friendly nature of the Tahitians, they like to be in large groups. They often gather for feasts of fish, poi, pork, and fruits. After eating they dance to the lively music of guitars or ukuleles.

The Society Islands belong to France and most of the people speak French, Tahitian, or Chinese.

The Church in Tahiti

On April 30, 1843, Noah Rogers and Benjamin F. Grouard stepped down from a sailing ship onto the island of Tahiti. The two young men were part of the first group of Latter-day Saint missionaries who were sent to foreign lands to preach the gospel.

These missionaries knew nothing of the native Tahitian language and had no friends on the island, but they trusted in our Father in heaven and knew He would help them. Many of the native people accepted the Book of Mormon and the Church grew quickly with the arrival of more missionaries.

Working together and making great sacrifices, chapels were built as the Church membership increased. The chapels were made out of rock and lime taken from the ocean. Divers gathered the rocks for building from the ocean floor and hauled them for miles in canoes and boats. The lime was burned in pits on ironwood fires. The wood for the window and door frames was cut and smoothed by hand—the only power used on the islands.

Church programs for the young people have been especially successful. In many branches the boys and girls often furnish all of the talks and musical numbers for sacrament meetings. They have always been willing and anxious to take part.

When a boat docks at Tahiti, the Church members frequently give a show for the visitors to raise money as a service project. Everyone, including the youngest children, sings Tahitian songs and dances to the delight of those who visit this beautiful island.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dan Shurtliff