Benjamin and Molitika Tuione of South Jordan, Utah


Benjamin and Molitika Tuione of South Jordan, Utah

“Oku ou kau ki he Siasi ‘o Sisu Kalaisi ‘o e Kau Ma‘oni‘oni ‘i he Ngaahi ‘Aho Kimui Ni,” sings 10-year-old Benjamin Tuione. Benjamin likes to sing, and he sounds good—especially since his words mean, “I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Benjamin and his family live near the Jordan River Temple in the Salt Lake Valley. Like most children in South Jordan, Benjamin and his brother Molitika, 6, usually speak in English. But during sacrament meeting each Sunday, Benjamin and Molitika sing and speak in Tongan.

The Tuione (pronounced “two-ee-oh-nay”) family comes from Tonga, a country of warm tropical islands in the Pacific Ocean. Almost half of the people in Tonga belong to the Church. At home in South Jordan, many people belong to the Church, too. But few can speak Tongan like the Tuione family. They attend a Tongan ward in one of two Tongan stakes in the Salt Lake Valley.

The Primary children in Benjamin and Molitika’s ward usually speak and sing in English during classes and sharing time, but they present their sacrament meeting program in Tongan, so they learn to sing Primary songs and to say their parts in Tongan.

Benjamin and Molitika like Primary. They especially enjoyed one stake activity day where they learned about different cultures. Molitika dressed to represent Native Americans, while Benjamin dressed in traditional Tongan clothing—a navy blue tupenu (like a long skirt) and a white shirt, with a taovala (a woven mat) wrapped around his waist. Missionaries in Tonga wear this type of clothing, too.

Benjamin and Molitika plan to go on missions themselves someday, and they already know many important truths that missionaries teach. They both know that Heavenly Father answers prayers. Brother Tuione has given them priesthood blessings when they have been sick. They know that those blessings helped them get well. The boys also know about the importance of families. Their family includes brothers Stanley, 16, and Sam, 14, and sisters Laniola, 12, and Ane Lupe, 2.

Benjamin and Molitika go to the same school, and they like to play together. “He’s nice to me,” Benjamin says about Molitika. And Molitika is grateful for help from his older brother. “When it’s time to go to school, he comes and wakes me up,” Molitika says. “Benjamin’s got a big heart,” Brother Tuione adds. “And they both share what they have.”

The boys also share some talents and hobbies. They like to ride their bikes together, and they both like art class at school. Benjamin likes drawing, while Molitika would rather paint. He and one of his sisters even painted the swing set and slide in their backyard!

Molitika also likes swimming and talking to people. “Moli’s talent is to make friends. He likes to make friends and talk to people,” Sister Tuione says. “He’s fun. He’s really bright,” Brother Tuione says.

Benjamin likes to play football. He plays on a team, and he has practices and games each week. He’s not the only athlete in the Tuione family, though. Sam plays football, too, and Stanley plays on his high school volleyball team.

The Tuione family likes to travel together, especially to California and to Hawaii. Brother and Sister Tuione lived in both states before they moved to Utah, and they were married in the Laie Hawaii Temple. Benjamin and Molitika like visiting other family members when they travel to those places. They also liked watching the dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center during a visit to Hawaii.

Benjamin and Molitika still have one important place to visit with their family: Tonga. Even though they speak Tongan and go to a Tongan ward, Benjamin and Molitika have never been to Tonga. “That’s our dream—that someday we can go back to Tonga so they can see everything,” Sister Tuione says. In the meantime, Benjamin and Molitika will keep playing and learning together. When they do visit Tonga, everyone will understand their song, “Oku ou kau ki he Siasi ‘o Sisu Kalaisi ‘o e Kau Ma‘oni‘oni ‘i he Ngaahi ‘Aho Kimui Ni.”

[photos] Photography by Callie Buys

[photo] Benjamin and Molitika hula hoop together. Benjamin and Molitika are good friends.

[photo] The Tuione family

[photo] Benjamin gets ready for football practice.

[photo] Molitika likes to create pictures on the computer.

[photo] Benjamin loves his sister, Ane Lupe.

Callie Buys is a member of the Colonial First Ward, Mount Vernon Virginia Stake.