1982: Joseph H. Spurrier - The Gospel and the 'Ohana

1982: Joseph H. Spurrier - The Gospel and the 'Ohana

J SpurrierAnother original faculty member of Church College of Hawaii, Joseph H. Spurrier delivered the twentieth McKay lecture in 1982. Earning a B.M. in 1950 and his M.A. in 1951 from Texas Western College of the University of Texas, Spurrier completed his Ed.D. in 1962 at Utah State University. Originally engaged to teach vocal and instrumental music, Spurrier directed College's first choir, headed the Music Department, chaired the Division of International Heritage Studies, directed admissions, and served as Registrar, among other duties, during his faculty tenure. As a missionary for the Church in Hawaii, he grew to love the islands, as reflected in his book, Great Are the Promises unto the Isles of the Sea (1978). A member of the Hawaii Committee for the Humanities and the State Council on Hawaiian Heritage, Spurrier quite naturally chose the Hawaiian 'ohana as the subject of his lecture. At the time of its presentation, he was a professor of Humanities at BYUH. He and his wife Kathryn have six children: Thomas, Uilani, Jean, Howard, Garth, and Nancy.



Aloha Kakahaiaka. I am honored to occupy this position this morning and am well aware of the significance of these lectures and of the lecturers who have preceded me. I have prepared for several months and now pray for the inspiration which should characterize these presentations.

My topic for this 1982 lecture has to do with the effects of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on the Hawaiian family. What I will say this morning and the facts and relationships from which it has been drawn is a product of hindsight which is always twenty-twenty. Professor Warren Hollister calls this kind of hindsight "that particular form of cheating known as history."1 It is always easier to see patterns and designs in events a century or so after they happen.

I would like first to talk about the pattern of family life among the Hawaiians prior to the intrusion of Westerners, insofar as that can be known to us. Then I will deal with the effects of foreign influence and the resultant deterioration of many important aspects of family living. Finally, I will discuss the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on family life as it existed in Laie before the turn of this century. I have been surprised and a little gratified as this story has unfolded for me and happy for the opportunity to share it with you.

For the first part of my paper, I have used the descriptions of family life as found in the published accounts of explorers and visitors to the islands in the eighteenth century. These include that of Captain James Cook, the discoverer; Captain George Dixon; George Anson, who held the title of Lord Byron at the time; Charles Wilkes, of the United States Exploring Expedition; John Ledyard, an American who was with Cook in 1778 (Mumford); Archibald Campbell, a sailor who spent a year in Honolulu in 1811; and John B. Whitman, a gentleman traveler who left a record of his visit to Hawaii (Holt). There were some Hawaiians who had learned the art of writing from missionaries and who recorded their memories of earlier times. These are David Malo and Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau ("Mo'olelo"). Perspective is given to this material in a small but important book by Dr. E. S. Craighill Handy and Mary Kawena Pukui, The Polynesian Family System in Ka'u, Hawaii (1972).

Sources for the second section of the paper are largely the journals, letters, and reports of the New England Protestant missionaries who were the dominant force in the Sandwich Islands between 1820 and 1850. Their accounts are, of course, prejudicial and severely critical of the pagan way of life. Seen from the distance of over a century and a half, however, the vision becomes more accurate if not clearer. The final part of the lecture is based upon the journals of some fifty of the more than two hundred Latter-day Saint elders and sisters who were called as missionaries to the Islands before 1900.

The Hawaiian term commonly translated as family is 'ohana. In casual usage this word can mean kinsman, the corporate group of the extended family, or some group brought together by common interests though otherwise unrelated (Handy and Pukui). The definition preferred by Sister Pukui, and therefore by me, is a group of persons related by blood, marriage, or adoption (Handy and Pukui 2). Groups brought together by common interest were usually called hui, and others who might live in a household were 'ohua, or sojourners, likened to passengers in a canoe (Goldman 237).

The term 'ohana is heavy with symbolism and evokes, even today, strong emotions. It is derived from the word, 'oha, which, in this case, does not refer to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. This is the word for the sprout or rootlets which occur near the top of the corm or tuber of the taro plant -- Calocasia esculenta (Pukui and Elbert 157). It is from these sprouts that the plant is propagated. Thus, 'oha-'ana implies the emergence of several new plants from the parent, and 'ohana is the contraction of that phrase (Kenn).

Not only was the 'ohana the basic unit of Hawaiian society, it was central to the Hawaiian way of life (Young 11). Guidance in ethical and moral forms of behavior were to be found in the relationships of the 'ohana rather than in the prescriptions of religion. As a matter of fact, the early Hawaiian religion was non-moral. Ideas of right and wrong were largely missing. The kapu, which was the universal, unwritten law and social control, outlined what was acceptable and unacceptable, punishable and not punishable, but not what was right and wrong (Young 7-8). Also to be found in the 'ohana was the warmth and love without which the survival of humanity would be doubtful.

A major effect of the kapu was the separation of society into well defined classes. Most of the population existed in two classes: the ali'i, or chiefs, and the maka'ainana, or commoners. Chiefly rank was inherited, and the placement within rank was determined by a board of genealogists, the 'aha hui ali'i. The highest ranking alii on an island might rule that island as an inherited right. Those of lesser rank served as retainers or ruled smaller districts of the island (Malo 53).

The common people worked the land and the sea for the support of all. Thus, it was the responsibility of the ali'i to rule and manage and of the commoners to be close to, to work, and to love the land. To us this seems an unfair division of labor but to those early-day Hawaiians, it did not seem so. It was the order of things and there was another subtle but important consideration -- that of the security and comfort of "place," knowing who one was and where he fit into that order (Kenn). This concept is almost unknown among us today.

A third group in ancient Hawaiian society were the kahuna, the class of priests and possessors of knowledge. These were the experts in the lore of the race, the officiators in the practices of the religion, the intermediaries between the affairs of men and the cosmos (Kenn). The power of the kahuna, in fact, the power through which almost everything which required skill, knowledge, or simply luck was done, was mana (Malo 135). This power was the right of the chiefs by birth and it might be generated by the kahuna through ritual but it was also held by all males -- at least to that degree required to make daily observances in honor of the family deity, the 'aumakua (Emroy 86). It was not, however, a power available to females.

The preservation or renewal of mana required regular involvement in the ceremonies conducted by the kahuna in the heiau (Emory 87). The heiau were structures built for religious observances -- Hawaiian sacred places, temples, as it were. These ceremonies were conducted on nights of the month set aside for the purpose in the Hawaiian lunar calendar.

The lunar calendar was the regularizing agent in the daily lives of the people. There were nights dedicated to the deities of the ali'i, Ku, Kane, Lono, and Kanaloa, and services were performed appropriate to them (Emory 86). Other nights were designated for fishing, planting, harvesting, mending, or simply avoiding all activity. There was a time to each purpose and activity in the daily life of the Hawaiians. The calendar gave rhythm and pace to the life of the 'ohana (Kenn).

The structure of the 'ohana is described by Sister Pukui as a "dispersed community" (Handy and Pukui 2). Groups of family members might live short distances from each other within a district, but were bound together by the bonds of the 'ohana. Although rank was not held by the commoners and genealogies were not kept, each 'ohana knew its members through at least six generations. The kinship system was generational in nature with terms in the language for each age group -- grandparents; parents, aunts and uncles; one's own generation; the generation of one's children; and finally a word for grandchildren (Handy and Pukui 42). In all of this, the eldest son or daughter was given recognition as the haku, or lord of the family. Further, the first son or daughter of the eldest succeeded to that title and position. Thus, senior lines were established within the 'ohana. From these senior lines came the leadership for the family. The haku divided the fish from a communal catch, directed any work that required a total family effort, presided at family councils, and represented the family in any dealings with the rulers of the island or district such as the annual gathering of the taxes. The haku was also responsible for the aina, or customary family home-place within the district. This place was also seen as the geographic center for the 'ohana (Goldman 236-237).

As has been mentioned, groups of family might live about, short distances from each other, but usually within one land area called an ahupua'a. This land division, ranging in size from two thousand to two hundred thousand acres, was often pie-shaped, running from the summit of the mountains to the ocean. The boundaries on either side were natural, perhaps streambeds or ridges (Chinen 1). The chief who ruled in an ahupua'a held the title of konohiki, and was really more of a landlord or land manager than a political ruler. Such political loyalties were the right of the ali'i nui or divine chiefs.

Family members living within the ahupua'a enjoyed full rights of use and access to lands not otherwise occupied. Thus, members of the 'ohana had the advantages of plants to be gathered in the uplands, the crops cultivated in the level lands, and the products of the beach and sea. Some couples, or nuclear family units of the 'ohana, might live near the ocean and rely on fishing for their livelihood while others lived in the mountains, gathering and cultivating plants appropriate to those areas. There was manifest among members of the 'ohana, scattered though they were, frequent contact and interaction. They were mutually supportive to a high degree. Those living near the shore, as they travelled inland on some errand, carried with them dried or fresh fish, seaweed, or other products of their labors to share with the relatives who lived in the mountains. As they returned home, they would be laden with taro or other products of the up-country. This was not formal barter or exchange but mutual support -- sharing, not by obligation or on demand, but simply as a way of living (Handy and Pukui 6). This ethic, which motivated and shaped action among the Hawaiians, was cooperative and distributive in contrast with the economic system which would come to the Islands. It would be acquisitive and competitive.

As has been indicated, the commoners did the work on the land and the ocean. Tasks were clearly delineated between males and females in the family. Those tasks requiring mana such as planting, harvesting, net fishing or fishing done from canoes, and cooking were all done by men. Women assisted with weeding, cleaning and preparation for planting, gathering of uncultivated plants and working the beaches for shellfish and seaweed (Handy and Pukui 176). Under adverse weather conditions, or in the heat of the day, both men and women did indoor work. This, for men, was making and repairing of tools, nets, and canoes. Indoor work for women was the making of kapa, the Hawaiian bark cloth, the plaiting of mats and the care of small children. Boys, after having made the transition from the women's care to the house of the men, assisted in all male tasks while girls were instructed in the work of the women (Boggs 66).

The work of the day began early since one of the tenets of the ancient religion was that work done with living plants should be done either before daylight or after dark (Kenn). For fishermen, of course, it was always desirable to be well out to sea before the sun was fully up. An important thing to note is that every member of the 'ohana who was beyond infancy was involved with the work of keeping the group supplied with the necessities of living.

Children held a special place in the 'ohana, especially when they were small. They were objects of much attention and affection by all. As they reached an ambulatory age, however, this attention by parents and grandparents diminished markedly and the child was left to fend for himself among his peers (Jordan et al 57). He was, of course, under the supervision and watchful care of older brothers and sisters or cousins. The child was expected to learn the skills necessary for the daily family tasks, the information required to observe the kapu, the use of language, and matters of personal hygiene. More important than these were the learnings related to being 'olu'olu -- pleasant and cheerful -- and to lohe, which meant to give heed or to obey. These behaviors were meant to assure that the child would be amenable to the desires of others and would avoid confrontation. These are and were prime values in the Hawaiian way of living. These were the values of the 'ohana (Howard 29).

A thorough description of the pre-discovery 'ohana is not possible but what can be known reveals a number of important facets of that life. I should like to draw a brief and premature summary of these here. Most importantly, the structure and functions of the 'ohana were basic to the Hawaiian way of life. The facets of this style of living which we can identify may be listed as follows. First, the 'ohana existed with a social structure of ali'i and maka'ainana -- chiefs and commoners -- which gave the individuals the security of "place" and belonging. Secondly, the early religion with its kapu  as the system for social control gave shape and limiting boundaries for living. Within the old religion also was the power of mana through which the powers of the cosmos were utilized and controlled and with which the males in the family propitiated the family deity or 'aumakua. This was the third aspect. Fourthly, the 'ohana was situated normally within the confines of an ahupua'a, or major land divisions. Though the family might be dispersed throughout this area, there was a structure within with a senior line recognized and a haku who led and represented the group. This was a fifth characteristic. The sixth was the non-nuclear nature of the 'ohana with the overall unity and obligation superseding interests of any one couple or their children. Finally, the nature of the family interaction was mutually supportive and distributive in contrast to the competitive, acquisitive system of those who would come from Western, capitalistic cultures.

Change, of course, is constant in any society, but in an isolated island setting it occurs more slowly. Truly drastic changes for the 'ohana began with the arrival of the ships of the discoverer, Captain James Cook, in 1778. The strange and lusty men from the ships were attractive and attracted to the women of the island, who wore marriage as a light mantle (Danielssen 106). Despite the informality among Hawaiians in matters of sexual fidelity, the associations of wives and daughters with the men of the ships placed strains on the relationships of the 'ohana (Kamakau Ruling 101). The foreigners did not seem to differentiate between women of common origin and those of chiefly rank. In the trade or barter which grew up immediately between the islanders and the sailors, the same lack of differentiation existed. The system of chiefly rank and its function in society were called into question (Kenn). The kapu, also a shaping force of the 'ohana, was violated both by the foreigners and by women in their company, and apparently without visible results (Kenn). Only a little later some foreign men would take up residence in the Islands and take Hawaiian women for wives (Adams 48-49). These wives would be expected not only to eat with their husbands but to cook for them as well .

These events weakened the social fabric to the degree that the chiefs, in 1819, finally cast off the kapu and discarded most public aspects of the old religion (Handy 26). With this revolutionary event went the social system which it had maintained and the sense of security and belonging which were inherent in it. The ali'i were still chiefs and the maka'ainana were still commoners but the lines dividing them were blurred and indistinct -- political now and not preserved by religious constraints. Gone, in a moment, was the feeling of "place," the kapu, which had been the recognized control in the society, and the power of mana which had enabled men to deal with the forces of the supernatural. The 'ohana was cut adrift from three of its important moorings.

As though the destruction of these life supports were not enough, the strangers brought with them diseases to which the islanders had no immunity. The Hawaiians began to die in dreadful numbers and, with the passage of time and the coming of new diseases, the numbers would increase (Schmitt 8-9). The real tragedy, however, was the cultural shock experienced by the islanders at coming into contact with a civilization which could be said to be some six thousand years ahead in time. This shock and the resultant sterility combined with the diseases would decimate the population in less than a century (Schmitt 8-9).

In 1820, when Christian missionaries arrived from New England, still other pressures were brought to bear on the reeling, wounded culture. Family life among the Hawaiians was already in a lamentable state. The wars of the conqueror, Kamehameha I, and the new sandalwood trade took men away from their families for extended periods of time, and in some cases permanently. Women were forced into rôles for which they were not prepared and which, earlier, had been unacceptable to them. The newly arrived preachers and teachers assumed that the condition of disarray which they observed was the natural state of affairs. One reported that there was nothing resembling family life or domestic felicity to be seen among the islanders (Sahlins and Barrère 32).

The Protestant missionaries began immediately to bring the ways of the faltering 'ohana into conformity with the rather different patterns of Christian New England. Their efforts have been judged as generally successful, though in the effort almost everything Hawaiian became unacceptable, unsuccessful, or a downright sin (Kenn). The rigorous and puritanical doctrines of the New Englanders were not well calculated to restore cultural stability to the people or to assist the 'ohana.

The direct effects of Christianity on the 'ohana were subtle but far-reaching. There was, first of all, the missionary insistence on monogamy and fidelity in marriage. This, in and of itself, is right and proper but, to a people accustomed for many centuries to exactly the opposite, it was very strange. The way was then opened for what would later be called the national sin -- adultery (Farrer 31 July 1852). This was all but unavoidable and would eventually be for the best, but, at the time, it was a force against the ways of the 'ohana. Another influence, certainly not intended as destructive, was the missionary expectation that the male in the family would be the provider while the female would remain at home in the dwelling. This was strange indeed to the 'ohana where all hands had been needed and used to accomplish the work of mere existence.

Perhaps not the most noticeable, but certainly one of the most important events, was the change from the lunar calendar of the Hawaiians to the Christian calendar of the West. The lunar calendar had fixed, night by night, the appointed tasks of men. It had paced the life of the 'ohana in most all its activities. When this was abandoned for the new calendar of the white men, any activity could be performed on any day. Only one day was set aside for religious purposes. Any activity on any day meant, more often than not, nothing getting done at any time. The Hawaiian way of life was all but demolished (Kenn).

By the 1840s, the pressures brought to bear by foreigners on Hawaiians to own land for themselves and their purposes forced King Kamehameha III to terminate the old land system with the Mahele, or land division, of 1847 (Levy 855). The result of this action was that land became a commodity, to be bought and sold (Levy 857). The old land system, while feudal in nature and withholding clear, free or perpetual title to the land, was, nevertheless, pretty well suited to the island situation where land is sharply limited (Levy 849). Under the new system, land was measured in acres and not in useable units, as far as Hawaiians were concerned. The ahupua'a were broken up by fences and boundaries which could not be crossed easily or legally. The use and access rights so necessary to the 'ohana style of living were lost.

Newly married couples might now be required to move away from the traditional homelands and settle as nuclear families without the support and associations to which they were accustomed within the 'ohana. The old way was now almost completely broken up. The 'ohana could no longer exist. The old cooperative, mutually supportive and sharing interaction was no longer possible. The new way of life was American, competitive, and achievement oriented. It was every person for himself in most situations. Obviously, the new way was in contrast with the old. The loss to the Hawaiians was incomprehensible. Most of the undergirding principles on which the existence of the 'ohana had rested were now gone.

It is not intended, in these paragraphs, to imply that the Islands were a paradise into which a haole (Caucasian) serpent intruded himself, or that everything introduced by the newcomers was evil. Certainly Hawaii would have been discovered sometime and missionaries would have come from somewhere. While the indigenous island culture was, in many ways, ideally adapted to the island situation, it would, in fact, have changed to meet new conditions as they arose. The problem was, in point of fact, that the Hawaiians could not make the necessary adaptations quickly enough and the human organism simply refused to function properly to reproduce itself. Further, the ravages of diseases robbed the culture of its energy and will to survive. The situation had deteriorated to [such] a point by 1836 that a European visitor recorded: "Unless haste is made, there will be none left at the Sandwich Islands to civilize, unless it be the civilizers themselves" (Barrot 98). Many were confidently predicting that the Hawaiian would be extinct in a few years. It certainly appeared to be true. Deaths were exceeding births by multiples, and conditions seemed to have no prospect of getting better.

It was in December of 1850 that the first missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived at Honolulu. The Gospel of Jesus Christ had been restored twenty years earlier by Joseph Smith in western New York. The Church from the beginning had accepted the awesome charge of taking the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people (D&C 42: 58). Although the task must have seemed formidable, if not impossible, in the early years of persecution, violence and martyrdoms, missionaries were called and sent out. Those arriving in Hawaii had been called out of a temporal mission in the gold fields of California where they had gone to secure precious metal for use in the community of Deseret.

After a few weeks of indecisive operation, five of the ten elders left the field to return home or to go elsewhere. The remaining five elders began work among the Hawaiians. Elder George Q. Cannon had been given to know quite early that the Hawaiians were of the House of Israel and should be taught the Gospel. Success was experienced among both Hawaiians and Caucasians. Troubles in Utah in 1857 forced the closing of the Sandwich Island Mission and the elders were all called home (Jensen 25 April 1858; 1 May 1858). By that time, however, nearly 4,000 converts had been made, a place of gathering had been settled at Palawai, Lanai, branches existed on all major islands, conferences were being held in the mission every six months, and the Book of Mormon had been translated into the Hawaiian language (Jensen vols. 1 and 2 passim).

After three years under the spurious leadership of Walter M. Gibson, some of the local brethren wrote to Salt Lake City reporting some of his activities (Solomona et al to Alma L. Smith, 27 July 1863). President Brigham Young dispatched a deputation to Hawaii under the leadership of Elder[s] Ezra Taft Benson and Lorenzo Snow of the Council of the Twelve Apostles to correct the situation. Gibson was excommunicated and the young Joseph F. Smith was left with three others to restore order in the Church in the islands (Jensen 7 April 1864). Nothing was said at that point about re-establishing the mission.

In the fall of 1864, President Young decided to continue the work in Hawaii in the form of an agricultural colony. He wrote requesting the permission of King Kamehameha IV who, after privy council deliberation, recommended against it (John Dominis to Brigham Young, 2 May 1865). By the time the King's letter arrived in Salt Lake City, the colonists were in Hawaii. President Young was a very determined man. In December of 1864 Elders Francis A. Hammond and George Nebeker were sent to the Islands to secure property for the settlement. Elder Nebeker was called back to Utah before the selection was made and Elder Hammond, after the weekend visit, decided on the land at Laie, on the windward North shore of O'ahu (Hammond 25 January 1865). The property was purchased and at mid-year in 1865, President Nebeker returned with thirty-eight colonists, including women and children (Jensen 7 July 1865).

As the colonists put down roots, both literally and figuratively, invitation was sent out through the Islands for Hawaiians who wished to gather at Laie. Some did, most did not. Laie was never successful as a gathering place in the sense and to the degree that Zion, in Salt Lake City, had been. Many of the Hawaiian Latter-day Saints had been badly used in the Lanai experience under Gibson and were reluctant to take the step again ("Sandwich Islands Mission" 366).

The Hawaiian race was still diminishing at a rapid rate and President Nebeker, in his first report to President Brigham Young, wrote that there was little need to push the work of gathering since in a few years there would be no longer any Hawaiians to be gathered (Jensen 14 October 1866). Some three hundred, though, did move to Laie and began a new life. It is the lives of these Saints, at Laie, that we will examine to note the impact of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the Hawaiian 'ohana.

David Kalakaua became Hawaii's second elected king in 1874. His queen was the Kaua'i princess, Kapiolani. As was customary, the King and Queen began their reign with a trip around the Islands, reminiscent of the ancient custom of the makahiki, the annual festival in honor of the god, Lono. The O'ahu portion of the tour occurred in April and against the advice of many of their retainers, they decided to make a stop at the Mormon settlement at Laie.2 As they approached the temporarily erected and decorated gate to the settlement, they were met by a choir of singing children ("Royal"). Among Latter-day Saints in our times, this would not be unusual but to the king and queen in 1874 it was quite extraordinary. Children in the kingdom were so rare as to seem almost curiosities. It is probably safe to say that on this occasion, at Laie in 1874, Kalakaua saw more children gathered in one place than he had seen altogether in his mature life. What this meant was that Hawaiians at Laie were reproducing, and that was happening no other place in the kingdom. In the eight and one-half years since the establishment of the colony, President Nebeker's prediction had been refuted and the terrible trend in population statistics had been reversed "Sandwich Islands Correspondence" 458).

What had happened? Perhaps it was the water. After all, wells had been put down in Laie and they were artesian wells. The phenomenon was striking enough that both the King and the Queen were influenced in their later official actions and policies (Jensen 21 October 1878). It must be noted in addition that the Hawaiian population generally did not make this turn-around until decades later (Schmitt 35).

I should like to propose that what had happened quite incidentally to those who were at the scene, if they were aware at all, was a restoration or replacement of most of the foundations of the 'ohana way of life. With this as a regenerative force in the lives of the Hawaiians, they were once again able to reproduce themselves and, at least among the Latter-day Saints at Laie, the race was fertile once again. A series of circumstances was brought into being through the acceptance of the Gospel by many hundreds of the Hawaiian people and their efforts to live in accordance with its principles. These circumstances were responsible for the renewal of the life of the 'ohana and in turn the recovery of the race.

One of the underpinnings of the 'ohana had been the early social system with its sense of belonging. The Gospel brought no new ruling class to Hawaii to replace the ali'i although some of the early Utah missionaries sometimes assumed that a Utah heritage placed them in a different class than the local Saints. While this was never the reality of the situation, the active elders, local or foreign, constituted a special group, separated by function. And indeed, there was one missionary position which was analogous to a Hawaiian ali'i. The mission president was the manager of the Laie plantation and therefore the manager of the ahupua'a. He was the leader of the Church in the Islands and in almost every way a konohiki. To the Hawaiians who lived at Laie, the presence of this authority figure represented an assurance rather than a threat. The old social arrangement could not be brought back but the elements necessary for the feeling of a sense of "place" were once again present. One knew where he fit into the operation of things.

The effects of the overthrowing of the old religion had been the weakening of the social system and also the loss of constraints on life and society. This was another characteristic which could not, within reason, be restored, and, just as well. The New England ministers had been strongly critical of the old religion as being oppressive, and they were right. They replaced it, however, with a set of rules and dicta which to many appeared even more so. There was a kind of rationality about the old religion and the functions of the kapu. Its loss with the arrival of Protestant Christianity had been a serious one. The restored Gospel brought to the Hawaiians who accepted it a new and seemingly happier prospect. The teachings of the Latter-day Saints were more positive in nature. God is real and a personage rather than an invisible, incomprehensible essence. A major purpose of man's existence is that he might have joy (2 Ne. 2: 25). God's work and glory is to bring to pass man's immortality and eternal life (Moses 1: 39). These concepts must have seemed refreshing after thirty years of puritanical teachers who emphasized the depravity and worthlessness of the race. These principles were effective as a replacement for Protestant Christianity and the kapu as a set of rules and controls for living.

Another circumstance to develop was the result of the giving of the offices of leadership in the Church to Hawaiian converts. Worthy brethren were given offices in the priesthood. A new power was now in the possession of males among the Hawaiian Latter-day Saints. The mana which had been so important to the service of the supernatural and to the security of the 'ohana had been replaced in the lives of the Saints. The power of the priesthood, as understood by Latter-day Saints, is not analogous to mana in all ways. This force in the ancient Hawaiian religion had been the power to control the forces of the cosmos in the accomplishment of the supernatural or extraordinary. The priesthood is the power given to man to accomplish the work of God among men. In this way they are alike. With the 'ohana once more led by men empowered to appropriately serve God, another of the bulwarks of the 'ohana was reinstated.

Perhaps the most obvious development among Latter-day Saint Hawaiians was that the ahupua'a of Laie had been purchased in its entirety. When Elder Hammond came to Laie, he was impressed to purchase the property. He didn't purchase only the beach front acreage, or just the mountain slopes. He didn't even limit his purchase to that which was suitable for agriculture as he knew it. He bought the entire six thousand acres. The families who came to Laie settled quite comfortably into a style of living that, to the older folk among them, seemed natural. Land tenure was as it had been earlier. The Hawaiians at Laie enjoyed the full rights of use and access to all lands within the ahupua'a which were not otherwise occupied. They did not own the land, but then they never had. Land use among the ancients had been seen in the same way moderns see use of the ocean. No one owns it (Kenn). It was no longer necessary that the 'ohana be fragmented into smaller family units because of inaccessibility to land in the ahupua'a. In the Church-owned ahupua'a at Laie, the environmental foundation of the 'ohana was restored.

The Hawaiian lunar calendar has been mentioned as one of the aspects of the culture on which the 'ohana was dependent. It was the regularizing agent in the daily lives of the people. The old calendar, of course, was [un]likely of restoration. There were at Laie, however, other influences which gave regularity and pace to the lives of the Saints there. They were caught up in the rhythms of the agricultural community, which were the rhythms of nature, the time for planting, for harvesting, for irrigating, and the like. In addition, the activities of the Church -- priesthood quorums and auxiliaries, and meetings -- gave schedule to their days and evenings. Every Latter-day Saint can testify that if one is active, there have always been plenty of meetings to occupy one's time. These influences established a pace and schedule for living which, in a measure, took the place of the earlier calendar.

Living at Laie, farming in the taro patches and on the plantation; moving freely over the entire ahupua'a; enjoying once again the mutual support of brothers and sister[s], in a literal as well as a spiritual sense; being led by men, both in the family and in the community, who held the priesthood in place of mana; responsible to a properly installed and recognized authority; and with days and nights regularized and paced, the 'ohana was once more a functioning unit of society. The Hawaiians lived according to the more comfortable practices of the old days -- close interaction with the land and with members of the family, sharing the products of the lands of the ahupua'a, and with a feeling of belonging -- being members of the Church together. These conditions gave the Saints at Laie a respite from the continuous bombardment of political and social shocks which continued to rock the rest of the kingdom. The people were even preserved, at Laie, from the fatal diseases which swept Honolulu.

As this degree of normalcy returned to the 'ohana, by virtue of the principles and activities of the Gospel, women once more became fecund and the race again fertile. Children began to be born again in numbers. Thus, when the King and Queen came to this village in the spring of 1874, their surprise and joy was in finding children among the people of the kingdom. King Kalakaua later made an official statement to the effect that he wished to be remembered as the ruler who returned life to his race.3 A statement made by the Queen to mission leaders, in a letter, is perhaps more to the point: "At Laie, my people exhibit their former dignity and self-respect".4

The recovery of the Hawaiian Latter-day Saints, as they lived together at Laie, would not have surprised the early missionaries. For, in 1853, following a mission conference, the missionaries gathered in an evening meeting to share testimonies. This meeting was held at Waihee, Maui, at the home of Brother Kanahunahupu. Elder John S. Woodbury spoke in tongues on that occasion and Elder Francis A. Hammond interpreted. A number of the elders' journals report the occasion. Elder William Farrer recorded:

He said that the Lord is well pleased with the labors of his servants in the islands and angels of the Lord are near us, that the people we are laboring among are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, that they would be built up on these islands and that a temple should be built in this land. (9 October 1853)

This was in 1853. No one could have said, with the least expectation of being believed, in that year that the Hawaiians had any chance of survival at all, much less of being built up. And that a temple would be built? Nothing less than fantastic!

No, the developments at Laie would probably not have surprised the elders who attended that 1853 meeting. Neither, however, should they be surprising to us. These words from the Book of Mormon are repeated so often in that volume as to be almost trite:

"And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land" (Mosiah 2: 22). If we can believe the Lord's servants, speaking in His name and under the influence of His spirit, it could not have been otherwise.

Thank-you very much.


1Ed. Note. While Hollister may indeed have written this startlingly honest observation about a discipline in which over several decades he has proven himself an expert, he seems not to have incorporated it into his memorable condensation of European history during the Middle Ages, Medieval Europe: A Short History (1964). Back to Top

2Ed. Note. According to Spurrier, Henry Phineas Richards "refers" to this royal visit to Laie in April, 1874, in his journal entry for 16 June 1878; actually, Richards' entry for this date concerns the festivities surrounding a later stop in Laie by Queen Kapiolani, commencing the day of his journal entry and continuing another two days. Back to Top

3Ed. Note. Spurrier's citing an entry dated 27 September 1877 from Richards's journal as a source for Kalakaua's statement is erroneous: the entry in question does not mention the King. although Richards does describe a meeting with both Queen Kapiolani and her younger sister, the Princess Kinoiki, at Pololu. The source containing the remark of the King's which Spurrier quotes has not surfaced. Back to Top

4Ed. Note. Spurrier cites Jane E. Molen's "Visit of the Queen to the Relief Society" as the source of this epistolary comment by Queen Kapiolani, following her stay in Laie for a few days, but close examination of Molen's article reveals that, while it contains no specific words of the Queen's, Molen does observe that, "judging by remarks she made to some of our natives, she was convinced that our Elders were doing all that could be done towards carrying out the King's motto, 'save and increase the nation'" (467). The actual source for the Queen's statement quoted by Spurrier remains unknown. Back to Top

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