May 14, 1939
Dear Mother, Dad, and All,
Today is a day of rest for Elder Haslem and me, so I shall begin this letter now and finish it when I get to Headquarters a couple of weeks from now. As one of our Companion Elders is sick in Tahiti at this time with prospects of being sent home if he isn't feeling better by the time the Pres. and Party get back from their tour, Elder H. and I have set aside this day for a special "fast" in his behalf. We have found that faith will do great things so if we in any way can help Elder Chapman remain and fulfill a good Mission, of which he is capable of doing, we are only too glad to do so.
Pres. Stevens, Elder Rufus K. Hardy, and Party left a week ago to make a tour of the larger Island Branches and will return the last of this month. We are to go in as soon as we feel our work is completed (I should say, "well under way.") here, which should be around the 25th according to our tracting program. We have spread enough tracts for the people to paper their bamboo shacks, so I guess it's time to let them rest and think it over.
Our work hasn't been in vain, however. Quite a number of people have become interested. We have one good story: About three weeks ago a Protestant Minister became an ex-Minister due to a quarrel he had with the white Prot. Missionary. We had met him and given him tracts before the quarrel broke, and about a week after, we met again. This time we had a good talk with him, (If you can call my Chink-Tahitian good.) explained our Missionary system, a few other points, and gave him a list of the Articles of Faith. The following week in our walking tour, again we spent a couple of hours with him. He has a Book of Mormon which he has read through plus other of our books. We had dinner with him and now have an invite to stay a night in his home. (He has a nice one too.) Half the second largest "town" are his relatives and where he goes they seem to follow. Now, if only he will go into it deeper than we can give him! He even bought a 3 yr. sub. to our Ve'a.
One more story before I close for this end of the letter: Yesterday we went to the wharf to see a ship come in from Raiatea and Tahaa going to Tahiti. There we met Tehetu, the only Saint we had in Tahaa (and she came from the Tuomotus). She and her kids and man were on their way back to Makemo to live. Anyway she gave us news of the family we stayed with the second time we were in Tahaa. While there, we administered to a little girl who had a case of elephantisis. (The daughter of the people we stayed with.) If you ever heard of the disease, you'll know how awful it is. People claim it's uncurable except a person goes to a cold climate. The father had tried doctors and medicines and even taking the kid to Tahiti, but the leg coninued to grow larger. One night he asked if we would administer, and if so, would it do any good? We asked if he had faith in what we would do. He said he felt he had, so we did as asked.
Yesterday the woman told me the kid is just about well. She can run now, and when someone is around she points to her leg and says, "My leg is well all over again" (She's only about 4 years old.)
According to Tehetu, the mother claims as soon as the girl is old enough she is to be baptized a Mormon, and it won't be many months before the family becomes one with us. That's hearsay but gee, it's surely good news anyway. Sometime soon I'm going to write them a letter and tell them the big Conference is to be held on the 3rd of June; I rather believe they will go to it. Of course we all have our strong hopes. Rome wasn't built in a day.
I received mail last week which consisted of a letter from you (Mother and Dad) one from Fern, Barbara, Bro. Peterson and Mr. W. E. Newman (with $2), Dona (in Wyoming) and three native letters. And here is news! Dona (according to her letter) will very likely be married in June. Shucks! That only leaves me with two. (Yes, I believe Barbara is still the best.) Oh well! That's what makes the world go around. I'll have to write her (D.) a letter, I reckon.
It's surely pretty here today. The tide is dumping big waves (and what I mean is big ones) just on the reef and then they roll within twenty feet of our windows. Teina and I are here alone today, and it is surely a peaceful feeling we have. He is busy studying away at his Tahitian book and as soon as I get through here I'm going to get into something else besides letter writing. And evidently I've reached the end of my rope on what to write so I'll be closing for this period soon.
We have been guests three times at the movie man's theatre, and believe me it seems good to go to a picture show once in awhile even though they are old silent reels. The fellow that owns and operates it speaks good English so we get quite a lot of pleasure spending the evening with him once in awhile.
The fellow we are staying here with is an old fellow that used to Captain ships down here. He understands and speaks fair English. He just received his Order du Merite Maritime which makes him a Chevalier. Quite an honor for the French Gov. to bestow upon a fellow. He's surely tickled.
Well, more when I reach Tahiti for the fourth time. Almost one year gone by (24th of May.)
May 28... Tahiti.
Home once again! We made the passage across last Friday the 25th and landed here after a pretty tough ten hours on the water. We were all quite sick... everyone but the Captain and crew. Some twenty passengers or better, and everyone lost their dinner but Elder Haslem and me... we didn't have a thing to lose; the ship left just as we were about set down to our farewell dinner, so instead of giving up that which we had nothing to give, we just tried and tried. Such misery, but shucks! We got here O.K. so we have the last laugh after all. Sure! We always enjoy being seasick a day or so after, 'cause look at all the space there is to fill up with the swell bill-o-fare we get here at H.Q.
Now for just a few details of what's here. Three new Elders landed a day before we got in, and with their landing, I finally have lived to see my one year standing of being the tallest of the Mission shot. Wow! Elder Halverson makes me feel like I'm just beginning; I come to his chin or somewhere in that vicinity. It's surely a relief to know I'm not the only one everybody has to look up at now. Along with him, there is in the Mission now a 227 pounder whom I haven't met. He came a month ago and went out into the Tuomotus. Then an Elder Young from Ririe, Idaho who is just an inch shorter (We measured and we are just about equal. He lacks about 1/4 in.) than me and hits 217 lbs. Who says this Mission isn't growing? All told now there are either 26 or 27 of us. Gee, almost as many as we have members, almost. It surely seems that way by the looks of our meetings today. There are twelve of us here now, and Pres. and Party are due back next week. The ship has been changed now and we'll not sail until the 16th so I may get out before Pres. Hardy and three of the Seniors go back. Very likely you will find out later on in this letter just where to look me up on a map.
Well, there seems to be plenty to write about, but I can't seem to think of much now. Church will soon be starting so I'll close up again for awhile. I gave a speech today, or rather a report of Huahine. First time I have spoken in General Assembly, with the exception of Testimony meetings, in Tahiti without the use of notes, etc. It surely helps to be a Senior, but no kidding, I've lost five pounds..... maby the ship helped some. Oh well! I didn't want it anyway. I get lazy when I get too (imagine!) fat. More later.
June 7, It won't be long now... either tomorrow or Friday and my companion and I will be on our way again. Yesterday Pres. Stevens gave out the new assignments. I am to take one of the new Elders out to Anaa, an Island about 200 miles away. Elder Asay and I stopped there on way in from Hikueru. There are four hundred natives there, and of that number, three hundred and ninety-nine are Catholics. The rest is a "Mormon".
As I recall the Island, it is a very pretty place, not quite as low as most of the Tuamotus. The one day we stopped there we were treated quite well. When we left, the Governor gave us fourteen (14) pape haari to drink on ship. (So my diary reads.)
The following excerpt was taken from a Missionary of earlier times diary; found in July, 1914 Genealogy Magazine.
Feb. 24, 1845. Elder Benjamin F. Grouard sailed from Tahiti for the island of Anaa, or Chain Island, situated about two hundred ten miles east of Tahiti. Elder Grouard writes:
"According to our former resolutions, we made preparations for leaving Tahiti to visit some of the surrounding islands, though our minds were unsettled as to which way we should go.
"We had heard considerable of an island called Chain Island, or Anaa, one of the Tuamotus, lying about two hundred miles east of Tahiti; but the accounts were generally so unfavorable that we had not yet had any desire to go there. It was represented to us as a very low land, scarcely above the level of the sea, producing nothing but cocoanuts, with savage and revengeful inhabitants, who were under no restraint whatever. In a word we were told that it was as much as our lives were worth to go among them; but we cared not for any of these reports, if it was the Lord's will that we, or one of us, should go there. After due deliberation we concluded that one of us should go to Anaa, and Bro. Rogers decided to go to some of the other islands.
"April 22, we gave the parting hand to each other to start for our different places of destination. We knew not where we were going, nor what awaited us, only that our course lay among strangers and semi-savages—mine in particular, as it was only a few years since the Tuamotu natives were wild, ferocious cannibals, gluttoning themselves on human flesh. But we knew that we were the servants of God and engaged in His cause, and that He was able to take care of us. We knew that He had done this ever since we started on this mission, and we believed that He would continue to do so, as long as our object was to do His will. Eleven months had passed away since we first landed on Tahiti, during which months we had passed through many sore trials. Since the day of our arrival we had been waiting and anxiously hoping for the existing troubles between the natives and the French to cease, that we might witness the Lord's cause take root and grow, that our hearts might be made to rejoice. The English missionaries who had been on Tahiti for upwards of fifty years had become so firmly established there that their word was law on every hand. They ruled with despotism over the natives and their treatment of other foreigners was cruel and tyrannical."
Thur. May 1. Elder B. Grouard arrived at the island of Anaa. Following is his own interesting account of the event:
"0n the morning of May 1, 1845, after eight days' pleasant passage ((We will make it in about two days and a night now)) from Tahiti, we discovered a long, low strip of land about twelve miles distant, which is as far as Anaa can be seen. The wind being very light, we did not get close to the land till nearly night, and then we were at the opposite end of the island from the landing. place, which made it impossible for the vessel to get in before the next day. Presently, however, we discovered a small canoe coming out through the breakers that lashed the coral reef which surrounded the Island, and in a few minutes it was alongside the vessel. The canoe, which was manned by one solitary native, consisted of a small cocoanut log, in which white people scarcely venture across a duck pond. The man who manned the tiny craft looked rather wild and was anything but prepossessing in appearance, but I soon managed to get acquainted with him, when I told him that I was a Missionary. He then invited me to go ashore with him, as there was a settlement near by; but I thought I would remain on board till our vessel reached the landing. On looking around, the native discovered that some of the essential parts of his canoe had got adrift and fallen neatrly half a mile astern. Quick as thought he jumped overboard, and taking hold of his canoe he towed it after him to the part which had fallen in the water. After adjusting it, he paddled toward shore and was soon lost to our sight among the breakers.
"A few minutes later, as we were sailing close to the shore, we discovered another canoe, quite large, coming out from among the breakers, with several persons in it, and paddling toward our vessel. In a few minutes they were alongside, and enquired for the orometua (missionary). The native who first came out to us had, on his return to the land, informed the people that I was on board. One of my fellow-passengers, who had frequently visited these islands, was acquainted with the men who came out, and introduced them to me. Two of them were chiefs of high rank, one being the governor's brother. They were large and well-built men and of a noble mien, well dressed in native costume. I was agreeably surprised to see such fine looking persons, after hearing such unfavorable accounts of them, and it encouraged me a great deal. They pulled off their hats as they approached me and saluted me with much courtesy. They pressed me very warmly to go ashore with them, and promised that they would take me to the landing place in one of their canoes the next day. After a moment's reflection I consented, thinking that it might be the Lord's will and in a few minutes I was in their boat and on my way to the shore. As we drew near the land, I noticed that the beach was already lined with natives awaiting our arrival, and as we came nearer, I could distinctly hear them shout and jabber like a flock of ten thousand wild geese. I can hardly describe my feelings as I heard these half-civilized sons of the ocean. It seemed as if I had left the world and got upon another planet, among another class of beings. They were certainly a different race of people from any I had hitherto seen.
"My time for meditation, however, was short for we soon arrived at the landing place, and leaping ashore, I found myself the next minute surrounded by some two or three hundred natives of both sexes and all ages; naked, half-naked and dressed, hooting, halloing, laughing and jabbering like a legion of evil spirits. In my eyes they looked wild and savage-like; and I listened to their frightful noises, and not being able to understand what they said, I knew not but what I had become a victim for sacrifice.
"In a few minutes the chiefs, who had brought me ashore and who had been engaged in securing their boat, came up and told me in Tahitian to walk over to the village. As we walked along, the crowd of natives kept as close to me as they possibly could without treading on me, both before and behind, and kept up their manifestation of joy. A few minutes' walk brought us to the governor's house, which was situated near the center of the settlement. Here I found the governor waiting for us. He seemed much pleased, indeed, and treated me with great civility. After a few minutes' rest, during which time the people were collecting in and around the yard, the chiefs assembled in one place a short distance from me, when the following conversation took place, after order had been restored and one of the chiefs had made a few introductory remarks:
"Chiefs: Missionary, don't think hard of us; we want you to tell us what you have come to this land for, because we hear you are a servant of God; the people tell us so; but we don't know, because we have not heard you say so; we want to hear it from your own mouth.
"I answered: The people tell the truth; I am a servant of God, and I have come to tell you what you must do to be saved in the kingdom of light; and I wish to know if you desire me to stop with you.
"Natives: What land do you belong to, missionary; tell us that we may also know that, because all the missionaries we ever saw were Baratane (English).
"I answered: America is my land; I am not an Englishman; neither do I preach like the English missionaries whom you have seen at Tahiti. I preach what God has shown us in these days; I speak what is in the book the English miisionaries have brought you—the Bible.
"Natives: Americans are good people; we know this because a great many of them have been here and they all treated us well; but since you came from a different land from that the missionaries at Tahiti came from, are you not like the pope Catholics that came from France?
"I answered: Friends, this the talk. Apostle Paul said: Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good; and now if you prove me and the doctrines I preach, you will find that they are not like the pope or anything else you have ever heard; you will find it to be the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
And so on, telling of the varied success and trials. If they went through that in the early days, we surely can do our bit now.
Anaa is altogether different now. The people as I stated before are friendly... not head-hunters.
This bit of story seems to be the beginning of a new civilization for them. I hope we are as well taken in.
P.S. Excuse the typing.
Now just a few more lines before closing. Elder Randall finally delivered my aspirins. (I feel I'll soon be needing them, so thanks alot.) He must have forgotten you gave them to him because he said he brought two for himself and when he saw he had a third bottle, he gave one to me. So, all's well now. (He remembered, finally.)
I might mention Pres. and Party returned a week ago. We have certainly enjoyed Pres. Hardy's visit with us. (He got good and seasick for the first time in 18 years. It seems nobody escapes down here.) Our meetings this last week have been very good.
His boat has been changed from the 6th to the 16th so this letteer will be a little longer reaching you than I figured.
I'm surely scribbling this off. I have so much yet to do I can't seem to slow down so do the best you can at making out these hen tracks.
Elder Chapman is back to work again. He can't go into the Tuomotus again, due to conditions there, but he can work in the districts here in Tahiti. He was very pleased when the doctor granted permission.
Elder Randall is going out into the districts here with one of the new Elders. That's really speed when a guy becomes a Senior in 6 months. We have about three Juniors more than Seniors now and it surely is rushing us along. Only two of us are hitting the Tuomotus with Juniors for the first time. Elder Stevens is taking a three month man with him to the Leewards. The others are either taking districts here or taking older Juniors into the Tuomotu. Elder Haslem and Hunting have taken over work around here.
Next Xmas is another big Amuiraa in Tahiti so if you don't hear from me before, you should the first boat after Xmas.
I surely appreciate all the help that my friends are giving me and wish you would express my thanks to them, Mother and Dad. (If I've failed.)
Nane, why do you have to wait to get $5 before writing me a letter? When did Uncle Sam stop carrying just a plain letter from sister to brother? I'm afraid that is what is wrong with the whole family. It isn't me but the $ sign they are thinking of. One letter from Nane and a card, same from Rema, not a word except a short Xmas note from Una & Hap, two letters from Owen, two from Verb, and one from Edith. I can't say I can answer everything but shucks! Give a guy a break. And one complete year gone by. Barbara is sticking by though... 56 all told. That's an average of one a week. Pretty sweet of the kid, huh?
And now I'll call it a day. Goodbye until someting in the future!
Love to all,
P.S. Mother, these people that say they would like to hear from me... how can I write with no address? Therefore, suggest it wouldn't be a bad idea if they wrote first.... would it?