We recently went with Mark and Gail Jorgensen, who are volunteer teachers at the National University of Samoa, to the village of Sauniatu. Mark is on sabbatical leave from Utah Valley University.
|Alicia with Gale and Mark Jorgensen|
Sauniatu is the LDS village on a mountain in the middle of the Island of Upolu. It was founded more than 100 years ago as a place of refuge for persons who were driven from their families and villages because they joined the Church.
|Plaque at Sauniatu|
It is a peaceful, beautiful place. The Church still has an elementary school there.
|Sauniatu Village, Upolu Island|
In his journal, my grandfather Don C. McBride recorded making visits to Sauniatu in the early 1900s.
As the plaque above says, LDS Apostle David O. McKay, who later became the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visited Sauniatu in 1921. The Church members built a little monument commemorating his visit.
In 1963 I lived in this village for 2 or 3 weeks as part of a group of about a half a dozen missionaries receiving a little language training there. I spent many hours seated at that monument studying Samoan.
|Standing at the monument brought back sweet memories|
Just below the village is a beautiful waterfall with a deep pool -- ideal for swimming! We had a great time feeling it beat down upon us.
|Water falling down from the rocks was actually warm|
Even Alicia – ordinarily not the bravest of souls when it comes to having fun in the water – made her way in the water around the rocky edge and sat under the waterfall, and then swam back to shore. I was very proud of her!
Nimble Samoan boys enjoyed showing off by climbing high up the rocky side of the pool and jumping in. I am afraid my tender feet could not handle the rocks, or I would have joined them.
There is a special spirit one feels in the Village of Sauniatu. It has a sacredness all its own. That spirit was evident when our current Church President, Thomas S. Monson, visited Sauniatu during the same time I served in Samoa more than 50 years ago. (In fact, I had the opportunity of meeting Elder and Sister Monson at the airport in American Samoa and driving them around the Island of Tutuila while they waited for their connecting flight to Upolu Island in Western Samoa.) President Monson had only recently been called to be an Apostle by President McKay.
|Thomas S. Monson|
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Monson told this story during the October, 1966, General Conference of the Church:
"On my first visit to the fabled village of Sauniatu, so loved by President McKay, my wife and I met with a large gathering of small children. At the conclusion of our messages to these shy, yet beautiful, youngsters, I suggested to the native Samoan teacher that we go forward with the closing exercises. As he announced the final hymn, I suddenly felt compelled to personally greet each of these 247 children. My watch revealed that the time was too short for such a privilege, so I discounted the impression. Before the benediction was to be spoken, I again felt this strong impression to shake the hand of each child. This time I made the desire known to the instructor, who displayed a broad and beautiful Samoan smile. He spoke in Samoan to the children, and they beamed their approval of his comments.
"The instructor then revealed to me the reason for his and their joy. He said, 'When we learned that President McKay had assigned a member of the Council of the Twelve to visit us in far-away Samoa, I told the children if they would each one earnestly and sincerely pray and exert faith like the Bible accounts of old, that the Apostle would visit our tiny village at Sauniatu, and through their faith, he would be impressed to greet each child with a personal handclasp.' Tears could not be restrained as each of those precious boys and girls walked shyly by and whispered softly to us a sweet talofa lava. The gift of faith had been evidenced."