Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Tahauri a Hutihuti: Thirty Years

Tahauri a Hutihuti: Thirty Years

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 21, 2009

Tahauri a Hutihuti was born in 1882 on the island of Takaroa, in the Tuamotu Islands – the same specks of volcanic rock in the Pacific where Pahoa a Tahiaroa served as governor, and where the cyclone of 1903 swept a hundred Latter-day Saints to their deaths. Tahuari was a pearl-shell diver; whether or not he was among the divers on Hikuero at the time of the cyclone, I do not know.

When Tahauri was baptized in 1893, or when he married Pipi Tehetu Tetoka in 1903, it probably never occurred to him that he might one day go to a Latter-day Saint temple – in that era, temples existed only in Utah. The temple at Laie, Hawaii, was dedicated in 1919, but that was still so far away as to be impossible to reach. Nevertheless, in 1933, six years after his wife died, Tahauri began to save his money in the hope of someday going to a temple and being sealed to his family.

Tahauri and other Saints in the Tahiti Mission, of which the Tuamotus were a part, made plans over the years to go to Hawaii aboard the mission schooner, or by commercial steamship, but something always interfered. So far as is known, no native of the Tuamotus, site of some of the earliest foreign proselytizing in this dispensation (Joseph Smith himself had dispatched Addison Pratt and other missionaries from Nauvoo to those islands) had attended the temple in the entire first century of church membership there.

A temple was dedicated at Hamilton, New Zealand in 1958, inspiring the Saints of the Tahitian Mission to work toward the first-ever Tahitian temple excursion. A trip using the mission schooner Pratt was planned for 1959; according to Raituia Tapu, later to become the first president of the Papeete Tahiti Stake, President David O. McKay sent word to cancel the trip only days before the ship was to sail. On the day the cancelled voyage was to have started, the Pratt sank in the harbor. The ship was raised, and it was discovered that workmen had painted over rotten wood and a rusty pipe, which had failed catastrophically.

So Tahauri and his fellow Saints continued to save their money and plan for a temple excursion. And the temple planned for them: Edgar Bentley Mitchell, who had served as a missionary to Tahiti in the early 1930s and returned as mission president in 1944, headed a committee to translate the temple ceremony into Tahitian; that work was completed when President Mitchell died in 1959.

By late 1963, 64 Saints – including Tahauri – had qualified themselves to enter the temple. Funds had been raised, transportation to the New Zealand Temple had been arranged, all was in readiness. The Saints traveled by airplane, in two groups, one leaving Papeete on December 16, the others on December 23. Emma Ruth Maughan Mitchell, President Mitchell’s widow, greeted each group at the Auckland airport.

When the second group arrived, all boarded a bus for the final leg of the trip to Hamilton. It was nearly midnight on December 24 when the travelers spotted the lights of the temple. When they arrived on the temple grounds, they held a prayer of thanksgiving, then headed to rooms at the nearby Church College dormitory for a few hours sleep.

Christmas Day was celebrated in the temple. Eighty-four-year-old Tahauri was among those who received his endowment that day, hearing the ceremony in a dialect closely related to his native language. For two weeks, the Tahitian Saints spent nearly every waking hour in the temple. On December 27, Tahauri was sealed to his wife and to two sons and a daughter who had died.

(Tahauri a Hutihuti is seated in the center of this group of temple-goers.)

Their time in New Zealand included a demonstration of Tahitian songs and dances for other temple patrons. Arrangements were made for some Latter-day Saints from Tahiti to attend the Church College at New Zealand once their studies were completed in Tahiti. Then the group returned safely home. An elder in the mission home recorded that day, “The members who returned from New Zealand today are literally radiant and beaming and filled with the spirit of the gospel. We know that they will be a real strength to our mission.”

Tahauri died in January 1973, at age 91.



  1. A very inspirering story of perserverance. I think sometimes we fully appreciate the day and age we live in when we have so many temples at our convenience.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 21, 2009 @ 7:34 am

  2. And now there’s a temple in Papeete itself.

    I think I remember the Christmas of 1963, in very faint outline, visiting my grandmother and the doll I got (when you pulled her arms together like she was hugging you, her mouth made a kissing motion. She was big enough that she wore a pair of my old baby booties). The idea that I can remember what I was doing on the very day these people were in the temple, after so many years of waiting for that opportunity, gives a peculiar feeling.

    We’re not that far away from a very different world.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 21, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  3. Beautiful story. Thank you.

    Comment by Researcher — January 21, 2009 @ 8:37 am

  4. Thank you, Ardis. You do a wonderful job with Keepapitchinin. It’s always my first stop on the web.

    Comment by Joey — January 21, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  5. Thanks for this.

    I loved how when the group got to the temple grounds, rather than just file off tiredly to their separate quarters, they got together and held a prayer of thanksgiving. How fitting.

    The part about President McKay calling off the sea voyage was impressive, to say the least. What else do we know about that episode? I mean, how did DOM even know about the event? It must have been a big deal to be on his radar.

    Comment by Hunter — January 21, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  6. Keepapitchinin is my first stop on the web. I had the privilege of serving a mission in Tahiti 1978-80. I knew many of the people in the picture. In 1978-80, the Papeete Tahiti Temple was still several years away from construction and completion (announced 3 months after I left Tahiti). It always amazed me to sit at the table of the Saints homes and hear their stories of how long they worked and saved to take their entire family (one family had 7 minor age children) to the New Zealand Temple. None were wealthy or had high paying jobs and even the children earned money to go to the temple. They knew it was important and they sacrificed to get there.

    Comment by David Richey — January 21, 2009 @ 10:49 am

  7. Thanks, all.

    Hunter, I need to do more research about the cancellation of that voyage. So far I have it only as a quotation from the then-future-stake president, who was utterly convinced that prophetic involvement saved the lives of those who had planned to sail that day. But I don’t have adequate information from other sources to be able to judge whether he was in a position to know all the circumstances of what DOM knew or why the trip was cancelled.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 21, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  8. Ardis: I think your comment in #2 is interesting and thought provoking. We are not too far away from a different world. It has only been in the past 50 years that temples were first built beyond the US/North America. I think of the Church members in Europe and the Pacific who went for several generation without access to the temples. Yet, many remained so faithful.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 21, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  9. Awesome

    Comment by bbell — January 21, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  10. Re: #7. It was a widely known story in Tahiti. No one, I met, took it as any other way than you described. I don’t know how Pres. McKay got involved, however, the only story the people ever told was as you described. It is fact that 1)they planned the trip and were scheduled to go on the Paraita (Tahitian for Pratt) 2) they didn’t go and 3) the ship sank. Those parts of the story are irrefutable. I can verify the parts that I was told by people who were part of the story & others who lived during that time period. I had interactions with former Pres. Tapu, at least weekly, and I always found him to be totally honest with me.

    Comment by David Richey — January 22, 2009 @ 7:40 am

  11. Very interesting story regarding Tahauri. I was in Tahiti on a mission in 1963 when the first temple group went to New Zealand. I would like to contact you regarding more details.

    Comment by Gerald Faerber — October 26, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  12. Gerald, if you have more to share, I’d love to hear from you at keepapitchinin [at] aol [dot] com (note that it’s -inin at the end, rather than just -in). I don’t know much more about it myself than what appears here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 26, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  13. Thank you for sharing this story. Tahauri Hutihuti is my great grandfather. I am deeply touched by the stories of his life and feel closer to him each time a story of him is shared. Tahauri has paved the path for many generations to come and we are thankful for his example of being a faithful servant of the Lord.

    Comment by Sarah Sape — March 12, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

  14. I will always be inspired by the story of the First Tahauri and the legacy he began. I love my Great Grandfather.

    Comment by Jeffrey Turoa Tahauri — March 2, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

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