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.