Vai Sikahema of the Deseret News has written a two-part series (part one, part two) about the contributions of Tongan culture to the Church, and of the Church to Tongan culture. Part two includes the story of his grandparents, Sione and Salote Wolfgramm and their three young children, who in 1947 embarked on a 150-mile sea voyage with a group of Latter-day Saints to attend a district conference. (In contrast to some of today’s Latter-day Saints who resist any emphasis on historical events to which they have no direct ancestral connection, these Tongan Saints made this significant effort to gather with other Saints observing the centennial of the early Saints’ arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.)
A terrible storm arose, drenching, chilling, and tossing the exposed Saints for three days. The Wolfgramms’ nine-month-old son Vili Manulea caught pneumonia from his exposure and died soon after the small boat finally reached land. To add to their grief, circumstances forced the Wolfgramms to continue on to the conference with the other Saints without the comfort that the traditional 10-day Tongan mourning customs might have given them. They buried their baby son, then immediately left the grave to go on.
Writes Vai Sikahema,
That is my legacy. It is the legacy of Tongan and Polynesian Latter-day Saints. And it is no less powerful to us than the story of pioneer widow, Mary Fielding, praying over her fallen oxen. Or of the Martin Handcart Company crossing the frozen Sweetwater River after burying children on the plains en route to the Great Salt Lake Valley.
That perfectly expresses one of my chief pleasures in Mormon history: The stories of Latter-day Saints whom most of us have never heard of are no less powerful, no less moving, no less a testimony of the restored gospel, than the handful of stories that have been told and told and retold and told yet again. These other stories just have to be recorded, or rediscovered, and shared.
So I renew the invitation to guest post at Keepa, either by telling your own (your family’s, your missionfield contacts’, any Latter-day Saint’s) stories yourself, or by sharing materials with me so that I can write them.
It is our legacy.