Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Venus in Tahiti: 25 March – 15 April 1915

Venus in Tahiti: 25 March – 15 April 1915

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 24, 2013

(Previous installment)

Thurs. March 25.

Conducted as usual our weekly song practice. Also taught Taimi how to play “Promise Never to Forget Me” by ear on the organ.

Fri. March 26.

Was payed a visit by Mrs. Henry the wife of the first Protestant Minister to come to Tahiti. Although she has been here over forty years she speaks neither French nor Tahitian. She was a quaint old lady, the sort you read of in books. Tall and stately with silvery white hair that parted in the middle. She wore a soft white dress that hung from the shoulder. Around her wrists and neck she wore a narrow black velvet bands, caught at the throat by an old-fashioned gold brooch. About her hung the slightest perfume of sweet lavender. Her husband has been dead several years and they have always been friends with the Mormon elders. She knowing that we believed in revelation, asked me in all sincerity if any of the boys had lately had any visions concerning the war.

Sat. Mar. 27.

Our usual Saturday program, cleaning, baking, a bath in the ocean and our weekly priesthood meeting.

Sun Mar. 28th 1915

Before Sunday School I went out to do a little missionary work and as a result we were glad to see five people respond to the invitation to attend. Among them were two Protestant girls. This increased our attendance to eight as compared with three the previous Sunday. At the Sacrament meeting our attendance was twelve as compared with four on the previous Sunday. Among them were Mlle. Lena Droulet, the French girl we met on the boat, and her father who is the official interpreter of the Islands. It was indeed a great surprise and a pleasure to see them, for they are among the finest people in Papeete. It was also a great encouragement for they were the only people with whom Mr. Rossiter had left a tract that were interested enough to come to the services. They came with the rest of our people to the house after church and stayed about an hour. They displayed the kindest of feeling toward us, and invited us to call on them again.

Mon. Mar. 29.

I went shopping for the first time to buy some dishes and cooking utensils for the Mission House. Prices are much higher here for inferior goods than in the States. In the evening I went on the hill with the boys to gather cocoanuts for which we pay 20c a dozen and avolas or alligator pears, a native fruit, the pulp of which when creamed to-gether with a little salt makes an excellent substitute for butter.

Tues. Mar. 30.

It will not be many years before the Tahitian race becomes extinct, as the death rate greatly exceeds the birth rate, there being in the neighborhood of 80% of the people who do not have children, and few people live until they are 50 yrs. old. This is due to the decreased condition that exists among them, caused from the immoral lives of the people. Marriage is a very rare thing and the French people who have settled here instead of improving the condition have made it worse.

Wed. Mar. 31.

Bros. Ira Hyer and Irvine Pierson returned from the Island Morea, after a 2 wks. stay.

Thurs. April 1st. 1915.

To-day I have been cleaning and airing my clothes, which must be done very often on account of the ants and mildew that get into the trunks and destroy them, especially during the rainy season. We have not been here yet a month and many of them are spotted with mildew or have tiny holes eaten into them by the ants.

Fri Apr. 2nd.

I went with my husband to see Terai, the native woman the missionaries call mother. She was sitting on the floor ironing clothes and her daughter who works for a curio store was weaving a native hat. When we left she gave me a string of tiny yellow shells several yards long, and a pretty black shell to Mr. Rossiter. We also called to see Mrs. Henry the Protestant ministers wife.

Sat. Apr. 3.

This morning we were awakened by the firing of cannons and naturally were a little alarmed on account of the recent bombardement of the city by a German vessel, however we were soon put at ease, being informed that the firing was from the barracks out into the bay to sink an old abandoned ship.

Sun. Apr. 4.

Our first Fast Sunday in the mission field. We held our priesthood meeting at 9: am, where each in turn gave a report of the past week and bore their testimony. Followed by Sunday School at 10:30 am, and Fast Meeting at 3. pm. Bros Ira Hyer and Lewis Westover who had been released during the week, made their farewell remarks following by the testimony of each native and missionary present. The spirit of the Lord was there to a very marked degree. Notwithstanding the fact that we had been here just a month, my husband arose and bore his testimony in the native tongue, and tears run down the faces of every person present. We blessed and gave the name of Vanaga to the infant son of Hiketehi. In the evening my husband and I attended the service of the Catholic Church.

Mon Apr 5.

We have a washing machine at the mission house so we wash our under wear, bed linen towels etc. ourselves and we send just the pieces that need starching and ironing to the natives whose method of pounding the clothes is very destructive.

Tues Apr. 6.

Went with Bro Westover in the evening down to the wharfs to send a package to one of the other islands. People were lying asleep all along the rough board walks, men, women and children. Native Chinese and white people, just where night had overtaken them.

Wed. Apr 7.

It has been the custom of all released missionaries to furnish a real American dinner to the remaining elders, so to-day we celebrated and had roast beef, creamed Irish potatoes green peas, tomato salad & ice cream & cake bread and butter and jelly.

Thur. Apr. 8.

Bros Orton and Shaw returned from Vairoa, much improved in the language.

Fri. Apr. 9.

Brothers Ira Hyer and Lewis Westover left on the Marama for America after a stay of 38 months on the Islands. They were the first to leave since our arrival and it made us feel a little lonely for awhile.

Sat. Apr 10.

Cleaning day, and our regular priesthood meeting in the afternoon, followed by a swim in the dry docks.

Sun. Apr. 11.

We held our Sunday school and Sacrament meeting and had a very small attendance. All day we looked for the sighting of the ship from America at the signal station on the hill, just a short distance from our house. In the evening Mr. Rossiter and I called on the Droulet family but found only Mr. Droulet at home.

Mon. Apr.12.

The Moana was sighted before we awoke, and we were dressed and down to the pier by 6:30 am. to see if there might be someone from home, and to get our mail for a month is a long time to wait for a letter from home, and we are anxious to get it as soon as possible.

Tues. Apr. 13.

Arose at 6:30 dressed and Mr. Rossiter and I went down to the pier to see the ceremonies for the departure of the sailors and officers of the French Man of War Zelie, that was sunk by the Germans in Papeete Harbour. When the ship pulled out with cheers and song, the regimental band accompanied it out through the pass in a gasoline launch,.

Wed. Apr. 14.

Bros Otto Stocks and Wm Orton left for Raiatea.

Thurs. Apr. 15.

I made 10 pints of guava jelly. In the afternoon Mrs. Henry called to see me again and I gave her some embroidery transfer patterns. We also had a long conversation on pre-existance and the hereafter. She never fails to ask if we have had any visions about the European War.

(To be continued)



  1. What a fascinating life this sister led! She seems permanently amused (or perhaps bemused) by the requests of the minister’s widow for revelation about the war. I wonder whether Sister Rossiter thought it unlikely that missionaries would have such revelation, or that the whole idea of having revelation about a current conflict was unreasonable? What statements or messages from the First Presidency or General Conference would have been given on the subject?

    Comment by Alison — February 24, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  2. Having just studied them all, Alison, I’ll summarize them by saying that Saints were admonished to be loyal to their countries (whichever they were), to avoid imbibing the spirit of hatred and bloodlust, to live as Saints regardless of the circumstances they found themselves in, to watch out and care for each other — making the point forcefully and repeatedly that there were no nationalities in the household of faith — and to maintain the structure of the Church wherever possible. Because the U.S. did not enter the war until 1917, it was a little easier for Church leaders to speak as Church leaders rather than Americans — in 1917, the rhetoric changed to some degree, sounding as rah-rah-American as any later conflict. The numerous statements directed to Latter-day Saints in Utah who were persecuting other Saints because of their German origin shows that large numbers of Latter-day Saints were having trouble separating their personal politics from their religion, just as many do today.

    Many of the leaders, apparently following the rhetoric of B.H.Roberts who spoke on this topic numerous times during the war and after, taught that the World Was was the fulfillment of Joseph Smith’s 1832 prophecy about war being poured out on all nations. Early in the war, the rhetoric was that God was blessing the U.S. for its general righteousness in allowing it to stay out of the war; when U.S. participation became imminent, that part of the teaching became that America, with its great prophetic destiny, was blessed to carry liberty to the downtrodden nations, by the sword if necessary.

    Church leaders also had to speak up a couple of times about rumors within the Church that the prophets had foretold the war’s end by a certain date, or that it would continue for a specified number of years (10 or 12, IIRC). The details may change, but we Latter-day Saints carry on in much the same way as our ancestors did!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

  3. As for Mrs. Henry, my guess is that Venus was surprised to have a non-Mormon treat Mormon claims of revelation as sincerely as she did. Usually, requests for revelation are mockery, no?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  4. My home teaching companion is from Tahiti. Bro. Mataoa used to work in the translation department. I’ll show him this post, I’m sure he’ll be interested.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — February 24, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

  5. Thanks, Jim! You know, she uses Tahitian phrases throughout. I wonder if your HT companion would be willing to translate them? There aren’t that many, maybe a page or so if they were all pulled together in one spot.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

  6. Ardis,

    Okay, I didn’t want to speak for Bro. Mataoa, but I sent him your email address. He said he would try to connect with you.

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — February 24, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

  7. We went home teaching together this afternoon to a big family with lots of youngsters. Bro. Mataoa told them his name in Tahitian means “happy face”. :-)

    I was impressed. I have no idea what my name means. :-)

    Comment by Jim Cobabe — February 24, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

  8. Guava jelly? I have some guava jelly in the fridge. Not made by Venus, though.

    Other than that, I don’t have anything substantive to say, except that I’m glad to see Jim commenting here; he was a regular and insightful commenter at T&S when I started reading that blog five (?) years ago.

    Comment by Amy T — February 24, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

  9. It’s easy, Jim. There was the original Babe, and her sidekick, the Co-Babe. You’re descended from her.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 25, 2013 @ 5:38 am

  10. Re: Mar 30 entry. 65 years later, when I finished my mission there, the marriage issue had not changed much. And the feelings for the French, in general, had not been that much diluted either. However, the French Saints that I interacted were pretty wonderful.

    Comment by David R — February 25, 2013 @ 2:44 pm