Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Venus in Tahiti: 13 May – 1 June 1916

Venus in Tahiti: 13 May – 1 June 1916

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 21, 2013

(Previous installment)

Takaroa, Sat. May 13, 1916.

Just as we were sitting down to breakfast the French governor Mr. Deniois came up to the house to say “au revoir” before he set sail. It was a very unusual occurance as he never has been known before to even recognize the missionaries.

During the day many of the people returned from the interior with their copra & we had a regular in pouring of tithing. Even the young boys 15 & 16 years of age brought in their tithing of a few cents from money they had earned hauling it up from the wharf. An organization of young men and women, among whom were a young Catholic man & women also brought a tithe of the proceeds from their cooperation. We were more than gratified to see how firmly our repentance campaign had taken hold of the young people.

Sun. May 14, 1916.

Attended morning meeting, Sunday School, Sacrament meeting and Mutual in the evening. Just aft4erSacrament meeting began Vais came for Pres. Rossiter to come and stop a family quarrel between the young people from Hikueru, so Rungivaro & Toriki occupied the time.

Mon. May 15, 1916

Triata, Tearo & Tekuaro the wives of the local native missionaries asked to go out visiting the Saints with me every morning, so that they would be prepared for their work when they left with their husbands for their newly appointed fields, and this morning we went out for the first time together. Our work consists of visiting all people, both in and outside of the church, to teach them the gospel, word of wisdom, governing & care of their children, tithing, clean[l]iness and singing & prayers. This morning we visited three families, staying about 45 minutes at each house.

Tues. May 16, 1916.

Visited three families with the native sisters after which they came to our house & I gave them instructions about their work & taught them some new songs. At 7: pm we held a gospel class.

Wed. May 17, 1916.

Visited one family of Saints & two Catholic families one of whom is investigating very earnestly. At 7: pm I conducted a song practice at the “fare putuputuraa.” The Saints are very good to us. This morning Poy brought a lbs of sugur & a loaf of bread. Nanai, two loaves of bread. Tukua one breadfruit. Toriki fish & Tihauri & Teariki each a basket of young cocoanuts. Huri also gave us two dollars to buy bread & the native Catholic missionary brought us a can of milk. Rungirars a bowl of eggs.

Thurs. May 18, 1916.

Today we visited five families, among which was one Catholic family. The wife was very nice to us & listened attentively, so attentive in fact that the husband who is a very staunch Catholic began to get uneasy and started pacing to and fro up and down the yard. The wife said that Jesus was the last prophet on the earth and I was telling her that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, divinely appointed by God in these last days. He over hearing what I said, came and stood very close to me and commenced singing “We Thank Thee Oh God For a Prophet,” but I didn’t pay any attention and went on talking, finally he got so angry that he wouldn’t let his wife listen any longer and sent her in the house. Just then President Rossiter happened along, and hearing his loud talking, came in to see [w]hat it was all about. I told him what had happened, so he commenced talking to the man. He couldn’t prove a single one of his assertions and got so confused and angry that he finally said that Jesus Christ was a liar & bla[s]phemed his name, so we got up & left him, vehemently puffing away at cigarettes. Relief Society was heldat3: pm.

Fri. May 19, 1916.

Visited ten families, five Mormon & five outsiders. We also called to see two sick people. At 7: pm the native missionaries conducted gospel class.

Sat. May 20, 1916.

At the end of the first week, we can see the great amount of good our visiting has done. Up until this time the streets have always been filled with dirty half clothed children from morning until night. Now scarsily a child is ever seen, excepting in his own yard, properly clothed & with a clean face & hands & nicely combed hair. All the yards and houses are cleaner, and in many of the houses we find the mothers teaching their girls to wash, mend, weave & etc. Yesterday we found several of the mother[s] making little pants for their children, an article that is very rarely seen on native children. For several days after visiting hours I have been kept busy cutting out patterns for little pants & rompers. It is really comical to see the children run to mothers when they see me coming and say “Oh mother quick quick here comes Venetta, give me my pants or she’ll be angry with me.” One little fellow that can scarsely toddle has a pair made from a floursack that reaches nearly up to his chin & are held up by a large pair [of] black suspenders or else they would fall off they are so large he looks so entirely lost that we have named him “pants.” Another little fellow who never has any on, and who we have spoken to very often about it, finally has a pair and every time he sees me now he comes running out and says “Say, did you see my new pants?” We have named him “pantless.” There is another little fellow that wears pants but never has a shirt on, nor a belt or suspenders and he runs around playing from morning until night holding his pants on with one hand. Since the French government will not allow us to teach school, we have asked all the parents to spend an hour each morning teaching their children to read, write & figure. The bell is rung every morning at 8 oclock to remind them that it is time for class.

Takaroa May 21, 1916.

Held as usual our five Sunday meetings. As a result of our daily visiting, three old ladies who had not been in the church for years came out to all the meeting[s], as they promised me they would when I called on them.

Mon. May 22, 1916.

Commenced visiting again with the native sisters. Called to see three Mormon & two Catholic families. The remainder of the day I was kept busy cutting out little pants & rompers. At church yesterday, I was really surprised to see so many little children with pants on. Tukua brought us $3.10 from the Relief Society sisters to buy food. Maroaki brought a large can of sugur & Punua a nice leg of pork.

Tues. May 23, 1916.

Spent the morning visiting the people. At 7: pm we held gospel class. The “Hinano” arrived at 7: am. No mail.

Wed. May 24, 1916.

While we were visiting the Saints, we saw the people in the street running to the shore rather excitedly and we soon learned that the Hinano was leaving, and Parai, one of the young women who was married in March was trying to steal away on it. Her husband three weeks previous had gone over to Tikei with a party of Saints to make copra, and in his absence she had fallen and was living with Ohipu, a young man from Hikueru. President Rossiter had made arrangements with the captain to take him away from Takaroa and Parai had made up her mind to go with him & to make her get away before her husband returned. But President Rossiter hearing of her plan, stopped her from going. At 7: pm I conducted singing class, in which was announced that I would commence Primary meetings for the children the following day.

Thurs. May 25, 1916.

At 11: am I commenced Primary meeting with every child on the Island, Mormon & non Mormon present. A good many of the Parents were present too. I taught them songs, prayers & several games and from the lessons we commenced the story of the Book of Mormon. Most of the leading young women are away at Tikei, so we thought it best to leave the organization of the association until they returned. Held Relief Society at 3: pm.

Fri. May 26, 1916.

Continued the daily visiting with the native sisters. Visited one Catholic & five Mormon families. Atended gospel class at 7: pm.

Takaroa May 27, 1916.

Pres. Rossiter & I called to see several families. We also went to see the child of Kuraigno & Taukura, who was very low with some native disease. We have tryed everything that we know of for two months now & nothing seems to do it any good and it is just gradu[a]lly wearing away to skin and bones. Later I went over to teach Heia to tat & when I left she gave me a pretty hand made fan. She is just twenty years old, but pays an excellent tithing. This month she has already payed $14. from copra she had sold. The saints sent us two chickens & some bread.– In the late afternoon Pres. Rossiter and I were sitting studying when Tufereiva came to the house to ask us to hurry down to Kuraigno for she had been seized with evil spirits. When we got there she was lying on the ground so we had her carried into Toae’s house. She was raving, hissing spitting and fighting frantically. He laid his hands on her head, annointed her with oil & the spirit left her immediately and as long as he kept his hands on her she lay peaceful & quiet, but the minute he took them off, it entered her again & she raved fiercer than ever (he had failed to command it not to enter again). Just then one of the native brothren came in and they both laid their hands on her again and when Pres Rossiter commanded it to depart and return no more the very air was rent with her hissing and screams and she looked as though her very body was being torn to pieces judging from the contortions of her face and body. Again she was peaceful and quiet and sat talking with us some time before we left, telling her if she will keep her mind off of that sort of thing and not court it back or talk to it, it would not enter her body again but as soon as we had gone she commenced talking to it again. About an hour later her husband, with whom there was not the best of feeling, returned from fishing, and as he approached the house she commenced screaming again & when he entered the house she was fully overcome again. That evening the Priesthood gathered at the house to hold a prayer circle over her, but she would not allow one of them to approach her and spit hissed and scratched at them, all the while calling out for the native Catholic preacher, saying that if he didn’t come to her, both she and the child would die that night. She was born of Mormon parents but had been given away while she was a child to a[n] apostate Mormon who was now a bitter Catholic. She was married to a young Mormon man & at the time of their marriage he[r] feeding father made them enter a contract with a Catholic priest that he would never try to convert her to the Mormon faith & if he did she would be cursed. Therefore when the Catholic preacher came the priesthood had no right to put him outside since she was a Catholic. Instead of using Catholicism on her he tried spiritual, giving as he said two hours longer to the evil spirits & at the end of that time, he would take her over into his hands. Of course as long as the devil was left undisturbed in her she was some what calmer, but as soon as he commenced to use his spiritualism on her, she was worse than ever & after trying all sorts of methods he left her unsuccessfull & not only that, but with her mind entirely turned she had become a raveing maniac. During the night the baby died, & the Catholic preacher just before it passed away, baptized it a Catholic unknown to the father.

Sun. May 28, 1916.

All day long she raved & finally the husband finally took her out of the hands of the Catholic and asked President Rossiter to take charge of her again. That night we had her moved to a small house at the other end of the village away from all the people and noise.

Mon. May 29, 1916.

She was rather quiet and sane at intervals, and asked often to be administered to. But President Rossiter was slow to consent since they had once defied the priesthood.

Tues. May 30, 1916.

Real quiet most of the day, & would not allow either Pres. or I to leave for a single minute. She wanted to hold me in her arms all the day, for then she said the enemies couldn’t get her. Towards evening she insisted going to our house & when she once got there we couldn’t make her return, so she slept on my bed until about midnight. Pres was watching her at that time & she awoke suddenly & sprung at him like a lion, spitting in his face scratching it with her nails, ripping his shirt nearly off and screaming & fighting wildly. She had become very warm while asleep as she wouldn’t allow a single window or door open, & the brain had become overheated again. It took four men to hold her while they put cold applications to her head & after several hours work she finally became calm again.

Wed. May 31, 1916.

She allowed us to take her back to her house again. But it wasn’t long before she became uncontrollable again & getting away from Tauipeira & Tuhiva she jumped up on a stone wall, fell down to the ground and came running into our house screaming for Eraneta (Pres. Rossiter). I was terrified and all worn out from being with her all day yesterday & also the terrible night we have spent with her, so I went down to Tukuas where I stayed most of the day & also slept or at least tryed to sleep that night.

As Kuraigno and her husband asked so much to have her administered to Pres. Rossiter was unsettled as to what to do about it as a day was set apart for fasting and prayer & a small boat sent over to Tekei to bring Mapuhi and Elder Monk, so that it should be made known to us wheather it would be right for us to administer to her, since they had so openly defied the priesthood. About three o’clock in the morning the Ditema arrived from Tahiti, having been gone just a month. Elders Pierson & Burton who were to have [gone] to Taaite were on it. They had tried every way to get there but the wind was against them all the way and they were in some unaccountable manner brought back to Takaroa just as we [were] so much in need of the power of the Priesthood. They brought us the mail that had been accumulating in Tahiti for four months, so we sat up the rest of the night reading our mail. About an hour after the arrival of the Ditema, the boat arrived from Tekei with Mapuhi and Elder Monk. Elder Monk received his mail that had been accumulating since last July. Song practice at 7: pm.

Thurs. June 1, 1916.

We held t[w]o fasting and prayer meetings. The morning meeting was for testimony & at the afternoon Mapuhi and Torika preached on the object of the fast & pray[er], after which Pres Rossiter arose and said that it had been made known unto him that we should not administer to Kuraigno even though we wanted to so badly, and if we did we would only be displeasing the Lord. That night Kuraigno was taken to her brothers house & we went back to our own house to sleep.

(To be continued)



  1. I’m not sure what to think of the decision *not* to lay hands…

    Comment by queuno — July 21, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

  2. To quote the wise and profound George Takei, “OH Myyyyyyyyy!”

    Comment by andrew h — July 21, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

  3. I don’t believe I’ve read anything quite like it. Have I been sheltered?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — July 21, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

  4. Wow. That sounds like a clear case of postpartum psychosis. It’s an awful, fairly uncommon condition and needs to be taken very seriously and immediately distinguished from postpartum depression and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, both of which are fairly common. Postpartum psychosis is a severe medical emergency and the mother needs immediate hospitalization.

    Of course in 1916 Tahiti, there wasn’t much they could do; however, they should have removed the baby from the mother’s care. Fortunately it sounds like she didn’t cause the baby’s death.

    As I refresh my memory about the condition from a reputable medical website, it says that postpartum psychosis can involve religious delusions, so it’s possible that continuing attempts to bless the woman could have actually made the condition worse.

    Well, hopefully they kept Kuraigno from harming herself until the psychosis went away, and hopefully she didn’t have a recurrence with additional children.

    Comment by Amy T — July 21, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

  5. The French Government wouldn’t let them teach school? You mean like the Utah Legislature?

    Comment by Grant — July 21, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

  6. Just wow!

    Comment by kevinf — July 21, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

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