Full transcription of the press account of the 1911 hui tau; supplementing Haere Mai ki te Hui Tau!:
Over the cacophony of Maori tongues, the hissing of steam, the clanging of bells and the rattle of tins and chinaware in the Papawai pa floated the sounds of a well-known Sankey hymn, “I Need thee Every Hour.” The singing was sweet; it came from a few young men and women grouped around an American organ. Outside before the large assembly house the Maori chiefs harangued their people, ever striking chords in the minor key, ever obtaining responsive vibrations.
The singing seemed to be a side-show. The Maoris came and went giving no heed to it, their wahines, unabashed by the presence of men, going on with toilettes in detail. Some of the men were sleeping on the straw, others chatted with the women, and clear above the laughter and chatter rose the langourous melody of the hymn.
The singers were Mormons. Once only had that peculiar people come into prominence when a Mr. George Bowles, the Mormon mission president, joined in the addresses eulogising the Maori chief Tamahau Mahtupuku, who has been dead these seven years. But for this one would not have known that there was a Mormon in the place, except among the Maoris.
All the time, however, lying perdu was a large number of Mormon missionaries, fifty at least. They were in an upper room, and apparently the place had been set apart for their use by their Maori hosts, with whom they seem to be on the best of terms. Tamahau, albeit he was claimed by the Anglicans as of their fold, if he had not Mormon sympathies, was certainly well disposed towards the disciples of Joseph Smith.
These missionaries were typical American young men. They wore no distinguishing clerical garb, their collars buttoned in front. They appeared to be of the usual American college variety, well dressed (some even to the extent of the peg-leg trouser and long-waisted jacket of the American gilded youth of to-day). They seemed perfectly happy. While one group listened to a youth addressing, another gathered around a violist who was leading a hymn. Other and small groups stood around talking. Some of the young read aloud, others to themselves, others again lay on the straw asleep or gazing at the ceiling. Everything was casual, happy-go-lucky. There were a few women among them, perhaps five or six. The self-assurance characterising the youthful speakers at that moment would seem to bespeak for them graduation in Christian Endeavour polemics. Luggage lay about – rugs, valises, portmanteaux, and “grips.” The style of the impedimenta was in keeping with the appearance of the owners – that of well-to-do young Americans. Nothing whatever of the beggarly pilgrim or mendicant friar about it.
Next day there was more order and system, for a meeting was held in the upper room under the presidency of Mr. Bowles. It seemed to be a meeting preliminary to the Mormon conference.
Mr. Bowles is a tall, dark, good-looking man, this side of middle-age. His appearance suggested that of an alert American business man. He speaks in a clear, deep, rich voice; has sufficient confidence in his knowledge of Maori to address an assembly of chiefs, and has the air of a university man and impresses one as a worker.
Seeing that Mormonism has a grip of the Maori or of a large portion of the race, Mr. Bowles was asked by a representative of The Post if he cared to give an outline of his creed in relation to Maoris. He readily assented. It was pointed out that a creed which had taught polygamy as a virtue possessed at least that one feature as a claim upon the general interest. He thought so, too. “I will cheerfully answer any reasonable question you choose to put to me,” he added. “We are a misrepresented people in New Zealand as in the United States. But that does not matter.”
“You are holding a conference here – what for?” was the first question.
“We are discussing matters of interest to our Church and the people among whom we work.”
“Both Europeans and Maoris. This meeting is a gathering together of our missionaries. There are forty-five men and three sisters in attendance.”
“From what class do you recruit your missionaries?”
“Well, sir, they come in the main from the farming class of Utah – farmers’ sons, rather. Some are from banks, offices, and stores. They are educated young men and come out on the mission at their own charges, for two or three years’ work in New Zealand. They return at the expense of the Church.”
“Who maintains them while they are at work in, say, New Zealand?”
“Why, we believe that the people among whom we labour will support us in the matter of food, and they do so. This is strictly scriptural – ‘Without purse or scrip.’ These young men offer themselves for the mission work of their own free will. There are some 2500 of them in the field. There are none in China, Russia, India, or Central Africa – none, in fact, in heathen countries.”
“Is ‘Mormon’ a term of reproach or is it a correct designation of the body known by that name?”
“Thank you for that! Why, we call ourselves the Latter Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ.”
“How many members have you in New Zealand?”
“About 5600. Of these four-fifths are Maoris.”
“How do you account for the difference?”
“This is due to the fact that the Maoris are not an emigrating people; therefore the numbers relating to them seem to remain stationary. The others emigrate to America.”
“Why could they not observe the tenets of Mormonism in their own country; why should there be an exodus from other countries to Salt Lake City?”
“A very natural question. But just let me put you right on one point. All who accept our teaching do not go to live in Salt Lake city. They go there sooner or later perhaps; but they may settle in Idaho, new Mexico, or any State, other than Utah, where the Latter Day Saints are settled. They go there so as to be ready against the Day of the Lord. You may be surprised to know that 53 per cent. of the population of Utah is non-Mormon.
“We are particularly interested in the Maoris because we recognise them as of the lineage of Israel of the tribe of Manasseh. the Book of Mormon tells us this much. This book was given by revelation to Joseph Smith, inscribed on metal plates. One of these nations – the Nephites – was destroyed. The other – the Lamanite – survived, and the Red Indians are descended from them. So, too, are the Maoris. Those are our teachings – those are our beliefs through the revelations made to us. There is to be a great gathering of people, the Saints of the Latter Day.”
“That will take place – ”
“In the United States.”
“The place has been revealed to us in prophecy. In Isaiah II, verses 1 and 2, you will read: ‘The word that Isaiah, the Son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah of Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the Last Days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it.’ we believe that in the time to come all the peoples of the earth will gather at a definite place and in America. The Scriptures foretell a gathering of people for the son of Man and the end of the world. The people now in America are at hand for the great gathering at that place. That is why those who accept our teaching in New Zealand, as in other countries, emigrate to Utah or States more or less adjacent.”
Mr. Bowles stated that the work among Maoris consisted of teaching them the useful arts, suitable trades, agriculture, and teaching them in schools. There were seven elementary Maori schools in New Zealand. These received not one penny from the State. The tenets of Mormonism was taught in the schools, as well as secular subjects. The text books adopted were those prescribed by the State, and the State’s required standard had to be adhered to. The Saints owned a farm of 130 acres in Hawkes Bay, where it is intended in the future to build a college for the instruction of young Maori men in useful arts, primarily those relating to agriculture. The headquarters in Auckland were purchased three years ago for £1700. These are for the reception and training of the young men coming out to work in New Zealand. These missionaries return after two or three years’ work, and necessarily constitute in Salt Lake City, and other Mormon districts, a leaven of quite young men who have seen life out in the great world beyond their own farmyards, and have come into contact with the rough side of it.
Of the strictly material influence of Mormonism on the Maori, those who are qualified to speak speak highly. From a religious standpoint the Mormon teaching is as strongly condemned by ministers of the better-known denominations. Grave charges are laid against the morality of the Mormons, but the grounds, if any, of these Mr. Bowles declined to discuss. “Opposition to us comes,” he said, “from the denominations. Practically from no other source.”
The native Minister (Hon. Jas. Carroll) was subsequently asked what moral influence the Mormons had upon the Maoris. He could take no cognisance, he said, of the religious side of the question, but he testified to their influence in making and keeping their Maori disciples sober.
The Mormons – and it did not need Mr. bowles to say so – are probably the highest authorities in the world on irrigation. When they trekked out into the lonely unknown West, into the Utah, they brought up at the great salt inland sea in country that seemed to have been cursed of God. They grappled nobly, fearlessly with the desert and conquered it by water and commonsense. There is no place now more fruitful than the Mormon territory. Eschol produced no finer fruits. Brigham Young was an engineer with a gigantic imagination. He saw the desert as he believed it could be made, yielding an abundance of food and supporting a vast population in abundance and peace. Then, when the Mormons had subdued the land the gold-seeker came. Brigham Young discountenanced prospecting by the Mormons: “If you dig for gold a few of you will become rich,” he said, “but if you raise vegetables, fruits, and live stock and feed the miners you will all grow rich.” As a result of this counsel only five Mormons, according to Mr. Bowles, tried their luck with the tin dish and dolly. Those who remained on their farms became rich in a shorter time than any community has ever done before.
Mr. Bowles was asked whether it was not a fact that while all, Mormon and Gentile alike, were free to enter the Mormon Tabernacle at Salt Lake City, only the former could enter the Temple.
“That is perfectly correct,” he replied. “You are not allowed, unless you are a member of the craft, to enter a Masonic Temple. So it is with us with the uninitiated. What is performed in the temple is not for non-Mormons to witness. I may tell you, however, that we there perform ordinances for the salvation of our dead. We believe in baptism by proxy, in being baptised for our dead. That act has the warranty of the New Testament; you can find it in I Cor. XV. 29. We show that we unquestioningly believe in the immortality of the soul.”
Mr. Bowles up to this point appeared to be anticipating some questions as to the polygamy, for he asked, “Perhaps you would like to know something about that subject. Well, it was 1842 that polygamy was first practised. It was revealed to Joseph Smith that polygamy was the command of the Lord. It is not now taught or practised. To-day no man can obtain a second wife, with or without the consent and authority of the church. If he does so he becomes amenable to the law of the church and to the law of the state. The discontinuance of polygamy was the outcome of revelation. This change of attitude came on account of the opposition of the people and the desire not to be persecuted all the days of our life. The abandonment of polygamy was revealed by the word of the Lord through Wilford Woodruff in September, 1890. The civil law known as the Edmunds-Tucker law made it unlawful from 1882 to cohabit with more than the one wife.”
“Were they, then, abandoned on the Civil Law becoming operative?”
“No. A fine home was built for the women and children who, it was thought, would be deserted, but only five out of the many polygamous wives entered that home. The Mormons believed that the principle of polygamy was true, of Divine origin, and they remained faithful to that principle.”
The church revenue, which is believed to be enormous, is derived from the payment by members of a tithe, or tenth part of their incomes. No appeals are made to the Gentiles for support. The poor are well looked after, according to Mr. Bowles, their necessities being amply met out of offerings made on the first Sunday of the month, or Fast Sunday, as it is called.
The rules of the Mormon Book of Wisdom prescribe total abstinence from alcohol (in any form), tobacco, tea and coffee, or other stimulants. In theory observance of these particular rules is optional “but 80 per cent. of our New Zealand membership does observe them,” Mr. Bowles explained. This rule, he added, had been of the utmost value in helping the Maoris.
Mormonism, according to Mr. Bowles, first came to New Zealand in the early sixties; but it was not until 1883 that systematic work was begun among Maoris. Since then the Mormon position has been greatly consolidated among Maoris. The fact that other peoples are so strongly enjoined to leave their native or adopted countries for Salt Lake City or other Mormon centres in America will explain the apparent insignificance of Pakeha-Maoris in this country as to their numbers.
When the interview finished a Maori sister greeted the president. Both shook hands, both performed the hongi, or Maori rubbing of nose with nose. Did this ready acquiescence in native custom explain the adaptability of the Mormon missionary to local circumstances, and, therefore, his success among the Maoris?