In the early 1900s, President Joseph F. Smith authorized the establishment of a village called Sauniatu. It is located in the mountains about a 45-minute drive from Samoa's capital city of Apia.
It was to be a refuge for the early Samoan Saints, who were persecuted, and unfairly taxed for joining the Church and eventually expelled from their villages for being Mormons.
President David O. McKay, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited Sauniatu on May 31, 1921, calling it "the most beautiful place I have ever seen." Villagers built a small monument to mark the historic site where President McKay pronounced a blessing on the land.
The early saints who established Sauniatu had a vision about the importance of the sacred valley; it was to be a place where their faith could be strengthened and a place to prepare for the future. They built a school, houses, planted crops, raised animals, cleared roads and developed a productive plantation.
Today, it encompasses a small Latter-day Saint primary school and the Sauniatu Agriculture Center, a program designed to promote family self-reliance based on gospel principles, offering the youth of the Church training in agriculture and entrepreneurship. (See 2004 Church Almanac and Brian Kelly "Preparing to Go Forth," New Era, June 1977.)