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Picturing history: Site of first LDS mission home, Mu’a, Tongatapu, Tonga

When missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first arrived in Tonga in 1891, they first stayed in temporary quarters in Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu. One of their first priorities was to meet government officials to obtain permission to preach and hold meetings.

Shortly thereafter, they labored to secure some land to build a mission home or a base of operations where the work could be centered. After considerable searching, Elder Brigham Smoot and Elder Alva John Butler made the decision to establish mission headquarters in the village of Mu’a, a site about 18 miles by land and 7 miles by water from Nuku’alofa. The land was leased for $20 a year.

They had to send to New Zealand for the lumber needed to build the mission home. After ordering 5,000 feet of lumber, they purchased a small boat to make the journeys from island to island.

The structure was dedicated on May 15, 1892. Among its many uses would be the holding of church services. About a year later, two rooms and a veranda were added on to the little house serving as mission headquarters.

In August 2016, a monument commemorating the centennial of the Tongan Mission was dedicated on the site where that first mission home once stood. The monument was created by LDS sculptor Viliami Toluta'u and dedicated by Elder Aisake Tukuafu of the Seventy. His Royal Majesty King Tupou VI and Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u attended the dedication of the monument as did their son, Prince Ata. Prince Tungi Mailefihi Tukuaho, who graciously allowed the monument to be erected on his land, also attended (see previous coverage "Monument helps mark a century of the LDS Tongan Mission").

Kenneth R. Mays is a board member of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and has also been an instructor in the LDS Church’s Department of Seminaries and Institutes for more than 35 years.