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Picturing history: Kolofo’ou Chapel, Tongatapu, Tonga

In 1958, a Latter-day Saint chapel was constructed at Kolofo’ou, one of several major subdivisions or district areas of Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu, the capital of Tonga. It served the local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 24 years. Because Tonga is a kingdom, land for such facilities is not purchased but is instead leased from the king.

The former Kolofoou Chapel at Nukualofa, Tongatapu, Tonga. It is now used for a government agency.| Kenneth Mays

According to Riley M. Moffat, in 1972 the lease on the land occupied by the Kolofo’ou Chapel expired and it was not renewed by the king. The building was then available to be utilized for other purposes. Initially, it was turned into a Chinese restaurant and the baptismal font in the courtyard was used as a fishpond (see Moffat's photo essay "LDS Church History Sites in the Kingdom of Tonga" in Mormon Historical Studies, Spring and Fall 2016, Vol. 17, Nos. 1 & 2). The structure’s time as a restaurant was short-lived. Subsequently, other uses for it were sought.

Presently, the building houses the offices of the Tongan Ministry of Commerce, Consumer Trade and Innovation and Labour. Some changes to the former church building have been made.

However, the original Mormon complex was not demolished and replaced, as is often the case when an edifice is no longer used for its original purpose. An examination of the present-day structure reveals its general layout, hallways, steeple and classrooms. There is still a “feeling,” as it were, of a traditional Latter-day Saint chapel such as is familiar to Saints all over the world. In that sense, its historical and architectural legacy continue.