In the 1800s, missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were first sent to Tonga from the Samoan Mission. Due to a lack of success, they were later withdrawn.

A site near the present-day stake center and Pouono Park in Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga.
A site near the present-day stake center and Pouono Park in Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga. | Kenneth Mays

Years later, missionaries were once again assigned to serve in Tonga. In 1895, while traveling from Fiji to Samoa, Andrew Jensen, assistant church historian, came to Tonga just four years after the first Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived from Samoa and started preaching.

On Aug. 19, 1895, he sailed into the island cluster known as Vava’u and into the channel leading to the town of Neiafu which, at that time, had about 200 inhabitants. While there, Jensen and others dedicated Vava’u for the preaching of the gospel.

A chapel was built and dedicated there in 1938. That structure no longer stands, but a modern stake center now occupies the site. Polynesian historic sites scholar Riley Moffat writes that immediately across the street (Puouno Road) from the stake center is a park with a monument commemorating the time in 1839 when “the powerful chief Taufa’ahau, who had embraced Christianity and later unified Tonga and became King George I, willed the Tongan Islands to God” (see Riley M. Moffat's "LDS Church History Sites in the Kingdom of Tonga" in Mormon Historical Studies, Spring and Fall 2016, Vol. 17, Nos. 1 and 2).

As of 2017, Neiafu has a population of about 6,000, making it the second largest town in Tonga. It is the administrative center of Vava’u, the main island of the Vavaʻu archipelago, or group of islands, in northern Tonga.