Press Release – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — There was a time when the term Mormon meant “American missionaries, or Polynesian church” to many people in this part of the world. But such perceptions are old news. The Changing Face of Mormonism in the Pacific
30 November 2010
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — There was a time when the term Mormon meant “American missionaries, or Polynesian church” to many people in this part of the world. But such perceptions are old news.
Mormon missionaries in the Pacific now come from all over the world, not just the United States. And while there are many Polynesian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the South Pacific and elsewhere, Mormon congregations are becoming increasingly diverse.
A visitor to Auckland’s Albany Ward on any given Sunday may sit next to a Korean family, with a European New Zealander family behind them, and a South African couple in the pew in front There are Indian, Samoan, Tongan, Maori, British, Chinese and many more ethnicities represented in Mormon wards across the Pacific region.
“I love the fact that we’re all there together, brothers and sisters in the church,” says Richard Hunter, an Australian Latter-day Saint living with his family in New Zealand. “I’m not sitting there thinking, ‘He’s Japanese,’ or ‘They’re German.’ We have these richly diverse backgrounds but we’re all there to worship, learn and enjoy our church participation together.”
As of the end of 2009 there were almost 450,000 Mormons in the South Pacific region, from Australia and Papua New Guinea, across to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and French Polynesia, and south to New Zealand. In some places Mormons are a strong presence, such as in Tonga, Samoa and French Polynesia. In other countries Mormons are recognized but not always well understood.
What many non-Mormons are seeing though is that the faith is growing. Last year over 8,000 people joined the Church in the Pacific Area, helping the worldwide Church move closer towards 14 million adherents.
That sort of growth means that the Church’s building program is a busy one. To cater to the Church’s almost 1,100 congregations throughout the region, 25 chapels and other Church buildings were either constructed or underwent renovation or extension projects last year. This year the pace is a similar one.
As the Church continues to grow in the Pacific, so too does its outreach to communities in need. The Latter-day Saints’ welfare and humanitarian programs in the Pacific include clean water projects, measle vaccination initiatives, and the donations of wheelchairs as well as education and medical supplies.
“Many of our members donate to the Church’s Humanitarian Fund, and 100% of that goes to projects that we put into effect that are lifting lives and strengthening families in Pacific communities and worldwide,” says Steve Stebbings, the Church’s Pacific Area Welfare Manager. “In many cases we partner with government agencies, other churches and relief organizations. We also work closely with village and community leaders so each project is planned and executed collaboratively.”
To learn more about Mormons in the South Pacific, go to www.mormon.org and search by region (Oceania) to view personal profiles of regular men and women from this part of the world, who are Latter-day Saints. www.ldschurch.org.nz and www.lds.org.au are other Church websites featuring news and information about Mormons in the South Pacific.