CultureGrams Worldwide Saints

Part 11: Three Stories from Church History in New Zealand


The purpose of this part in our series is to highlight three stories
related to the history of the Church in New Zealand. There are many
inspiring, humorous, touching stories related to the Lord's work in New
Zealand. Obviously, no selection of stories can be complete.

Undoubtedly, there are many other accounts worthy of retelling. Some of
these have been told and published before--others are waiting to be. If you
wish to submit information to be considered for our archive pages, please
send an email to:

By Matthew Cowley

I was called to a home in a little village in New Zealand one day. There
the Relief Society sisters were preparing the body of one of our Saints.
They had placed his body in front of the . . . house where the people came
to wail and weep and mourn over the dead, when in rushed the dead man's

He said, "Administer to him."

And the young natives said, "Why, you shouldn't do that; he's dead."

"You do it! " the brother said.

The younger native got down on his knees, and he anointed the dead man.
Then this great old sage got down and blessed him and commanded him to
rise. You should have seen the Relief Society sisters scatter. And he sat
up, and he said, "Send for the elders; I don't feel very well." . . .

Well, we told him he had just been administered to, and he said: "Oh, that
was it. I was dead. I could feel life coming back into me just like a
blanket unrolling." Now, he outlived the brother that came in and told us
to administer to him.

"Matthew Cowley Speaks," (Deseret Book Co., 1954), p. 247.

By Robert L. Simpson

I remember . . . going up to the Bay of Islands to Brother Otene's home.
Brother Otene wanted me to take down some genealogical records for him. I
was a rather new missionary, but I was delighted with the opportunity. He
would bury his head in his hands and close his eyes, and he would repeat
from memory, "Kua marena a mea, a ka puta mai a mea, nana i marena a mea,
etc., etc., etc." "So and so was married to so and so, and the children
were thus and thus and thus."

I was writing just as quickly as I could and I got over seven, eight or
nine pages, name after name. I thought to myself, "Now, I wonder if these
could really be correct. He has just memorized these. I wonder if they are
really right." You know, it was not more than a few weeks later I had
occasion to go into another part of New Zealand a couple of hundred miles
away, to take down some other genealogical records from another old
brother, and as far as I know these two had not compared notes. I thought I
recognized about half way down through the first page that these names were
sounding very familiar. I could not wait to get back to headquarters after
taking down that second record, and I found that page after page, these
names were identical. They were authentic records.

"BYU Speeches of the Year," (Brigham Young University, 1962), p. 8.

(Elder Robert L. Simpson is a much-loved friend to the Church in New
Zealand. He served as a young missionary in New Zealand and was called to
serve as president of the New Zealand Mission in 1958. Upon returning home
in 1961, he was called to serve as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.
Elder Simpson was later sustained as an Assistant to the Quorum of the
Twelve Apostles and then to the First Quorum of the Seventy. As a General
Authority, Elder Simpson served as supervisor and then president of the
Pacific Area.)

By Glen L. Rudd

There was a man by the name of Syd who lived in a little Maori village on
the east coast of New Zealand. At that time there was a large branch of the
Church there with about four hundred members. One Saturday afternoon, after
a long, eight-hour drive, President Matthew Cowley arrived at this village
and went directly to see his old friend, Syd.

Syd had been ordained a seventy while he had lived in the United States,
and when he arrived back in New Zealand, he had found that he was the only
seventy in the whole area, and he didn't have a quorum to belong to. He had
become somewhat inactive, and he hadn't been keeping the Word of Wisdom,
but deep within his heart he still knew the gospel to be true.

As a mission president and a friend, President Cowley called on Syd. . He
found Syd sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch, smoking a big
cigar. Syd didn't stop chewing on his cigar as President Cowley sat down
beside him to visit.

After they had talked and laughed for a while, President Cowley became
serious and said, "Syd, I want you to come to church tomorrow."

They both looked toward the old chapel, and Syd said, "I think it'll fall
in if I do. I haven't been there for a long time. I don't think I'd better
risk it."

President Cowley said, "Syd, I want you to be there. I'm going to do
something important tomorrow."

Syd inquired, "What are you going to do?"

President Cowley answered, "I'm going to release the branch president and
put in a new one."

Syd said, "Why don't you just tell me who the new branch president will be,
and then I won't have to get myself cleaned up for church in the morning."

President Cowley said, "Well, I'll tell you who it is. It's going to be

Syd pulled that old cigar out of his mouth, looked at it, and said,
"President Cowley, you mean me and my cigar?"

President Cowley said, "No, Syd, just you. We don't need your cigar."

Then Syd threw the cigar out on the ground in front of the porch. He
thought for a minute, turned to President Cowley, and very humbly said,
"...I don't break the Word of Wisdom any more. I'm a full-tithe payer. I'll
be the branch president, and I'll be worthy. Tomorrow morning I'll be
there, and I promise you that I'll be the best branch president in the
whole country. You won't have to worry about me and whether or not I'm
living the gospel."

For the next several years, Syd served as one of the strongest and finest
leaders in the mission... When he was called to repentance, he quit his
worldly ways. He became and remained a faithful Saint until the day he

"Keeping the Gospel Simple," ("Ensign," January 1989), p. 69.

NEXT WEEK: Part 12: President Hinckley's 1997 Visit, Series Conclusion

CultureGrams, a division of MSTAR.NET, sponsors GEMS Worldwide Saints
messages. Material related to this and upcoming Worldwide Saints series can
be sent to CultureGrams publishes concise,
reliable cultural reports on more than 175 countries. For more information
on CultureGrams, visit

"Matthew Cowley Speaks" (Deseret Book, 1954) is included in Deseret Book's
electronic reference library, "GospeLink 2001." You can buy "GospeLink
2001" online at

Elder Rudd's address titled "Keeping the Gospel Simple" is found in the
January 1989 Ensign and can be accessed in the gospel library section of
the Church's official Web site at

GEMS is grateful to R. Lanier Britsch for his support of this series.
Brother Britsch's book "Unto the Islands of the Sea, A History of the
Latter-day Saints in the Pacific" (Deseret Book, 1986) is available on
"GospeLink 2001." You can buy "GospeLink 2001" online at

Attention Worldwide Saints Readers: Following the current New Zealand
series, CultureGrams will present two new series on the history of the
Church in Ghana and in the United Kingdom. We hope to hear from local
members, returned missionaries, and others who have labored in either of
these countries, as we would like to include personal accounts of
historical events and missionary experiences in our retelling of the
histories. Submissions should be sent to

Copyright 2001, Millennial Star Network. Distributed on the Internet
via the LDSWorld-Gems mailing list. Messages may be forwarded to
individuals if this trailer is included but may *not* be reposted
publicly or reprinted in any other form without explicit permission.
LDSWorld-Gems Web page:
To subscribe to Gems, send a message to ""
with "subscribe ldsworld-gems" (without quotes) in the message body;
or to leave the list, write "unsubscribe ldsworld-gems"

Back to the main page.