CultureGrams Worldwide Saints

Part 2: 1854-1879: Early Christian Efforts, LDS Missionaries Arrive, Maori Prophecy Fulfilled


The early history of the Church in New Zealand, especially among the Maori
people, is one of miracles. The people were being prepared to receive the
gospel years before the missionaries arrived. Stories are told of people
who had dreams that the gospel was coming and religious leaders who
prophesied to their people that the true church would soon come among them.

On Christmas Eve 1814, Samuel Marsden held what is known to be the first
Christian service in New Zealand. Before the middle of the century, several
other missionary groups-Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Roman
Catholics-had entered the field. They focused their work on the Maori
people, and found success. In 1854, shortly after George Grey completed his
term as governor of New Zealand, he reported that "all but about 1 percent
of the Maoris had made a profession of Christianity."


Augustus Farnham, president of the LDS Australasian Mission, accompanied by
William Cooke, arrived in New Zealand on 27 October 1854 to teach the
gospel. They preached with little success in Auckland and Nelson for two
months. Farnham left and Cooke remained alone. In March 1855, he baptized
10 people and organized a branch at Korori. The third missionary, Carl C.
Amussen, did not arrive until 1867.

Some early, unsuccessful attempts had been made to teach the Maori people,
but missionary work centered mainly on Europeans. At the end of 1880, seven
branches had been established with 133 members. At this time President
Joseph F. Smith of the First Presidency instructed missionaries to
concentrate on the indigenous Maori people; this instruction began the
fulfillment of Maori prophecy and led to the conversion of many tribes.


In March 1881, a convention of representative natives from the
Ngatikahungunu tribe of the Maori people was called to discuss political,
social, and religious problems. The following retelling is based Elder
Matthew Cowley's account. (See "Matthew Cowley Speaks," Deseret Book,

All in attendance at the convention were devout members of one of the
several established churches; some were Catholic; some were of the
Methodist faith; and some were of the Presbyterian belief. Many were old
enough to have seen the coming of the first Christian missionaries to New
Zealand. They discussed the differences among the Christian religions and
the diversity of beliefs and confusion of ideas. They discussed which
church the Maori should join so there would once again be a unity of
religious belief among them; and asked where the power of God unto
salvation was for the Maori people. It was evident that not more than one
of the churches could be the recipient of divine inspiration nor be
recognized as the church of Christ. After lengthy debate, they decided to
present their problem to Paora Potangaroa, the wisest chief and the most
learned sage among them. They asked him, "Which of the churches is the
church for the Maori race? Which of them should we join?" He told the
people to wait and he would give them the answer after he had given the
matter serious consideration. He left the assembly and retired to his own
residence. For three days he prayed, fasted, and meditated upon the matter.
He was aware that the true answer would not come without prayerful
meditation and without invoking divine aid. After three days he returned to
the convention and addressed his people.

A scribe, Ranginui Kingi, wrote the words of Paora Potangaroa's prophecy or
the Covenant. Freely translated, these were his words: "My friends, the
church for the Maori people has not yet come among us. You will recognize
it when it comes. Its missionaries will travel in pairs. They will come
from the rising sun. They will visit us in our homes. They will learn our
language and teach us the gospel in our own tongue. When they pray they
will raise their right hands. This is the day of the fullness. The year
1882 will be the year of the sealing. The year 1883 will be the year of the
great honoring. This covenant will be remembered by generations which
follow after us. We are the people of the lost sheep of the house of
Israel. We will learn of the scepter of Judah; of Shilo; of the kingdom of
heaven; of the sacred church with a large wall surrounding; of the increase
of the races; of faith, love, peace, patience, judgment, and unity. All of
this plan will be fulfilled by the people of the Ngatikahungunu tribe
during the next forty years.

Elder Cowley identified the "sacred church with a large wall surrounding"
as the Salt Lake Temple. He also pointed out that the only Maori people to
participate in all the ordinances of the gospel during the next forty years
(until 1921) were the members of the Ngatikahungunu tribe. Later many
members of other tribes participated in all the blessings of the gospel.
President William Bromley of the Australasian Mission first visited a Maori
village, Orakei, on 6 March 1881, ten days before the prophecy was given at
the conference. By the end of 1884, membership in New Zealand included 265
Europeans and 811 Maori. Membership among the Maori increased to nearly
4,000 in 79 branches by the turn of the century.

NEXT WEEK: 1880-1919: Australasian Mission, Maori Agricultural College,
Book of Mormon Translated.

CLARIFICATION AND CORRECTION from Part 1: The first stake outside of North
America was the Oahu Stake in Hawaii, which was organized in 1935.
Therefore, the Auckland Stake, organized in 1958, was the first stake
organized outside of North America that was not on U.S. territory. Also,
the majority (80 percent) of New Zealanders are Pakeha (of European
DESCENT), and about 13 percent are Maori.

CultureGrams, a division of MSTAR.NET, sponsors GEMS Worldwide Saint
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CultureGrams acknowledges and appreciates Rachel Snell for her compilation
of this message and other contributions to this series on the history of
the Church in New Zealand.

GEMS is grateful to R. Lanier Britsch for his support and contribution to
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 Deseret Book's electronic reference library, "GospeLink 2001". You can
buy "GospeLink 2001" online at

"Matthew Cowley Speaks" from which Elder Cowley's included retelling comes,
can also be found on "GospeLink 2001." Purchase link given above.

"An Ensign to the Nations," a Church-produced video on the pioneering
legacy of the Church, includes a segment on the history of the Church in
New Zealand. This excellent video can be purchased online from the Church
Distribution Center at

If you served a mission in New Zealand you belong to the New Zealand
Missionary Society. To receive society mailings, send your contact
information to P.O. Box 12841, Ogden, UT 84414. For more information, see
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