CultureGrams Worldwide Saints

Part 3: 1880-1919: Australasian Mission, Maori Agricultural College, Book of Mormon Translated


1881 January-William Bromely arrives as Australasian Mission president,
   with mission headquarters in New Zealand.
1881 March-Paora Potangaroa's prophecy is given.
1881 October-Ngataki, the first Maori to join the Church in New
   Zealand, is baptized.
1889 March-The Book of Mormon is published in Maori.
1898 January-Australasian Mission is divided into the New Zealand
    Mission and the Australian Mission.
1909 January-Early Queen Street Chapel in Auckland is dedicated.
1911 November-Construction of the Maori Agricultural College (MAC)
   begins under the direction of President George Bowles.
1913 April-MAC is dedicated.
1919-Elder Matthew Cowley retranslates the Book of Mormon.


In the early days, missionary work was sporadic in New Zealand. Due to slow
communications, ecclesiastical oversight was practically nonexistent.
Under these conditions, the few missionaries there were in New Zealand
labored to spread the gospel.

Initially, the work in New Zealand was under the direction of the
Australasian Mission, located in Sydney, Australia. In 1879, due to the
absence of missionaries laboring in Australia, the Australasian Mission
headquarters were moved to Auckland, New Zealand.

The relocation of the Australasian Mission, Paora Potangaroa's prophecy of
the coming of the true church, and the first preaching of the gospel to
the Maori all happened at about the same proximate time. Since that time,
missionary work in New Zealand has been continuous.

In 1898, the Australasian Mission was divided into the Australia Mission
and the New Zealand Mission. Ezra F. Richards, who had presided over the
Australasian Mission for about a year, was called to serve as the first
president of the New Zealand Mission. At this time, Church membership in
New Zealand numbered about four thousand, 90 percent of whom were Maori.


As early as 1904, the idea was proposed of building a school for the
instruction and development of young Maori church members. Several mission
presidents championed the idea and, eventually, the First Presidency
approved the proposal. Construction on the Maori Agricultural College
(MAC) began in 1911, and the college and its five buildings were dedicated
in 1913.

At the time of dedication, the mission of the MAC was stated as follows:

"The specific aims of the college are to teach Maoris the principles of
agriculture that they may better utilize their valuable land holdings; to
instruct them in the manual arts that they may build their own houses,
barns, bridges, etc; to train them in the secular branches of education
that they may cope successfully with their associates in the commercial and
social world, and to furnish them an opportunity to possess themselves of
that education that will imbue them with a better understanding of the
obligations of life and a higher appreciation of its opportunities."

In his book "Unto the Islands of the Sea, A History of the Latter-day
Saints in the Pacific," R. Lanier Britsch makes this observation of the
MAC: "The MAC's place in the history of the Church in New Zealand,
important as it was, is difficult to access. On the one hand the school
seems to have been a failure if numbers of graduates are considered
important. On the other hand, there is evidence that the graduates of the
MAC have done much to build the Church in New Zealand and have
contributed to the strength of their communities." ("Unto the Islands," p.

(The MAC campus was devastated by a series of severe earthquakes in
February 1931. Because school was not in session, there were no injuries,
but the buildings were declared unsafe and the MAC never reopened.)


In late 1885 or early 1886, the first attempt to translate the Book of
Mormon into Maori began. The project was discontinued on 23 February 1886
because missionaries lacked knowledge of the Maori language. In March
1887, President Paxman asked the Maori priesthood whether they would
support, both financially and spiritually, another attempt at translating
the Book of Mormon. The response from the brethren was overwhelmingly
positive. The first draft was completed on 24 November 1887, and printed
copies were available for distribution a year and a half later.

In 1919, a young missionary named Matthew Cowley was assigned by Mission
President James N. Lambert to retranslate the Book of Mormon. Britsch
says: "Elder Cowley had perfected his knowledge of the Maori language to an
unusual degree. Those people who knew him while he served his first mission
said he spoke like an educated native." ("Unto the Islands," p. 289) After
completing the Book of Mormon retranslation, which was published in 1918,
Elder Cowley translated the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great
Price into Maori; they were published in 1919.

NEXT WEEK: Part 4: 1920-54: Continued Growth, President Matthew Cowley,
World War II

CultureGrams, a division of MSTAR.NET, sponsors GEMS Worldwide Saint
messages. CultureGrams publishes concise, reliable cultural reports on more
than 175 countries. For more information on CultureGrams, visit

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" on-line at

Elder Glen L. Rudd's "Short Collection of Items of History," available
through the New Zealand Missionary Society, was a helpful resource in
compiling this message.

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
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.