Book review: New historical book details early LDS mission work success and struggles in New Zealand

By Emily Johnson

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 31 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"TIKI AND TEMPLE: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958," by Marjorie Newton, Greg Kofford Books, $29.95, 343 pages (nf)

Early in the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, prophetic calls came to open work outside of the United States. Some of the earliest areas for missionary work included Australia and New Zealand.

Marjorie Newton’s newest book, “Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958,” is a detailed yet accessible documentation of the growth of the LDS faith in New Zealand.

With carefully researched and well-documented sources, Newton traces the humble beginnings of the Mormon missionary work in New Zealand in the mid-1850s to the arrival of several stakes and a temple in 1958.

Along with leading historical figures in New Zealand mission work, Newton also pays tribute to lesser-known yet important figures in the building of the LDS Church.

She skillfully weaves together both a historical and engaging progression of the mission with personal narratives of the American missionaries, presidents and their families, native Maoris and other Pakehas (foreigners or non-Maoris).

The story of the New Zealand Mission is fraught with many struggles, setbacks and sacrifices. The story is not always positive, and Newton doesn’t sugarcoat the physical, emotional and cultural trials in this history. Her book does create a historical portrait amongst the global historical context of the era of the late 19th century to mid-20th century.

Yet even with world wars, pandemics, technological advances, economic crises and racial tensions, the New Zealand Saints, along with their mission leaders, missionaries and families, demonstrated tenacity, faith and endurance of their gospel beliefs.

Their tireless dedication amongst these challenges is a faith builder for modern readers of Newton’s book. Today’s reader will hear the voices of these early pioneers rise out to shout their testimonies from the pages. The book is an honest and inspiring tribute to the early mission and convert pioneers in the country.

Before cars, jets and smartphones, courageous Saints preached the gospel amidst very limited if at all any creature comforts. Equally as courageous were the generous, humble and faithful Maori and Pakeha converts to the LDS Church during cultural and political unrest.

Reading “Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854-1958” reaffirms that the Lord cares and watches out for all of his people. As well, it is a reminder to remain dedicated to one’s beliefs and not to take them for granted. It is a fascinating and educational read of the development of the Lord’s kingdom.

Emily Johnson earned a master of professional communication degree from Westminster College. She enjoys reviewing books and profiling unique people doing interesting things.

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