Transcript for Andrew Jenson, "Tongan Mission," Encyclopedic History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941), 878-79

TONGAN MISSION comprises Tonga, or the Friendly Islands, lying south of Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. These islands constitute a British protectorate, but are ruled by a native sovereign, assisted by a legislative assembly. The islands have an area of about 385 square miles and a population of about 25,000, of whom 24,000 are native Tongans or Polynesians of a higher class. The main products of the islands are cocoanuts, bananas, coffee, arrowroot, mats, fishing nets and sponges.

The Tongan Mission includes three distinct groups of islands known respectively as the Tongatabu, Haapai and Vavau groups, and the mission is divided into three conferences, or districts, named after these three natural sub-divisions. The headquarters of the mission are at Nukualofa, Tongatabu, where there is an attractive chapel and a missionary home. There are also homes for the missionaries in the Haapai and Vavau districts; several small chapels or meeting houses have been built in the branches. The numerical strength of the Tongan Mission Dec. 31, 1930, was 1,232, including 24 Elders, 52 Priests, 6 Teachers, 28 Deacons, 878 lay members, and 244 children. Ten Elders and two missionary sisters from Zion were laboring in the mission, assisted by 21 native missionaries.

The Tongan Mission was opened in 1891 by the presidency of the Samoan Mission, who set apart Elders Brigham Smoot and Alva J. Butler to preach the gospel on the Tongan Islands. These Elders arrived at Nukualofa July 15, 1891, accompanied by a native Tongan from Samoa. They visited the King Jiaoji (George) Tubou, who gave them permission to preach, but some of his officials were somewhat opposed. The missionaries secured a piece of land at Mua, the largest native village on Tongatabu, and erected a mission house, a five-roomed building, which was dedicated by Pres. Brigham Smoot May 15, 1892. The Elders also purchased a small boat, 13 feet long, in which to travel between the various islands. Other missionaries came into the field and in 1895 Elder Andrew Jenson visited the mission in the interest of Church history. The state of unpreparedness of the natives to receive spiritual instruction and live the principles of the gospel being so apparent the presidency of the Samoan Mission, after consultation with the First Presidency of the Church, called in the missionaries from Tonga and closed down the mission in 1897.

In 1917 the Tongan Mission was reopened as a separate mission with Willard L. Smith as president. The Tongan Archipelago was placed under British protectorate in 1899, after which a more orderly state of affairs prevailed, and the missionaries were no longer hampered by the whims of native potentates. A new Church building was erected at Mua, but the headquarters of the mission were later moved to Nukualofa. Small branches of the Church were raised up on several of the islands and choirs established, the natives, who are a high class of Polynesians, responding readily to musical training. Schools were also established in several of the villages, which led to much good, the parents of the pupils frequently becoming interested in the principles of the gospel through their children. In 1921 the Tongan Mission was visited by Apostle David O. McKay and Elder Hugh J. Cannon (former president of the Swiss and German Mission). This was the occasion of a great feast at the mission headquarters and at other points, which were visited by these Church officials, and the president of the mission stated that the Elders had great difficulty in preventing the generous native saints from killing all the chickens and pigs they possessed to do honor to the distinguished visitors.

Relief Societies and conjoint Mutual Improvement Associations have been organized in several of the branches, and the missionaries are looking forward to a bright future for the Tongan Mission. Following are the names of the presidents of the Tongan Mission: Brigham Smoot, 1891-1892; Alonzo D. Merrill, 1892-1895; Alfred M. Durham, 1895-1897; Willard L. Smith, 1917-1920; Leonidas H. Kennard, 1920-1921; Mark Vernon Coombs, 1921-1927; Jay A. Cahoon, 1927-1929, and Newel J. Cutler, 1929-1930.