New book tells stories of Pacific Island pioneers


    By Mary Dondiego

    Those who waited in line for hours to see the film “Legacy” can identify with the desire to connect with the life of faithful pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    However, not all of the church”s pioneers are associated with handcarts and oxen.

    A new book from the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, entitled “Voyages of Faith,” tells inspirational stories of a different genre of church pioneers – those in the Pacific Islands.

    Grant Underwood, research historian and editor of “Voyages of Faith,” said the book fulfills a need for, and a strong interest in, LDS history outside the mainland United States.

    “A strong cultural background is a crucial part of the identities of Pacific Islander Latter-day Saints and is often rooted in the past.

    “History has the ability to deepen and reinforce their culture – it is something they can identify with,” he said.

    “Voyages of Faith” was introduced this past December at the 20th anniversary meeting of the Mormon Pacific Historical Society, Underwood said.

    The book is unique because of the breadth and rich variety of information contained inside, he said.

    There are chapters of solid scholarly information as well as more personal memoir pieces, said R. Lanier Britsch, a professor of history and contributor to the book.

    “To my knowledge, this is the only book that is a compilation of articles dealing with church history in the Pacific,” Britsch said. “Some of the feelings and emotions conveyed in the book you can not find anywhere else.”

    The release of the book also coincided with the Dec. 12 sesquicentennial anniversary of the first LDS mission outside North America to a non-European people, which was to the island of Tubuai in French Polynesia.

    Underwood said even though Pacific Islander Latter-day Saints can resonate with the book, it is also directed to a general audience of readers looking for historic faith-promoting stories.

    “It”s inspirational for readers to know that God has been dealing with his people all over the world,” he said. “This book relates wonderful accounts of ordinary people receiving extraordinary blessings.”

    The title, “Voyages of Faith,” denotes the literal as well as figurative journeys of faith that those in the Pacific have experienced, Underwood said.

    “This kind of thing is of interest to a mainland audience because of the times we live in. We are part of an international church, and over half the members of the church reside outside North America,” he said.

    Underwood said many people, especially BYU students, are interested in seeking a connection to those with different backgrounds, but who also have the same faith.

    Missionary work often contributes to this increased cultural sensitivity, he said.

    “Voyages of Faith” is published by the BYU Press and may be purchased at the BYU Bookstore.

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