It was a beautiful Hawaiian island surrounded by the bluest ocean imaginable. The waves crashing upon the rocks seemed to ease the couple on their descent as they traversed more than 2,000 feet, accompanied by views that bounced up and down to match the rhythm of their donkey escort.
The descent now complete, the couple’s destination finally came into view. It was the leprosysettlement of Kalaupapa.
The colony is one of the miracles of society and has been one of Professor Fred E. Wood’s main areas of study for more than seven years. His experience has been documented and will air on BYU-TV Wednesday at 8 p.m. and will also be discussed Wednesday on the radio program “Thinking Aloud” on classical 89.1 at 11 a.m.
“This is not your typical Mormon documentary,” Woods said. “I commenced with the intention of writing a history about the Latter-day Saints of Kalaupapa for a Mormon audience, but soon realized that this inspiring story was meant to be shared with all mankind regardless of religiosity or ethnicity.”
Kalaupapa means flat leaf or flat plain. The island has a humbling effect that brings people to a common ground. Woods explained the settlement contains worship places more than a century old for Protestants, Catholics and Latter-day Saints, as well as a small Buddhist temple. The settlement has the ability to bring people of all backgrounds together.
“It is a place that not only includes a variety of Christian strains, but also extends beyond the realm of Christianity to include a broader view, which attests to the unconditional love that is desperately needed by a world made up of thousands of religious varieties,” Woods said.
Former LDS leader Matthew Cowley once visited the island and had an equally awe-inspiring experience.
“I went there apprehending that I would be depressed. I left knowing I had been exalted,” Cowley said. “I had expected that my heart, which is not too strong, would be torn with sympathy, but I went away feeling that it had been healed.”