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The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints is very strong and active in the Kingdom.
‘With about 15.5% of the population the Mormon church holds in Tonga the highest member to non-member ratio world-wide. In no other country in the world or in Polynesia is the presence of the Mormons as visible to the visitor as in the tiny Kingdom of King Taufa’ahau IV. Frequent claims by the LDS leaders that they would make Tonga the first Mormon country in the world have led in the past-even if the claims were not realistic-to fears and strong reactions from the side of the historic Mainline churches. How the LDS Church developed in its now 102 years of history in Tonga is described in the following paragraphs. Winds of Change.
With only 6 converts and after just 6 years, the newly established mission was ordered to close. The missionaries then returned to Samoa in 1897.
‘As Tamar Gordon comments there was ’little popular incentive to join the new church which remained poor and unproven by Tongan standards.’ Winds of Change.
The Missionaries returned in 1907 and it was that return that the LDS Church grew continually and the Tonga mission became one of the most successful worldwide.
The Mission’s activities in the following year, besides proselytising were concentrated on establishing schools. Except for the president, all the American Missionaries left in 1940 because of the war. This allowed the local people to take over full leadership.
1946 was the year in which the first translation of the Book of Mormon was published, followed by copies of the Tongan translation of ‘Doctrines and Covenants’ and ‘Pearl of great Price’ in the year 1960.
School Complex’s building started in 1949. Since then, it has always been among the biggest and best educational institutions in the kingdom of Tonga. One of its special attractions is its ability to send students on to the Mormon University in Hawaii. This attraction became significant since the 1960s when the education attraction was fully developed and made clear that the government of Tonga could not provide all the young people of the Kingdom Secondary education. The LDS Church then has experienced high annual growth rates with a peak of 2,261 convert baptised in 1984.
History of the Mormons in Tonga’s highlights were the dedication of the Nuku’alofa Temple in 1983 and the Centennial Celebration in 1991.
There are fears that Tonga could become a ‘Mormon colony’. This is the result of the rapid growth of the LDS Church over the last 2 or 3 decades. It has certainly caused some headaches, especially amongst the established mainline churches.
‘As well as being in second place in terms of size in 1992, the Mormon Church is also one of the largest employers in the Kingdom and has the highest building budget of any church.’
‘Even with a member of the Church in parliament, the LDS Church still continues to affirm the separation of church and state and to assert its full obedience to the King and the authorities, so that the Mormon Church. With its large membership, can be seen as a cornerstone of conservatism and the preservation of the political status quo.’ Winds of Change.