The Gospel in Paradise

For nine days at the end of January, my wife and kids and I were on the Big Island of Hawai’i, enjoying paradise in the company of my parents, who own a time-share condominium there and visit there every January. They’d decided that it’d been too long since they’d spent any amount of time alone with us or our children, and invited us to come along; we didn’t say no. We’d been to Hawaii before, but this was, without doubt, a vacation to remember: delicious fruit, beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery, long talks with my mom and dad, swimming and golf and snorkeling, and a night of kalua pig. For photographs, see here; for my typically long-winded ruminations on Hawai’i and vacations in general, see here. But for here at T&S, some thoughts about the gospel and the church in paradise. Of course, a couple of week-long visits doesn’t give me any expertise, though my parents have spent enough time there to supplement my observations somewhat. Still, let me throw some things out; perhaps I’ll be able to come up with something controversial enough to get Keith or other knowledgeable folks to chime in.

1) I don’t have any hard data, but I’ve been told that the LDS Church is the second largest Christian denomination in Hawai’i, second only to Roman Catholicism. I believe it. Driving through tiny little towns on the south side of the island, on our way to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, we passed no less than three full-fledged ward buildings. At the luau we attended at the Royal Kona resort, it turned out that the guitar player was Mormon (and a former bishop), at least one of the dancers were Mormon (the stake president’s son, in fact), and the MC was Mormon (the first counsellor in the bishopric of the ward we attended, despite having a job that requires him to tell jokes warning male audience members not to stare at the femlae dancers’ “coconuts”). Added bonus: we just happened to sit down right next to the temple president and his wife, who were treating some visiting friends to a luau. You just can’t get away from the Mormons in Hawai’i, it seems.

2) Melissa’s father served his mission in Hawai’i–visiting four of the seven islands, I believe–back in the late 1960s, and, being a Salt Lake City boy, was astonished by the multicultural character of the islands. In later years, he taught his children that, should they ever marry anyone from a different race–African, Asian, whatever–they should move to Hawaii, the one place in America where race doesn’t matter. I’m sure one could contest that final comment, but visiting wards and the temple in Hawai’i certainly supports the multicultural amazement he must have felt. I’ve attended wards in South Korea, predominantly expatriate wards in Germany, wards in New York City and Washington DC, and I’ve never seen as great a variety of colors and sizes of persons taking the sacrament as I did the Kona First Ward the Sundays we were there. Not just row to row, but seat to seat–more multiracial couples I’ve ever seen inside a Mormon church building. And in the leadership too: our bishopric was Chinese, Hawaiian, and white, in that order. It’d be nice to say that’s the gospel at work, but as my father-in-law observed many years ago, it’s more the islands than the doctrine, I’m afraid.

3) While I was busy checking out my fellow parishoners, my eye was caught by the skirts which many Polynesian men wore. Some were plain, some were colorful, but some others were nicely pressed cotton and/or polyester dress skirts, gray or black with pinstripes, complete with pockets and beltloops. I thought they were fabulous; I’d never seen anything like them. I wonder if Mr. Mac has opened up a store in the islands?

4) I mention this one delicately, because again, I can’t say that what I observed was authoritative. But a few hours at a couple of church meetings confirmed a suspicion of mine which I’d previously formed and which had been attested to by my parents and some friends of mine that have lived in Hawai’i–the Hawaiians and other Polynesians are…how shall I say this? They’re significantly more comfortable and accepting of the use of corporal discipline and physical discipline in raising their children than I suspect any random mainland Saint is likely to be. In short, a fair amount of hitting, and not all playfully. One native member I spoke with jokingly referred to it being raised by “the laying on of hands.” I don’t have any real direction to take this observation; while I have my own beliefs about parenting, I’m not prepared to argue that an environment of harsh physicality is necessarily any better or worse for children’s spirituality than, say, the environment of relative permissiveness and anomie which most white mainland Mormon children experience while growing up. But I do wonder, given the sensitivity with which church leaders have increased approached the issue of abuse, whether this cultural difference has caused any concern at BYU-Hawaii or in other contexts when the church has felt itself very much on display.

5) They say things “hang loose” in Hawaii, and that was surely the case during the meetings and at the temple. Our second counsellor was chewing gum through sacrament meeting. Church started really late. In the temple, a couple of brothers–one white, one Polynesian–in the men’s dressing room were cracking each other up louding with jokes about some recent camping trip. We did initiatories at the temple, and as the wording of the ceremony has recently changed slightly, things went slowly–made more slow by frequent interruptions, as one officiator checked with another to see if he got the wording right, and one of the fellows I was going through occasionally reading the words through himself (“just to double-check,” he said), and the other guy I went through with at one point bringing things to a stand-still by asking whether a different scripture citation wouldn’t serve the ceremony better. But I was the visitor there–the rest of these folks, old and young, all knew each other by their first names–so I just kicked back and let things develop. When we were finished and were walking towards the door of the temple to leave, a temple worker approached us and asked if we were going out to dinner. “Because if you are, let me recommend this great place owned by a member just down the road…you like hamburgers?”

6) I wonder if part of the seeming laxity of the church organization in Hawai’i isn’t at least partly a function of the age of the church there. Yes, there is the local culture and habits of the islands, and yes, there’s the prosperity level (or lack thereof) relative to the mainland church. But still: if gospel matters in Hawai’i seem to slide into their own groove, perhaps that’s because the LDS Church came to Hawai’i, and the rest of Polynesia, long enough ago for it to have developed its own groove? The original Hawaii temple in Laie was the first built outside of Utah; while it was also the first 20th-century temple (built in 1919), the member population it served was to great extent one that emerged out of late 19th-century missionary work–and unlike the case of 19th-century missionary work in Europe, converts in the Pacific Islands were not encouraged to immigrate to Utah. Hence, the Mormon church in the Pacific is the first, and perhaps the only (Mexico is a debatable case), instance in which local, non-correlated practices were allowed to flourish without much correction. Of course, certain elements of the church are different everywhere, but given that the emphasis on building Zion in the local stakes didn’t emerge until the post-World War II, much more modern and correlated church administration was on the scene, I wonder if the differences that slipped under the radar of the church out in the islands of the sea for a good 70 or 80 years aren’t deeper and more significant than those which existed elsewhere, and thus give rise to an easy-going confidence in the “Polynesian way” of being Mormon.

Examples? Well, you’ve got the “Aloha!” thing at the beginning of every sacrament meeting talk; why hasn’t somebody clamped down on that by now? A better example might be what happened at the end of one sacrament meeting, a farewell for a sister called on a mission. Immediately after the closing prayer, the congregation rose and sang a song in Hawaiian printed on a sheet of paper and pasted to the inside cover of our hymnals. Another member told me it was a local Hawaiian tradition; they always sang this old folk song whenever a member of the ward or branch leaves on a mission. I checked, and sure enough–this wasn’t something that they’d handed out for the occasion; every hymnal (which were all in English) had a new “farewell” hymn added to them. Can Mormons really get away with defacing their hymnals by adding local folk tunes? Apparently in Hawai’i you can.

35 comments for “The Gospel in Paradise

  1. Kaimi
    February 7, 2005 at 4:43 pm


    I assume you’re talking about Aloha Oe, which was in the hymnals when I lived in Hawaii. And you think that adding “Aloha Oe” is defacing the hymnal? My goodness.

    So is there no room for local variation? I don’t have the hymnal on me, but I think that there’s a statement in there about local national anthems being okay. (Right?). Aloha Oe isn’t a national anthem, but it’s a very well-known local song to sing when someone departs.

    Let me ask this — is there a good reason _not_ to include traditional cultural (and not doctrinally problematic) farewell songs in the hymnal? Should we really be that wedded to the official correlated reality? Remember that if you’ve ever sung “Happy Birthday” or “Jingle Bells” in Primary, you’re going outside the box.

  2. February 7, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    Kaimi, please! Read between the lines. I have no problem whatsoever–in fact, I think it’s wonderful–that the local Saints can slap “Aloha Oe” into their hymnals. I’m being sarcastic when I call it “defacing”; no one would really call it that, of course. But then again, I’ve never been anywhere, never heard of any place in the church, where the local Saints have had the authority/gumption/confidence/what-have-you to go ahead and just add a song to the Official From-Salt-Lake-City True and Correct LDS Hymnal. (Yes, that’s sarcasm again.)

    If there are many other places in the church where native songs or local national hymns have been added to the hymnal, then obviously my final example is off-base. But I have never actually seen or heard of an example of such. I didn’t see it in Germany, didn’t see it in Korea, haven’t seen it in Arkansas or Virginia or Michigan or anywhere else. That makes the Hawaiian church culture unique, in my book.

  3. Adam Greenwood
    February 7, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    I do not believe that Russell Fox is deploring the addition of ‘Aloha Oe’ to the hymnbook. It’s cool.

    “They?re significantly more comfortable and accepting of the use of corporal discipline and physical discipline in raising their children than I suspect any random mainland Saint is likely to be. ”

    Looks like the Islands are my spiritual home.

  4. Kaimi
    February 7, 2005 at 4:56 pm


    It must be my Hawaiian hard-headedness; I was wondering what Russell was talking about, since it seemed so unlike him. Well, carry on, then.

    You did stop and get some shave ice while you were there, right?

  5. Derek
    February 7, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    What about the drinking tunes in the hymnal?

  6. February 7, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Yep. At the Scandanavian Shave Ice place; I got a massive jumbo “P.O.G.” (passion fruit-orange-guava, a flavor combination I’d never tasted before). Delicious.

    Which of the islands did you live on, Kaimi? And which have you been to?

  7. February 7, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    Russell, as always you know how to do things right. Great post. Hope you did some snorkeling at Molokini.

  8. February 7, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    Nope, I’ve never been to Maui. Have you? I’d love to visit Maui, and Molokai…but then again, there’s still so much on the Big Island to do. I’d like to get back to Hilo, visit Waipi’o Valley, do some deep-sea fishing off South Point, etc., etc. I think, if we ever visit Hawaii again (which would likely be through my parents’ generosity once more), we’ll try to get to Oahu so we can take the girls to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Wiakiki Beach…and then just go back to the Big Island. As I say on my blog, I like the idea of going somewhere and staying there long enough to get to know the place, rather than exhausting recources trying to get everywhere.

  9. February 7, 2005 at 5:35 pm

    Maui’s great, Oahu’s great — they’re all fantastic in different ways. Oahu provides the best surfing and hotels, IMHO. Maui has great beaches, windsurfing (nearer to Hana) and snorkeling. That being said, Kauai is fantastic for scenery and natural beauty. It’s the most untouched island around these days. You should make an effort to go there sometime.

    I haven’t been to the big island, though… jealous!

    Interesting vacation strategy. There’s a lot to be said for that approach, though I think in the long run it’s valuable to mix it up sometimes and blitz through areas. Venice, for example, probably isn’t worth much more than a blitz.

    Regarding your post: it’s my experience that some cultures that seem to take the details less seriously, like in your temple experience, nevertheless have a profound respect for the power and mysticism behind the religion. Thus, someone may scoff at wearing a tie for passing the sacrament, and yet have a deeper and more meaningful testimony of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling than a typical whitebread north american.

    Just my ramblings — of course I have no data. And Kaimi will throw off anyone’s conclusions about polynesia, so we can’t include him in the sample.

  10. Don
    February 7, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    I find the questions being asked underneath all the fun deals more with what can or is allowed as far as local traditions etc.

    Sometimes I find the church tends to be too strict – sometimes by local tradition. Russell, did your dad insist on white shirt and tie on sunday, when he was bishop, or not bishop? Yes, he did!

    Sometimes we get too caught up in things that don’t matter. Aloha is used in the Poly wards in L.A., so what. Guys wear colored shirts to church, so what. My church scoutmaster wasn’t a member, so what.

    I think it would be great if we were more like the people you describe…hang loose.

  11. ed
    February 7, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Wow, what an interesting post.

    I agree that saying “Aloha” and adding a song to the book are innovations that might well be snuffed out by church leaders if they were to arise today. On the other hand, these deviations from the Utah norm are actually pretty small. It’s not like they’re clapping during the hymns or speaking in toungues or anything…

    I’d be interested to hear from people who have been to other places where the church has grown quickly more recently, like Latin America, the Philippines, or Africa. Is it really true that we can’t find cultural trappings on the level of “Aloha” in those places? I think it’s harder to generalize from places like Korea and Germany, where the church is so small.

  12. Ana
    February 7, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    I went to the Big Island in 1996 with a group of BYU geology students. My husband was one of them. We went to study the volcanoes, and we did — hiking out on the active flow, flying over the craters, feeling our way through lava tubes at dusk. We went to church in Hilo. I loved the interior; it looked like a glorified sauna (all natural wood). There were no hard windows, just screens, and ceiling fans blowing the breeze through the room. When the members learned we were a BYU group, we were showered with affection. It was delightful.

    We were struck by the number of half-joking and not-at-all joking references to disturbing Pele, even by members of the Church. We took lava samples from the active flow area, quite a serious offense in the ancient Hawai’ian religion. We did throw some things into the skylights (holes looking down into the hot lava) to try to see how fast they disappeared, which was even before they hit the lava. For the true believers in Pele, we characterized those as sacrifices. And if she is real she must have accepted them as such because our luck hasn’t been particularly bad since then.

    I was amazed at the orchids springing up in the wild, the gorgeous green of an olivine beach, swimming with sea turtles. For a couple of years after that trip, I’d wake up after dreaming of the smell of the white ginger lily that filled the air during our week there in August. That doesn’t happen anymore. Must be time to go back. At least, your post makes me think so, Russell!

    Regarding hitting: a friend of mine, Hawai’ian and Chinese by blood but born and reared in California, married a Tongan who grew up in Tonga. He brought traditions into that marriage that were far from righteous, traditions we later realized came from his own violent upbringing. I don’t think we have to tolerate every cultural variation, especially not in the Church. There are some things we shouldn’t “hang loose” about, and I say that as someone who has struggled with a tendency to spank my kids.

  13. annegb
    February 7, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    Maybe they won’t get away with it, but I bet they get forgiveness.

    If I had my long life to live over, that’s the principle I would live more often, “forgiveness over permission.” I missed some really cool stuff asking for permission. A lot of the times things are refused arbitrarily.

    So many things just aren’t important.

  14. danithew
    February 7, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    I can’t speak to Hawaii religious traditions or Hawaiian LDS culture … but Weimea Falls is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I hear the Audobon Society has taken over there and that all the amazing tropical plants and fauna are now also accompanied by an incredible assortment of birds. My favorite thing was just to stand there and feed the gigantic colorful goldfish in the ponds there.

  15. danithew
    February 7, 2005 at 8:29 pm

    I believe I misspelled that. It’s waimea falls. Here’s a url where if you have fast internet access you can see some of the amazing scenery:

  16. Keith
    February 7, 2005 at 11:14 pm


    I was wondering how your time on the Islands went. Your observations are consistent with what I’ve seen. Other places on the Islands—especially Oahu—will have a fairly strong Asian population as well. I haven’t been to the big island, so I don’t know what it’s like.

    A few notes:

    When we moved over here, we came with the knowledge that this place was part of the States (and has those advantages), but that it was going to be like moving to a different country. That’s a helpful thing to know for folks who come to live, study, or even just to vacation. It’s paradise, in many ways, but it takes adjustment.

    “Aloha.” You’ll get even more greetings at the beginning of talks in the local congregations–Tongan, Samoan, Maori, etc. I’m used to it enough now, that when I hear firesides broadcast, I notice that the speaker doesn’t say it. It’s really something, by the way, to be in priesthood meeting to hear a bishop or stake president say “Brethren of the Priesthood, Aloha” and then to hear the same repeated back solidly all by those in the room.

    The “sulus” are fairly common among men in the Pacific islands. I don’t know if you noticed in your meetings or not, but some folks may have also been wearing “mats.” An interesting thing as well is that, generally speaking, the priesthood brothers wear white shirts—more so than on the mainland.

    Salt Lake City is very aware of the practice of singing Aloha Oe to those who are leaving. None of the visiting authorities for conferences and the like leave without the people singing it to them. President and Sister Hinckley were here for ground-breaking and a regional conference within a year of the time Sister Hinckley died. When we sang aloha oe they were visibly moved. Key brethren—Presidents Joseph F. Smith, Grant, McKay, Hinckley and others have been closely associated with Hawaii (especially Laie where the University and Temple are). Elder Groberg’s books on his time in Tonga also give interesting insights into how the Church is in one corner of paradise.

    A great number of the future leaders of the Church in the Pacific and Asia are being educated and given ecclesiastical training at BYU-Hawaii. The international nature of the Church is so palpable. A typical student ward will have people from 22-28 (or more) different nations. Laie is probably a better place, generally speaking, than Provo. The affluence there is often, I think, a real hindrance for folks seeing what the Church and Zion ought to be like.

    As with any place, there are cultural patterns that help and others that hinder gospel living. The strong sense of community helps. Perhaps the most common ward activity will be ward camp—at least one week camping at the beach (excluding Sundays). A real big deal. Huge tents. Some move their furniture there, bring generators for light, television, etc. There’s a real sense of caring and sharing. Other cultural practices and norms (perhaps some of the things you noticed) may not jive so well with the gospel or the practice of the Church. The mistake would be to either romanticize the people and the culture, or, on the other hand, only to see the negative.

    All in all, being here has helped me see the need for some sameness and unity across the world. But I also see here where the Church can be something other than a Wasatch front church.

    Danithew: Yes, the Audibon Society now runs Waimea Falls Park, now more a nature preserve and less a touristy place—and not nearly as expensive.

    I wish I had time to say more, but this will have to do.

  17. cooper
    February 7, 2005 at 11:28 pm

    Mmmmmm. Kalua Pig. Mmmmmm. Makes me lonely for the islands! Must go see friend in Lanakai.

  18. Keith
    February 7, 2005 at 11:35 pm

    “Laie is probably a better place, generally speaking, than Provo.”

    I wrote this. I didn’t intend it so sound like it does. I meant to complete the sentence. . . “for educating those from these particular areas.” I ask forgiveness for any Provo people I might have offended.

  19. Breyers
    February 8, 2005 at 12:53 am


    Your excellent photos have made me completely homesick! I’m glad that you had wonderful weather–January can be pretty wet in Hawaii.

    A few comments:

    Regarding the men in the skirts (or “lava lavas”), they are worn by Samoans, Fijians and Tongans, but not by Hawaiians–probably the latter is due to the early missionary influence. I never saw a man wearing a lava lava to church until I attended BYU-Hawaii (in Laie), more heavily populated by people from various Polynesian islands than Honolulu.

    Along with singing “Aloha ‘Oe” to the departing person who is made to come up to the front of the chapel, members go up to that person at the front of the chapel, one by one, and place flower leis on them. It is usually a very tearful scene (unless it’s someone the ward is glad to see leave!). Whenever I hear that song–and whenever I smell carnations or plumerias–I feel the emotion of a loved one departing or remember the night I left Honolulu for BYU-Provo (cue the song, “Honolulu City Lights” ;-)). This is a very special tradition; I hope there are similar ones in other parts of the world. The song “God Be With You” pretty much conveys the same meaning as “Aloha ‘Oe.”

    Also, the comment regarding the goddess, Madam Pele, brings up the fact that Hawaiians are an extremely spiritual and superstitious people–notwithstanding their LDS membership. I grew up believing in the possibility of menehunes and “night marchers,” as did most Hawaiian members.

    One other oddity about Hawaiians is our penchant for long middle names, which I hear is growing in popularity due to the sovereignty movement. They carry significant meaning, and so are not chosen lightly. We gave our son the name Kalima’piha’o’kalani–hands filled with the blessings of heaven.

    Two last comments. First, your experience attending the Hawaii Temple made me crack up! I can remember being at the temple waiting for a session to begin, and then to have it postponed because someone called the temple to say that they were running a bit late and would they please wait to begin the session until they arrived. I love this aspect of my culture–perhaps not the tardiness, but rather the striving to serve the people rather than the clock. To go from the experience of attending the temple in Hawaii to later attending a live session at the Salt Lake Temple–I would say it was like different worlds, but don’t want that to be taken literally!

    Lastly, I just want to share that my great-grandfather was a kahuna (similar to a shaman) who lived on the Big Island. I’m told that he would listen to the messages of the various missionaries who came to the Big Island, but never accepted their religion–that is, until he was taught by LDS missionaries.


  20. John Mansfield
    February 8, 2005 at 8:38 am

    Concerning local songs in Sacrament meeting, the Argentines a couple times a year on national holidays would begin the meeting with the national anthem. It wasn’t attached to the hymn book; everyone already knew it. It’s a fun, interesting, muscular song: “Hear O ye mortals the sacred shout, Liberty! Liberty! Liberty! Hear ye the sound of broken chains. See ye in her throne the noble Equality.”

    Some may be thinking that tradition must be an American imposition (because Americans do that too, and only Americans express themselves in that way?), but it seemed native to me. One notices being the clueless foreigner, who needs an explanation later, in a room full of people who know what’s up.

  21. John Mansfield
    February 8, 2005 at 8:43 am

    I’ll indulge myself by repeating the closing lines too: “Crowned with glory let us live, or we swear with glory to die. We swear with glory to die! We swear with glory to die!”

  22. February 8, 2005 at 9:03 am

    Thanks for that data point, John. A brother and a brother-in-law of mine served their missions in Argentina, but they’d never mentioned the singing of their national anthem in sacrament meeting. Good for them.

    Still, the fact that it was done in accordance with national holidays, and wasn’t actually included in the hymnbook (even if “Aloha Oe” was just pasted in), suggests that the Hawaiian example involves a much greater degree of adaptation of ordinary church practice to the local culture. Keith’s and Breyers’s testimony just adds further evidence–in this one particular case, at least, you have something going on in the islands which is embraced as regular LDS practice, even though it is not, in fact, regular LDS practice anywhere else in the world.

    Of course, it’s just a little farewell song, so what’s the big deal? It’s not a big deal–what I find interesting isn’t the song, but the form of accommodation it represents. When President Hinckley or other general authorities–men responsible for, as Keith puts it, “sameness and unity across the world”–visit Hawaii and get “Aloha Oe” sung to them at the end of their meetings, what do they think? Do they say to themselves, “Oh, these simple, pure-hearted islanders with their quaint beautiful songs”? Surely not; that would be terribly condescending. But what then? Maybe they think, “I’m in a Hawaii, and this is the way Hawaiian Mormons do things.” If so, that would suggest that, whatever problems many of the people of Polynesia may have in living the gospel as whole, they’ve done something remarkable–worked out (or been allowed to work out) an ever-so-slightly different set of faithful, yet culturally specific Mormon practices. And if that’s the case, more power to them.

  23. John Mansfield
    February 8, 2005 at 9:21 am

    Brother Russell, I agree with you that the Saints in the Pacific Islands seem to have something unique (and good) going on, and that this is related to decades of church development before the advent of cheap telecommunication and air transportation. Reading in the David O. McKay manual about President McKay’s involvement in creating the New Zealand temple caused me to contemplate how separate from Salt Lake City those regions once were.

  24. February 8, 2005 at 9:36 am

    “I agree with you that the Saints in the Pacific Islands seem to have something unique (and good) going on, and that this is related to decades of church development before the advent of cheap telecommunication and air transportation.”

    Good point, John. I’d mentioned the fact that the church in the Pacific developed for decades prior to the rise of correlation in an earlier comment, with little pressure to immigrate to Utah (in contrast to the case of Europe), and I still think that’s an important factor. But of course, you’re right; if communication with and travel to and from Utah hadn’t been such an enormous financial and technological obstacle for Saints in the Pacific during those same decades, then it’s entirely possible that they would have quickly adapted to mainland Mormon practices and locales, no matter what the administrative policy of the day was.

  25. Hanna
    February 8, 2005 at 10:13 am

    In my ward in Alberta we had the Canadian national anthem pasted into all our hymnals and sang it every year in church during the week of Canada Day. We sang it during the sacrament meeting, and it was considered entirely appropriate. We have also had classical pieces, songs, etc. performed as special musical numbers, so the singing of Aloha Oe sounds entirely appropriate, especially as it is done after the closing prayer. On the other hand, our ward was once chastised for standing to sing Called to Serve when it was not the intermediate rest hymn (apparently we were treating it as a Mormon anthem, and this was to be discouraged).

  26. Bryce I
    February 8, 2005 at 11:34 am

    The omission of “O Canada” from the hymnal was an oversight on the part of the Church, I believe, and not a message about the appropriateness of the song.

    A really bad oversight, I might add. I love that anthem.

  27. Maliaana
    February 8, 2005 at 11:55 am

    I am new at this, so here goes. I grew up in Hawaii, daughter of a Hawaiian, English, French, Portugese Christian mother and a Russian Jewish father. Talk about the best of all worlds!! My Mom looks Hawaiian and my Dad looks haole for sure. We did live in California for some years and when the holidays came, we had the smallest Christmas tree we could find which was placed on top the old console tv, and the words “Happy Hanukkah” in the window!! Moving back to Hawaii, it was back to the friendly, casual living of the islands. I joined the Church as a young adult and was baptized in Waikiki Ward in the outdoor baptismal font of the Honolulu Tabernacle building. The friendliness of the local people combined with the friendliness of members of the Church certainly made me feel welcomed in the Church. Interestingly a few years later when I moved to the mainland, I remember sitting in Church and thinking something was very different in the meeting. It was. All the blond hair and fair skin!!! I was used to dark haired, dark skinned locals. But the Church is the same, no matter where you go. I used to say that the people in Utah say they are Zion, well, Hawaii is the Celestial Kingdom!!!
    The chapels in Hawaii may be of different design and the meetings may run on casual local style time, but you know, the Gospel is true and the principles and teachings of the Savior are the same in the meetings. A few variations of protocol are ok as long as they don’t conflict with the doctrines of the Lord. The Spirit is strong with the Polynesians and you can truly feel the Aloha of the people who live in the lovely islands of Hawai’i.

    As far as shave ice goes, Matsumoto’s is da’ bes’ one fo’ get.

  28. Kaimi
    February 8, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    Well put, Maliaana.

  29. Shawn Bailey
    February 8, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    I had the good fortune to be vacationing in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta over a Canada Day a few years ago. I truly enjoyed singing O Canada—and hearing patriotic sacrament meeting talks from an entirely different perspective. What an education for me.

  30. February 8, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    Interesting, Shawn and Hanna–and good for Canada! Though I have to say that I’ve never noticed such practices among members in Toronto, where I’ve attended church most often in the Great White North. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Western Canadian Mormonism, if there is such a thing, is pretty old and well established? (My father’s mother was an old Alberta Saint, her family going back to the original settlers in Cardston.) Or maybe Albertans are just more patriotic than their eastern brothers and sisters.

  31. Shawn Bailey
    February 8, 2005 at 2:40 pm

    It was my impression that some western canadians considered themselves more virtuous than eastern canadians in just about every way (which would include patriotism of course). I have no opinion on the issue.

    Your point about the depth of church experience there also seems plausible. The fact that Brother Brigham dispached many of my wife’s ancestors to the Cardston area is part of what draws her family (and luckily me too) back again and again. The hiking doesn’t hurt either.

  32. Scott
    February 8, 2005 at 3:57 pm

    I wonder if I can talk my bishop into letting me paste “Texas, Our Texas” in the hymnals.


  33. February 8, 2005 at 8:12 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you.

  34. Kapua
    June 15, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    So typical for certain haoles to come back from Hawaii and make critical comments degrading and demeaning Polynesians and their cultures in attempts to make them feel belittled and stupid. We are, yes, a “SIMPLE” people, Brada Russell, but unlike your connotation towards a negative, we see ourselves as simple… the most positive sense. We’re not UPTIGHT or INTENSE …..that’s for sure! Funny that certain visitors come to Hawaii and scoff at our traditions, the way we raise our children, the way meetings are run, the way people are in the temple. It’s not like you don’t feel the condescending undertones of “A FEW SELECT” people who visit the islands….watching, judging, critisizing (sp?).

    Compare many LDS youth in Hawaii vs.many Mainland youth? Do you see the same disrespect, talking back, snide remarks towards family members, complete fascination with electronic gadgets and money, status…. in Hawaiian youth? Obvious, NO!!! Must say, few slaps early on, let us local kids know what was acceptable and what wouldn’t be tolerated. Aside from the truly abusive Polynesian parent, it is my personal opinion that true discipline (however you want to call it, analyze it, change the real meaning of the scriptures….) is what’s lacking in too many families these days.

    Trippin’ here, that you felt so suffocated by being encountered by so many members on the Big Island…..ya better be glad it was them you were surrounded by and not the Anti-Haole ones who entertain,tour and feed Haoles….. but only cuz they have to….just to support themselves and feed their families, all the while feeling the inner hostilities of knowing that the Haoles (The word Haole acutally means, “new-comer”, so could relate to any race that’s new to Hawaii) coming in to Hawaii are the ones causing the real estate prices to sky-rocket, preventing even locals from ever owning their own homes.

    Why scoff at the leis, the extra music in the hymnal, the genuine loving aloha for someone who is leaving the fold for a mission or to move to a more “affordable” place (because Hawaii’s been made too expensive by new-comer’s who are driving prices up??) You need to learn to celebrate the differences in other people’s cultures…..that…….or stay home (whereever you’re from) so you can be truly happy and content in your controlled environment? That…..or wait about 20 years….by that time, all the locals will have been squished out of their own islands by foreigners who will then have exercised all their powers to change meetings and life to be….JUST LIKE……..everyone elses….then people can vacation from Hawaii to “OTHER” Polynesian islands to “experience the truly authentic Polynesian way of life……”

  35. moana
    June 15, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    i only came here because i saw kapua’s post and then i read the whole blog entry and comments.
    my only preface is that i also live in the islands–though not in kona.

    first, i don’t think the wearing of lava lava and singing of “aloha oe” is “accommodation”–after all, these are not doctrinal issues. the church isn’t changing doctrine to accommodate a cultural population.

    the other thing that i want to address is the idea that this is “paradise”–this is a very real place where people have families, jobs, lives. and i resent it when people remark on how this aspect of life here in hawai’i interferes with the touristic fantasy–as if “real life” and tourism cannot accommodate each other. if you come here with the idea that this place is “paradise,” a fantasy, then yes you will be surprised at what you see when you dare to enter the “real life” realm of church services, etc.

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