Over 6,000 men, women and children have participated in an historical exhibit which is visiting villages throughout Samoa and American Samoa.
The exhibit brings together stories of Samoan members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the 19th and 20th centuries.
“A part of each of us is connected to our past — it shapes our identity,” says Samoa-based Brett Macdonald, Church History Advisor for the Pacific Area.
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Maconald has seen how people enjoy experiencing the stories of those who lived in earlier generations. “Everyone can relate to stories,” he said.
Those attending the exhibits are expressing high levels of interest in the stories of faith, work and love,” Macdonald reports.
One attendee, Damian Peterson, said, after viewing the exhibit: “I wish I had learned these stories long ago. How can I remember our history if I don’t know it?”
The exhibit includes 12 large banners, all 2.3 metres tall, which depict events from Latter-day Saint Samoan history. Artwork illustrates the stories, and text in Samoan and English provide details. A 25 minute documentary about early Church members and events is also shown.
Latter-day Saint missionaries in Samoa and American Samoa have assisted in setting up the exhibit in various villages, as well as inviting and hosting guests.
“Many of those attending copy down the stories in note books, and take pictures with their phones,” says Macdonald. “One young boy came back the second day of the exhibit and spent two hours copying down all the stories.”
“Pacific Islanders have an identity that continues through generations regardless of where they live,” Macdonald believes. “They may no longer live in Samoa, yet they still identify themselves as Samoan.”
One member of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa who attended the exhibit saw the story of John Williams, an early Christian missionary and founder of their faith in Samoa, and said he was impressed that Williams was acknowledged as an early Christian pioneer in the history of Samoa.
Another guest, also not a Latter-day Saint, remarked: “I didn’t know that your church had been around so long in Samoa.”
According to Macdonald, “when faith-filled history is preserved and effectively shared it can strengthen the identities, testimonies and commitments of contemporary Latter-day Saints.”
Read more about the Samoan Church History exhibit here.