A Week of Firsts

Last Sunday evening, we were invited to attend a stake fireside. It was in celebration of the great efforts of the members and missionaries to share the gospel with their friends and families. The Upolu West Stake has worked hard during this first part of 2014.  Their stake baptism goal for this year is 90. As of the end of June, they have brought 65 people into the gospel. Last year, over 100 new converts entered the waters of baptism far exceeding their goal. President Mulipola is a great leader with great vision. Upolu West Stake stands as an example to all of us of doing as the Savior asked when he commissioned us to "feed my sheep." They clearly understand and are devoted to helping the Lord hasten His work. It was truly an honor to be among faithful Saints dedicated to His work and in His way. Many of us often think that there isn't missionary work to be done in our local area because we live among so many members. Fortunately,  President Mulipola doesn't see it that way. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints represent 30% of the total population of Samoa.

President Mulipola and his "army of saints" reminded me of the story of the stripling warriors found in the book of Alma. After a particularly difficult battle, Helaman immediately gave orders to his men to search through the dead for those who are wounded and to dress their wounds. Not one of the stripling warriors was lost because their brothers sought them out and bound up their wounds. We don't fight a physical battle, but we are fighting a battle for the souls of men. There are those among us who lie among the dying, needing their wounds bound. There are those who need rescuing. Let us do better; let us search out those who need the love of God in their lives; let us seek to share the gospel as the good Saints in Upolu West Stake have done.

President Mulipola (center), his two counselors, and their wives

We also welcomed our first two missionaries. Elder Davis and Elder Tafeaga. Elder Davis came from the States and traveled two and one-half days to get here. His plane from Salt Lake City was delayed, which caused him to miss his connection in Los Angeles. A family helped him find a hotel and a family friend helped him to get to the airport the next day. His original flight plan out of Los Angeles was to fly to Auckland, New Zealand and then to Apia, Samoa. The plane was heavy, so they stopped in Fiji to fuel and then on to New Zealand. To top it all off, his luggage did not arrive with him. (It has since come.) And through it all, he maintained a positive outlook. He expressed that he knows everything happens for a reason. Elder Tageaga comes from here in Samoa. He went to the MTC in New Zealand, where it is winter. He had never before experienced a cold winter so was thrilled to be back to the comfort of the heat and humidity.

As I listened to Elder Davis's story of the difficulty of getting here, I thought of a quote that my son, Brett, shared with us right before we departed for Samoa. We, like Elder Davis, had several difficult challenges just prior to leaving.

"Every great work, every big accomplishment, has been brought into manifestation through holding to the vision, and often just before the big achievement, comes apparent failure and discouragement." Florence Scovel Shinn

Both of these new Elders brought with them an amazing spirit of enthusiasm and hope. They will do great things for this mission and the people of Samoa.

Elder Davis

Elder Tafeaga

Another first this week was spending time with two new Trainers. These young men have been given the task and sacred responsibility of training Elder Davis and Elder Tafeaga. Elder Evans and Elder Fawcett will influence these two new missionaries for the rest of their lives. They will be held in great honor and respect as Elder Davis and Elder Tafeaga look back on their mission experience.

"One of the greatest expressions of trust given to a missionary is to receive the assignment as a trainer for a new missionary. A missionary's first companion will have a profound, lasting influence on the development of the missionary's attitude and habits. Only outstanding missionaries should serve as trainers."   Adapted from the Mission President's Handbook, pg. 48.

Elder Ballard taught "training is [an assignment] that requires the most trust from [the mission president] and blessings of the Lord." We are ever so grateful these two missionaries have prepared themselves to receive the assignment to train. We hold them in great esteem.

We learn something valuable with each new first experience. These missionaries are incredibly patient with our lack of experience. They each have blessed our lives and taught us something of great importance. It is a remarkable experience to watch them carry on in the work of the Lord despite challenging odds. They inspire us!


  1. Just read Elder Groberg's account of his mission in Tonga in the 50's--it took him three months to get there.

    I taught at Pesega in the late 70's, and am happy to read about the work in Samoa.

    Mark Steele

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  3. Thank you Sister Tolman for your posts. It is so wonderful to hear about the mission and our sons.

    Dee Fawcett

  4. I love your posts. Thank you so much for the time and effort you put in to share the mission with us. We know the Samoan missionaries are being well cared for!