Brigham Young University

The first Latter-day Saints to enter Samoa were Samuela Manoa and Kimo Pelia, who were sent as missionaries from Hawaii by Walter Murray Gibson in 1863. After Gibson apostatized and was excommunicated in 1864, these faithful elders were evidently forgotten by later Church authorities in Hawaii. They enjoyed a measure of success, however.

After Pelia’s death, Manoa eventually wrote to Hawaii for help. Finally, on 21 June 1888, he was joined in Samoa by Joseph and Florence Dean. Soon Manoa, his wife, and 35 others were baptized or rebaptized. Dean reordained Manoa an elder. Within months additional elders and couples arrived to extend the work throughout the islands. LDS missionary work has continued in the Samoas since that time.

In 1900 the island of Tutuila (and six nearby islands) became a territory of the United States, called American Samoa, and the remaining islands were brought under German control until 1914, when they came under British control. Western Samoa became independent in 1962. The two Samoas are about the size of Rhode Island and have a combined population of 287,000 (Samoa, 225,000; American Samoa, 62,000; est. 1998). Of this population, 25% are Latter-day Saints (58,477 in Samoa; 12,833 in American Samoa). The Samoas were the first countries in the world to be covered by stakes (although there is presently a district). By the year 2000 the Samoas consisted of 1 mission, 20 stakes, 1 district, 137 wards, and 27 branches.

Samoan Church history, rich in interest and color, includes gathering places such as Sauniatu and Mapusaga; chapel schools (beginning in 1892); the founding of missionary work in Tonga in 1891 and the refounding of the mission in French Polynesia in 1892; visits of unusual spiritual efficacy from Elder David O. McKay (later President McKay) in 1921 and 1955; the development of three residential schools at Pesega (Upolu Island), Viola (Savai’i Island), and Mapusaga (American Samoa); years of struggle during World War II; successful building-missionary work resulting in many beautiful, modern chapels during the 1950s and 1960s; and the creation of the Apia Stake, Samoa’s first, on 18 March 1962. The dedication of the Apia Samoa Temple at the Church complex in Pesega on 5 and 6 August 1983 was the crowning historical event in Samoan Church history.

[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 177,000; Members, 63,640; Stakes, 16; Wards, 112; Branches, 21; Missions, 1; Temples, 1; Percent LDS, 36, or one in 3; Source: 2007 Church Almanac.]


Britsch, R. Lanier. Unto the Islands of the Sea: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986. 348-428.

1999-2000 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1998. 267-68, 408-9, 443-44.


From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 1062-63. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.