“The Word of Wisdom Blessing,” Ensign, Feb. 1976, 31–32
As President Ernest C. Rossiter and his wife sailed into the harbor at Takaroa, three days’ distance from Tahiti, they noticed with concern that the coconut trees on the island were yellowed and the fronds hung limp. The next morning they found that this was a grave concern to the natives on the island too. In a solemn council, the villagers approached President Rossiter with their problem.
With great dignity the chief called him by his native name and said, “Ereneta, for many, many months we have been trying to raise money to pay off our debts to the white traders. The Lord has not favored us. Our coconut trees have a blight. The fronds of our coconut trees are limp, and the nuts fall to the ground unmatured. The traders threaten to foreclose on our plantations unless we pay what we owe them. We enter the pearl diving season each year, but return owing the traders more than we had before going. As you see, we are sorely in need of your help to save all our possessions.”
President Rossiter was deeply grieved and asked for a three-day period of fasting and prayer to give him time to ponder the problem of the natives’ indebtedness. His investigations brought him to a startling conclusion: the people were not keeping the Word of Wisdom nor paying their tithes and fast offerings; they were not honoring their priesthood.
On the afternoon of the last day of the fast, President Rossiter called for a congregation of all the Saints. There, in the island meetinghouse, the power of the Lord came upon him, and with great force he revealed his findings and called the people to repentance. He told them that if they would humble themselves before the Lord and keep all of his commandments, he would bless them and restore their plantations to a healthy green condition, and they would bear fruit abundantly.
Then President Rossiter inaugurated his plan to help the people pay off their debts. He returned to Tahiti, and after much persuasion he was able to lease a ship and supplies to be used by the natives during the pearl shell diving season. He brought this vessel to Takaroa, where the natives, with their animals and possessions, boarded the ship and sailed to the pearl diving grounds on another island.
There, under President Rossiter’s supervision, the people set up their homes, established strict sanitation practices, and began the long hours of arduous shell diving. The people were more thrifty and worked harder and longer than they had ever done, and at the end of the season the divers had brought up 75 percent more shells than any other group of divers on the island. But some of the traders were jealous of their unity and success, and they banded together to keep the price of pearl shells down. These traders offered President Rossiter and his followers only 15 cents a pound, while they were paying other groups 20 cents.
But President Rossiter stood firm. He refused to sell at that price and announced that the shell would be stored for another year until the price was raised. Storage was unnecessary, however, because the biggest trader relented and agreed not only to pay 30 cents a pound, but also to transport the natives to their homes free of charge.
Over $50,000 was raised that season from the sale of the pearl shell, and the same system was used during the next two seasons. At the end of that time the natives were completely out of debt. In addition, they had paid their tithes and offerings and attended their sacrament meetings.
At the end of the first season, as they approached their island home, each native anxiously watched the shores of his beloved homeland. As they drew near enough to clearly see the plantations, tears of thanksgiving and gratitude filled the eyes of all the faithful native Saints. There in the bright morning sunlight, the fronds of the coconut trees had all changed from a sickly green to a deep, waxy hue, and the nuts were in greater abundance on every tree than ever before.
In three years their debts were paid, their plantations were redeemed, and the Saints were humble and thankful to the Lord for these great blessings. The words of the Lord were fulfilled: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say.” (D&C 82:10.)