“Friend to Friend: Talofa Lava,” Friend, May 1972, 12
The poet Robert Louis Stevenson described the Polynesian people as the “sweetest people God ever made.” They love to sing; they love to dance; they love to smile—but most of all they love our Heavenly Father.
In the Book of Mormon Nephi wrote, “Great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea” (2 Ne. 10:21). One of the promises of God to these people is the gift of faith, which is shown by their simple trust and a certainty that God will provide.
On our first visit to the fabled village of Sauniatu, Samoa, Sister Monson and I met with a large gathering of small children. Their smiles were broad and their faces were radiant as we brought to them the love and greetings of their brothers and sisters throughout the world.
When we concluded our messages to these shy and beautiful boys and girls, their teacher announced the closing song and prayer. As he did so, I felt inspired to personally greet each one of the 247 children. But glancing at my watch, I realized that there would not be enough time for such a privilege, and so I attempted to dismiss the feeling. Before the closing prayer, however, I again felt impressed to shake the hand of each child.
Finally I turned to the teacher and said, “I would so much like to shake the hand of each boy and each girl. Would this be possible?” The teacher smiled a beautiful Samoan smile and, in his native language, spoke to the children. They beamed their approval and nodded their heads.
Then the teacher told me the reason for their joy and smiles. He said, “When we learned that our Prophet had asked a member of the Council of the Twelve to visit us in Samoa, I told the children that if they would each pray sincerely and exercise great faith, as did the people in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the apostle would visit our tiny village of Sauniatu and be impressed to greet every child with a personal handclasp.”
Tears could not be held back as each of these precious boys and girls walked shyly over and whispered to us the sweet Samoan greeting talofa lava.
We had witnessed the gift of faith!
As we left the building, the children sang a favorite song, “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,” and we waved goodbye. I knew then that we would never forget the beautiful singing, the tiny brown hands waving farewell, the bright loving eyes, and the warm smiles of these handsome boys and beautiful girls. But most of all I knew that we would always remember the way in which a loving Heavenly Father rewards the simple and sincere prayers of His precious children.