Church History
French Polynesia: Overview

“French Polynesia: Overview,” Global Histories: French Polynesia (2018)

“French Polynesia: Overview,” Global Histories: French Polynesia

map of French Polynesia

A Brief History of the Church in

French Polynesia


In 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called four missionaries to take the gospel “unto the islands of the sea” in the Pacific (Doctrine and Covenants 133:8). On Tubuai, Addison Pratt became the first Latter-day Saint missionary to preach in a language other than English. Benjamin Grouard established the Church in the Tuamotus; early native converts Haametua and Hamoe laid the foundation for Church growth in Tahiti. Telii, one of the earliest members baptized by Pratt, taught Tahitian converts to sing Latter-day Saint hymns, which they adapted to Polynesian singing styles.

In 1852, amidst religious conflicts between the French and the English, Latter-day Saint missionaries were expelled from the islands. For the next 40 years, Saints in French Polynesia maintained the faith in the face of persecution. Saints in Anaa, for example, were attacked, and five were executed after an altercation with a police officer. Despite limited contact with Church headquarters, local leaders endured imprisonment, spread the gospel, and organized a Relief Society.

After missionaries returned in 1892, Church programs were more fully established, and publishing efforts began. Saints built meetinghouses, gathered for conferences, and organized singing groups. In 1963, a group of Saints made the trip to New Zealand for the first Tahitian-language temple sessions. In 1983, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Papeete Tahiti Temple. Today, French Polynesian Saints honor their deep roots in the Church while reaching out in service to their community.

Quick Facts

  • Official Name: French Polynesia/Polynésie Française/Pōrīnetia Farāni

  • Capital: Papeete

  • Largest City: Fa’a’ā

  • Official Languages: French

  • Land Area: 4,167 km2 (1,609 mi2)

  • Church Area: Pacific

  • Missions: 1 (Papeete)

  • Congregations: 93

  • Temples: 1 (Papeete)