In November 1850 George Q. Cannon and other missionaries were stuck on a ship in San Francisco harbor. The year before, they had been called to prospect for gold in California—but spent most of their earnings on the gold fields’ inflated cost of living. They had decided to spend the winter preaching in Hawai‘i, but setbacks delayed their ship’s departure; 12 days after securing passage, they were still anchored in the bay.
The night of November 21, Cannon dreamed the ship’s anchor was stuck in the mud. The missionaries couldn’t pull it free until the Prophet Joseph Smith appeared and prayed, after which it came up easily. “[I] said that I wished I was in possession of such Faith,” Cannon recorded. “He replied that it was my privilege and that I ought to have it [and] that I would need it.” In the morning, the ship was finally able to set sail.
When they reached O‘ahu, the missionaries built an altar and prayed “that the Lord would make a speedy work here on these Islands.” Afterward one missionary prophesied “that the Lord would bless us with greater blessings than we had asked.” The next day Mary Harris, a Church member living in Hono‘lulu, welcomed the missionaries into her home, where they cast lots over which islands to preach on. Cannon and James Keeler were assigned to Maui.
Other missionaries focused on teaching white immigrants to Hawai‘i, but they had little success and soon decided to leave. Unlike these missionaries, however, Cannon and Keeler focused on learning Hawaiian. When they ran out of money, an elderly woman named Nalimanui offered her house to them. Despite seeing many missionaries leave and experiencing these financial struggles, Cannon felt strongly that he needed to stay. “[I] felt the spirit continually whispering,” he wrote, “[that] if I should persevere I should be blest.”
One day that spring, three men called Cannon back to talk after he passed a house. “The moment I entered into the house,” Cannon later recalled, “I felt convinced that I had met the men for whom I had been looking.” The men—Jonathan Nāpela, H. K. Kaleohano, and William H. Uaua—proved receptive but cautious. Protestant clergy discouraged them from engaging with Cannon, but Nāpela, a local judge, resolved to embrace correct principles, wherever they came from. Kaleohano was baptized that July, Nāpela and Uaua in January 1852.
As the three helped minister and lead, the Church grew quickly. Kaleohano preached and established “singing schools” to teach the gospel through hymns. Uaua managed tithing collection and was a noted healer, even raising his wife from the dead through a priesthood blessing. Nāpela worked with Cannon to translate the Book of Mormon. By 1854 there were 4,000 Church members in Hawai‘i, with branches on all the inhabited islands.