Tongan Saints have been counseled to get education and, if the opportunity arises, to go overseas to gain higher education and then return to help build up the Church in Tonga. An outstanding example of one who followed that counsel and was blessed through his service is Sione Tu‘alau Latu.
Latu, who was born on the small island of Ha‘afeva, was encouraged by his family to attend Liahona College in 1952 although he was not a member of the Church. He was baptized in 1956.
Latu had a desire to obtain more education. Over the course of one week, Latu fasted and, finding a secluded place in a taro field, prayed that he would be able to pass a difficult exam to continue his education and attend school overseas. He thought that if a young Joseph Smith could get an answer to his prayers, then he could too. “I prayed for what seemed like a long time,” Latu said later. “I felt so close to my Heavenly Father. When I got up, my shirt was wet with tears.”
One evening a little while later, the principal’s secretary came to find him while he was having dinner in the cafeteria and told him the principal wanted to see him the next morning. Latu couldn’t sleep that night, thinking he had done something wrong. At the meeting, the principal handed him a letter telling him he had been awarded the first four-year full scholarship to the Church College of Hawaii (now BYU–Hawaii). “I knew these things came to me in answer to my prayer,” Latu later reflected. “I knelt down and thanked the Lord and promised Him I would come back and help my family and my country.”
In Hawaii, Latu worked hard, graduated, and met his wife, Helen. As he had promised the Lord, Latu and Helen returned to Tonga, where Latu took a position teaching at Liahona High School. About two years later he was called to manage the Church’s translation efforts in Tonga. Then came opportunities to serve as a stake president, a mission president, and a regional representative for Tonga. He has also become one of Tonga’s leading business entrepreneurs and is active in civic affairs.
By following Church leaders’ counsel, Latu has been richly blessed, both spiritually and temporally. Many others have followed his example and have been likewise blessed as they have assisted in building up the Church in Tonga.