Church History
Tonga: Chronology

Tonga: Chronology

Meeting the King of Tonga

July 15–16, 1891 • Nuku‘alofa, Tongatapu, Tonga

Elders Brigham Smoot and Alva Butler arrived in Tonga. On their second day in the country, they met with King George Tupou I and received permission to preach.

August 1891 • Pea, Tongatapu, Tonga

The first Church meeting in Tonga was held in the small village of Pea, three miles from Nuku‘alofa.

January 24, 1892 • Mu‘a, Tongatapu, Tonga

The first Church meeting conducted in Tongan was held in the newly completed meetinghouse.

May 15, 1892 • Mu‘a

Butler and Smoot dedicated a recently completed meetinghouse and mission home in the village of Mu‘a.

September 11, 1892 • Mu‘a

Alipate, the first Tongan convert, was baptized and confirmed by Brigham Smoot.

1893 • Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

The first missionary tract in Tongan, titled Lecture on the Kingdom of Heaven and the Narrow Path That Leads to It, written by Brigham Smoot, was published.

September 29, 1894 • Nomuka, Ha‘apai, Tonga

Tevisi Lului was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood, making him the first Tongan to receive the priesthood.

April 1897 • Tonga

With less than 15 baptisms in six years, the mission in Tonga was closed and the missionaries reassigned to Samoa.

May 18, 1900 • Tonga

Tonga became a British protectorate.

March 19, 1907 • Neiafu, Vava‘u, Tonga

Thomas Court, president of the Samoan Mission, traveled to Tonga to explore the possibility of reopening the mission there.

June 13, 1907 • Neiafu

Heber J. McKay and William O. Facer of the Samoan Mission arrived in Tonga to reopen the mission.

1912 • Salt Lake City

Koe ga‘ahi himi o Saioni (Songs of Zion), a collection of Tongan hymns was published.

1912 • Tongatapu

The first Primary and Relief Society were organized by missionary sisters Malia and Lillie Josephs.

July 1916 • Tonga

The Tongan Mission was created with Willard L. Smith as president.

June 1921 • Nuku‘alofa

Elder David O. McKay of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles blessed the land and the people for the preaching of the gospel.

1922 • Tonga

Visas for foreign missionaries were canceled, and all nonlocal missionaries were sent out of the country. The Church schools were closed, and branches were consolidated.

1925–27 • Tongatapu

The Makeke School, a new, central Church school, and a 75-acre plantation were built with the help of local members.

1940–46 • Tonga

World War II caused the evacuation of foreign missionaries. Emile C. Dunn remained as president of the mission and oversaw local members who served as missionaries.

1946 • Salt Lake City

The Book of Mormon was published in Tongan.

1948–52 • Tongatapu

Liahona College (later Liahona High School) was built to replace the Makeke School.

September 9, 1953 • Nuku‘alofa

A training school for missionaries serving throughout the South Pacific began at Liahona College.

December 1, 1953 • Tongatapu

Liahona College was dedicated by Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

January 1955 • Tongatapu and Vava‘u

Church President David O. McKay and his wife, Emma Ray, visited. During his visit, McKay shared his vision for a temple in Tonga.

July 12, 1957 • Salt Lake City

The Pacific Board of Education was created to govern Church schools in the Pacific. The board replaced missionaries who had been teaching at the schools with salaried teachers.

April 22–23, 1958 • Hamilton, New Zealand

During the dedication of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, President McKay presided over a special Tongan session. After the dedication, 45 Tongan Saints participated in the first temple ordinances performed in Tongan.

May 26–27, 1958 • Nuku‘alofa and Matahau, Tongatapu, Tonga

Elder Marion G. Romney dedicated the first two Church-built meetinghouses, in Nuku‘alofa and Matahau.

March 17, 1960 • Nuku‘alofa

The first shipment of 500 copies of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price in Tongan arrived in Nuku‘alofa.

February 1964 • Nuku‘alofa

The first seminary classes in Tonga were organized at Tongan Government High School and Liahona High School.

September 5, 1968 • Nuku‘alofa

The Nuku‘alofa Tonga Stake, the first in Tonga, was organized with Orson H. White as president.

May 5, 1974 • Nuku‘alofa

Tonga Toutai Pāletu‘a was called to preside over the Tonga Nuku‘alofa Mission. He was the first local member to preside over the mission.

July 1977 • Nuku‘alofa

Tonga Toutai Pāletu‘a was called as a regional representative of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

March 2, 1982 • Tonga

Tropical Cyclone Isaac tore through Tonga. Latter-day Saint meetinghouses and schools were used to shelter those displaced by the storm and to distribute relief supplies.

Nuku'alofa Tonga Temple

August 9, 1983 • Nuku‘alofa

The Nuku‘alofa Tonga Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency.

October 24, 1989 • Santa Ana, California

Princess ‘Elisiva Fusipala Vaha‘i, niece of King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV, was baptized. She was the first member of the royal family to join the Church.

August 13–27, 1991 • Tongatapu, Ha‘apai, and Vava‘u

Celebrations throughout Tonga marked the 100th anniversary of the Church in the country.

May 15, 1992 • San Francisco, California

The San Francisco California East Stake, the first Tongan-speaking stake outside of Tonga, was organized.

1993 • Salt Lake City

Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy published In the Eye of the Storm, a memoir about his time as a missionary in Tonga in the 1950s. The memoir was later the basis for the film The Other Side of Heaven (2001).

August 2, 1996 • Salt Lake City

King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV and his party visited Church President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselor President Thomas S. Monson. The king was in Salt Lake City to receive an environmental award.

2006–7 • Tonga

The Nuku‘alofa Tonga Temple was closed for renovation and expansion. After the completion of the construction project, 40,000 visitors toured the temple before its rededication.

2008 • Tonga

By 2008 approximately 46 percent of the Tongan population were members of the Church.

June 9–16, 2015 • Nuku‘alofa

Latter-day Saint missionaries helped prepare the royal palace for the coronation of King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau‘u.

June 11, 2016 • Laie, Hawaii,

King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau‘u of Tonga presided at the grand reopening of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s recently renovated Tongan Village.

August 8–14, 2016 • Tonga

Tongan Saints celebrated the centennial of the establishment of the Tonga Nuku‘alofa Mission. As part of the celebration, King Tupou VI unveiled a monument commemorating the arrival of the first missionaries.

February 2018 • Tonga

In the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita, members and missionaries throughout Tonga helped clean up and rebuild their communities.

2018 • Worldwide

As Tongan Latter-day Saints have pursued opportunities throughout the world, Tongan-speaking stakes, wards, and branches have been established in Australia, Samoa, American Samoa, Japan, New Zealand, and six U.S. states.