“Seminary After Dark,” Liahona, Oct. 2005, 43
On the island of Takaroa, 400 miles (600 km) northeast of Tahiti, seminary isn’t an early morning activity, but an evening one. Once each week on Wednesdays, as the sun is going down, Sister Hina Garbutt teaches her students about the restored gospel. She’s following a pattern of study established in the 1850s when Latter-day Saint missionaries first began teaching here. In fact, the seminary class meets next to a chapel built in the 1890s.
For teenagers living on Takaroa, seminary is the only formal education available. While elementary education exists, the only option for secondary students is to go to a boarding school on another island far away.
“We have only priests here among the young men,” says Tetuarere Temahaga (above), 17, of the Takaroa Second Branch, Takaroa Tuamotu District. “The deacons and teachers have all gone away to school. But the six priests and three young women who remain come to seminary. Everyone believes it’s like our school for us, and so they come. We learn a lot, and we enjoy being together. Seminary allows us to keep learning.”
Like most of the youth on Takaroa, Tetuarere works on the pearl farms. He has to get up as early as 4:30 a.m., and he spends the day diving and swimming, lifting heavy strings of oysters into boats. Others, like young women (right) Hinanui Tehina, 14, and Tapiu Tino, 15, work all day long tying oysters to nylon strings so that others can put them back in the water. That’s how the pearls are grown, and that helps keep the economy alive on Takaroa. “We are needed here,” Tapiu explains. She went to boarding school for a while but found there were a lot of negative influences, so she returned to be with her family, surrounded by those she loves.
After a long day of labor, what do teens on Takaroa do to unwind? “Not much,” laughs Tetuarere. “We watch television, although there isn’t much to watch, or we go swimming. Most of all, we go fishing. We go fishing to get food, but we go for fun too.”
Sundays and Wednesdays are especially welcome. “Sunday, of course, we go to church, and Wednesday night is seminary,” Hinanui explains. “We learn a lot about the gospel.” Tetuarere talks about one of the many principles he has studied: the importance of the temple. “You cannot go there taking with you the things of the world. It is the house of the Lord, and no unclean thing can enter there.”
In fact, one of the exciting goals for seminary students here is to save money they earn and go with other branch members to the temple in Tahiti. “We will perform baptisms for the dead,” says Hinanui. “It’s a good goal. Everything we learn in church and everything we learn in seminary points us to the house of the Lord.”