Māori Latter-day Saint Faith: Some Preliminary Remarks

  • Formats:
  • PDF
  • ePub
  • MOBI
  • Kindle store
  • NOOK store
  • MP3 Audio
  • Print now
  • Order Print Copy

Review of Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012), xv + 328 pp. (including a glossary of Māori words, three appendices, bibliography, two maps, twenty-nine illustrations and a photography register, and index). $29.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s widely acclaimed Tiki and Temple1 is a history of the first century of Latter-day Saint missionary endeavors in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She tells the remarkable story of what, beginning in 1881, rapidly became essentially a Māori version of the faith of Latter-day Saints. Her fine work sets the stage for a much closer look at the deeper reasons some Māori became faithful Latter-day Saints. It turns out that Māori seers (and hence their own prophetic tradition) was, for them, commensurate with the divine special revelations brought to them by LDS missionaries. Among other things, the arcane lore taught in special schools to an elite group among the Māori is now receiving close attention by Latter-day Saint scholars.

I have argued elsewhere that Marjorie Newton’s history of the first century of Latter-day Saint missionary endeavors in [Page 46]New Zealand2 is exemplary.3 Tiki and Temple is a fine book—one that I highly recommend. I also agree with Elder Glen L. Rudd, who knows the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand very well, that Tiki and Temple is genuinely faith-affirming. One reason is that its author “gives the reader a picture of the Lord’s purposes in sending the gospel to New Zealand, a country of great natural beauty and a country blessed with spiritual giants, Maori prophets, priesthood leaders, and dedicated missionaries who diligently and constantly battled against the many problems they encountered as they fulfilled the missions assigned to them by the Lord” (Foreword, p. 46).

The story of Māori4 joining the Church in large numbers has, of course, been told and retold5 and sometimes embellished, [Page 47]but it has also been discounted or explained away. Some of what has been written about these events has been excellent. For this and other reasons, Newton graciously acknowledges what she describes as the “fine work” of others on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand (p. xii).6 She also modestly grants that, “as an Australian,” she might be deficient in her grasp of, among other things, “Maori culture” (p. xiv). She hopes “that one day a Maori historian will produce a scholarly history of Mormonism in New Zealand that will remedy any omissions and defects” that her accounts may have (p. xiv). I fully agree that Māori scholars are best situated to provide an explanation of the faith of Māori Saints. And there is, fortunately, increased interest in recovering and preserving the crucial memory of what made the Church of Jesus Christ essentially Māori during much of its first century in New Zealand.

Those who know me well will testify that I am fond of the peoples of the South Pacific and obsessed with the Māori and New Zealand. But in important ways, I remain an interested outsider. I will, however, set out some of what seem to me to be the grounds, dynamics, and deeper dimensions of the faith of Māori Saints. I will sketch some of what I believe are the reasons for the truly remarkable faith and faithfulness of Māori Saints that supplement (or go beyond) what one can find in Tiki and Temple.

First, there are good reasons to see the old Māori prophetic tradition (mentioned by Elder Rudd in the passage I quoted at the beginning of this essay) as both roughly commensurate with what they embraced when they became Latter-day Saints [Page 48]and also as part what led them to become Latter-day Saints. Put another way, those first Māori to become Latter-day Saints were engaged in what I consider a providential joining of two prophetic traditions.

Something Long Anticipated

Although focused primarily on the events beginning in December 1882 that led to an essentially Māori version of LDS faith, Newton’s account begins in 1854, when the initial missionary efforts were somewhat ephemeral and focused only on the Pākehā (a person of European descent).7 Those first LDS missionary endeavors in New Zealand followed the method used successfully in England of renting halls and holding public meetings. In New Zealand, doing this was mostly ineffective in converting the independent, mostly indifferent, and sometimes hostile Pākehā. These intermittent endeavors also included gathering a few Saints who had been converted elsewhere, baptizing a few among their families or friends, and then occasionally sending them to Zion in Utah.

Newton sets the stage for the story she tells by skillfully identifying an interest in the Māori among some of the Saints long before efforts were made to convert them (see pp. 1–6). For example, in 1832—long before 6 February 1840, when the famous (or infamous) Treaty of Waitangi8 brought New Zealand under the Crown—W. W. Phelps, impressed by a description of the Māori he happened to notice, proclaimed that “the Lord will not forget them” (p. 1). In 1854, a few LDS [Page 49]missionaries began to labor in New Zealand. But a genuine effort to take the gospel to the Māori began only in 1881. This fact has annoyed me. Why did those first LDS missionaries not go immediately to the Māori? Had not Joseph Smith sent Addison Pratt (and his three associates, one of whom passed away on the long voyage) in 1843 to preach the gospel to the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific?9 Did they not have immediate and lasting success? This was the first real non–English-speaking LDS missionary endeavor. Newton mentions that, when passing between Australia and New Zealand, for a brief moment Addison Pratt had a hankering to stop in New Zealand and later wrote to Joseph Smith recommending that missionaries be sent there (see pp. 2–3 for details).

Newton deftly explains the difficulties those first LDS missionaries faced in New Zealand as well as some of the circumstances among the Māori that seem to have impeded (and even prevented) the long-hoped-for effort to bring the restored gospel to them (see pp. 22–24). In addition, I believe that LDS missionary endeavors with the Māori benefitted from the remarkable growth in literacy among a people who, prior to the arrival of the Pākehā, had no written language, hence their subsequent familiarity with and love of biblical narratives made available in their own language. LDS efforts to proselytize among the Māori, especially given the few LDS missionaries called to New Zealand for short assignments, depended upon earlier efforts by Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Anglican missionaries to establish their versions of Christianity among the Māori. These Christian missionaries were among the first British to settle in areas in which the Māori [Page 50]were concentrated. They had to learn Māori. Words had to be found or fashioned in Māori to convey their message and to make available portions of the Bible. The impressive immediate result of those early sectarian missionary endeavors was that for a while (and until the surge of Pākehā settlers swamped the Māori), most Christians in New Zealand were Māori. In addition, with the arrival of the Pākehā, for reasons that I will not go into, the Māori population began to decline. The faith of Māori Christians was not focused on dogmatic theology, but on biblical stories which seemed to them to describe their own situation and to convey hope in the face of the enormous changes and challenges resulting from both the arrival of the Pākehā and the dynamic of tribal hostilities.

After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the Pākehā began to gobble up Māori land—that is, often stealing it. The result was a series of wars between some Māori and the Crown10 over what were considered insults and the theft of their lands. The Māori witnessed those who had brought them the biblical message become apologists for Pākehā greed. Only when these wars eventually subsided was the door opened for LDS missionaries. Where previous LDS missionaries, including mission presidents, had depended almost entirely upon the largess of the few generous Pākehā Saints, beginning in 1882 most LDS missionaries in New Zealand lived among Māori and depended primarily upon them for their sustenance. This took place only when armed hostilities had ceased, the Māori had lost confidence in the Pākehā preachers, and after they had became somewhat familiar with the Bible.[Page 51]

The Beginnings

When LDS missionaries eventually adopted a mode of teaching that entailed major cultural accommodations to Māori ways, they had remarkable success. The result has been described as an intercultural exchange, which I believe involved, among other things, the subtle melding of two commensurate prophetic traditions. The initial breakthrough began on 5 April 1881, when William J. McDonnel was called by William M. Bromley, the New Zealand mission president, to serve as a missionary to the Māori. McDonnel had joined the Church in New Zealand and served as branch president in Auckland, where he operated the dry dock at the bottom of Hobson Street. When called as a missionary, he went to work learning the Māori language. On 18 October 1881, McDonnel baptized Ngataki, a Māori he had met while working at the graver dock in Auckland. Ngataki was the first Māori baptized in New Zealand. Other than this one baptism, all efforts to proselytize the Māori proved fruitless until 24 December 1882, when McDonnel and two companions met one prepared by an encounter with the apostle Peter to hear his message. McDonnel had journeyed to Cambridge, a provincial town southeast of Hamilton, to visit Thomas Cox, who had recently moved there from Auckland. Cox had previously despised McDonnel, even mounting a petition to have him removed as branch president. Despite this, McDonnel and President Bromley decided to spend Christmas with Cox.

Bromley’s fine diary11 provides a nicely written, contemporary account of a remarkable encounter that he, Cox, and McDonnel had on 24 December 1882 with Hari Teimana, who indicated that he recognized Bromley and his [Page 52]associates. Teimana told McDonnel in Māori that the apostle Peter had recently visited him. Dressed in distinctive white clothing, Peter had shown him the three Latter-day Saints. Upon recognizing them, Teimana accepted their authority and then their message.12 On Christmas Day, the first of a series of baptisms took place, as well as the healing of the relationship between McDonnel and Cox.

As this account illustrates, it was often not an agonizing, difficult decision for Māori to accept Joseph Smith as a seer and to recognize both the message and authority of LDS missionaries. Unlike the Christian world generally, for some Māori the heavens were not closed by either dogma or habit. In addition, some Māori were prepared by special divine revelations for the arrival and message of LDS missionaries. Even in 1950 the Māori, I soon discovered, were not influenced as I had been by powerful elements of Enlightenment skepticism about divine things; they lived in a world where wonders are possible. Hence Newton correctly reports that “many Mormon families have told of visions received by their ancestors, guiding them to accept Mormonism” (p. 43).

I first heard accounts of these visions in 1950 in the area around the Bay of Islands north of Auckland. I assumed that they had all been recorded by earlier LDS missionaries, if not by the Māori Saints themselves. I was wrong on both counts. The Māori Saints were still accustomed to the habits of the older oral culture and usually did not record events.13 I am not aware of a collection of these stories. I now regret that I did not make it my business to record the stories I heard. My attention was [Page 53]primarily focused on what now seem to be rather trivial, but pressing, mundane things: the weather, food, transportation, and other similar matters. Even though I loved the stories I heard, unfortunately I followed in the footsteps of previous LDS missionaries and did not record them.

As that initial encounter of McDonnel, Bromley, and Cox with Hari Teimana illustrates, the Māori who became Latter-day Saints often lived in an enchanted, and—for me and some other LDS missionaries—an enchanting world. From the moment I knew that there was such a thing as an LDS mission, I expected to serve in New Zealand, and I did so in 1950–52. This was almost seven decades after the Māori began to join the Church. Over six decades later, I am still taken with those people and that place. Much like others who have served missions in New Zealand, my faith is anchored in part in the work of the Holy Spirit I have witnessed among the peoples in that land. I found in 1950 that the Māori were often strikingly open to the divine. Their test, they would point out to me, was moral or practical: it was not whether the restored gospel is true, which even non-LDS Māori would tell me was for them obvious, but whether they were really determined to remain genuinely faithful to the covenants with God required by the message LDS missionaries brought to them.

When I first arrived in New Zealand in 1950, I lived in the area in and around the wonderful Bay of Islands, where, at Waitangi, what the Māori tend to see as a compact between two peoples had been set in place. The Māori enjoyed pointing out that the Christian missionaries, whom at first they had trusted, had taught them to close their eyes and pray, but when they opened their eyes, the land was gone. Beginning in 1882, when such grievances were fresh in the minds of the Māori, LDS missionaries seem to have sided with them over the deeds flowing from Pākehā greed. Unlike the Pākehā, they saw the missionaries as equals who lived with them, loved them, and [Page 54]made no claim on their lands. In addition, much like the Māori, the missionaries were the object of oppression, legal restrictions, and sectarian derision.

The Māori Saints I met at that time were, in their own way, at least as “Mormon” as I was, and their conversion stories were often far more dramatic than those of my English ancestors. For these and other reasons, if there was cultural imperialism, it was not due to missionaries from the Wasatch Front imposing something foreign on the Māori. They clearly owned their faith. LDS missionaries (including mission presidents) have often been enthralled by the best in the Māori world. In addition, my experience has been that Māori Saints often feel that their faith enhances and deepens their Māori identity, which otherwise is transformed, eroded, and degraded under the sometimes demonic influences of the now-dominant sensual and increasingly highly secularized host culture.

Despite efforts to proselytize Pākehā and increasingly rapid changes in the situation of the Māori—some of which have clearly not been good—the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand in 1950 consisted primarily of Māori Saints, who most often worshiped in tiny rural branches. Māori were just beginning to surge into Auckland and Wellington, soon followed by Tongans and Samoans. In 1950, there was one LDS branch in Auckland. There are now ten stakes. In 1950, there were two Māori Saints who had university training. Now university training is common. The changes clearly have been enormous.

When my wife and I began to return to New Zealand in 1985, I was at first a bit disappointed at some of the changes that had taken place in the Church. My attachment to the Saints in New Zealand was partly frozen in memories of what amounted to a community of mostly Māori Saints. Much (but not all) of that, of course, has now changed, as my Māori friends explained, “for the better.” One of the changes has been in the [Page 55]variety within LDS congregations. Virtually every Sunday in 1999 and 2000, my wife and I, while directing the Lorne Street Institute in Auckland for the Seminary and Institute System, heard favorable comments about the diverse ethnic makeup of LDS congregations. My first mission president had sought to overcome the stereotype that the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand was Māori. This soon happened but not by its becoming Pākehā. LDS congregations in New Zealand are now packed with Pacific Islanders and other nationalities and ethnic groups in addition to Māori. But this is not the story Newton tells, as her account covers the first century, when the Church in New Zealand was essentially Māori, not the story of the subsequent six decades.

Māori Seers

Perhaps the incidents best known about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ in New Zealand are the accounts of LDS missionaries finding Māori who had been readied by their own prophets to accept them and their message. When we refer to Māori prophets, which Elder Rudd did in the passage I quoted at the beginning of this essay, we tend to reduce the strangeness of a people originally with no written language who, with the arrival of the Pākehā, still depended upon subtle mnemonic devices and a cast of experts to keep the memory of both human and divine things alive and who believed that knowledge of divine things could be revealed directly to human beings.

Drawing upon the work of Lanier Britsch and Brian Hunt (see p. 42 n. 5), Newton briefly mentions several Māori prophets—Paora Potangaroa, Tawhiao, Toaro Pakahia, Apiata Kuikainga, and Arama Toiroa (p. 42)—who, Māori Saints both then and now believe, prepared them for LDS missionaries and their message. The Māori themselves presented these stories to me as brute fact, and I have known them for over six decades. I am now more astonished and puzzled by what I began to [Page 56]learn in 1950 than when I first encountered it. Though these stories have been told and retold, there is more to be learned about Māori prophets. For several reasons, Latter-day Saint Māori scholars are in the best position to recover valuable information and set out new insights on this and other closely related topics.14 As passionate as I am about the world of Māori Saints, I operate only on its surface like an interested tourist struggling to take it all in.

There are, I believe, important bits of information that help open for us the world of Māori prophets. For instance, the Māori word poropiti (prophet) is actually a loan word—the English word “prophet” spelled in the Māori alphabet. The genuine Māori word is matakite—that is, seer.15 Kite means to see and perceive, to find or discover, and to recognize. It also means a prophetic utterance or prophecy. And mata is a medium of communication with a spirit, also a spell or charm. Hence, a matakite is a seer—one who foresees an event—but also the vision itself. In addition, the word matatuhi also means seer or augur. The word tuhi has come to mean both the action of writing and something that is written, but its primitive [Page 57]meaning is to delineate or draw, to point at, and to glow or shine.

Latter-day Saints should keep in mind that Joseph Smith was a seer before (and then in addition to) becoming a prophet authorized to speak for God. He also used the two stones known in the Book of Mormon as interpreters (see Mosiah 8:13; 28:13–16, 20)16 as well as his own seer stone, to see the text of the Book of Mormon, which he dictated to scribes. He also used his seer stone to receive further instruction from God, including many early sections of the Book of Covenants and Commandments, which we know as the Doctrine and Covenants.

There is also a place in Māori lore for whatu kura (seer stones), two of which have names.17 Seer stones had an important place in the initiation into the arcane Māori mysteries. This is not, however, the place to go into detail other than to assert that, from within the horizon of Māori tradition, both seers and seer stones are not problematic.

An Esoteric Māori Cult

What I learned in 1950 from some older Māori Saints was that when LDS missionaries arrived with their message, the Māori were already aware of a premortal life and a council in heaven where the sons of Io te Matua—the Māori name for their high god—considered the peopling of the earth, at which time a war broke out that goes on even now here below, also a way back to the glory of Io’s heaven and so forth. They attributed this knowledge to their own seers, whose teachings fit securely within the world view of specially trained tohunga (experts) whose task it was to keep alive the memory of an esoteric cult fully known only to an elite group of initiates.

[Page 58]When the Pākehā arrived in New Zealand, the Māori relied upon, among other things, rigorous memorization of vast amounts of genealogy and other closely related lore to keep alive their knowledge of divine things as well as a host of more mundane information and skills. Even though they rapidly became literate, the oral transmission of information was still very much in place in 1950. Of course, attention had to be given, even—or especially—within the community of Saints, to mastering English and the ways of the Pākehā. Inevitably, this has tended to supplant, if not erode, the authority and the knowledge of the old oral traditions. Some of the old lore was recorded. Neither the old lore nor its impact on the faith of Māori Saints has disappeared. And, as I will demonstrate, serious efforts are being made to recover and teach it.

For me, the very best portion of Newton’s fine book is the new and important information she provides (see pp. 171–73) on Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury (1841–1921). He assisted in the translation of the Book of Mormon into Māori and then joined the Church (pp. 52–53). Church leaders in Salt Lake City were aware of Te Whatahoro and even commissioned his portrait, which was first hung in the Salt Lake Temple, then in the Manti Temple, and eventually in the library at BYU–Hawaii (p. 171, including n. 62).

There is, however, more to Te Whatahoro’s story. Beginning at age twenty-two (between 1863 and 1865), long before any Latter-day Saint had influenced any Māori, he was the scribe for Moihi Te Motorohunga (c.1800–1884) and Nepia Pohuhu (d. 1882), who dictated to him the esoteric teachings of Ngati Kahunganu (p. 171).18 Newton sees the Te Whatahoro manuscripts as “sacred genealogy,” which in part they are, but they also contain the understanding of divine and human things—what might be called the esoteric religion—taught in [Page 59]a whare wānanga (house of learning or college, also known as wharekura) to an elite group of Māori. Te Whatahoro enhanced these manuscripts and eventually donated them to the Church. Clearly recognizing their importance, Church leaders made an effort to send them to the Church Archive in Salt Lake City (pp. 171–72). The New Zealand government blocked this effort, and they were instead preserved in a fireproof vault in the little LDS meetinghouse at Scotia Place on Queen Street in Auckland. These manuscripts were loaned to Maui Pomare, a famous Māori scholar, and were never returned. Presumably they were lost or deliberately destroyed. However, a copy was retained by Te Whatahoro, and they were published in both Māori and English under the title The Lore of the Whare Wananga by S. Percy Smith, an important early amateur ethnologist.19 The story Newton tells of the Te Whatahoro manuscripts includes much new and valuable information. But she does not give attention to the actual contents of those manuscripts, nor does she sense why the Church’s general leaders wished to honor Te Whatahoro and even pay his way to Salt Lake City so that he could receive his LDS temple endowment. (Unfortunately, he was too frail to make the trip.)

I believe that Te Whatahoro’s manuscripts, along with other similar and related materials, are part of the larger matrix of elements that may help to explain why those early LDS missionaries saw whole Māori villages join the Church. To sort out this matter, however, must be the work of Māori [Page 60]scholars.20 It seems that the higher celestial elements of what was taught in various wānanga were known to an initiated elite group, but not in detail by most Māori.

Māori Saints are often aware of the Māori high god known as Io, and of related accounts of the creation of the world, a premortal existence, a great council in the highest heaven, a war that began there in the deep past and continues on earth to this day, an ascent back to the glory of the tenth (or twelfth) heaven and to the presence of Io, and so forth.21 These and similar and related teachings were once transmitted to some select Māori in wānanga. It was from within this world of esoteric knowledge that Māori seers tended to operate. How much and in what way the Io cult influenced those first Māori to become Latter-day Saints is, however, still to be determined.

What is clear is that when LDS missionaries encountered Māori, some of whom had been prepared by seers for the restored gospel, they had remarkable success. When those early missionaries were able to convert Māori who were aware of elements of the Io cult, many others soon became Latter-day Saints as well. The reason is that initiates in the Io cult had what the Māori call mana, understood as “the enduring, indestructible power of the gods.”22 What I learned in October [Page 61]1950 in conversations with an old Māori at Waikare in the south end of the Bay of Islands was that even before LDS missionaries arrived, the Māori were aware of a premortal life and a grand council in heaven in which the sons of Io te Matua considered the peopling of the earth, at which time a war broke out that goes on even now here below. These and other similar or related teachings were known to an elite group of specially trained tohunga.

In addition, since there were disagreements both between and within iwi about the details of the Io cult, I believe there was also a longing or perhaps even an expectation that messengers would turn up to help sort things out. It is in this larger context that the words of Arama Toiroa (whom I see as the leading figure) and other Māori seers were understood by the Māori who first encountered LDS missionaries. It is from a passion for recovery of the genuine ancient lore that a Māori version of their encounter with Mormon things is even now beginning to take shape.

That there were Māori matakite is not challenged, nor is it denied that there were wānanga in which arcane lore was transmitted to future generations. However, some have insisted that, despite the solid evidence that the Io cult was taught in various wānanga in at least three iwi, Io was unknown prior to the arrival of Christian missionaries. In addition, some Māori—especially those who have been recolonized by Pākehā ways of understanding the world, who are hostile to any version of Christian faith and/or who have come to see Māori things through an essentially secular lens—now insist that the Io cult was a post-European invention by Māori seeking to fashion a past that would rival what is found in the Bible. What can be said with confidence is that the Māori did not borrow from sectarian Christian missionaries what was taught in wānanga. It is, instead, Latter-day Saints who see parallels and similarities between their own faith and hidden Māori lore. What I have [Page 62]yet to see is the argument that somehow in the 1860s, LDS missionaries had managed to introduce the substance of the Io cult to some Māori, who then cast those teachings in the Māori language and thereby made it their own.

Some Steps Forward

There is an increasing interest in traditional Māori lore and learning among Latter-day Saints which I see as salutary. This began late in the 1990s, when Herewini Jones, a truly gifted teacher, began holding wānanga for Māori with an interest in understanding the original links between Māori matakite and the restored gospel. The remarkable instruction given by Herewini Jones was fully endorsed and encouraged by Richard Hunter, President of the Auckland Mission from 1998 through 1999. It was also frequently utilized by Paul Mendenhall, who is fluent in Māori and who replaced President Hunter in 1999.

This public instruction in the arcane lore and related whakapapa (genealogy) demonstrates its links to LDS teachings. By 1998, the wānanga held by Herewini Jones became a primary vehicle in effecting new conversions and deepening the faith of the Saints as well as drawing lapsed Saints back into full fellowship. This endeavor made it possible for Māori to see that the very best in their esoteric lore and tikanga (governing rule, habit, controlling authority, the straight and right way) as essentially commensurate with the narrative upon which a solid faith in God can be grounded. From my perspective, this kind of instruction edifies and deepens faith. It has also opened the door for other LDS Māori scholars to probe the role played by the arcane teachings traditionally given in wānanga in the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ among the Māori as well as the place those teaching have for the faith of Māori Saints. Some of what Newton hopes will happen is actually beginning to take place.

[Page 63]In her bibliography (see p. 279), Newton mentions the late Cleve Barlow’s Tikanga Whakaaro.23 Dr. Barlow told me in 1999 that he was one of the last three Māori to actually receive instruction in a traditional whare wānanga24 and that the instruction he received matched LDS teachings better than the one recorded by Te Whatahoro. Should he publish his version? If he did not, he realized, the last living link with the important instruction he had undergone, elements of which he saw as agreeable with his own LDS faith, would disappear. Phillip Lambert, an LDS Māori scholar, has recently informed me that when Dr. Barlow eventually moved from Auckland to Hamilton, he began giving instruction in his own wānanga, presumably in an effort to pass on his own knowledge of the ancient lore forming the core of the old Io cult.

Some Concluding Remarks

On two occasions in October of 1950, I spent several days in Waikare, a very obscure place at the south end of the wonderful Bay of Islands. I engaged mostly in conversations with an aged tohunga with a remarkable command of the genealogy of the Ngati Hine hapū (subtribe) of the Nga Puhi iwi. He described some of the instructions he underwent in what I now believe was a whare wānanga, and he even wrote down some things for me. These conversations were the first time I had encountered someone with such a remarkable command of genealogy. He also introduced me to the related cosmogony and cosmology [Page 64]that included, among other things, a belief in a war in heaven which has spilled over into this world, a stairway back to the highest heaven, and so forth. I believe he indicated that his instruction had taken place at Waiomio, a little-known place just south of Kawakawa at the approach to the Bay of Islands. Recently I have learned from Jason Hartley that there was a wānanga at Waiomio which ceased to function in the 1930s. It had been shifted from further north to that place to avoid detection by the government, which was then striving to stamp out such institutions.25

I now regret that I did not record the contents of those conversations that took place in Waikare in October 1950 as well as other conversations I had with other Māori Saints. I wrongly assumed that several generations of missionaries had heard and recorded these things. I was busy urging the Saints to pay close attention to the Book of Mormon, not to gamble or drink beer, and that sort of thing. Looking back, I can now see that Māori I was teaching were also instructing me on how they read the Book of Mormon26 and how their own prophetic tradition grounded and buttressed their understanding and affection for both the message it contained and the community of Saints it engendered. Those who have ministered among the Māori are often captivated by them and their ways. Matters of the heart have had a truly lasting impact on LDS missionaries, as they made portions of the Māori world their own. Such has been my own experience.[Page 65]


  1. Marjorie Newton has received several awards for her book, and it has also been reviewed favorably. 

  2. Whenever I mention New Zealand, I also have in mind Aotearoa, which is its official Māori name. 

  3. See Louis Midgley, “Comments on the History of Mormon Maori Faith,” Association of Mormon Letters, posted 26 July 2013 at http://www.forums.mormonletters.org/yaf_postsm2657_Newton-Tiki-and-Temple-The-Mormon-Mission-in-New-Zealand-18541958-reviewed-by-Louis.aspx; and Midgley, Review of Tiki and Temple by Marjorie Newton, Journal of Mormon History 40/1 (2014): 253–56. 

  4. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the indigenous peoples of New Zealand had only tribal identities. They offered the word māori—which means normal, usual, or ordinary—to the Europeans looking for a name that embraced all the iwi (tribes), thereby for the first time creating their own single identity. The same word is found in the Cook Islands, and cognates are found in the Society Islands and elsewhere in eastern Polynesia, but the names given to those peoples most often came from that of the major island in a group or string of islands, whose names were sometimes given to those places by Europeans. Examples are the Cook Islands and the Marquesas Islands. The names for the indigenous peoples in the Pacific were sometimes thrust upon them by the first Europeans to “discover” them. 

  5. In two attempts to explain how the older Māori I knew in 1950–52 read the Book of Mormon, I have made a stab at doing some of this myself. See Louis Midgley, “A Singular Reading: The Māori and the Book of Mormon,” in Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, ed. Davis Bitton (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 245–76; and Midgley, “A Māori View of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 4–11. 

  6. Newton specifically mentions R. Lanier Britsch’s Unto the Islands of the Sea: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 253–345 and Brian W. Hunt’s Zion in New Zealand: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand, 1854-1977 (Temple View: Church College of New Zealand, 1977). 

  7. I have defined key Māori words parenthetically. 

  8. For those puzzled by some details in Tiki and Temple, an Internet search will supply the needed information. For example, one can easily access detailed accounts of the Treaty of Waitangi and its contentious subsequent history. Or, if one wonders how the Saints living in Maromaku—a tiny, entirely LDS community in the Northland—could have fashioned a chapel from one large log, a search for the word kauri will provide information about this kingly tree of the diverse hardwood forests of New Zealand. 

  9. This heroic adventure took Pratt and his companions from Nauvoo to New Bedford, Massachusetts, then by ship across the south Atlantic, around Africa, east through the Indian Ocean, then between Australia and New Zealand and northeast to Tubuai in the Australs, Tahiti in the Society Islands, and elsewhere in French Polynesia. 

  10. And their Māori allies, who sided with the Crown in an effort to avoid having their own lands confiscated or to settle old rivalries within and between tribes. 

  11. For details, see Bromley’s diary, now available as None Shall Excel Thee: The Life and Journals of William Michael Bromley, ed. Fred Bromley Hodson (n.p.: privately printed, 1990). I rely entirely upon Bromley’s account and not on the later supporting reminiscences of William McDonnel and Thomas Cox. 

  12. Bromley’s version of the encounter with the apostle Peter depended upon what Teimana told McDonnel, the only one of the three who could communicate with Teimana in Māori. 

  13. The habits of the old oral culture lingered in 1950. In 1985 when, with my wife, I started returning to New Zealand, I found that those I knew in 1950 could remember my stories better than I could. In their much detailed, more accurate versions, I was not a heroic figure but more of a brash and bookish comic figure. 

  14. For an example of a Māori scholar adding what is known about Māori prophets, see Robert Joseph, “Intercultural Exchange, Matakite Māori and the Mormon Church,” in Mana Māori and Christianity, ed. Hugh Morrison, Lachy Paterson, Brett Knowles, and Murray Rae (Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers, 2012), 43–72. I am hoping that a version of this essay will be made available by the Interpreter Foundation because it is difficult to access outside New Zealand. See Dr. Joseph’s contribution to Professor Daniel C. Peterson’s Mormon Scholars Testify, at http://mormonscholarstestify.org/955/robert-joseph, for his academic credentials and his Māori style. 

  15. In this essay, unless otherwise noted, I rely upon Herbert W. Williams, A Dictionary of the Maori Language, 7th ed. (Wellington, New Zealand: A. R. Shearer, Government Printer, 1975), for my understanding of crucial Māori words (though I will not cite individual entries in this dictionary). This remarkable dictionary was first published in 1844 in Paihia in the Bay of Islands, near where the Waitangi Treaty was signed. The definitions are both drawn from and illustrated by very early Māori usage. Hence they tend to predate the changes that have taken place in Māori since the arrival of English. 

  16. These passages state that a king thought that a seer was greater than a prophet (see Mosiah 8:15) and was instructed that a seer is also a revelator and a prophet (see Mosiah 8:16). 

  17. Hukatai, which means sea spray, and Rehutai, which means sea foam. 

  18. A Māori iwi (tribe) located on the east coast of the North Island. 

  19. For the English translation of the most important of these manuscripts, see H. T. Whatahoro, The Lore or the Whare-Wananga, or Teachings of the Maori College on Religion, Cosmogony, and History, trans. S. Percy Smith (San Bernardino, CA: Forgotten Books, 2008). This is an exact reprint of the 1913 original issued by the Polynesian Cultural Society. It is also available in electronic form at ForgottenBooks.org. 

  20. I suspect that the first generation of Māori Saints were prying out of credulous and unsophisticated LDS missionaries such things as the LDS belief in a war in heaven and a pathway back to a celestial world for those true and faithful, much of which was similar to their own esoteric lore. Despite the flaws and faults of LDS missionaries, and even perhaps because of their lack of sophistication, the Māori saw signs of mana (spiritual power) among at least some missionaries. I benefitted from such generosity. 

  21. When Io is designated as te matua (the parent), te hunga (the sacred), and so forth, these supplements to Io’s name seem to me to describe his attributes. 

  22. In this instance, for the primitive and most basic meaning of mana, I rely on Cleve Barlow’s Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Māori Culture (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1998), 61, which can be called mana tapu, which understanding differs from that found in Williams, Dictionary of the Maori Language, where that crucial word is defined merely as “authority, control,” and then as “influence, prestige,” which it clearly is. 

  23. Cleve Barlow’s usefull Tikanga Whakaaro was first published by Oxford University Press in 1991 and reprinted in 1992, 1993, 1994 (with corrections), 1996, and 1998. 

  24. Professor Barlow was initiated into a Nga Puhi version of Māori arcane lore. Recently, supplementing the Te Whatahoro lore, a version of the Tainui wānanga has been published. See Pei Te Hurinui Jones, He Tuhi Mārei-kura: A Treasury of Sacred Writings: A Māori Account of the Creation, Based on the Priestly Lore of the Tainui People (Hamilton, New Zealand: Aka and Associates, 2013), with a companion volume entirely in Māori. 

  25. For those who might care to enter this charmed world, I recommend Jason Hartley’s account of some encounters here and now with divine things. See his Ngā Mahi: The Pathway of the Stars: A Story of Truth, a Message to Awaken, a Gift from the Past (n.p.: privately printed, 2010). This book can be ordered at www.ngamahi.com. 

  26. I have described the eventual fruit of these constant enlightening conversations about the Book of Mormon in two essays cited in note 5, above. 

Posted in Review and tagged , , , , on . Bookmark the permalink.
mm

About Louis C. Midgley

Louis Midgley (Ph.D. Brown University) is an emeritus professor of political science at Brigham Young University, where he taught the history of political philosophy, which includes efforts of Christian churchmen and theologians to identify, explain, understand and cope with the evils in this world. Dr. Midgley has therefore had an abiding interest in both dogmatic and systematic theology, and the alternatives to both. His doctoral dissertation was on the religious socialist political ideology of Paul Tillich, a once famous German American Protestant theologian, most famous for his systematic theology which is a radical elaboration of classical theism. Dr. Midgley’s encounter with the writings of Leo Strauss, an influential Jewish philosopher/intellectual historian drew his attention to the radical challenge posed by what is often called modernity to both the wisdom of Jerusalem, which is grounded on divine revelation, and also the contrasting, competing wisdom of Athens, which was fashioned by unaided human reason. Dr. Midgley has an interest in the ways in which communities of faith have responded to the challenges posed by modernity to faith in God grounded on divine special revelation.

15 thoughts on “Māori Latter-day Saint Faith: Some Preliminary Remarks

  1. I read the article this morning and I really enjoyed it. I liked the background information about the history of the Maori people, and their being prepared for the gospel. It would be interesting to have someone write a book about the similarities between their beliefs about pre-mortal existence and the council in heaven and so on.

    I liked that you touched on the effect that modernity has on the beliefs of the Maori people as well as the current society we live in. Receiving revelations and divine guidance is all good in the ancient past, but threatening to our modern world. It means that there may be a divine plan of sorts and a divine planner who has our best interests at heart, who (perish the thought) may even have some rules regarding personal conduct that we ought to follow.

    As one who has experienced that divine guidance in my life I find it hard to believe that anyone could claim that it doesn’t exist, but those whose goals in life are built around satisfying the appetites of their stomach or crotch are sure to disagree.

    In any case another excellent Midgley article, and I look forward to reading more.

  2. I very much appreciate Mark’s endorsement of what I have written. I agree that it would be nice to have available a detailed treatment of the similarities (and differences) between what was taught in wananga and Latter-day Saint beliefs. But this must not be the work of a Pakeha; it must be the work of Maori scholarship. The wananga instruction by Herewini Jones provides, among other things, something like this in the form of detailed lectures. In addition, others are busy carefully assembling materials from which a more comprehensive and accurate account can be fashioned.

    But the old traditional wananga lore was secret, or perhaps it can more accurately be called sacred. It involved what the Maori call tapu. When the famous Captain James Cook and his officers and people (crew) heard this word in Tahiti (the Society Islands), they turned it into the English word taboo. Be that as it may, the knowledge of divine things was such that it should not be spread around indiscriminately. Doing that desecrates the divine. This is part of the reason for some of my own reticence to spell out the details of that portion of Maori lore.

    But the fact that it was not immediately available in written form has led to the argument that it was an invention out of whole cloth by Maori struggling to have something to compete with the Bible. But it does not, from my perspective, compete with my understanding of the LDS scriptures. The argument that the Maori in various tribes faked something like the Bible seems implausible to informed Maori Latter-day Saints, and I fully agree with them. But so do well-informed Maori scholars.

    Contemplate for a moment the following passage from an interview with the remarkably learned Sir Apirana Ngata. (I thank Phillip Lambert, an LDS Maori scholar, for calling this to my attention.)

    Apirana Ngata, “The Io Cult—Early Migration—Puzzle of the Canoes: A Recorded Talk by A. T. Ngata,”Journal of the Polynesian Society 59/4 (1950): 335-346.
    http://www.jps.auckland.ac.nz/document/?wid=2580

    THE IO CULT—EARLY MIGRATION—PUZZLE OF THE CANOES
    A RECORDED TALK BY A. T. NGATA.
    THE memories that will be retained longest by friends of the late Sir Apirana Ngata are those of the all too few occasions when, by a fireside, in a room, at the fringe of a marae, at a tribal gathering, in a meetinghouse, he would release a veritable flood of knowledge once the word spoken, or the gesture made perhaps, fused with the thoughts upper-most or deepest in his mind at that instant.

    All who had the privilege of listening to him in these circumstances—the “talks” at times lasted from the early evening to the early morning hours, or began after midnight and ended as the sun rose—often wished that these quite informal and spontaneous exchanges could be preserved in their entirety. Unfortunately the conditions were never really favourable, and the recording means not then at hand, to secure his words.

    Sir Apirana’s fluency when he spoke was a byword. His informative narrations which ranged over the breadth and depth of Maori national and tribal history, indeed of the whole realm of the Maori and Polynesian world, were masterpieces and much treasured. And were all the more remarkable because he scorned the use of notes or aids to prompt his prodigious memory, his ever ready mind. The great pity is that so little of all his talks has been committed in anything like permanent form, which would have allowed others access to the wealth of his unparalled knowledge.

    However, last year, Mr. John Te Herekiekie Grace obtained the use of a tape recording machine and asked Sir Apirana Ngata if he would be willing to have an informal talk recorded. The outcome was the “trial talk” which follows, a trial which, it was hoped, would have led to other invaluable recordings being made. This one talk is presented almost verbatim. It was entirely unrehearsed and made without notes, and is but slightly abridged in accordance with Mr. Grace’s wishes.

    – page 336
    The Society acknowledges its debt to Mr. Grace for making available for publication this transcription of the first—and most regrettably the last—recorded talk of such a character by Sir Apirana.—The Editors.

    THE CULT OF IO.
    In the depreciation of the value of Stimson’s work in the Pacific and of Whatahoro’s here in New Zealand, conclusions have been arrived at by certain people that the Cult of Io was evolved in New Zealand, and never in the Pacific. I tupu ki konei (It was evolved here).

    The evidence of the coverage of the Cult of Io in New Zealand shows that it is not confined to one district like the Wairarapa or even the East Coast. We may say that the East Coast is fairly uniform in its tradition. You find it in the Wanganui River, you find it at Thames, and the remarkable thing from our point of view on the East Coast, you find it at Tolaga Bay in the Rakeiora whare wananga.

    Judge Maning as a young man, not long settled in the Hokianga and quite unaware of the tapu and prohibitions, one day went chasing his horse which had strayed, and presently he heard a voice intoning. He began to follow up the voice and broke in on an old chap stark naked up against a cliff intoning the Io karakia. The old tohunga pulled himself up and addressed himself to the young Pakeha and he said to him, “Oh well, you have only got the alternative of death or becoming an adept of this Cult.”

    Maning chose to become an adept and he was the only Pakeha who made a complete study of the Cult of Io. He absorbed it all, karakia and everything, and was even initiated in it. Well, in due course he had to go to London for medical advice. He had cancer and while he was dying he wrote down all this material. Then his conscience began to prick him because one of the things that you do when you become initiated in the Cult of Io is to swear secrecy, and he had taken the oath of secrecy. Well now, would that obtain in the case of an oath made to a savage? He was arguing that point when he heard of Bishop W. L. Williams from Gisborne. Williams was not a Bishop then but an Archdeacon. So he sent for him and discussed with him this
    – 337
    question of conscience. The Archdeacon said, “Well, your duty is clear. It does not matter whether the oath is given to a heathen or otherwise. Once it is given it is binding on your conscience.”

    When the Archdeacon left Maning ordered the housemaid to make a fire and he burned the manuscript. Now, that story is well accredited. It comes from Bishop Leonard Williams to Bishop Herbert Williams and it was Herbert Williams who told it. I said to Herbert, “What would you have done?” “Oh,” he said, “I would have had the manuscript saved in the interest of science.”

    You can’t have a cult obtaining amongst seven different tribes unless you were to say that the secrecy which hedged round it had collapsed when the Pakeha came. It did not.

    • Yes I am currently working on a book and an article for this publication (If they will except it) on the Whare Wananga and the Gospel. Also I am currently helping a kuia based in Hawaii publish her manuscript that she has been working on for 30yrs that covers Te Ao Maori and the Gospel. Many will find it a fascinating read though not all will agree with her findings. And so it is with korero of the different Whare Wananga they do not all agree in every aspect but emphasize certain elements peculiar to their respective tribes. For instance the tribes of Rangitane, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou, Ngai Tahu all agree that Tane received the three baskets of knowledge from Io. The common denominator here is that these tribes come off the Takitimu waka. However it is the tribes of Tanui, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Rereahu that say it was Tawhaki that gained the three baskets of knowledge from Io. In fact Ngati Rereahu say that Tane is Io. Again these tribes stem from the same waka. If we were to look at the northern tribes two ancestors stand out namley Tawhaki and Nukutawhiti. The Marino Kato Whare Wananga of Awarua trace their ancestry to Hawaii. The significance of all this highlights how each Whare Wananga teaches and emphasizes certain teachings according to which islands of the pacific they migrated from which by extension includes the prevailing sacred school of learning that held sway over the Priests of each waka at the time of their migration to Aotearoa. It is my hunch that at one time all the korero of each Wananga converged at some point in history possibly at Taputapuatea in Tahiti.

      As for H T Whatahoro too much attention has been given to him and his writings. Most attacks have been aimed at him over the Cult of Io but the Tainui/Maniapoto/Ngati Rereahu and Ngati Maru korero on Io has received little attention from scholars yet some of the earliest references recorded about Io come from this region.

      What follows is a re-edited transcript of Sir Apirana Ngata’s recorded interview re-transcribed from the original audio recording in my files. The transcript Dr Midgley quotes is slightly altered.

      “…Peter arrived at the conclusion that the Cult of Io was evolved in New Zealand; never was in the pacific (undecipherable maori) we took him to Auckland when he went to say good bye. And myself Rangi, Pei and we said Peter the evidence of the coverage of the Cult of Io in New Zealand shows that it is not confined to one district like Wairarapa or Even the East Coast you may say that the East Coast is Fairly uniform in its tradition. You find it in the Wanganui river, you find it in Thames. It is a remarkable thing from our stand point in the East Coast you find it at Tolaga Bay; Te Rawheoro whare wananga. And then Pei chipped in and said “It’s right through the Tanui disctrict.”

      The late Pei Te Hurinui Jones unpublished manuscript was recently published by his great grand daughter which elucidates the inner workings of the ancient Tainui Whare Wananga. It ads weight to the Io debate and introduces some interesting Tikanga.

      Wow I could go on – Brother Midgley thank you for writing this article.

      I don’t have time to

      • Please notice that Phillip effortlessly employs Maori terms perhaps without noticing that his American audience will be puzzled. Hence I must, it seems, provide a bit of a glossary to explain as well as I can the Maori words that he has used.
        A kuia is a respected older woman, or grandmother. My wife is pleased to be so described. I am sometimes described as a porangi Pakeha, which means up-in-the-night or crazy. That label probably fits.
        A korero is an address, speech, teaching.
        Tane, an important figure in the grand council and the war in heaven, is the name for man throughout eastern Polynesia. Tane becomes Kane in Hawaiian.
        The idea that Tane is Io is something like saying that Adam is God.
        A waka is a canoe. Phil is referring to the so-called Great Fleet of canoes that brought the Maori to Aotearoa/New Zealand from the Society Islands (or what we call Tahiti) and, in one instance, Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Maori tribes trace their existence to one or another waka. The word has come to mean a vehicle of transportation, hence “my waka is in the shop because I must have its muffler fixed.”
        Taputapuatea is the most famous and central marae in the Pacific. It is located on Ra’iatea in the Society Islands. Next to Tahiti this is the second largest island in French Polynesia. It is the place from which Hawaii, New Zealand and the rest of eastern Polynesia seem to have been settled.
        Te Ao Maori – the Maori world. Ao means brilliance or light, as in the name Aotearoa, where the very bright light is also roa (or long).
        Three baskets of wisdom – divine special revelations providing both basic mundane and higher celestial knowledge.
        The Marino Kato whare wananga (house where esoteric indoctinaton/initiation took place) was traditionally held at Awarua in the Northland, but was shifted around to avoid detection by agents of the Crown following after the passage of the Tohunga Suppression Act. I only recently learned the name of the wananga held at Waiomio (near the Bay of Islands), which was disbanded at that place in the 1930s.

  3. I very much appreciate Phillip Lambert’s comment. He is constantly teaching me new things. His remarks are clear evidence that Maori scholars are the proper one’s to grapple with and explicate both the story of Maori faith, and hence also with what I have called the providential joining of two prophetic traditions. The Maori were able to keep alive what Hugh Nibley like to call a Mantic tradition of openness to divine special revelations. This has not disappeared.

    Their problem has not been the destructive impact of the intellectual acids of modernity–that is, post-enlightenment European secular ideology, but European diseases, including attractively pacaged vices such as alcohol, gambling, casual sex and so forth, which have deracinated indigenous peoples everywhere Europeans have settled. What stunned me in 1950 was how candid they often were about these matters. But they were also open to turning to God and away from fashionable, attractive sensual, carnal, strictly worldly things. The message brought to the Maori by naive LDS missionaries, for those who would listen and respond, has provided a shield and protection against the evils that afflict those who have forgotten or turned away from their own best Maori traditions. This also explains why some of the best LDS missionaries were often either Maori, or those who understood and had even adopted much of the best in Maori traditions.

    • I appreciate David O’Barr mentioning my essay in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 4-11. For my first and more detailed account, see “A Singular Reading: The Maori and the Book of Mormon,” in Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, ed. Davis Bitton (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 245–76. See In note #28, I mention J. Frank Stimson’s Tuamotuan Religion (Honolulu, Hi.: Bishop Museum, 1933), 69–80, 88–9), in which he traces “the Maori Io cult back to earlier high esoteric cosmology involving iho, kio, and kiho, found widely in the eastern Pacific.” (The sound shifts are typical of Polynesian dialects.) This evidence seems to me, and also to Sir Apirana Ngata in 1950, to count against the idea that the Io cult was invented by Maori after the arrival of Europeans.

  4. Lou, you continue your valuable service to several communities by forcing upon them respect for the unique tradition of the wananga and demanding that it receive respect. As you know, my brief stay in New Zealand in February-April 1947 did not expose me to any significant Maori lore, but what I learned in two years in Rarotonga thereafter supports what you say.

    • John, I very much appreciate your kind remarks concerning my endeavors. The fact is that those Maori who once listened to me opine, and in their own way educated me, changed my life for the better. I am still trying to repay the debt I own them for their kind hospitality.

  5. Hi Brother Midgley how are you? I had overlooked this passage from your article and wish to comment on it:

    “There is also a place in Māori lore for whatu kura (seer stones), two of which have names.17 Seer stones had an important place in the initiation into the arcane Māori mysteries. This is not, however, the place to go into detail other than to assert that, from within the horizon of Māori tradition, both seers and seer stones are not problematic.”

    The whatu kura were not seer stones and should be referred to as such in the sense portrayed here in relation to Joseph Smiths personal seer stone or the urim and thummim (interpreter’s) though they are tantalizingly similar they did not function in the same way. Though I wholeheartedly agree with your statement:

    “… from within the horizon of Māori tradition, both seers and seer stones are not problematic.”

    Though it is still hard to determine from current documentary research whether this feature of the restoration had a direct influence on the missionary efforts of the late 1800’s to convert maori in the Kahungunu/Rangitane tribal areas.

    A recent document was given to me from Majorie Newton of Whatahoro relating his conversion to the church. It was a dream he had of the Saviour that convinced him that the message of the restored gospel was true. Absent from this account is any mention of being taught about the translation of book mormon and Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones and other details of that history and the close affinity Whatahoro might have felt it had with certain aspects of the esoteric lore of the Whare Wananga he had so prodigiously recorded decades earlier. It is not known presently whether he was taught this at all in his first encounters with the missionaries.

    Interestingly the dream he had did not include any maori imagery or symbolism from the Whare Wananga but rather used biblical imagery in which he readily understood.

    Further more this document helps, in my opinion, to eliminate any doubts one has concerning the christian influence of his writings that so many scholars accuse him of having.

    • Phillip Lambert has raised what are for me both interesting and important issues about how we should understand the way the first Maori to become Latter-day Saints understood what they were receiving from our missionaries. I number my responses to the questions Phillip has raised:

      1. I agree that Maori whatu kura (seer stone) did not operate in the same way as the Interpreters that came with the plates, which Joseph Smith used, along with his own seer stone, to see words in English that he dictated to his scribes that eventually became the Book of Mormon in English. Why? The Maori could not see words, as did Joseph Smith, since they had no written language. Instead, something else was happening, perhaps hearing words, or seeing places and persons or directions, with their seer stones. But Joseph could also see objects and distant places. So there is at least some overlap. I have also wondered, given the names of the two Maori seer stones (Hukatai and Rehutai, which mean sea spray and sea foam) whether they were used for navigational purposes. This is, however, merely a guess on my part. The role of tiny seer stones in the initiation that took place in whare wananga also intrigues me. At my age and with my limited gifts, these are matters for Maori scholars to investigate.

      2. And I fully agree that it is currently not possible to determine what role, if any, Maori seer stones might have played the conversion of Maori immediately after 1882 to the Church of Jesus Christ. I am not aware of among the Ngati Kahunganu that suggest that they played any role. But remember in 1950 that some Nga Puhi in the Northland suggested that some unidentified Maori, I assume not in the Northland, were impressed when they discovered that Joseph Smith had used the Interpreters mentioned in the Book of Mormon, which are clearly seer stones, to translate the Book of Mormon. This, as I now remember those conversations, were said to have seemed to some Maori as the appropriate way for him to have gotten a record from God. I am, I confess, relying on my now fragile memory of conversations that took place in 1950. This is, indeed, a very slender reed.

      3. But I also recall that I later found a brief mention of Maori seer stones in something published in Utah by a former LDS missionary to New Zealand. I thought that I could find a copy of that article in my files, but so far I have failed. I should consult the experts at the Church Archive in Salt Lake and see if can, with their assistance, recover this article.

      4. I loved Phillip’s word “tantalizing” to describe the possible links between the Interpreters (and Joseph’s own seer stone and his role a Seer), and Maori seer stones and Maori Matakite (Seers).

      5. I am not familiar with Te Whatahoro’s dream, but I am not surprised that it was filled with biblical and not specifically Maori imagery or anything associated with the whare wananga or the Io cult. I had hoped to make something like this point by setting out the encounter that Hari Ptomaine had with the Apostle Peter. Maori were clearly being directed to the Church of Jesus Christ from what they already knew to what supplemented their previous understanding. The problem was that our missionaries mostly remained uninformed on what the Maori already had.

      I must again thank Phillip for his valuable contribution to my own understanding of the Maori world, and hence for his challenging remarks. And I urge those who read my response to Phillip’s comments here to also have a close look at his response to my more recent review of Jason Hartley’s Nga Magi, and my rejoinder. I appreciate this kind of conversation.

  6. Tena koe e Rangatira Louis Migley. I would like to amend my previous korero on the Whatu Kura (mauri stones) and “seer stone” comment. I now believe that some of these stones of the whare wananga (esoteric school) did indeed function as a seer stone. The tikanga (the right way) of these stones of the whare wananga was that the mauri (life force) of the parent rock located at the most sacred spot of the whare wananga transferred to the stones retained by the tauira (students) upon the two stones touching one another. This practice takes it’s origin from when Tane received the original two stones from the temple Rangiatea in the highest heaven – Tikitiki-o-nga-rangi. These two stones the Tane was endowed with would have touched the parent stone which held the original mauri in keeping with the tikanga. Whatahoro Jury told Elsdon Best that a large stone rested on the Marae (royal courtyard) of the Temple Matangireia. This stone allowed Io (the supreme being) to see all the happenings of all of the other 11 heavens below the 12th heaven that he resided in. Thus one of the Tainui and Ngati Toa tribes sacred names of Io is “Io Matatkanakana” meaning “Io the Far seeing). It is perhaps upon this stone that the other two stones given to Tane touched and thus endowing them with the qualities of a seer stone. This makes sense when we consider that the kupu (word) “whatu” also is translated as “eye” or “pupil.”

    Further to this I was given a manuscript of the korero (words) of Hemi Whautere Witehira in which he states that the waka (double hulled canoe) Mahuhu-i-te-rangi brought a stone over from Hawaiiki called “Tukiomanahi” he states “it was used by the most powerful tohunga (priest shaman) when he consulted the gods or when he had to take urgent matters.)

  7. Again, I very much appreciate the efforts of Phillip Lambert to help me understand Maori things. I am a kind of outsider to all these things. And I very much appreciate expert help from others who know more about such matters than I ever will. I was serious when I described my remarks as “preliminary.”

    • Matatika to korero e Rangatira Midgley!

      You’ll be interested to know that bro Hemi Whautere Witehira said that the stone brought over by the Mahuhu-i-te rangi was a two sided stone one side was called Huka-a-tai and the other Rehua-tai. Kahungunu sources render the spelling of the second kupu “Rehu-tai.”

      Rehua-tai may not be a misspelling but may be a authentic rendering that preserves Nga Puhi sacred lore.

      Rehua as you know is the name of a star Antares in the kahui whetu (constellation) of scorpius or te waka o tamarereti.

      But Rehua is also the Tohunga Ahurewa of Io’s whare wananga Rangiatea in the 12th heaven of our sacred lore. He is flanked or assisted by two other tohunga who act as tohunga turuki – Ruatau and Aitupawa.

      The star Rehua is accompanied by two other stars in close proximity in the constellation te waka o tamarereti namely Pekehawani and Ruhi-i-te-rangi. These may double as the aforementioned tohunga turuki of Rehua.

      A chant from the Aotea waka of the Taranaki people preserve these lines:

      “Tena te waka,
      Ka tau ki Tipua-o-te-Rangi,
      Ki Tawhito-o-te-Rangi,
      Nga turanga whetu o Rehua…”

      “It came from the Great-Sky-above-us.
      Now the course of the canoe rests
      On the Sacred Place of Heaven,
      The dwelling of the Ancient Ones
      Beneath the star-god Rehua’s eye.”

      This translation renders “whetu” star as eye. This is in keeping with another saying which refers to the stars as “Mata kamokamo” the “blinking eyes”

      And further it is well known among the maori that the left eye (whatu) of a dead chief becomes a star in the heavens.

      Incidentally a Tuhoe informant tells me that his tupuna’s manuscript says that Tipua-o-te-Rangi,
      and Tawhito-o-te-Rangi are also stars that sit below Rehua (Antares) and are in fact according to the whare wananga recitals of Tuhoe are actually themselves whare wananga that Tane visited to acquire knowledge.

      He told me that the procession of the constellation Scopius (Te Waka o Tamarereti) is a series of whare wananga that Tane attended.

      As an aside the informant says that Tane created 15 chiefly stars in the beginning. Raureti Te Huia says that in the whare wananga o Maniapoto Io took 12 tokotoko (sticks) and created 12 stars. Ngai Tahu and the Nga Puhi Whare Wananga also teach of 12 principle stars.

      This korero closely matches the star lore of the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.

*