Mormon Pacific Historical Society



Mormonism, Maori


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched a sustained mission to the New Zealand Maori beginning in the 1880s. Within a few short years thousands had been baptized. By the turn of the century, the church counted nearly a tenth of the total Maori population as members, with a significantly higher percentage in certain pas (settlements) along the east coast of the North Island from the southern Wairarapa to Poverty Bay and beyond.1 The reason Mormonism was so well accepted among a significant minority of Maori in the final decades of the nineteenth century and why it continues to thrive among them in the twenty-first century is that it provided an unusually rich, culturally compatible resource for self-understanding. Becoming Mormon represented religious, cultural innovation for nineteenth-century Maori. How that innovation may have acquired authenticity in their eyes and how it played out in the first sustained attempt to teach the Maori are the subjects of my presentation.