Filed Under Settlers

Joseph F. Smith and the Islanders of Iosepa

The Hawaiian members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a very special relationship with the Church’s sixth president, Joseph F. Smith. He was influential in Hawaiian migrations both to and from Utah, including during the time that many of them resided in Iosepa, a Hawaiian colony.

At the age of fifteen, Joseph F. Smith served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1850s. During his several missions, Smith learned the Hawaiian language and developed a loving relationship with the Native Hawaiians. Throughout his life, Smith traveled to Hawaii more often than any other place outside of the western United States. Smith was successful in converting many Hawaiians to the LDS Church. The doctrine of gathering to “Zion” was a central teaching preached by Joseph F. Smith and other missionaries at that time. When immigration laws allowed it, a few hundred Hawaiian Latter-day Saints migrated to Utah to gather with their fellow Saints and to follow the teachings they had received. The Islanders experienced racism, discrimination, job-turnover, and prejudice that led the LDS Church to seek solutions. In 1889, a settlement was established in Tooele County for the Pacific Islanders settling in Utah. It was to be named after Joseph F. Smith, which in the Hawaiian Language is “Iosepa.” At that time, Smith was a member of the Church’s First Presidency and would later become the President of the Church.

In both public and private correspondence, Joseph F. Smith was explicit in expressing his love for the Iosepan Saints. With a letter to S. M. Kinimakalehua of Iosepa, Smith sent “some cloth pants for the cold time that is coming… This is only rags, but take it with my love.” He reported that “Canon [George Q. Cannon] is joining with my family and I in sending a lot of our love to you and Makaweli and all of the Saints in Iosepa.” During a visit to Hawaii in 1915, Smith became convinced of the need for a temple in Hawaii. Upon returning to Utah, he encouraged the Hawaiian Saints to move back to Hawaii and help build a temple in La’ie. Smith also thought that the future Church Presidents would not have the same love for the Hawaiians that he did, which influenced his encouragement of the Islanders to return to their homeland. The Saints trusted in the council of Joseph F. Smith, and most resettled near the temple site in Hawaii. The settlement of Iosepa was fully abandoned by 1917. In November of 1918, Joseph F. Smith passed away and one year later the La’ie Temple was completed. 

Images

Joseph F. Smith and Hawaiian Saints
Joseph F. Smith and Hawaiian Saints Joseph F. Smith with a group of Hawaiian Saints Source: Courtesy of The Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints https://rsc.byu.edu/laie-hawaii-temple-century-aloha/decision-build-temple-hawaii#_note-30
Iosepa Saints
Iosepa Saints Hawaiian Saints from Iosepa Source: Courtesy of The University Archives and Special Collections, Joseph F. Smith Library, Brigham Young University Hawaii. https://rsc.byu.edu/laie-hawaii-temple-century-aloha/gathering-place-laie
Joseph F. Smith Letter to Kinimakelehua
Joseph F. Smith Letter to Kinimakelehua Handwritten letter from Joseph F. Smith in Hawaiian with an English translation Source: Courtesy of The Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/89fe86de-3499-4d40-9262-2eda01ddea6b/1/16?lang=eng
Joseph F. Smith and Hawaiian Saints
Joseph F. Smith and Hawaiian Saints Joseph F. Smith visiting with Hawaiian Saints during his visit in 1915. Source: Courtesy of The Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets/00ff68b4-1969-4980-ae82-20f32bc40a3d/0/0

Location

Metadata

Jordan Castillo, Brigham Young University, “Joseph F. Smith and the Islanders of Iosepa,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/780.