Maori, Mormons, and Metagenealogy

In December, my family had the chance to spend several weeks with my sister-in-law and her family, who, fortuitously, happen to live in New Zealand.

Aside from the usual daily chores (sea-kayaking, snorkeling for kina, fishing for snapper, collecting and cooking shellfish, cavorting in the waves, hiking, bone-carving, photography…), one of the activities we enjoyed most was visiting Maori historical and cultural sites.

Imagine my surprise when I kicked up a post-tour conversation with a Maori guide about the Treaty of Waitangi and heard him tell of how some 19th century Maori drew theological support for bloody resistance to British rule from a belief that the Maori were Israelites, and that the Old Testament provided those Maori both hope and permission for a violent uprising against their perceived oppressors.

Since returning home, I’ve researched some of my NZ blind spots so I’ll be better prepared next trip (for example, I couldn’t prepare sea urchin roe so that it was consistently excellent, and I obviously hadn’t absorbed lesson 18 of the 1937 LDS Junior Genealogical Class manual, titled “Maori Traditions and Genealogies,” and I couldn’t have answered that lesson’s question #9, “Can you show that the natives of New Zealand are also of the covenant people of Israel?”).

Here’s the overly simplistic scoop on Maoris and Israelism:

As early as the 1820s, some protestant missionaries who had visited NZ were preaching that the Maori were descendants of either the Jews or the ten lost tribes. Parallels that missionaries proffered as evidence of a genetic link included a similarity between some Maori and Hebrew words, a shared trading prowess, shared cannibalism, and that a Maori would decapitate a foe killed in battle–like David with Goliath.

Tudor Parfitt writes that “By the middle of the nineteenth century many Maoris had internalized the colonial fantasies about them and started declaring themselves to be Israelites.” This was apparently without appreciable Mormon assistance. According to the LDS Church Almanac, Mormons missionaries arrived in NZ in 1854, but only sought out English-speaking immigrants. It wasn’t until 1881 that the Mormons appeared to establish a successful teaching relationship with the Maori.

From the 1870s and into the 1900s there are examples of Maori Christian prophets leading followers in revolt against the British. Some were visited by the angel Gabriel or Michael, some considered themselves to be Moses or Moses-like, some recreated the ark of the covenant or an Israelite temple. In 1871, followers of the prophet Te Ua Jew Ua captured the crew and passengers of a British ship. They released the crew’s two Jewish members because they considered them to be kinfolk. Parfitt writes that after decapitating a passenger the Maori priest prayed, “Hear o Israel, this is the word of God, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are the Jews who were lost and have been persecuted!” [The priest] then gouged out [the passenger’s] eyes and gave orders that his head be smoke-cured.” (I’m suspicious about some of the detail of this story, Parfitt recounts it on p. 171)

I cite the Maori example of Israelism as comparative context which may be helpful in contemplating Israelism within the Mormon community.

Vern Swanson’s hefty new (2006) book, The Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism’s Sacred Bloodline, is probably the most recent (and certainly the heaviest) Mormon work to suggest that Mormons are significantly descended from a “royal” lineage (mostly from Ephraim, with some descent from Judah). Of course, his work has garnered notoriety for his main focus: the additional suggestion that some church members, and perhaps most apostles and seventies, are literal genetic descendants of Jesus.

Kraut’s 1969 book, Jesus Was Married, includes some of the known details about what O.Hyde, BY, O.Pratt, J.Taylor, HC. Kimball, GQ Cannon, and L. Snow taught regarding Saints (usually church leaders) being descendants of Christ. Swanson provides a more complete account of teachings by 19th century Mormon leaders on the matter. He also adds a fair amount of scriptural analysis, comparisons to Arthurian legends and other literature, and introduces viewpoints of Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce McConkie, and other 20th century Mormon writers.

However, I don’t mean to initiate a debate over (a) whether Jesus was married (b) whether Mormons or Maori are genetic descendants of an Israelite tribe or Jesus, or (c) whether if (a) and (b) were true it would have any more religious significance than would genetic descent from a female peasant from the Chinese Han Dynasty.

Instead, let me ask for your thoughts on some of the reasons or motivations a people, be they Maori or Mormon, might have for defining themselves as genetic descendants of the Israelites.

Here’s my initial list of potential influences:

1. A Sticky Narrative. The Old Testament was such a vibrant, living text for the Saints that they found it easy to read themselves into the narrative. They read about Israelites, they dreamed about Israelites, and when they looked into the mirror, they saw Israelites (as did other OT-focused groups of the same era, including William Blake and many other English, the New Israelites of Vermont, the Hau Hau Maori, etc.). Perhaps Joseph Smith’s imaging of Missouri as the Garden of Eden can be viewed as geographic instance of the same phenomena: the Old Testament text formed such an important part of his world view that it was easy to locate his own geography and history in sacred narrative.

2. Religious Primitivism. Our forebears were trying to restore the culture and experience Old Testament Israelites in many respects (prophets, patriarchy, polygamy, the exodus, etc.). Since lineage mattered to the tribes of the Old Testament, it mattered to the early Mormons.

3. Literal scripture interpretation. A belief that genetic Israelite lineage made an actual difference to God in that it specially qualified someone for a priesthood or other religious blessing or authority. As Swanson shows, this motivation was/is likely to rely on Old Testament prophecies of a day when the then-wicked Israelites would repent, be gathered, and blessed with glory and power, along with restoration scriptures that speak of a lineal right to priesthood or power (e.g., D&C 107:40).

4. Psychology: a subsconscious attempt to increase a community’s self esteem, especially in a context of significant persecution. I think I remember (but I can’t find it now) Bringhurst, in Saints, Slaves, and Blacks, suggesting this may have been a factor for the acceptance of Israelism (and the denigration of some non light-skinned ethnic groups) among early Mormons. Parfitt points out that “The Maoris began to see themselves as the children of Israel, enslaved in a white man’s bondage and bound to resist by what ever means they could, as had the Israelites of old. The biblical stories provided them with a manifesto of resistance. The myth of the Lost Tribes was used as a means of restructuring their own Maori identity in the cause of this resistance and of enriching their own past with a myth that carried with it clouds of glory in the eyes of their all-powerful conquerors.” (169)

5. Historical accuracy.

6. Power grab. Cherie Woodworth’s “The Tsar’s Descent from Caesar” discusses 16th century tsars inventing a genetic lineage connecting them to Ceasar in order to justify their rule. That’s one instance of the popular category of “People invent royal genealogies in order to justify a claim to power or wealth.”

I welcome your improvements, criticism, or additions.


Cherie Kartchner Woodworth, “The Tsar’s Descent from Caesar: Clans, Genealogy, Mythmaking, and Statehood in Russia, 1400-1550.” Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale, 2001.

Ogden Kraut. Jesus Was Married. Salt Lake City: Self published, 1969.

Tudor Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth. London: Orion Press, 2002.

William E. Phipps, “The Case for a Married Jesus,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 7: 4, Winter 1972

Vern G. Swanson, Dynasty of the Holy Grail: Mormonism’s Sacred Bloodline. Springville: Cedar Fort, 2006.

Children of the Covenant: A Lesson Book for Second year Junior Genealogical Classes. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1937.

Kia ora,
Stirling Adams


  1. This type of behavior is more common than one would think and is not restricted to Israelitism among a vast array of people touched by European culture (including Mr. Whitie, who often invoked Israelite descent). I see it as part of origin narratives and the desire to locate oneself in human history. There is another similar behavior, viz, if you can’t come up with an important genealogy, make your genealogy important, which is how we get, in part, hagiographic treatments of known forebears (it’s not just Mormons that valorize past leaders like this).

    If you look at JSJ closely, you’ll see I think that in addition to many other aspects, his endorsement of Israelitism was part of a project to unite the entire human family past and present to protect against the disruptive influence of death.

    Mircea Eliade has some fascinating language about ritual uses of sacralized ancestors, particularly those who actually return to visit (and if you’ll recall JSJ not only claimed Israelite ancestry, he claimed visits from those very ancestors).

  2. Why did some Maori choose to adopt the myth of Israelism?


    The idea of a Whitening Maori—the notion that Maori were a superior kind of inferior, a particularly European-like and convertible savage—arose with colonists’ views that Maori were dying out and that the British could therefore inherit their culture, history, as well as their land, without the inconvenience of living owners.

    Of course the process backfired, in a sense, to the extent that some prominent Maori leaders (such as Apirana Ngata) adopted the myth to further their political aspirations and to strengthen the position of Maori vs. various Pakeha governments in the form of seats in Parliament, land and natural resource rights, and separate welfare and educational institutions.

  3. Here are a few other reasons I can think of.

    Trust: Someone told you that you were a child of Israel that you trusted, so it must be true.

    Justification: Something incredible has happened to you and not others and you try to justify why you were fortunate and they were not.

    Misunderstanding: Basic Symbolism of the Parent Child Relationship could have been misinterpreted while reading the scriptures.

  4. “shared cannibalism…” okay, what bible story ma I forgetting?

  5. ma = am (sorry)

  6. David, on “shared cannibalism,” there was a fair bit of anti-semitic lore regarding cannibalism floating around in the 1700s and 1800s (just as that was one of the complaints against early Christians). So, a preacher’s source of linking Jews to that may have been lore, not the OT text. There are a few references to such acts in the bible: Leviticus 26:27-29, 2 Kings 6:26-30, Deut. 28:53, Jeremiah 19:8-9, Ezekiel 5:8-10.

  7. This is fairly new to me, so I did a google book search from 1800-1930. I hadn’t realized how pervasive these ideas were. I’m curious if it was fairly common for protestant missionaries to Israelize indigenous peoples in the nineteenth century (beyond the obvious American natives).

  8. a random John says:

    Is this some sort of troll aimed at getting Louis Midgley to show up at BCC? Fondue for all?

    In all seriousness, I’m under the impression that this is his favorite topic.

  9. RE: Royaly lineage. There has been several offerings lately and some press attention (Hardy at DNews seems to like the topic, he has written several pieces). I wonder if anyone has seen:

    R. Merle Fowler (2006) Joseph Smith and His Royal Lineage, vol. 1-2. [Midway, UT: Advanced Print Books] (it looks pretty sketchy).

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    I just sent Lou a notice as to this thread, so hopefully he’ll stop by and tell some stories.

  11. Louis Midgley says:

    Kevin just informed me of this very interesting discussion. I very much enjoyed the little essay that got this started. What I worry about with blogs is that everyone suddenly has an opinion. I urge all of you to be interested in this matter, but I also urge you to restrain forming opinions before you dig into the literature.

    I am right now very busy. So I cannot summarize the relevant literature. But on the early and common habit of Maori adopting the OT as a kind of charter for themselves, I suggest a careful reading of Bronwyn Elsmore, Mana from Heaven: A Century of Maori Prophets in New Zealand (Reed Books, 1989).

    LDS missionaries did not got to the Maori and announce that the Maori were somehow from Israel. The Maori more or less had that opinion already in the 1880s when we finally started contacting them. But how were they Israel?

    As the Maori became aware of the Book of Mormon, they saw themselves in it and hence began to believe that they might be in some way the distant cousins of some people who had links with the Lehi colony. They picked Hagoth and we liked the idea and adopted it. This went on in Hawaii as well.

    I have written a bit about these matters. My theme was the way the Maori I knew in 1950-52 read the Book of Mormon. While I was proof-texting passages to try to settle different questions, they were reading the narrative and finding in the stories much of the message. I have an essay on this in the festschrift for John Sorensen. The essay is entitled “A Singular Reading: The Maori and the Book of Mormon,” pp. 245-276. A somewhat different version of this essay appeared in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. Those two essays have drawn more attention than anything I have published. The Maori like what I have written.

    But I must also say that those essays are only the beginning. For example, in the 1860s a hui (gathering) of tohunga at at marae near Masterton) was held in which two of the learned experts in Maori lore from the local iwi (we would say tribe) met to go over that lore. They had a scribe write it all down. His name was Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury. His father was from Scotland (hence Jury) and his mother was Maori. He went by all kinds of combinations of those names–most often simply as Te Whatahoro.

    So what? Well what he wrote down, among other things describes a grand council of the seventy sons of Io to Matua in the 10th heaven. In this council, two of the older sons refused to have a thing to do with coming to earth and facing whatever might happen there. Two of the younger sons–Tane (the name for man all over the South Pacific) and Rongo (the god of peace) agree to come to earth and take on whatever happened. A huge war broke out and it continues right now. So when LDS missionaries, without even a slight knowledge of Maori lore, talked about a war in heaven, they found that Maori who were familiar with the Io cult, were ready to sign up.

    But there is more. I simply cannot go into all the details, but the fact is that Te Whatahoro heard the missionaries and joined the Church and helped to translate the Book of Mormon into Maori. What has not been known until very recently is that this fellow, who knew both English and Maori, published a Maori newspaper in which he talked about all kinds of interesting things. So we have a window to how the Maori saw the cultural exchange that was going on. Otherwise we are forced to rely on missionary letters, diaries and what Mission Presidents wrote. What I want is the Maori point of view. Now they were even in 1950, while literate, still fundamentally an oral culture and they loved to tell stories. And these stories were very much like those recorded by Te Whatahoro. Now all of this takes us far beyond the notion that the LDS missionaries found a people who read themselves into the OT or found in their own story something like the OT.

    I happen to be a close friend of a Maori who has published several books with Oxford. His name is
    Cleve Barlow. If you goggle that name you will find a remarkable book in both Maori and English setting out the basic elements of Maori lore. Cleve had the advantage of being in the last group of young Maori kids who went through the 4 or 5 year process of learning perfectly the geneology and lore in what was called a wananga. This lore is not supposed to be written but Cleve did it because he knows that when he passes away the last living link with that element of the past will be gone. What Te Whatahoro wrote down was the version found in his iwi. Cleve was from a different iwi and the lore that he learned was slightly different. Cleve thinks that his version is better, of course.

    Now I realize that I am boring everyone with my obsession. I want to scold all of you for not paying close attention to Feb 6th–Waitangi Day, when the famous treaty was signed that brought the Maori under the Crown.

    I enjoy gossiping about New Zealand. Sterling, who I do not know, seems to have had a fruitful holiday in Aotearoa. Sterling–who are you? Where were you in Paradise? How long?

    I can be reached at
    I have the bad habit of not reading the things I post. So please forgive the mistakes.

    Louis Midgley

  12. LxxLuthor says:

    As a follow up post you should look into how LDS Maori’s identify themselves with the Book of Mormon and the Nephites. I served my mission there and it was all over the place. And some very interesting connections too.

  13. Louis Midgley says:

    Since I mentioned a book by Cleve Barlow, I should have cited it. See Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Maori Culture (Oxford University Press, 1991). This item has been reprinted half a dozen times.

    This book is very helpful. For example, when you see the word “mana” in the title of the book I cited earlier, you are faced with a play on words. We would think of the OT. But that is a different word. Mana in Maori is the sacred power of the gods and it is believed that there are humans who have it as a gift. Anciently it was granted to those who performed certain rites on the marae. And what might those be? Cleve Barlow hints at some various curious things.

    For example, the great fleet of canoes–double things with a couple of decks–are believed to have had tohunga who carried with them two object whose names are rehutai and hukatai. These were seer stones by which the seer could get instructions from Io. In those instruction sessions for gifted kids–at the whare whananga–at the end, when the kid had demonstrated his sill, he was asked to swallow two tiny stones or, in some iwi, press the lips to two stones. Why? The knowledge of higher things comes through seers, of course. Otherwise we are lost in a raging storm at see and cannot navigate.

  14. Louis Midgley says:


    When were you in New Zealand? Did you hear about the institution called whare whananga and the Io cult? Were you aware of Te Whatahoro? In 1950 I heard all kinds of things that have since then sort of been forgotten as the culture moves relentlessly from an oral to a literate thing. It was only about 1998 that there was a revival of interest in the old lore. If you were there under then you probably would have encountered Selwyn Jones. If so, you heard a lot of interesting lore.

  15. Interesting. It seems to me that Maoris could both read themselves into the OT and have indigenous beliefs that are reflective of revealed religion.

  16. Very interesting post. This topic is of great interest to me (the Maori side) for family reasons. On line I can find the Barlow book, and the Parfitt book. I can’t find the 1937 “Children of the Covenant.” Any ideas on how to get that?
    Also, what is metagenealogy?

  17. I find all this fascinating! You are very far from boring me, at least. Please tell us more. =)

  18. Louis Midgley says:


    I have no idea where to start. One essay that I recommend is by Peter Lineham, a very fine New Zealand historian of religion. He is part of what is called the Brethren. He did the Tanner lecture at BYU-H at the huge Pioneers in the Pacific conference.

    I agree with J. Stapley’s comments.

    I wonder if anyone has read either of my rather elementary essays. In those I say nothing about the lore set down by Te Whatahoro. I mention some of the stories of Maori prophets who said things, in one case preserved in a document that later turned up, that to many early Maori got them interested in the message of the LDS missionaries. Those stories are well-known. I put much more stock in them than some who have been socialized by the ideology of anthropologists.

    My wife and I spent two years in New Zeland where we witnessed stunning things, heard people tell stories of encounters with heavenly messengers and so forth, which they passed on to us but not even to their own adult children or, in one case, a wife. Those experiences matched rather well my own experiences in 1950-52. During both ventures down there it was like living in a charmed wrold.

    If you happen to have seen the nice little film call The Whale Rider, you will have noticed that the film is more or less based on a novel by Witi Ihimaera. His name appeared in the credits. What you do not know is that Witi–his friends call him wicked–lived in the Auckland 2nd Ward–our Ward. I wanted very much to meet Witi, who is the most famous Maori author ever. My Maori friends told me I could not do that. Why?

    Well, it turns out that Witi is LDS, once attended CCNZ in Templeview, but is gay. Witi wants no troubled with the Church. He likes having home teachers, if they make an appointment ten days in advance. He insists on a lesson and a prayer. The Maori all know about his “life style,” but the Samoans and Tongans don’t.

    What you need to know is that Witi’s family name is not Ihimaera. That is simply not a real Maori name. It is the English surname–a common LDS Maori surname–Smiler. My name in Maori would be Mitari. Now to my point. When people ask Witi about the strange “magical realism” in his novels, Witi always tells them that there are some Maori who believe they can stop bullets. Now no European understands that kind of Maori response. So when they press him, Witi tells them that his grandfather had a real convesation with real angel. This is the story of the Smiler family coming into the Church. Witi still believes it.

    But those who are puzzled by the strange things that turn up in his novels simply are not part of that kind of a world. But I am. I am sorry if you are not.

  19. Louis Midgley says:

    I cannot seem to leave this subject alone. Stirling has only himself to blame for my taking over his blog. How come? Well, for one thing he mentioned Waitangi. He has visited the Treaty House, where in 1950 I used to actually participate in the tiny Maori LDS Branch that met in that building. The Branch President was the caretaker of the Treaty grounds. And I am confident that Sterling has had a look at the whare rununga or carved house that is just a few meters to the east of the Treaty house. I have the original copy of the Maori description of the meaning of each of the carvings in that house. This house is not a typical house as found on a Maori marae. The reason is that it was built to allow all the tribes to be represented. And it does not face east, as is most common for the 850-900 other similar houses.

    If Sterling happened to look up at the top of that carved house, he would have noticed that it is decorated with what is called a koru design. This is a series of ferns fronds unfolding. And it connect Io to every one of the carvings representing important Maori ancestors. It is an umbilical. We are all sons of Io, though we come through different iwi (tribe), hapu (subtribe) and whanau (extended family). The word iwi actually means bone or rib. The Maori are the bone people. And the word Maori just means the common ones. When Captain Cook’s people wanted to know what these people they had encountered called themselves, all the got were tribal names. But they wanted more–some common name. So those people told the Brits that they were the common people (or maori). It was the Brits who forced on them an identity beyond their own kinship system.

    Also, if Sterling looked up on the paepae (or porch), he would have noticed a child carved as coming from the mother. That child is not stained red. Why not, one might wonder? Take a guess.

    Now I trust that Sterling had the opportunity to greet Maori in what is called a hongi. That word identifies a ritual common with the Maori. The word means something like sniff or smell or breath. I will explain this ritual greeting. You take the other person by the right hand and put the left hand on the shoulder of the other one and then press or touch the other one’s nose and forehead with your nose and forhead. This is not rubbing noses. Often this is just two taps. But if there is some passion in it, you find yourself just there often seeing tears in the eyes of the other one as you exchange the breath of life.

    Well, you have all heard the word aloha. Notice that word is made up of two words. Alo+ha. What is a ha. A ha is the breath (of life). And that same word in Maori is aroha and it means love. It is not hello or some such silly thing. The Hawaiian actually lost the habit of the greeting I have just described, but they are now reviving it.

    I realize that I am boring those who read down this far. And I regret not correcting the typing mistakes.

  20. From #11: Louis Midgely, “A Maori View of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 8:1 (1999)

  21. Louis, thanks for the reference (#11) to the Barlow and Elsmore books, I’ll add those to my reading list for our next trip.
    My favorite book for preparing for this last trip was Elsdon Best’s 1929 Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori. The book I most wanted to find in New Zealand was a collection of Maori methods or recipes for cooking seafood. I’m still looking.
    I also was hoping to find a Maori equivalent of Richard Kekumuikawaiokeola Paglinawan’s Lua: Art of the Hawaiian Warrior.

  22. Kia ora,
    Everyone, keep the Kiwi and Maori stories coming.
    I was a missionary there and am drinking this up.
    Sweet as!

  23. Louis Midgley says:

    Ok, the greeting kia ora is a full sentence without a verb. Kia is a tense marker and ora means life.

    Part of the chant that goes with the haka (posture dance) used by the All Blacks (the New Zealand Rugby Union national test side) and now also by the BYU football team has the words Ka mate, Ka mate, then Ka ora, Ka ora. Let there be death, let there be life. Would any of you like to see both the Maori and English version of this item? Or am I boring you and keeping you from important opining?

  24. Joshua Madson says:

    I am thoroughly enjoying the insights into this rich culture

  25. Bro. Midgley,

    I’m glad you stopped in. None of my opinions are important and you’re far from boring, so keep on laying out these nuggets.

  26. This is awesome! Pray continue! =)

  27. Lous, thanks for the info on the Treaty House. The detail about the Mormons meeting there was unknown to the LDS and 2nd-generation Kiwi family we were traveling with. We did visit the whare rununga. Is there a published source for the Maori description of the carvings?
    I have an uncle who was a missionary in NZ in the early or mid 1950s. Before we went he told me that there were striking resemblances between the totems of some Northwest American Indians and the whare rununga carvings. I didn’t find any confirmation of that, but in the Bay of Islands area we spent most of our time shellfish (cockles, pipis and tuatua) fishing, and kayaking among ancient stone giants.

  28. jothegrill says:

    Sorry this doesn’t have a lot to do with the post, but the picture you included reminded me of this website. It’s so neat I wanted to share it with all of you.

  29. Louis Midgley says:


    I actually took with me once my copy of the descriptions of the carvings in the whare at Waitangi and I showed it to the people at the headquarters there. They were stunned. They wanted to know how I came to have that item. They then looked in files and came up with a typed final version. It has not been published.

    I have actually seen large bags of Pipi (a bivalve) for sale in Costo. And one can order Pipi, though they are not called that) at the Market Street Grill in Salt Lake. Just the thought of a feed of Pipi is good. But I would rather have Pork and Puha. For those who do not know, Puha is a sow thistle that grows along roads and in gardens in New Zealand. Once upon a time the pork bones from freezing works (where they butchered animals)were sold to the Maori for almost nothing. And the Maori boiled the bones with this weed and came up with a nice meal. If you watch carefully in the film Once Were Warriors, you could see what is often called a Boil Up–that is pork and Puha.

    Unless one has been to New Zealand and then not just visited Queenstown and done the hotel entertainment phony Maori culture thing at Rotorua, one would see that the mud flats and beaches of much of New Zealand are just packed with Pipe and Tuatua and other shell fish.

    I am sitting here with three different posters showing the more than seventy kinds of commercial sea foods in New Zealand. Amazing. One chart even shows Kina (Sea Eggs), but I am confident that they are not commercial. I hope you tried them.

    In 1950 the caretaker of the Waitangi Treaty grounds (and the Branch President) was a Heperi. The current Dean of Students at BYU is Vern Heperi. Vern comes from the same whanau (extended family).

    If you had a close look at the wonderful Maori carvings for sale at Waitangi, you would have noticed that some of the most expensive and beautiful were the work of Tupari Te Whata. It just happens that Brother Te Whata is the Bishop in one of the two Wards in Kaikohe. He carved from the Midgleys what is called a whakahuia. A Huia is a now extinct bird. And a whakahuia is a kind of treasure box that was once used to keep things of great value, especially feathers from the Huia and Tui birds. You may have actually heard Tui singing up a storm just outside the headquarters of the Waitangi Treaty grounds.

    Brother Te Whata cared one of these for us and it is of museum quality. Oh it is nice. He and his wife actually brought it to our flat in Auckland and then he gave a korrro (speech) dedicating this ox for us.

    He chanted this in Maori. I will translate it for you:

    “Listen, Listen, Listen to the cry (actually mouring) of the Tui [bird]. Tui, binding those outside the gospel [Rongopai], those above (high or heavenly [Rangi]), those buried, those in your heart, Binding man – eternally.” With that dedication completed, Brother Te Whata then explained that the most prized feathers placed in these boxes were from the Huia and Tui birds. The Tui was thought to symbolize closeness to Io te Matua (God the Father), or the Tui was also thought to be a kind of messenger from the heavens or to stand for messengers from the heavens who sing to us like the Tui. The Tui right there at Waitangi can be heard in the canopy calling to each other with a rather beautiful song. So the Maori might ask if you hear the call from Io right now. You have to listen and pay attention to hear even the Tui. Otherwise you don’t even know that it is there.

    If one would like a beautiful canoe carved by Brother Te Whata, it will cost at least four thousand US dollars.

    If you happened to notice the marae in the Northland, you will have noticed that they are not decorated with carvings, except the lental over the door to the house. The Nga Puhi iwi did not carve. Or the Brits burned their carvings because they were pagan object. Those idiot Brits. So the Nga Puhi carving tradition was lost and has only been reconstructed from a few objects that have turned up in caves. But most of the other iwi have rich carving traditions. And those carvings can be read like books.

    So it appears that you were in the Bay of Islands. That place is my second home. I love it. I once tried talking to the Pakeha (Europeans) in Opua about the Gospel. With my seventeen year old maori companion, we got nowhere. But every Maori home we visited insisted on having us stay and talk and talk. Oh those were wonderful days.

  30. Louis Midgley says:


    You got me fired up again and I neglected to respond to your comment about Native American carvings. I do not believe that they are at all alike or related. Both are, however, instesting and tell us something about the people who carve them. If you looked to the left as you departed Auckand, after crossing the huge bridge, you would have noticed a marae and a totem sent there from Alaska. The Maori who operate that marae were, of course, pleased to have some other people with a carving tradition send one of their prized carvings.

    I hope that you got to experience a powhiri (greeting at a marae) and not just the unfortunate hotel entertainment version found at Rotorua. When those not from the marae visit, even kin folk, they must stand at the gate and wait to be greeting. This ritual starts with a wero (challenge). If you have been to the PCC, you will have in that dreadful show been treated to a wero. Those show start with a kid (often Samoan or Tongan) dressed in a Maori costum coming out and threatening with a taiha and sticking out his tounge and so forth. When someone comes to the marae, this ritual reminds everyone that those who visit must be friends and no enemies, must not represent Tu (the god of war) but Rongo (the god of peace). It reminds everyone of that the war in heaven still goes on here below. Then the exchange of speeches begins, with the most distinguished local speaking first and then the most distinguished outside speaking. And after each speech there is a waiata (song). Women do not speak on the marae. Never. Well, almost never. But they are the song birds. They sing. One of them actually calls those who visit onto the marae.

    Now sometimes women are allowed to speak. My wife was once invited to do so. This shocked both of us. Not even the prime minister can oper her mouth on the marae or she would get booted out. But in one instance my wife was asked to speak.

    And in several instances my wife and I were asked to stand with the local people on a marae when they were welcoming others, some of whom were their kin. Why? We asked and were told that we were considered tangata whenua (people of the place). As a missionary in 1950 I visited marae and was always treated as one of the local. They had adopted us. Well, they thought that we had joined them in a very profound sense. And some of us had.

    This sort of rambling has got to stop. I have things to do. And this is certainly not on the topic of this blog.

  31. 16: I can’t find the 1937 “Children of the Covenant.” Any ideas on how to get that? What is metagenealogy?

    The Children of the Covenant lesson manual is about 150 pages, I think. There is some discussion of its contents in this earlier BCC post discussing British Israelism.
    You can find it in BYU’s library. I own a copy, and can email you a pdf copy of the Maori chapter (or of the whole the book). It would be a large file, so if your email system won’t take it, email me ( and I’ll mail you a hard copy.

    Metagenealogy. I’m using the self-referential “meta” to connote the idea of “the genealogy of genealogy.” In other words, while various of my family members spend extraordinary amounts of energy and time on tracking down their (and my) genetic lineage and “doing genealogy,” what attracts me more is metagenealogy, or the history (lineage) of and motivations behind our changing concepts of lineage and its import.

  32. Louis, your 29 and 30 comments are very welcome. Feel free to share as much as you wish about Maori culture or language.
    BTW, our next family trip to the islands may be to Yap, part of the Caroline archipelago NE of New Guinea. If you’ve run into any Yap stories, I’d be similarly interested.

  33. Metagenealogy. Cool word.
    Very cool graphic!
    But, where do the Maoris come from? Is there a Israelite link?
    Sorry for coming right out and asking, as I’ve liked the narrative tension created by leaving that question hanging, but…?

  34. Cool as, estimates for the most recent common ancestor of all human beings is estimated around 1000 AD. Genetically, the Polynesian cultures descend from Asia.

  35. J.Stapley, where does the 1,000 A.D. date come from?
    Rohde, Olson, Chang, in “Modeling the recent common ancestry of all living humans,” (Nature, 431 (2004)) estimate the Most Recent Common Ancestor date as ≈ 1,415 BC. That is the result of their their conservative simulation of population and migration patterns. In their less conservative simulation (which I think they assume may be more accurate), the MRCA date is 55 AD.
    I’m not suggesting the 1,000 date is wrong, or that the Rohde dates are rock-solid, but I’d be interested in comparing the assumptions behind a model yielding a more recent date to those of the Rohde models.

  36. Actually, I was going off the Rohde et al. paper (from memory) and thanks for the correction. I was too hasty and typed AD instead of BC.

  37. Louis Midgley says:

    Well it appears that my hijacking of this thread has failed and it is now back on a more solid foundation. But someone asked me specifically where the Maori came from. Well I think that about 1350 at least one canoe–the Takitimu canoe–ssailed from the island called Rarotonga in what are called the Cook Islands. The others in the so-called Great Fleet–I still believe in the Great Fleet–sailed from a famous island in Tahiti. The Cook Island Maori can show you the marae–merely a flat stone area surrounded by a low wall–and the break in the reef where the canoe departed.

    But what I think you are asking is a different question. But before we get to that one, I must indicate that the Hawaiians also came from Tahiti, as did those on Easter Island and so forth.

    I noticed that someone has it figured out. The peoples of the South Pacific came from Asia. Well DNA settles that. Really. DNA studies can now tell the story in detail of all those in the South Pacific, just like they can demonstrate that the Kumara, a big food crop for the Maori and others in the Pacific came from America? Oh those kumara just floated out there. My hunch is that it would have taken only one boat to get the kumara to the South Pacific. Have I now not told you how I see some things.

    I realize that anthropologists have argued against the notion of a Great Fleet arriving in New Zealand from Tahiti. They claim that there were no navigational skills. Some huge boat, with women and dogs and everything on it was out fishing one day and got caught in a storm and just ended up in New Zealand. Sure. Well that theory can be tested. Sorry, it does not work.

    The fact is that one can take Maori stories and start in New Zealand at the right time of the year and sail to Rarotonga and back without modern navigational devices. It seems that peoples could go back and forth.

    Then I need an explanation for the Io cult in New Zealand. But Maori studies types, armed with various theories, argue that the Io cult was a post-European invention of the Maori who were attempting to show that they also had a grand ideology and so forth. Sterling seems close to this kind of speculation. One problem is that the Cook Islanders had a remarkably similar Io cult. But Io is not exactly a proper NZ or Cook Island Maori name. But next to the Cook Islands the exact ideology is associated with the name Iko and Hiko. Notice that these are actually cognates. Now remember that the Maori had no written language. The English heard them speak and then put down what they thought they had heard. The chief town in the Bay of Islands is Paihia. Pai is the Maori word for good. In 1950 the Maori called it Pahia. Pa is the name for a fort (or the village near a fort). Sterling must have seen dozens of these forts or Pa in the Bay of Islands. They are everywhere–literally hundreds of them. The Maori in 1950 thought that they had once told the Brits that the place just next to the one lane bridge leading to the Waitangi Treaty grounds was a Pa or village. Pa are either or both villages or steep hills that are flat on top that were once made to serve as forts. Villages (kainga) were situated near one of these forts. The Maori terraced them and built tunnels and storage facilities on the top. The Brits, using the best soldiers and weapons in the world at the time, simply could not defeat the Maori dug in those Pa. They ended up defeating the Maori who fought them by using Maori who took sides with the Brits. Now to my point.

    The Brits simply did not hear Pa-hia but heard, instead, Pai-hia. And they heard Io instead of something probably like Iho. So Io is a Maori word perhaps slightly garbled like so many Maori words were by the Brits.

    Now if you ask me where the Io cult in Eastern Polynesia come from, I simply do not know. I could only speculate. But without LDS missionaries not kknowing that there was such a thing as an Io cult, it helped thousands of Maori after 1881 to join up.

    Any comments before I go back to some serious play?

  38. Joshua Madson says:


    you seem to be arguing that many polynesian cultures came form tahiti. It seems that if they came from asia their migration would follow a more east to west route.

    So if these cultures came from Tahiti, where did the Tahitians come from?

  39. I’d be interested in further information on where the Maori came from and whether they are, in fact, descendants of Israel.

  40. Dawkins, in The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, (43 summarizing Chang’s work), throws out a sexy claim:

    [A]bout 80 per cent of individuals in any generation will in theory be ancestors of everybody alive in the distant future.

    To the extent that may be true, it adds an interesting context to a claim that any person or people are descended from a specific individual of ancient times (be it Sara, Asenath, Ephraim, or a grain farmer in Asia).
    It may be true that a Maori or Brit in 2006 may be a lineal descendant of Abraham (or of millions of persons from that era); however, to emphasize that connection misses the points that everyone alive on earth may very well have that same ancestor, and that if we follow the Englishman’s (for example) lineage back to that specific time (of Abraham in this case), he will also have many many ancestors from many other places around the world. Rohde et al. finish their article with that point:

    “[N]o matter the languages we speak or the colour of our skin, we share ancestors who planted rice on the banks of the Yangtze, who first domesticated horses on the steppes of the Ukraine, who hunted giant sloths in the forests of North and South America, and who laboured to build the Great Pyramid of Khufu.” – Rohde, Olson, and Chang, “Modelling the Recent Common Ancestry of All Living Humans” ( Nature 431: 562 – 66).

    So, it seems is possible that the Maori (and you, and her over there) have fairly recent common ancestors. As mentioned above in #35, Rohde’s modelling suggests that the most common recent ancestor of every person alive on earth today (including the fairly isolated indigenous populations in Africa, South America, and the Pacific Islands!) is about 1500 BC. I think Jacob/Israel is thought to have lived about 1700-1800 BC.
    This discussion of a “Most Recent Commmon Ancestor” and identifying someone as a possible MRCA is very different than asking “where did the first Maori come from?” I sense Eldn’s question is the latter. I’ll respond to that when I can, unless someone beats me to it.

  41. If you are a scientist, here is a paper that describes Polynesian mitochondrial DNA. Here is a rough migration outline based on mtDNA.

  42. Louis: Sorry I haven’t responded earlier, I’m not a frequent here at BCC (I am ashamed). I served there in the Wellington Mission in 2000-2002.

    Did you hear about the institution called whare whananga and the Io cult? Were you aware of Te Whatahoro? In 1950 I heard all kinds of things that have since then sort of been forgotten as the culture moves relentlessly from an oral to a literate thing. It was only about 1998 that there was a revival of interest in the old lore. If you were there under then you probably would have encountered Selwyn Jones. If so, you heard a lot of interesting lore.

    Yeah, I heard Selwyn Jones speak on a couple of occasions, even get someone to be baptised from bringing him to one of his presentations. The Lore was very interesting but I’m pretty skeptical of it’s truth and value. Selwyn was getting himself into a lot of hot water with his road show when I was there.

    Cool as, you have the sweetest screen name ever.

  43. Louis Midgley says:

    The question keeps being asked: where did the Maori come from? Those asking this question may be asking for solid genetic links. I am not interested in such a question. There is both far too little known about the past or far too much of a possibility that everyone is genetically linked rather recently or in various ways in antiquity.

    Instead, I mentioned some oral traditions that take what is often called the Maori Great Fleet of double hulled canoes (with decks and sails), and not the single hull war canoes one sees in New Zealand now) back to a marae in Rarotonga and a to break in the barrier reef that goes most of that Island. The other canoes in the Great Fleet, if you believe in such a thing, seem to have come from Ra’iatea in what is now called Tahiti.

    But that explanation did not seem to satisfy several people. They seem to want to know where those people came from. But notice that the story of the Great Fleet does not indicate a single island or even group of islands. And those oral traditions, whatever one thinks of them, do not tell us much of anything about the relationships of those two points where the canoes of the Great Fleet departed for Aotearoa. There are, of course, Maori studies types who insist that the tale of the Great Fleet is merely confusion about migrations around New Zealand.

    What I see being asserted, even with a reference to science (presumably genetics or DNA studies of populations) being able to provide an accurate and useful account, is from Asia. Where in Asia? How did those who ended up in the South Pacific actually get there? And when? In one single surge? Or in various different and even competing ways? When? Did all of those who ended up in the South Pacific come from a single place? Did they march or sail in a kind of single platoon from somewhere in Asia to the South Pacific? Did they leave anyone behind or pick anyone up along the way or encounter anyone else in this very long migration or series of migrations? Were those islands settled from just one place?

    What are the current theories on these kinds of questions? It would do well to have a look at something like Peter Bellwood’s The Polynesians: Prehistory of an Island People, rev. ed. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1987). But this is now a bit dated. Not one question that one might ask is settled. The best that one can say is that some speculation has been shown to be false. Of course, additional information has been added and it tends to complicate matters.

    In one sense, I believe that those who once lived in Rarotonga and then sailed away to two huge islands that someone with a ship had once visited, were, just as they believed, in the deep past come from a great council held in the highest heaven and hence they were, as we all are, from Io te Matua. But this is what is brushed aside as a myth perhaps by most of you and hence not real history, which is something that some science should be able to yield. It is, of course, a myth. But it is that in the oldest and original sense of myth–that is,a story of human things that includes divine things (the Gods). If you want history and not myth, I cah help. The word history comes from a Greek word that once was a medical term. Even now, when one visits an MD one faces a primitive historian. The MD will take a history of the decline of hour organs or the progress of some disease. He will then try to work out a patch of some sort that will keep you going or get you back in shape. At a certain point some Greek actually lifted a medical term and applied it to the body politic. The Gods were usually not part of this account. But in the Bible they are. But they are not in our secular history. This is, I insist, merely the way we are socialized to see things. We cannot or will not see the divine in the past or in our own lives because we demand proofs before we will trust God or have faith. In doing this, we have gotten things backward–we have the cart before the horse, so to speak.

    But, I can almost hear some of you muttering or complaining. Does not, you will be saying, talk about Israel or the covenant People of God demand demand a genetic link? Should this link not be something we can uncover? I also have in mind those who believe in this stuff about Isreal, since some or even many of you may doubt both the truth and value of such talk. If such talk has any truth or value we must be able to date Israel and then find demonstrable genetic links. If either point of view is being entertained, then you may not like what I say. Why?

    One of the key teachings found in the Book of Mormon concerning Israel is that one is of Israel (the covenant People of God) if and only if one has made a covenant with God and then done what is commanded. If we–that is you who are reading this–do what you agreed to do, then and only then are you the seed of Christ and he is your father. The Holy one of Israel–the God of Israel and then the Jews–is our father if and only if we become the new Israel by making and then keeping the covenants in which we become servants (the Greek is actually slave). Then eventually we can be made part of the family of God (or, in portions of the Maori world, Io). We all must be adopted or numbered among the People of God.

    I sense that some want someone to settle the question of whether the Maori are from Israel. And the assumption behind this question is that the answer must rest upon genetics. Sterling started this discussion by setting out some explanations for what he may consider a silly belief of some people that the Maori are a remnant of ancient Israel.

    As you might have noticed, I hope, I am interested in the speculation about the peoples of the South Pacific. But my faith does not depend upon the shifting sands of such speculation. If your faith or lack of faith rests on such speculation, then you are building on sand.

    A final note: the remarks by LXXXLuther interest me. He was interest me. But I think the conversation I would like to have with him is one that should take place in private. So I urge LXXXLuther to contact me at I would be interested in his take on what he thinks was the hot water that Selwyn Jones presumably got himself into.

  44. Louis Midgley says:

    I have just read the thing I posted yesterday and I must again offer an excuse for the typing mistakes. I just type and post. This is a bad habit. But it is quite in line with much of what I see on boards, lists and blogs–that is, much opining the simply floats in the air. I do not notic much actual digging into the relevant literature on topics that come up

    I am waiting for something to turn up from LXXLuthor. I am interested in his remarks about Selwyn Jones. I am aware of one older American serving a mission in New Zealand while I was there who just despised Maori lore and everything connected with the marae. He was an anthropologist. He considered everything Maori to be pagan nonsense. He was certain that Maori accounts of their ancestors that go back more than tthree generations are all fake. They were, he insisted, made up for political purposes. He might have been one that LXXLuthor had encountered. And I am also aware of a Pakeha (European) Stake President who just despised anything connected with Maori culture. Can you imagine having to put up with that, if you were Maori? Half the Stake Presidents were Maori and most of the others were Pacific Islanders and in different degrees, held far different opinions.

    The meetings that LXXLuthor mentions were always held under the direct supervision of a Stake President, who was there and presided. These meetings, most often lasting for several days, were most often held on non-Mormon marae–that is, on marae where there were few or no Latter-day Saints. Selwyn and his two companions, and a Stake President, were guests. Missionaries could come with those who they were teaching. Until about 2000, missionaries could just show up. Then the Auckland Mission President required that they bring someone with them who they were teaching.

    These meetings lasted several days. Where did people stay at night? Well, with kin folks or, as is the Maori custom, in the carved house. Men on the right side of the house and the women on the left. There would be a warden watching. Now I think I have said far too much about the kind of hot water that Selwyn Jones got into in 2002. If you look in the handbook, can the Church have a gathering in which people not married sleep in the same room? If you have seen the little film called The Whale Rider, you will get some idea of how strict the rules are that control what goes on at a Maori marae. So the rules currently in the Handbook ran up against the customs of the Maori and this led to problems conducting a very effective way of reaching Maori Saints who had gone missing or Maori who were not LDS.

    I was Selwyn’s companion at one of these meetings at a marae in Manurewa, just at the south end of Auckland. I stood and sat with him while he told me what the Holy Spirit was telling him to say and do. That was a stunning experience. But earlier, at another meeting, I had been telling my wife for ten days what I wanted to talk with Selwyn about when we went to one of these meetings. We actually got to the marae early and there was Selwyn. We introduced ourselves for the second time. But I did not have the courage to raise the questions I had. At the close of that hui, I was standing about five feet from Selwyn while he was talking to a bunch of people and he stopped talking to then, turned around and pointed at me and said thatwhen we had met earlier, the Holy Spirit had told him things about me and he then described exactly what I had been pestering my wife about for more than a week. My wife and I just looked at each other and said to each other that this simply could not be happening. I simply will not go into any of the details of what followed, but it was one of the more dramatic manifestations I have experienced. I know of no other way of describing that experience.

    In addition, I spent most of one day talking with Selwyn’s two companions. I wanted to know if anyone was writing down the things that happened to him or to them. The answer was that they maintained a kind of day book but no diary. So I begged them for their stories. I filled an entire note book with what they told me. And with what I heard from two Mission Presidents and so on.

    One of the really nice things about those meetings is that they had the effect of helping young LDS Maori kids, unitiversity educated returned missionaries, to overcome the sickness they felt when they looked at themselves in the mirrow and saw a Maori face. What being a Maori means now in New Zealand is being part of that group who dominate in prisons and who are constantly in the news for getting into trouble. Selwyn’s “road show” simply took away the self-hate.

    Now if any of you have seen the dreadful film entitled Once Were Warriors, you will have gotten some idea of what has happened to the Maori as they have moved to urban areas and lost their traditional moorings. That film, which is as violent as anything you will ever witness, gives one a sense of what has happened to the Maori who have ceased being Maori. In Alan Duff’s novel, from which the film, was made, at the marae, when the tangi (funeral) for Beth’s daughter is taking place–the girl killed herself after her father raped her–the old Maori gent says to those assembled: “You are not Maori; you are beer drinkers” and so forth. And finally Beth says to Jake the Mus, “My folks were once warriors, your’s were always slaves.” In the novel and the film, Beth has returned to her traditional roots and is no longer a beer drinker. If LXXLuthor had known some Maori and had his eyes open, he would have seen something like this taking place before his eyes. I am deeply sorry that he now sees all of that as simply a “road show” lacking value and truth.

    We were constantly faced with Pakeha manifesting disgusting bigotry against Maori. This always made me sick. I never lost my temper and told them what I though about what they were saying. Now, of course, I know all about the Maori who are beer drinkers, the single mums, the drugs, the terrible gangs. But, as my wife said frequently, she now knows exactly how it must be to be a Black in the United States.

    Of course the Maori Saints are of Israel, whatever their genetic background. Well, often they are 1/16th or 1/32nd Maori, but they have a Maori heart. That is what makes them Maori. And makes me one also, just as having the right heart and mind is what makes one Israel.

  45. I do not notice much actual digging into the relevant literature on topics that come up

    Perhaps, if you stick around, Louis, we can disabuse you of that perspective…at least here.

  46. Louis Midgley says:

    J., I understand that blogs can become comfortable clubs, and also that I am not part of a “we” in this cyberland. But you neglected to indicate you long I can expect to be stuck “here,” wherever “here” is, before I see what you indicate will eventually happen. In addition, I must admit that I had not anticipated that my perfectly harmless little aside would trouble anyone.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    “I am not part of a “we” in this cyberland”

    Aw now c’mon. You’re welcome to join in our secret works as a brother, Lou!

    Agreed that blogs lend themselves to informal discussions without substantive research — J. is a notable exception, as I’m sure you’ll see in reading his post. But your aside didn’t trouble anyone, don’t worry.

  48. Dear Mr. Midgley,
    I caught this chat today and noticed your reference to “lo.”

    Your interpretation is probably right, but at about the same time the officers of the U.S. army was calling American Indians “Mr. Lo”
    because some famous author had written “Lo, the noble (or something) red man.”

  49. Prof Midgley:

    In Once Were Warriors, wasn’t it the father’s friend who raped the young girl, the friend who subsequently got beaten to a pulp by the violent dad? Not that it makes much difference, as the dad is painted as a monster in the movie anyway, but no need to blame him for things he didn’t do.

  50. Louis Midgley says:


    The Maori word is not Lo but Io–that is io (ee-oh).

    capt jack:

    You are right that in the film version of Alan Duff’s Once Were Warriors it is a friend of Jake who forced sex with Beth’s young daughter. You are correct about this detail. But in the novel, it is Jake himself who did it. This makes it possible for his kids to stand up to him, since even Jake’s drunken mates will not tolerate his having violated his own daughter. This leads to Jake being an outcast even with his mates in pubs.
    With Mutu Wihongi, my wife and I went into the max security portion of the Paremaremo Prison and had a look at fellows who looked exactly like those pictured in that film. The guards did not go with us. When the guards go in, they go in with fire power. But they made it clear that we would be perfectly safe with Mutu, since he had the mana (spiritual power) and no on would dare to say a cross word to us or the others beat them to a pulp.

    All those fellows just melted when they saw Muta and they were pleased to see us. One fellow embraced Mutu and then Mutu explained to us that this one was a really bad person and they would (and should) never let him out of prison. The fellow just hung his head and agreed.

    At one point they had a TV special on Mutu. When we visited the prison that week, Mutu showed up, which he did from time to time. And immediately he was asked what he thought of what they had said about him on TV. He said that he had not watched the program. He was far too busy working on his bread business. We all asked what that was. He explained that he had organized a bunch of Latter-day Saints to go to bakeries and collect old stuff and then distribute it free to the poor. He did not have time, he explained, for that TV nonsense.

    Mutu lived in a nice neighborhood. But there were two old junk dead cars on the parking and the section was full of vegitation. Just to the right of the back door there was a dead car with all kinds of potted plants on it. Mutu’s house was a mess. I wondered what his neighbors thought of his place. And I also wondered if God shared their opinion.

  51. Prof Midgley:

    Who is Mutu Wihongi?

  52. Louis Midgley says:

    Who is (or now was) Mutu Wihongi? Well he was an old fellow who had been called by an Auckland New Zealand Mission President to visit the two prisons in the Auckland area. This had happened some 15 years before my wife and I arrived in Auckland in January 1999. The week we arrived, there was a full page article in the main newspaper in Auckland. I immediately noticed two things in the essay. First, there was a photo of Mutu dressed in his old suit. He was obviously still wearing a missionary name badge. Second, Wihongi is an LDS Maori name. Soon I was being pestered by a Bishop and his councilor to visit Paremaremo, a prison north of Auckland. I resisted in every way I could. My efforts failed. Soon Mutu phoned me and told me to pick him up at his home at a certain time and we would be going to Paremaremo.

    When we got to the prison, and approached the double fifteen foot high fence, and huge gate, Mutu pressed a button. And a voice said: “give your name and state your business.” Mutu just said “Mutu,” and the gait opened and we entered. Then we were told by the guards that would be inside that unit with Mutu without guards. We were stunned. Those Once Were Warrior types were very pleased to greet Mutu.

    But Mutu was very old–over 90 at the time. And he was not in good health. We were told by prison people that they faced a big problem. When Maori pass away, it is common for a funeral (tangi) to be held on a marae and those things last three days. You got a brief view of one of these tangi taking place in a carved house in Once Were Warriors. The people at the prisons worried about riots when Mutu passed away. Those Maori fellows and perhaps others would want to attend his tangi. Would the prison officials insist on these being held in those prisons? How could that happen, with his kin folks and Ward members? Or, if his tangi were held in Awarua or Pipiwai (Te Horo), where the Wihongi family comes from, would they have to take all those fellows by bus to those remote villages in the bush? Think of the security problem.

    I asked Mutu where his tangi would be held. He said that he was not into that old Maori crap. He would not have a tangi but would have a regular LDS funeral in the Pah Road Stake Center, where his Ward met. Sure. His kin folks might have other ideas. It is not unheard of to have bodies stolen so that a tangi can be held in this or that place.

    When we departed New Zealand in November 2000, Mutu was in a nursing home, though he had escaped at least once. I do not know what happened when he passed away, which I am confident eventually happened.

    Now as a kind of bonus, and since I had earlier mentioned Selwyn Jones, I think I will now tell a bit of a story about him. He did contract work for the government. His job was to go into New Zealand prisons and deal with gang problems. Now think of either the film Once Were Warriors or sequel What Became of the Broken Hearted. And then add some Somoans and Tongans to the mix. Selwyn would go into prisons with his two companions and they would stay with the inmates for days on end–until he had solved the gang problem.

    When government officials called Selwyn to Wellington to discuss his success in dealing with gang problems, he immediately pointed out that the meeting had not started with prayer. So he offered a prayer, and then he explained to those folks that he and his companion pray before they start and often while they are in there with those fellows. He strives to get the gang leaders to pray with him. He is a preacher.

    One of the fellows he dealt with wanted to join the Church when he was released, but he needed the approval of the First Presidency before he could be baptized for reasons that should be obvious but that I will not go into. Selwyn took this fellow with him to a Stake Conference in Gisborne. And when they arrived, the Stake President greeted Selwyn and told him that the Spirit had indicated to him that this fellow now just out of prison had a message and hence would be the second speaker. Selwyn had to explain that he was not LDS–yet–and that he was only a few days out of prison. He did speak in that Conference. He did have a message.

    Now one more little story for all of you–if there are any of you who are not bored by my stories. On one occasion we were speaking with a guard at the gate at Paremaremo and he mentioned having once noticed a young Maori fellow who he thought might be open to hearing the gospel. So this guard found a way of giving him a Book of Mormon and then pestering him about it. When the time came for this fellow to be released, he told the guard that he now had to explain to his wife and two children that he was already LDS and wanted them to be so also. He was one of those who had gone missing. Nothing to that point had given any indication to the LDS guard that this fellow was LDS. The next time this guard saw his friend was in the Temple where he was being sealed to his wife and family. I asked for the surname. My wife and I were simply stunned. We had just graduated his oldest girl from the Lorne Street Institute. And we knew her parents. We had exactly no idea of the story inside that really remarkable family. My wife once or twice said that it seemed that you were hardly anyone in the Church in New Zealand if you had not served hard time. On the other hand, we were constantly wondering who was really in prison. We started wondering on which side of the fence were those in the chains of darkness. It was never entirely clear.

    I am tempted to suggest that posting on blogs can easily be a kind of prison chain, if one is not very cautious and careful. I will not make this suggestion because I do not, of course, want to offend anyone.

  53. Thanks for the fascinating stories. Seems like a social history essay on this group would go over well in the Mormon journals. I would certainly read it.

  54. Thank you! My favorite district leader on my mission was Maori. It’s nice to know more about his cultural background.

  55. Prof Midgley:

    Thanks for that info. My father served a mission to the north island in the early 1960s. One of the highlights of my childhood was watching slide shows from his mission; I especially liked his pictures and stories from his time with the Maori. While my relationship with the LDS church has ended, I still have a soft spot for the Maori and stories about them.

  56. Louis Midgley says:

    Sterling, it seems, opened the door and, given my passion for all things Maori and for all the Saints in New Zealand and for New Zealand, I just stepped in and hijacked this thread. I rather appreciate the opportunity. I have a few comments and a story or two to tell.

    Sam MB (#53) wrote as follows: “Seems like a social history essay on this [Maori] group would go over well in the Mormon journals. I would certainly read it.” Well, this should be true. And it should be true for those who served–and not just played a game, went through the motions, put on a role for a time, waited out the months–in Croatia, Malta, France, Vanuatu or wherever, including even North Dakota. But I notice a special interest in an exotic people and place. You should see that I have a passion for both. But I know something about other places and people. I have not yet visited Croatia, but I have followed closely Coscic’s career many years ago at BYU as a basketball player, his encounter with Hugh Nibley, his conversion, subsequent stunning missionary and diplomat careers. I also encountered Dalmatians in New Zealand–those from Split and surrounding area, who became gum diggers, some of whom are now LDS. And I long to visit Croatia.

    Our CES boss in New Zealand is now Mission President in Fiji, which means his mission includes places that are not all that different from Tonga back when Elder Groberg was there. The Fiji Mission includes New Caledonia, Vanuatu and couple of other places. I have photos of an island called Ambea. This is the “Bali Hi” of James Mitchner’s Tales of the South Pacific, which he could see in the distance from Lugenville during WW II. All of you must have read the book or seen the musical. Oh Ambea is a wild place, but it has missionaries and also members. So there are a thousand stories and not just my story.

    We all live by and in stories. Does your story include miracles or manifestations of the divine? I hope everyone who reads any of this can see that mine does. If not, then something is wrong but not with God. Does your story include having gone missing or having migrated to the margins? I hope not. But this happens all the time and in various ways. We all have at best on foot or toe in Zion and the rest plunked down in Babylon. Your story–our own stories–should and can take us right into the kind of world pictured in our scriptures. And that is a world in which there is a war going on in which there are real losses but also some real gains.

    But in response to Sam MB, I am not sure which “Mormon journals” would be willing to publish what I have to say on these matters. Why? “Mormon journals” tend not to like preaching, unless it is in some way critical. They are not a bit interested in promoting the faith. But at least one has been willing to publish my opinions on the Maori. But not, of course, Dialogue or Sunstone, for obvious reasons. Those “Mormon journals,” I am confident, would be much inclined to publish an essay claiming that American Mormon cultural imperialism in New Zealand tended to gut Maori culture, or something like that. There is, of course, a market for that kind of essay. And a number of those have appeared in print.

    While my wife and I were in New Zealand as CES auxiliary missionaries, I was asked to write an essay on how the Maori I knew in 1950-52 read the Book of Mormon. That essay, published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, is available on line. I wonder if anyone has read it. And if they have, did they notice the mistake of calling Auckland the capitol of New Zealand? An editor made that mistake.

    And earlier, in 1998, before my wife and I served a mission in New Zealand, I published (in a festschrift for John Sorenson) an essay entitled “A Singular Reading: The Maori and the Book of Mormon.” I cited this essay earlier. It is not on line–sorry about that. Not everything is available just for the clicking. Libraries do, after all, contain books. This essay can be found in the collection of essays honoring John Sorenson entitled Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World. I just now read that essay again and I rather liked it. (That book contains some very fine essays. One especially remarkable essay is Dan Peterson’s “Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8-23.” In the oldest traditions standing behind our OT, the high God has a consort. Peterson shows, I believe, that this idea shows up in the Book of Mormon.)

    The LDS Maori who have read either or both of my essays really liked them, which pleased me greatly, but they also tended to say that I should have gone much further and that I did not get everything right and so forth. They wanted a book and not just an essay. But I am not qualified to do that. I have a close friend who has just finished his doctorate, whose knowledge of the Maori language–especially the oldest elements in that language–and the traditions and written records is as good as it gets, is qualified to write about these matters. And not me. He has been working for years for a judge involved in land disputes arising over the Treaty of Waitangi, which guaranteed Maori treasures, including the land. Of course, the Brits were greedy and stole some or much of the land.

    Now the stories I have told on this thread are just a tiny hint at my own experiences. In 1999-2000 I carried a note book and wrote everything down. Then I fleshed out some of these notes in WP files, which I posted on a little list I am on. My wife did her own version of an electronic diary. My wife and I never went more that two or three days without something happening that we could witness that was just stunning–worth those two years. Some of these I simply cannot talk about in public. In addition, I was constantly hearing stories and recording them. And then checking on what I heard in an effort to get down on paper (or in a WP file) the most accurate and fully detailed account possible.

    I will provide a little example. Our Auckland CES supervisor was a Samoan fellow. There were stories floating around about James AhMu. One story that we heard from several Maori was that immediately following his call as a Bishop of a Ward in Onehunga (a portion of Auckland), James went to visit four Maori boys living in a home with parents who had gone missing. He found them in their bedroom, with beer bottles, and a couple of mattresses on the floor. He told them who he was and announced that he was there to call them as LDS missionaries–well, to get them ready to serve missions in a year. He also told them that he would pick them up on Sunday morning so that they could begin to attend Church meetings. He would see that they were properly ordained and so forth. He would provide some clothing–white shirts and so forth–so they would feel comfortable at Church. They all agreed to do exactly what he had set out. One boy then reported to James that he was not even a member. Well, James said, with you it will take a bit longer. They also agreed to have missionaries instruct them.

    Those four boys were so stunned by what James AhMu told them and insisted that they now must do, that they did exactly what he asked them to do. All of them, a year later went on missions. All of them have subsequently served as Bishops and so forth. The Maori just loved James for his audacity and for doing what he believed the Spirit had told him to do with their people. Now my wife and I questioned James and his wife about this matter. They confirmed the stories we had been told by others, and added bits of detail like names and dates and so forth. However, this was not a story James told. It was told about him by others who were Maori and not Samoan. There is a point here and it is important.

    Can you imagine a new Bishop suddenly announcing to his priests that they would now have four more meeting with them, but that these boys were not yet ordained. Remember, those four boys were known as beer drinkers. And then this Bishop telling those priests that these boys–these beer drinkers–had accepted a call to serve missions one year later. And then insisting that the priests be nice to them and help them learn the ropes. All James would say is that this is what the Spirit told him to do. But those boys, now seasoned men, and other Maori, just loved to tell that story. For them it was a model for how we should act.

    A favorite hymn in New Zealand was #335 in our book–”Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.” From the lighthouse above there is a light shining out to sea for those lost in the mess that is the world. We are, however, it pounds into us, if our hearts and minds are open, that we are the keepers of the lights along the shore. So the fact is that we are all charged with helping those out there who need a safe harbour. How? We keep, as well as we can, the lights along the shore. Why? “Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.” Everything we do ought to be our offering that we place upon the altar, hoping thereby to gain favor with God. Every time we speak or write or post on a blog, we should see our endeavors as devotional.

    With this in mind, and never wanting to miss an opportunity, I notice that capt jack indicates that, while his “relationship with the LDS church has ended,” because of some experiences in his youth, he still has “a soft spot for the Maori and stories about them.” Good. Very good. A starting point. Capt jack still remembers something that once moved his father. Excellent. This is a fine place to begin. What is this business about capt jack’s “relationship with the LDS church” having ended? This is not possible. This is simply not true. It will never end, even if he tries hard to go missing. And, in addition, he is, after all, right here on this blog with Mormon things being discussed. Why? He simply cannot leave it alone. He can’t spit or swallow. So there is hope. Capt jack is not a finished product yet. None of us are.

    For me, the Church is the community of Saints–those who have made a covenant with God. We may turn away and forget but God never does. He always remembers even if we forget or try to forget. The Church is not a building to which one goes to attend what may often be boring meetings. It is not the Brethren or some person in authority ordering people around. It is the community of those called out of the world to be the seed of Christ. This is what we are really dealing with. So the capt ought to ask if he even wishes that something about divine things was true. If we ever once even for a brief moment sang the song of redeeming love, are we now able to do so. If not, why have we turned away from God? We all start with a hope–a desire, a longing. And then with faith–understood as trust in God (and not in the Brethren as infallible or inerrant or any such silly thing, and not as a set of oppressive teachings about such things as the age of the earth and so forth). Our scriptures are intended to call us to or back to God. Do we have hope? If so, in and for what? Why? Can we trust and then obey as servants should do (the word we find in the KJV really means slave)? Are we good slaves seeking entry to the Master’s family? If we will respond to the call, and, as best we can, keep the commandments, the sum of which is love, then eventually, when we have endured the test–we are on probation–then we will find that we have been fully reconstituted, born again, sanctified and are now numbered among the seed of Christ and he is now our father. The seed of faith will have grown into the Tree of Life and we will be its fruit. So I urge capt jack and anyone else who has migrated to the margins or gone missing or who is troubled with doubts or temptations or whatever, to repent. And by repent I mean to turn to God, come unto the Holy One of Israel, or return to him.

  57. Prof. Midgely,
    I want to thank you for your fascinating(far from the boring that you claim) stories about your experience with the Maori, and especially for your beautiful testimony is this last post.

  58. Dr. Midgley, Captain Jack has been gracious. I find it troubling that you are exploiting his gesture to validate your self-image.

    Human beings cannot escape their socialization. That’s why Mormon children will always remain Mormons in a sense. The same phenomenon can be observed in the case of any number of other sects including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seven-day Adventists, the Opus Dei or Pentecostals. I suppose you do not mean to argue that this is part of God’s covenant as well.

    Captain Jack has said what he meant. It would be nice if believers would make an effort to interpret his words on his own terms rather than imposing the meaning of some discourse with hegemonic ambitions on the Captain and other post Mormons.

  59. Wow, “hegemonic ambitions?” Really? I can’t imagine a bigger disconnect between comments. I interpreted Prof. Midgely’s comment as a beautiful invitation to a potential believer. I don’t understand how you can make something negative out of it.

  60. Well said Hellmut. What may be “a beautiful invitation to a potential believer” to one may be a nauseating and atrociously presumptive screed to someone else.

  61. “To crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face.”

  62. MCQ, you really shouldn’t talk about Professor Midgley that way.

  63. lol, I stand corrected.

  64. Daniel Peterson says:

    Learning from Professor Midgley about the Maori and the Land of the Long White Cloud (and twice visiting him and his wife there in Aotearoa) has been a significant joy for me and a pleasure. It’s always best to learn from someone who has a passion for his subject — and it’s plain beyond question that Louis Midgley loves and respects the Maori.

    There is good reason for the esteem and affection in which many of us (not limited to me and my fellow wannabe hegemons) hold him.

  65. I agree and have loved reading his posts on this thread, which is one reason I jumped perhaps ovezealously to his defense. I would very much like to hear more on this subject. As a missionary in California, I was fortunate two have two companions from NZ, one Maori and one Kiwi (his word). I learned as much about their home as they could tell me and was fascinated by the visits I had with their compatriots in our mission. Prof. Midgely, please continue, if you have the time.

  66. Louis Midgley says:

    My interest in continuing the discussion of the Maori and the Saints in New Zealand, which I had been enjoying, suddenly declined to about zero beginning with item #58. Let me explain why. I admit to not being entirely comfortable posting on a blog. My first and only previous experience doing this taught me something about blogs. It was an unpleasant learning experience. But I have enjoyed this experience. At least I did until I was taken to the woodshed by Hellmut Lotz. He thinks he has me pegged: I am, it seems, given to “hegemonic ambitions.” And, of course, I am guilty of exploiting some language in something someone posted in an effort to “validate [my] self image.” And one other expert finds me guilty of posting “a nauseating and atrociously presumptive screed.” Really. It was that bad? I had not expected that the issues raised by Sterling and others would degenerate into a parade of insults and nasty stuff. It is not difficult to spot the approaching rhetorical gutter and to sense when someone has some emotional itch they need to scratch. So unless Lotz and Costanza are gently but firmly told to get lost, I have no interest in continuing a discussion that I had previously very much enjoyed, even though I suspect that my ultra long posts may have been of little or no interest to most of those on BCC. Of course, I am aware that not everyone has the same passions or interests.

  67. I think I have already made my feelings known here but let me be the first to ask Hellmut and Costanza to play elsewhere while you continue with your fascinating posts, please.

  68. Wow. So this thread has been going on for an unusually long time, and Professor Midgley has been the recipient of seemingly endless accolades for his interesting posts. Two people objected to what was, in fact, an off-topic post about someone’s relationship to the church. I think the threats to take your ball and go home unless the two offending parties are banished is a bit much. If two negative comments out of 50 plus gushing remarks hurts your feelings, maybe the blog world really isn’t for you.

  69. As long as there are no more calls to repentance, you won’t hear a peep from me.

  70. Daniel Peterson says:

    I find it fascinating that a call to repentance — pretty much of the essence of the gospel, as I understand it, and a call to which all of us are subject without exception — or what might alternatively be described as a very mild and gracious preaching of the gospel (an obligation, in Mormon understanding, laid upon all those who have made covenants with God) is construed as a “nauseating and atrociously presumptive screed,” an attempt to “impose the meaning of some discourse with hegemonic ambitions,” and an exploitative effort to “validate” Professor Midgley’s own “self-image.”

    It seems to me painfully obvious that endeavors to delegitimize even a mild public expression of mainstream Mormon belief in this fashion are themselves naked attempts at the imposition of a transparently hegemonic discourse and unmistakable evidence that, for some, tolerance is merely a one-way street. Religion, like a butterfly pinned to the museum wall or some curious custom depicted in an ethnographic film as occurring among quaint ethnics or distant savages, is an interesting object to squint at and to “discourse” about, but if it shows any signs of real life or if it dares to rear its ugly head in the neighborhood of one of its cultured despisers as a breathing reality, it is to be disdained, rebuked, marginalized, and, if possible, altogether silenced. Let it do whatever it does among the lesser races (e.g., in Maori villages or in sacrament meetings), but not in MY backyard. Life in their intellectual barrios is okay for inferior people, but they shouldn’t bring their smelly religious nonsense under my sensitive nostrils, as I’m easily offended.

  71. Louis Midgley says:

    DeRucci probably correctly senses that the blog is not for me. This is especially true in fora in which what Richard Bushman calls “Mormon nice” requires the faithful to fall silent and to tolerate if not exactly celebrate the constant pounding away at their faith from the deracinated or disaffected on the margins of the community of Saints. I must admit that I am not anxious to enter a rhetorical sewer where clever and sometimes nasty repartee is the name of the game, and where my and your faith is being mocked. (I have, incidently, had some things to say about the function of mockery in an essay entitled “The First Steps,” FARMS Review 17/1 [2005]: xi-lv at xxi-xxxviii. If any of you have not read this, please do.] I am not opposed to disagreements or differences of opinions even or especially on basic issues. (See my remarks on this matter in “Knowing Brother Joseph Again,” FARMS Review 18/1 [2006]: xi-lxxii at xi-xxix.) My reluctance to continue posting on this thread rests on a sense that many or most who visit this spot have been exhausted by or with the topic. And, like me, perhaps also by a profound disinterest in trading insults with the likes of Hellmut Lotz.

    As you might imagine, on topics related to New Zealand and the Saints I am not a bit reluctant to tell some additional true stories or from my perspective to offer either some information or observations. If there is any remaining interest in such things, then I am willing to the best of my ability to answer some questions.

  72. Ok, my question is, why are you not qualified to write a book on this topic?

  73. Louis Midgley says:

    Well, I have published two essays on Maori things. The problem with what you seem to suggest is that there is not just one topic, but a host of more or less related topics. When I published on the Maori and the Book of Mormon relied heavily on my own experiences. Doing a larger study would very soon expose my ignorance. And, as I explained, others are far better fitted to write on these matters. Let me illustrate some of the extent of my ignorance. Often when a Maori passes away, after the tangi (funeral) the elders (old guys) will come to the home and go through a ritual that is intended to remove the tapu. I have read about this and heard several descriptions of it, but I have never seen it and hardly understand it. There are all kinds of things like this with the Maori. But they multiply throughout the South Pacific. I will illustrate.
    There are somewhere between 850 and 900 marae, with those carved houses, in New Zealand. I have seen, my wife says, 450 of them. In New Zealand the marae usually involve a carved house, and a whare kai (eating house), a latrine, an urupa (or cemetary) and perhaps other buildings. There are also places all over the South Pacific that are called marae. These are flat stone foundations, often with short walls on three sides and with a raised platform at the rear. But no buildings. In New Zealand the word marae identifies the space (often lawn) in front of the carved house that is surrounded by a wall or fence. It is known what goes on at a Maori marae, but no one knows what those places were for elsewhere in the South Pacific. Now Hawaii does not have marae. Instead, they have what is called heiau. They seen quite similar, but are they the same? What were they for? Because I see or think I see similarities between the Cook Island and other eastern Polynesian lore and rituals, should I therefore infer that once upon a time they had buildings and/or rituals that were related or the same? I just do not know. I am aware of others who are much better fitted in every way to do what you seem to suggest that I do.

    Now for a bit of a story. You will recall the winter Olympic games held in Utah. The night before they began, the Church help a big welcome in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square for the New Zealand Olympic team and all the hangers on. One had to have tickets to get in and it was a very good idea to arrive a hour early. If you did not, you ended up in the Tabernacle and had to watch the event on TV. The event began with a prayer in Maori, and then we sang the New Zealand national anthem in English and then Maori. That is, the American sang it in Maori, but not those from New Zealand. The people from New Zealand were visibly stunned when the people in that building could sing their national anthem in Maori, since they could not do that. They then had Maori, Samoan and Tongans do their thing, and three exceptional musical items by LDS Kiwi. The New Zealand film board gave those who had produced The Other Side of Heaven an award–it was done with New Zealand crew, Maori and Samoan actors from New Zealand and some of the scenes that were supposed to have taken place at BYU and in Idaho and Utah were filmed in Auckland. Then what took the place of the closing prayer turned out to be the most famous Maori song, Po Karekare Ana. If you have ever heard this song, you will remember it. The song/prayer was sung by an LDS Kiwi lady is about as good as Kiri Te Kanawa. She sang it softly and then sang it again and the audience joined in.

    If you like very good opera singers, then I suggest you get a tape of CD or whatever of Kiri Te Kanawa doing some Maori songs. Oh she is good. Oh do I have some stories about her, but not now.

    Then they announced that the meeting was not over but would just immediately shift to the lobby of the Joseph Smith Building which was now a Maori marae. They can turn any place into a marae, if needed. And in this ritual greeting it would be the New Zealand Olympic team and hangers who would be the manuhiri (visitors) in a powwhiri (welcome). The main floor and the surrounding second floor were immediately packed and that wonderful event took place. The New Zealand Ambassador to the United States responded for the visitors–in Maori yet. Amazing. A Kiwi who can speak some Maori. But he shifted to English half way through and explained that he had been telling the Olympic team and the New Zealand government that they would be stunned to find themselves in the one place outside New Zealand where their homeland was known and loved and also where Europeans could speak Maori. After the welcome, there was a feed–there must be a feed. And I got to talk with virtually all the people from New Zealand. Those folks were very much emotionally impacted by that experience. None of the Kiwi really expected to win a medal or anything like that. But they all said that this event would make it all worth it. Three Asian TV networks filmed the whole thing–in the Assembly Hall and in the Joseph Smith Building. Those TV people were just raving about how wonderful that event had been and how people in various places in Asia would love to see it. Why, I wonder was it not filmed and then shown on KBYU or KSL?

    While my wife and I were in New Zealand, I got a call from an Australian TV network. They were coming to New Zealand to film background to be shown to explain the blokes in Australia something about Utah and the Mormons for the Winter Olympics in Utah. They wanted to interview me in front of the LDS chapel on Upper Queen Street. Right at sunrise they would be at a Maori marae in Auckland with some old LDS Maori. I wanted to be there also. But they insisted that I meet part of their crew at the Scotia Place chapel to get ready for my part. I had to stand there in the sun without my hat on and speak a little Maori and introduce myself and explain very briefly how I had once been back in 1950-52 a missionary in New Zealand and then how my wife and I had ended up back there as old people as missionaries. They told me that they would signal when to stop and so forth. They wanted perhaps five minutes of talk from me. I started in and started telling stories–yes I am prone to do that–and I got the palms up signal over and over and hence just went on and on. That interview lasted for over forty minutes. I was fried by the time it was over. I have no idea what those Australians (those people from what the Kiwi like to call the West Island that is over the one thousand mile ditch) did with all that film. But that TV crew was obviously pleased by what they had filmed. They loved it. And so did I.

  74. Also, it seems to me that many members take for granted that Maori and other polynesian people are descendents of the Book of Mormon civilizations, but my Maori companion was shocked when he was offered a “Lamanite” scholarship at BYU post-mission. How do the LDS Maori in genera view this issue?

  75. Louis Midgley says:


    In 1985 my wife and I went with the BYU Wind Symphony for a month to New Zealand and Australia, with a final few days in Hawaii. The Midgleys–what a joke–were the “cultural advisors.” Not on music, that is for sure. When we were greeted at the Tukapuwhahia marae in Porirua, almost he first thing that the Maori told those BYU kids is that President Kimball was a great man and, next to Joseph Smith, the greatest prophet of this dispensation, but he got one thing dead wrong–the Maori never have identified with Lamanites, but with Lamanites. I think that I explained that in my essay in the festschrift for John Sorenson.

    I have always thought that it was just plain stupid to go around trying to get Native Americans to identify with the Lamanites. What is the point of that. Doing this is much like the gentile mistake, very commonly made, of claiming that the Book of Mormon is a story about the lost tribes. Not so. Just plain wrong. But we have made the same mistake. Why? See the language I quoted in my essay in the Sorenson festschrit from from something Richard Bushman once wrote about how both the believers and unbelievers have both read things into the Book of Mormon that are simply not there or have failed to notice what is really there.

  76. Perhaps you meant, they identified with the Nephites. In any case, I appreciate the anecdotes.

  77. Agreed. Why no Nephite Scholarship? Other than Samuel, there seems precious little in the BoM for the so-called “modern Lamanites” to identify with. And in the case of the Maori, isn’t it just plain wrong?

  78. Louis Midgley says:

    J. Stapley:

    Of course you are exactly right.


    Since they now, if they join up, part of the Covenant People of God and hence the seed of Christ, why identify with the negative figures? It isn’t drops of blood or genetics, but a decision we must all make of who we are and where we want to be. Even Jake the Mus could have at any time have decided that he was no longer a beer drinker and a brawler and become something else. I saw that going on all the time in New Zealand. Now I sort of fear to use the word, but what we are talking about is the other side of faith (understood as trust and not believing a list of statements). And this other side of the coin is repentance–turning to or returning to God.


  79. Louis, in #56, you write: “I am not sure which “Mormon journals” would be willing to publish what I have to say on these matters. Why? “Mormon journals” tend not to like preaching, unless it is in some way critical. They are not a bit interested in promoting the faith…not, of course, Dialogue or Sunstone, for obvious reasons.”

    I think both Sunstone and Dialogue welcome faith-promoting articles. I’m more involved with Dialogue, but I think it’s accurate to say both publications seek out faith-promoting articles.
    From your perspective, what about Dialogue has changed since the days when you were publishing articles there that discussed Paul Tillich and Erich Fromm.

  80. Louis Midgley says:

    Sterling, there are other venues besides the two magazines you mention; I choose to make use of these. I started out a very enthusiastic supporter of Dialogue. I did my share of promotional work to get the thing launched. Like Richard Bushman, who was there right at the beginning, my enthusiasm for that venture eventually waned. This happened to a host of people. And I have subsequently had some extremely bad experiences with various people behind the levers of power at Dialogue. Some of them have gone out of their way to get even. For just one example, have a look at Glen Hettinger’s bizarre “Hard Day for Professor Midgley” that once appeared in Dialogue. There is not a single word in that essay that is accurate. But I must also grant that Dialogue provided me with the opportunity to fashion and popularize the label Cultural Mormon, which I borrowed from a German word sometimes used to describe the limp Protestant liberalism against which people like Karl Barth appropriately remonstrated. I rather enjoy being known as a critic of Cultural Mormonism. See the editor’s introduction to FR 17/1 and FR 18/1 for indications of what I have in mind.

  81. Regarding Louis’ anti-Dialogue/Suntone comment in 58, I subscribe to, among other publications, each of Dialogue, Journal of Mormon History, and BYU Studies. I find each of these to be important contributors to my faith and my Mormon experience. Each publishes articles that are expressly faith affirming. While BYU Studies limits itself to “inspiring” articles, the first two journals will also publish articles that offer viewpoints that are critical, and that for some may undermine “faith” in a specific historical event or belief. I welcome that. Sometimes I’ve believed in or had faith in too many things (that God is a respecter of persons, for one, that Joseph Smith was viritually inerrant, for another). After sifting through the academic discussions on an issue, I find I settle down to a sometimes narrower, but usually better founded, faith.

    I understand that some people prefer a different approach. My father started Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling,” and soon put it aside with the conclusion that the book wasn’t “inspiring.” I think he felt this way because he was unaware of some of the historical context that Bushman described. I was aware of that context, and when I read the book I found it inspiring, that it restored my “faith” in Joseph Smith. I’ve since enjoyed Bushman’s various radio interviews (most recently John Dehlin’s 5-part interview of Bushman on

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  82. Louis Midgley says:

    KimB’s remarks (#81) have sort of drawn me from my next to favorite topic to the one to which I devote most of my remaining energies. He has made some good observations. Let me point out that I read the Journal of Mormon History, Sunstone and Dialogue–everything I can get my hands on. These days I do not care to publish in those venues. I must admit to not being all that interested in BYU Studies.

    I do not crave anything overtly faith promoting. I demand accuracy. I also want to know what assumptions are at work behind what is written. If any of you would care to know how I came to publish in the second issue of Dialogue an essay on Paul Tillich and why I later crafted the label Cultural Mormon and launched it in an essay in Dialogue in an effort to describe those on the margins of the Church, have a look at my “A Mighty Kauri Has Fallen,” FR 17/1 (2005): 337-354.
    I spurn and even detest efforts to turn Joseph Smith into a two a two dimensional cardboard figure. I have always wanted to know more about Joseph Smith–as many details as possible, as many contrasting and competing perspectives and so forth. I have explained all of this in “Knowing Brother Joseph Again,” which I cited previously. I am also passionate about doing the intellectual history of the quarrels over my and, hopefully, your faith.

    I do not need faultless heroes. This means, among other things, that I do not want anyone, including even my Mormon historians, to wear haloes. This fact has gotten me into Big Trouble with some people; it explains the hostility towards me (and my associates) in certain circles. Early in my career I fought a big battle in an effort to put a stop to efforts to turn the Church of Jesus Christ into a branch of the John Birch Society, or into a vehicle for Cleon Skousen to sell his nonsense. I have sort of enjoyed being a kind of pariah.

    And this also explains why I am somewhat less enthusiastic about some magazines (and other venues for strutting on our little stages) than probably some of you are. I am deeply skeptical, though not cynical. It is our own faith or lack thereof that counts. It is not what someone once told us or something we read in a magazine or on a blog. I actually hope that KimB has not really settled down at all. I am at the no-more-green-bananas stage of life, and I do not feel that I have settled down.

    Since KimB mentioned Bushman, I wonder if anyone noticed that is also one loner. I wonder if any of you have read Bushman’s latest book–On the Road with Joseph Smith. Well, of course you have not read it. Why? One reason is that only 102 copies were printed and it cost $160. I also wonder if any of you read the FARMS Review. If not, you should. I has been going now for 18 years and it has published (in its quirky and shifting format) the very best scholarship produced by Latter-day Saints–nothing comes close to it. But this also means that it is hated by some who do not want their ideological feathers ruffled or the faith of the Saints competently defended.

  83. I’ve been surprised to see how comfortable participants in this thread are in treating “chosen lineage” as a metaphorical or spiritual concept and either ignoring our rejecting a need for an actual genetic link.
    At first that bothered me, but I think the viewpoint is growing on me, as I realize that it matches how I interpret most of the references to a chosen seed.
    Another thing that bothered me at first was Sterling’s suggestion in the essay that Joseph Smith’s teaching regardng the Garden of Eden being in Missouri might be viewed in the same way. I hadn’t considered that before. Are there are any articles that discuss that possiblity?

  84. In comments 19 and 29, Louis, mentioned some details about Maori carvings. The photos I’ve posted on this blog are Maori carvings from the Treaty of Whitianga grounds in the Bay of Islands. The current photo is the figure head on the huge war canoe that rests there.
    Last Saturday at a Black History Month activity, BYU’s Multicultural Student Services displayed their publication, the Eagle’s Eye. I noticed the Dec. 04 issue had an article by Natalie Walus called “Carving Life: The Maori Art of Whakairo.” Here are a couple of the introductory paragraphs:

    “Eyes enlarged, face contorted, and tongue protruded, the human carvings of Maori culture may appear disturbing, perhaps even ugly. But to the Maori of New Zealand, nothing was more beautiful—they valued the strong, defiant warrior spirit, so they carved it. ..During the height of Maori civilization, whakairo (Maori for carving, or decorating) was a means of preserving the culture of the tribe…their history, the spirits of their ancestors, and their beliefs in a visual record that was not only useful, but beautiful as well.
    Much like the highly ornamental cathedrals of the Middle Ages, the Maori meeting house (whare runanga) was covered with important images that preserved a tribe’s history. Images of distinguished chiefs, warriors, and events of a tribe adorned much of the inner and outer parts of the structure. It was here that young children would learn their history and the stories of their great ancestors. Though most of the faces in tribal meeting houses are now unknown, there was probably a time when the whole village could identify each sculptural representation by its specific tattoos. (The Maori identified people with their facial tattoos more than their facial features.) Important figures in Maori religion and legend could also be found carved into these houses of learning, including the most popular subjects of Rangi (sky father) and Papa (earth mother).
    Along with teaching tribe members about their history, carvings served to commemorate ancestors. It was believed that spirits could reside in carvings, and by residing they would help and protect the tribe. The Maori have always held great respect for their progenitors, which is manifested in carvings rendering ancestors as strong, defiant, vigorous warriors. [C]arvings connected humanity to a higher sphere and they preserved what the Maori believed.“

  85. Louis, I was unaware of your involvement with the Birch controversy until reading the recent McKay biography. Let me personally thank you for your work at that time.

  86. Louis Midgley says:

    I keep thinking that this thread will expire. But it just keep on going. And I am very pleased that Sterling has allowed me to opine up a storm. I warn anyone who starts reading this that it is once again long.
    In item #84, Sterling includes a wonderful quotation from someone who clearly understands the function of those wonderful Maori carvings. Those carvings have meanings and hence are like a book that can be read. The basic tribal whakapapa (genealogy) and related lore is preserved and passed on in those carved houses. The rank and position of male Maori was indicated by the moko (tats) on their faces, or by the absence thereof. But much of all of that has been forgotten or turned into hotel entertainment or paraded around for tourists and so forth. Even the Maori language once seemed about to disappear. The Maori have experienced as we all have the relentless pounding of the ways of the dominant material and intellectual culture. They have suffered greatly from this. The language and lore were was still alive among the old people in 1950. Oh those were the days. I was such an idiot. I should have been writing everything down and taking photos. Instead, I recorded flat tires on my bike and whether it rained. I thought that I would remember all the details or at least what I needed to remember. I was a dumb kid. But, as you can see, I never really recovered, I am now more than pleased to admit, from my encounter with New Zealand and its wonderful peoples.
    Sterling quotes someone saying that Maori carvings “connected humanity to a higher sphere and they preserved what the Maori believed.” Notice the past tense. I find this unfortunately true. Sterling also quoted this person say that “it was believed that spirits could reside in carvings.” Well, it once was, as in Once Were Warriors. But, I can almost hear you asking, how could a mere carving do that? I will try to explain. We–you reading this–may believe that written texts can convey truths from God. Blotches of ink on paper can do this? Really? How? Well it happens even if we are not sure exactly how. Then why not carvings on wood?
    Let me see if I can explain. The Bruce Biggs Maori dictionary defines the word “ihi” as follows: “shudder, thrill (especially at a moving performance of some Maori song or dance), spiritual power derived from one’s Maori heritage; ray of sunlight.” But Cleve Barlow goes somewhat further back and much deeper. He described “ihi” as referring “to the vitality or total personality of a person, which increases through devotion to the gods and the development of one’s skills and talents.” Now recall the old guy in The Whale Rider trying to pound something into those boys. Why was he doing that? Why did he think it necessary?
    Barlow also says that the ihi of each person is different, but groups can have their own ihi. And “everything, including animals and plants, has a special power or unique quality known as its ihi; there is an ihi of trees, of birds, and of fish. Food also has ihi.” With human beings the ihi is the power of each individual and of groups to develop and grow to their full maturity and excellence. Then Barlow quotes a famous old Maori aphorism: “Bring forth the ihi of the warriors, the power [kaha] of the warriors, the excellence of the warriors.” Remember that Beth told Jake that her folks were once warriors and he and his people were mere slaves. And hence he was still just a beer drinker and brawling bum, while she intended to move in a different direction–back to her Maori roots. And doing that meant, among other things, seeing a power in those carvings. This is exactly was Selwyn Jones was doing with what someone called his “road show.”
    I went to one of his “shows” at a marae in Manurewa, which is part of Auckland but ten miles south of the main center of the city. Selwyn was without his regular companions. He insisted that I would be his companion. And I was. He explained everything that went on to me; he translated the speeches made by a Cook Islander, a Tongan and a Fijian for me as they were talking and explained all kinds of interesting things. Oh I was in my element that day. When his turn came to offer instruction, he told me that he had noticed quite a few young people there. The Holy Spirit, he said, had told him that they needed to know about some things.
    So he began that session by saying to those assembled that he would read for them the carvings in that whare (house). He had a light that made it possible to point to this or that object. He went over some familiar basics, then he pointed to a tiny little item. He asked those assembled to explain what it meant. Immediately someone said that they thought they recognized tane (man) and wahine (woman). Yes, others added. Then Selwyn asked why they were represented. Someone said that they were linked or in union. Others agreed. It was an indication of their marriage. Then more people agreed. But the two objects representing tane and wahine were at the bottom of a triangle shaped carving. What was at the top and why was it there. There was a pause. Then someone said that the top of that carving represented Io (God). So when there is a union of man and woman, God is or ought to be a partner–they are or should be joined or sealed by God. There was then, from the old people, agreement that they had once heard something like this from their grandparents, but they had sort of forgotten it.
    Selwyn then drew out of those attending that meeting that this carved figure was once a way of telling the Maori not to engage in casual sex. You may guess where he went from there. Needless to say he told those assembled that men and woman must be joined in a covenant by God or they violate a fundamental teaching found right there in those carved houses. He was reading to them from their own “book.” Then he expanded out from there and from that audience he got people admitting that the Maori had unfortunately turned their backs on what was right there before them in their own carved book of life.
    Now ask yourself if those carvings can have an ihi that could bring forth the spirit of the warrior–nobility, courage, willingness to sacrifice for the good of the family, dedication to God and so forth? And could those carvings also teach that the union of men and woman is sacred?
    But there are other things about those carvings. They seem grotesque when one first sees them. Strapped eyes, mutilated hands (either showing three or sometimes four fingers), erect you know whats, babies coming out, tongues sticking out, and so forth. The meaning of those carvings is quite counterintuitive. For example, a woman with strapped eyes and a tongue sticking out and sweeping to one side is clearly hospitable. She who rules the kitchen–remember the scene in The Whale Rider–will feed you well and so forth.
    Sterling mentions the huge waka (war canoe) at Waitangi. It has a very long name. One striking feature, which is common to such carvings, is the very high and ornately carved thing that sticks up over ten feet at the back of the boat. This carving depicts the war in heaven in the premortal life. You got to see a plastic version of one of those waka (canoes) in The Whale Rider.
    You may have noticed that I introduced the Maori word “kaha.” This word means strong, powerful. This word also can mean to be able, to have ability, energy, strength, force and so forth. The most common expression in the Church in 1950 was “kia kaha ki te Rongopai” (be strong in the gospel). But Matt Cowley always added the words “kia ngarwari.” There is even now a wonderful Maori hymn with that title celebrating Cowley. Ngarwari means soft, tender, shy, humble and so forth. In order to be kaha (strong, powerful) in the gospel, one must also become ngarwari. One cannot be the one without the other. If you go to Tauranga and find the Judea marae, I can guarantee that on the gate you will find the words “kia ngawari.” This was Cowley’s marae; this is where he claims to have become a man. He started his mission at 16 right there in Tauranga. So it is fitting that his marae carry his most famous teaching as its moto.
    Those Maori kids we knew at the Lorne Street Institute, returned missionaries, university students and all that, had to look in the mirror and see a brown skinned face that was every day on TV associated with drugs, gangs, violence, all the evils of the welfare state–everything you could see sort of understated in The Whale Rider and all of what you got hit in the face with in Once Were Warriors. They suffered from a kind of self-loathing. But when they heard Selwyn Jones, all of that anguish disappeared. They now believed that their kind had once back then had a much more noble past. They told my wife and me that they now saw a potential child of God when they looked in the mirror.
    On one of Dan Peterson’s visits to New Zealand, he went to the marae at Auckland University of Technology–a mere hundred meters from the Lorne Street Institute. We went through a Maori greeting just for him. That marae was designed by Matt Chote, who was in 1950 the Branch President in Auckland. My wife and I have remained in close contact with Matt and his wife, who is still alive. In addition to the usual Maori genealogical items, that marae also had carvings making room for the Pakeha. The Maori loved this addition.
    Taylor Tarawhiti came to speak for the visitors on that day–he is an LDS Institute Director in New Zealand, and has or is about to return from being the Mission President in Papua. He is a wonderful fellow. Dan, without any coaching, knew exactly the right things to say. He and the Midgleys were supported by a dozen or so kids from the Lorne Street Institute. When we had to sing our song, we sang in I am a Child of God in English. The Maori love that hymn. It has even been adopted by non LDS Maori. We might have sung it in Maori, but not with our Tongan and Samoan kids there with us. I had to take them into consideration. The Maori at that marae understood.
    I took photos of everything. I have photos of Dan at that marae, for example. And also of all of our kids and the local Maori. At that marae one cannot take photos inside the carved house. Oh yea? My wife and I once just wandered in through the back of the marae and I photographed everything in that house. I just had to have photos of the house my dear friend had designed. No one noticed, fortunately. My wife thinks I am a bit too deferent to Maori marae rules. I am, except in this one instance, very much concerned not to offend anyone over even the slightest thing. I have seen visitors, when they approached one of those places, treat it as a mere tourist curiosity. They would then do and say things that made me ill. I treat those places as sacred space and not profane–that is, outside the Temple walls.

  87. Louis: I have a close friend who has just finished his doctorate, whose knowledge of the Maori language–especially the oldest elements in that language–and the traditions and written records is as good as it gets, is qualified to write about these matters. And not me. He has been working for years for a judge involved in land disputes arising over the Treaty of Waitangi, which guaranteed Maori treasures, including the land. Of course, the Brits were greedy and stole some or much of the land.

    Those are two book’s I’d buy (one on the Maori traditions, another on ongoing Brit-Maori land/treaty tensions).

  88. i just re-read through some of the lengthy posts that I skimmed through the first time. This is good stuff. Thanks Sterling, thanks Louis, and others. I’ve visited NZ in the past, but not, I see now, with an appropriate attention to culture and history.

    Perhaps I’ve been too caught up in the spirit of this post, but I’m beginning to see Danl Petersen in a new light. Though one may view some of his communications as overly aggressive, I’m now seeing that he’s Maori at heart. Within many of his written communications, at the same time that he is laying out the substance of his argument, he is performing a written haka –the Maori war dance performed to prepare for battle and intimidate the opponent. It’s not easy to accomplish both tasks at once, but he seems to do it well (though I prefer haka-free communications).

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