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Joseph Henry Dean and the spirit of Elijah

Grandfather’s Journals Strengthen Families’ Spirit of Elijah

Hal G. Anderson, September 20, 2005

If you want to be remembered and have a great impact on future generations, keep a record and fill it will meaningful content, those experiences of a lasting nature that will motivate and inspire your posterity.  If you are like me when I am trying to write in my journal, the thought often occurs: “Will anyone read these journals?”  I have always known that my Great Grandfather, Joseph H. Dean, served his first mission to the Hawaiian Islands, and his second and third mission to the Samoan Islands, because he left us his record in over 100 journals (now in the Church Historical office).  My Grandfather, Harry A. Dean also served a mission to the Samoan Islands and took on the Mormon/Moroni role of condensing my Great Grandfather’s prolific work into a single volume that even I could take time and read.

In January of this year, I began reading my Grandfather’s and Great Grandfather’s journals regarding their missionary experiences in Samoa.  At about the same time, the January 2005 Ensign came out and contained the annual membership update article that had the following interesting membership metrics: Samoa and American Samoa ranked 2nd and 3rd under the category of “Countries with Highest Percentages of Church Membership” with 34% and 19% respectively. Under the category of “Languages Most Frequently Spoken by Church Members”, Samoa also ranked 8th after English, Spanish, Portuguese, and the 3 Philippines languages and Japanese with an estimated 102,000 Samoan members (based on year-end 2003 data).  As I pondered the “Great Harvest” that has been accomplished in the Samoan islands in terms of converts and the contributions of both my Grandfather and Great Grandfather to the work, as well as the burning down and subsequent re-building of the Apia, Samoa Temple; I had the desire to take my Mother, Annette Dean Anderson (now 74 years young) and her siblings along with Julie and our children to Samoa in celebration of our missionary forefathers.

We planned the trip and arrived as a family group of 10 on Friday night September 2, 2005, on the Upolu Island of Samoa. On Saturday September 3rd at 3:00 we traveled to the capital city of Apia and there joined some 20,000 people gathered to hear President Gordon B. Hinckley speak to them followed by a major cultural event of over 5,000 participants in full cultural dress.  There was not a seat available in the entire stadium; all came dressed in their nicest clothes to hear the Prophet of God.  President Hinckley and President Monson both came and delivered excellent addresses to the people through interpreters.  We were all uplifted by the words and the example of our living Prophet.  The people then expressed their great gratitude through song and dance as they celebrated the visit of their Prophet and the rebuilding of their Temple.  A greater pageantry of color, dance, rhythm and music of all Polynesian cultures I have never before witnessed.  The Samoan youth were heavily and wonderfully involved.  It was a spectacular to be remembered.

On Sunday morning, we drove an hour across the island to the city of Apia for the Temple dedication.  As part of the trip preparation, my mother and her sisters had written President Hinckley to request temple dedication tickets.  To our delight, his office sent a temple dedication ticket to each of us with our individual names typed on the ticket, what amazed us even more; the tickets were for inside the Temple (instead of a stake center).  We were seated in one of the ordinance rooms surrounded by the beautiful people of Samoa.  President Hinckley was in an adjoining room and we saw and heard him via large screens.  The workmanship of the temple was immaculate; the spirit of the temple was one of peace, and sacred reverence. President Hinckley mentioned that no expense or effort was withheld in the rebuilding of this magnificent Temple; granite from Vermont, materials from around the world.  As I looked around the impressive ordinance room of the dedicatory session, I saw beautifully dark-skinned people with light in their eyes and smiles on their faces.  The men were in their traditional dress of a lava-lava, white shirt, tie, and sandals.  It looks to be a very comfortable and stylish fashion.  President Hinckley put us all at ease when he began the proceedings with this profound welcome: “We have all been personally invited as guests by the Savior to attend this Temple dedication.”  This comment was a direct answer to my prayer of earlier that morning.  I desired to make sure that it was acceptable to the Lord that we take a seat in His great house during the dedication that was built especially for the Samoan people. The spirit confirmed to my heart and mind that we had been so invited and were welcome as the Lord’s guests.  President Hinckley continued: “This is the House of the Lord.”  This comment made so directly and plainly by the Prophet as if to dispel any doubt or question of whose house this really is.  “We have come to celebrate the great harvest of the gospel among the people of Samoa.”  President Hinckley referenced the many missionaries that have served and continue to serve the Samoan people.  This comment also helps articulate why we have come to Samoa.

 A portion of President Hinckley’s Dedicatory Prayer of the Samoan Temple: In the Islands of Samoa, Thou has remembered Thine ancient promise “unto them who are upon the isles of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:21).  The message of the restored gospel was brought to these islands by faithful missionaries.  A great harvest has occurred, and today there are stakes of Zion and many beautiful houses of worship.  Crowning all of these is this, Thy Holy House. This new and beautiful structure has been raised on this sacred ground.  It is magnificent in all of its elements.  And now, in the name of Jesus Christ and in the authority of the holy priesthood in us vested, we dedicate to Thee and to Thy Beloved Son this, the Apia Samoa Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  (September 4, 2005, Apia, Samoa)

Other Notable messages of the Temple Dedication:

  • Christ is the Chief Cornerstone of the Gospel and the Temple Ordinances.
  • In the Ordinances of the Temple the Power of Godliness is manifest.
  • Prepare to enter the Temple Worthily.
  • Every time we Attend the Temple we receive blessings.
  •  Bless your children, Lay your hands on their heads and bless and strengthen them.

The session was very special and I found my eyes wet with tears and heart tender as I felt the Lord and His Spirit through the words of the speakers.

As a family, we wanted to see whether the painting depicting our Great Grandfather, Joseph H. Dean with his wife Florence and new-born baby, arriving on the tiny island of Aunu’u would be in this newly rebuilt Temple as it had been in the Temple before it burned.  As we inquired, we were delighted to find out that the Samoan Church leadership requested the painting to be re-done by the original artist and that the new painting was in the main foyer of the Temple entry.  We were told by a younger Samoan brother that this was the Samoan people’s favorite painting and that is why it is displayed prominently in the Temple foyer.  We came many thousand miles to share in the Temple dedicatory service in celebration of the great harvest and blessing of the gospel among the Samoan people.  We were there also as part of the great harvest and legacy (as his posterity) of my Great Grandfather, Joseph H. Dean, the first official missionary and later first Mission President of the Samoan mission.  We share with the Samoan people our own conversion and owe our gospel heritage to the faithfulness of our Great Grandfather, Joseph H. Dean.

As we inquired regarding Joseph H. Dean, the people informed us that there are two Memorials, one on the Island of Tutuila at one of the Stake Center buildings and the other on the Temple/Stake Center campus on the island of Upolu that includes the same picture as found in the Temple of Joseph H. Dean and wife Florence and baby getting off of the small boat on the island of Aunu’u bronzed with this statement:

On June 21, 1888, Samuela Manoa and his wife, Faasopo, warmly greeted Joseph H. Dean, his wife, Florence, and infant child as they waded ashore on the island of Aunu’u close to the island of Tutuila (now American Samoa).  Thus the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was officially introduced to the Samoan Islands.  This monument, erected 21 June 1988, and the written testimonies sealed therein bear witness to the fruits of their labors. 

We were able to visit both memorials at both of these locations.  Finally, we visited the Samoan mission office and there found another large print of this same picture.  Truly, this wonderful painting memorializes and represents all of the dedication and diligent work of thousands of missionaries that have labored on the islands of Samoa.  The Samoan people are genuinely thankful to have the gospel brought to them by faithful missionaries.

The journals of my Great Grandfather indicate that his father and mother Joseph Dean and wife Catherine Knott were converts to the Church from England and migrated to Utah in 1859 when Joseph H. Dean was 4 years old.  Joseph H. Dean grew up living in the Salt Lake area under the leadership of the Prophet Brigham Young and the Twelve through the early years of settling the Utah Territory.  As a 23 year-old man, Joseph H. Dean served a mission to the Hawaiian Islands 12 December 1877 to 16 September 1881.  He then served a Second Mission to Hawaii and then received permission from the First Presidency to travel to Samoa as the first official missionary and later served as the first Mission President from 1888 to 1890.  He received permission from the First Presidency in 1915 to return again to Samoa and assist his son, Harry A. Dean with the translation of the hymns to the Samoan language.  Joseph also served as a stone cutter for 6 years for the Salt Lake City Temple and was named the first caretaker of the Temple.  In his later life, he served as a Patriarch.

In his book titled: Unto the Islands of the Sea, A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific, R. Lanier Britsch writes the following: “On October 30, 1888, four months after his arrival in Samoa, President Joseph H. Dean wrote to President Wilford Woodruff.  His letter included a paragraph explaining why he had not expanded the work beyond Aunu’u.  First, he did not feel that he should leave the forty or so souls who had joined the Church there since he arrived.  He wrote, “My policy has always been to labor as hard to keep a member as to get a new one, and not to spread my wings over more eggs than I can keep warm.”  Second, he mentioned that he had not quite mastered the Samoan language in the four months he had been there.  Then, almost incidentally, he mentioned that he had been working with the members on a new meetinghouse.  President Dean’s letter did not mention that he had organized a branch, baptized at least thirty-five people (who had an additional 12 children under the age of eight), organized a Sunday School, a Relief Society, and looked after the arrival of several missionaries” (pgs 351-363).

When Joseph H. Dean left Samoa there were 124 members and he had directed the work to all 3 islands.  Today on the Islands of Samoa, there are 20 stakes and 141 wards, 26 Branches and 102,000 members, 1 mission and 1 Holy Temple.  Truly, a marvelous work and a wonder, a bounteous harvest.  Our own Greg Nelson is one of the faithful missionaries to contribute to this great harvest.  His Grandfather also served as a Mission President (my Grandfather, Harry A. Dean served under him).

My testimony has been strengthened through the legacy of faith and the good works of my forefathers.  Our trip to Samoa served to further cement the great symbol of the Temple as the source of our full blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know that the Lord loves the Samoan people; He loves all of his children and knows them, every one.  The Lord is working a great and marvelous work throughout the world as the field is white already to harvest; he is gathering his elect from the four corners of the earth. This experience illustrates to me that the seeds of missionary work and the work accomplished within the walls of our homes with our own families will potentially impact thousands of people.  May we live up to our privileges and responsibilities.  I have much to be grateful for and to live up to. I pray that as our hearts turn to our fathers that we as a family will be strengthened to follow their example of faithfulness and good works, that we will be willing to participate more fully in the great and marvelous work of spreading the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

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