Dr. Lynette Finau shares how women, specifically mothers and grandmothers, have shaped people and their faith
At BYU–Hawaii’s The Voices of Latter-day Saint Women in the Pacific and Asia conference, Dr. Lynette Finau shared the example of Lois, Eunice and Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5, where Paul recognizes Timothy’s faith because of his grandmother and mother. “Your faithfulness endures to all generations,” Finau said. “We all inherited our mothers and grandmothers' faith. We are walking in their footprints.” Finau, a current lecturer in the University of Washington’s Department of Anthropology and BYUH alumna, opened the church history conference on March 3.
“There are many stories and there are many voices of women who have shaped, refined and helped realize what the Latter-day Saints experienced in the Pacific and most of Asia,” said Finau. She said she recognizes the word “voices” as an asset, especially in her career. She shared as a Ph.D. student, she was confronted with statistics in research and scholarship in multicultural education about current teaching and realized Pacific Island teachers’ voices were not heard. These experiences were what led her to hear the stories of women in the Pacific and Asia.
Finau explained she had one-on-one conversations with 30 survey participants over three days about the topic of “Who is the most prominent Latter-day Saint woman in the Pacific and Asia in your life?” These participants were men and women 20 to 80 years old who were Pacific Islanders and members of the church. As a result of her survey, she divided the answers into five categories of women consisting of teachers, grandmothers, women in business, wives of Church leaders and mothers. To her surprise, Finau said, the younger generation, or people 20 to 40 years old, said their mother, grandmother or both were their role models. In contrast, the older generation shared their role models were their mother, grandmother and women in the community.
Finau said the prominent women in her life are her grandmother and mother, and she shared some of their faith, stories and sacrifices with the audience whose shared faith, stories and sacrifices were shared. She introduced her grandmother as a self-educated woman who wrote in journals and was wise. A comment Finau said she used to hear from her grandmother was “What I would do with your opportunities!” pushed Finau to reevaluate her life. Her mother, after obtaining a scholarship at BYUH, sacrificed her education for her children, Finau shared. She said she inherited the faith of her grandmother and mother in overcoming challenges and as well as their love of learning.
Faith of individuals
Research into the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shows Tsune Nachie was a woman who left a great legacy to the people in Japan and Hawaii, said Jennifer Tinkham, an adjunct assistant professor in the Faculty of Business & Government. Nachie was a Japanese pioneer, Tinkham shared, as the first modern missionary from Japan and later a trailblazer who served in the temple.
Nachie was originally hired to be the housekeeper and cook for Alma Taylor, one of the early missionaries in Japan. According to Taylor’s journal, he wrote, “She had a really good paying job where she was working, but she felt compelled when she heard about the need at the Japan mission home.” He continued, “She received a much larger wage than what I’ve offered her, so it is doubtful that she will decide to come and work at the Japan mission home … however, six days later, she promised that she would begin to work.”
Through Taylor’s journal, Tinkham found it didn’t take a long time for Nachie to be interested in the gospel and want to be baptized. She was 49 years old when she was baptized, and there were only seven baptized members of the church in the area at the time. Soon after Nachie was converted, she was completely involved in the church. She became a Sunday School teacher and missionary to her family. Her family was the first family to be baptized in Japan. Nachie was called as an official missionary in 1908, taught Sunday School without a manual, organized Primary in the area and was never released from her callings.
Tinkham said Nachie continued to receive blessings and bless others through her work. She moved to Hawaii to perform the temple ordinances and became the first temple worker from Japan. She continually preached the gospel to the Japanese people, and by the time she passed away, there were 25 missionaries from Japan who served in the church.
Tinkham said, “From Nachie, I learned whatever good you do in the world, whether it may be small or maybe insignificant to you, when taken line upon line, little by little, the small things that you do can contribute to eternal lasting good.”
Charina Pulido, a freshman from the Philippines studying hotel and tourism management, shared, “[it reminds me] that I can actually be a big impact on other people’s lives, I want to be like her, who was very dedicated to the church.” She continued, “I want to use my education and also share the gospel in other people’s lives.”
Faith of Hawaiian women
Alohalani Housman paid tribute to six Hawaiian women in her presentation at the conference. Housman, associate professor and dean of the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, said she wanted to focus on the women of Hawaii who had opened the way for the gospel, were converted themselves and set an example for the Hawaiian people.
Keopuolani was the highest-ranking wife of Kamehameha I and was instrumental in the collapse of the kapu system, or the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct, said Housman. She was one of the first converts to Christianity when missionaries arrived in 1820. Housman said Kamehameha’s favorite wife, Kaahumanu, also played a key role in overthrowing the kapu system and she converted to Christianity in 1825.
Nalimanui Keawekekahialiiokamoku taught George Q. Cannon and other missionaries the Hawaiian language. Naoheakamalu Manuhii nursed Joseph F. Smith back to health on his mission in Molokai. When he returned to Hawaii in 1915 to dedicate the land for the temple, she called to him “Iosepa! Iosepa!” He ran to her, hugged and kissed her calling her “Mamma,” said Housman. When Manuhii was 87 years old, she was blind but missionaries carried her through the finished Laie Temple. Two weeks after being sealed to her husband, she passed away.
One day while working in the temple, Joseph F. Smith received a vision of what Manuhii had looked like when she was young. A statue next to the temple was created as a representation of Manuhii in this vision.
Susa Young Gates, a daughter of Brigham Young, served a mission in Hawaii from 1885 to 1889 with her husband. She and her husband helped align the verses of the Hawaiian Book of Mormon with the modern English copy, said Housman.
The last and least known, said Housman, is Christina Theresa Anderson Miner. “She is the unsung hero,” said Housman. She spoke at the Laie Hawaii Temple dedication and passed away a few weeks later.
Housman couldn’t find anything on Miner but she said got the impression that she needed to go to the Pacific Island Studies room in the Joseph F. Smith Library. She found a tiny book high on a shelf, she said, and in Hawaiian it said, “The Redemption of the Dead.” It was Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead. Housman showed a picture of when all the leaders came to the dedication in 1915. There is a woman in the picture who was never labeled. It was Miner, Housman said. Miner gave two 20-minute talks on two separate things at the temple dedication. Within a couple of weeks, she passed away.