Information and Statistics (as at 1 January, 2011)
Church Members: 15,897
Percentage LDS: 1.6%, or one in 62
The first known Latter-day Saint in Fiji was Mele Vea Ashley and her family, who joined the Church in Tonga and moved to Fiji in 1924. There are no records of missionary activity in Fiji prior to the 1950’s. Fiji was officially assigned to the New Zealand Mission in 1953, but no missionaries were ever sent. In the 1950’s, the Ashley family was joined by the Cecil B. Smith family. Together they held Church meetings in Suva.
On 21 May 1954 the area was reassigned to the Samoan Mission. Mission president Howard B. Stone sent Boyd L. Harris and Sheldon L. Abbott to begin working in Suva. They arrived on 3 September 1954. Missionaries were limited by the multiple languages spoken in Fiji, and by a limit of two missionary visas.
Between 22-24 January 1955, President David O. McKay had a layover in Suva during a tour of the South Pacific. On this segment of his trip he was accompanied by President Stone. He met with the missionaries, and attended Sunday services. Twenty-eight people attended that day. The Suva Branch was organised on 7 October 1956, with John A. Bigelow as president. The Fiji District was created in 1957 with missionary Cornell A. Grover as president. Fiji was placed in the Tonga Mission on 15 January 1958. The Tongan mission president regularly passed through Fiji in his travels, and new missionaries assigned to Tonga always passed through Fiji. When President McKay dedicated the Suva Branch meetinghouse on 4 May 1958, over 300 were in attendance. Afterwards the quota of missionaries was increased by six, and missionary work began in Lomaloma in the Lau Island group on 18 February 1959, and in Lautoka on 9 October 1959.
Gideon Dolo was the first Fijian to serve a mission. He began his service in February 1959, and served locally. Missionary work was begun in other villages during the 1960s, and membership gradually increased. Education efforts were also strengthened. In 1969, a Church primary school was begun with classes held in the Suva Branch meetinghouse. In 1973, it had more than 100 students.
The Fiji mission (later renamed the Fiji Suva Mission) was created on 23 July 1971, with Sherman A. Lindholm as president. The Fiji District was divided on 8 October 1972, to form the Suva and Vualiku districts.
President Spencer W. Kimball presided over the Fiji Area conference held in the Suva Civic Centre on 23 February 1976. Later that year, the Church’s Fiji Technical College began holding classes on 10 July 1976. The first copies of the Book of Mormon in Fijian arrived on 29 October 1980. The two districts in Suva were combined into one on 14 March 1982, and the Suva Fiji Stake was organised on 12 June 1983. A milestone was reached on 15 June 1997, when the 100th stake in the Pacific, the Fiji Suva North Stake, was organised.
On 15 October 1997, President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Fiji and spoke to 10,000 people in the National Stadium in Suva. In May 2000, because of political unrest, all missionaries serving in or near the city were transferred to the west side of the island. Later, because of continuing civil unrest, missionaries and mission leaders who were not Fijian citizens were temporarily relocated to New Zealand, leaving missionaries native to Fiji to continue the work. Only a small service was held when the Suva Fiji Temple was dedicated on 18 June 2000. On 21 May 2001, President Hinckley, while returning home from Australia, made a return visit to Fiji. With only 12 hours’ notice, 900 Latter-day Saints throughout the island packed a stake center for a 40 minute meeting.
On 21 October 2001, the prime minister of Fiji, Laisania Qarase and his wife, Lemba, attended the Suva Fiji Stake Conference, and expressed appreciation for the good work the Church is doing for the people of Fiji. With a grant from Church Humanitarian Services, members of the Nausori Fiji Stake built a greenhouse where seedlings could grow without being destroyed by rains, or the sun. By July 2002, members were enjoying nutritious food and selling the extra.
In 2003, membership reached 13, 563 among four stakes.
Members observed the Church’s golden jubilee with a three day celebration of culture, service, and spirituality from 10-12 December 2004, in a festive atmosphere that penetrated the islands for several months. Bearing signs designating the five decades of missionary work in Fiji, returned missionaries and those serving at the time in the Suva Fiji Mission marched onto the field at the Fiji National Outdoor Stadium carrying a mission flag and a national flag, creating an emotional scene for many.
Sources: R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Isles of the Sea,1986; Fiji Suva Mission, Annual history and historical reports, Church Archives; Sarah J. Weaver, “Pacific Area Reaches Milestone with 100th Stake:, Church News, 19 July 1997; Richard Hunter and Alan Wakely, “Fortress of Faith Prompts Brotherhood and Tears,” Church News. 24 June 2000; Alan Wakely and Richard Hunter. “ Gospel Shines in Faces of Members in Fiji,” Church News, 26 May 2001; Neil K. Newell, “Church Farm in Fiji Offers Hope,” Church News, 8 February 2003’ “50 years in Fiji,” Church News, 18 December 2004.