Total Church Membership: 16,659
Family History Centers: 1
Made up of 36 Micronesian islands in the mid-Pacific where the equator and international dateline meet, Kiribati is a republic which became independent in 1979. The island's population speaks Gilbertese and English. About half of the population is Protestant and half Roman Catholic.
The Church was introduced to Kiribati when Waitea Abiuta, a school teacher and headmaster of a school, asked to have graduates from his school attend Liahona High School in Tonga. Fijian mission president Eb L. Davis visited Kiribati in September 1972 and approved 12 students to come to the Church school. Students were converted at the high school and they began serving as missionaries in Kiribati on 19 October 1975.
Among those who joined the Church were Waitea Abiuta and several of the staff and students of the school. However, when opposition to the Church arose, enrollment at the school declined. In August 1976, Grant and Pat Howlett, Church educators at Liahona High, were called to teach at the Kiribati school. Through their efforts, enrollment increased and government relations improved. Later, the Church purchased the school, renamed it Moroni Community School, and other teachers arrived from Tonga as enrollment continued to increase.
In 1982, a new Church building was completed, and Buren Ratieta, Gilbertese branch (a small congregation) president, held services in February of that year. Among the 250 who attended the dedicatory services was the president of the Kiribati Republic, Ieremia T. Tabai. He said government leaders at first feared the Church would divide the people, but when he saw the great social contribution the Church made, he became happy to cooperate with the Church. Since that time, missionary work has expanded to more distant islands in Kiribati.
In the fall of 1993, a group of first-time basketball players from Moroni High School, the age of United States high school sophomores and juniors, won the championship of Kiribati in their division. They also defeated the 20-30-year-olds division champions. In 1994, Teatao Teanaki, president of the Republic, was the main speaker at the graduation ceremony at Moroni High School.
On 11 August 1996, Elder L. Tom Perry created the Tarawa Kiribati Stake (diocese), the first stake in the country.