About New Zealand

About New Zealand

Total Church Membership         108,912

Missions                                    3

Congregations                           211                                                      

Temples                                    1

Family History Centres              49

The first Latter-day Saint missionaries in New Zealand arrived in Auckland in October 1854 from Australia, where the young Church had established its South Pacific base. The little party was led by mission president Augustus Farnham. With him were Australian convert Elder William Cooke and Thomas Holder. After preaching in Auckland, Wellington and Nelson, Farnham returned to Australia and left Elder Cooke in charge.

The first 10 converts in New Zealand were baptized in 1854, five months after the first missionaries arrived. A congregation was soon organized at Karori. Persecution arose, and in 1871 the New Zealand parliament briefly considered the 'Mormon invasion.' With a firm sense of gathering to the Church's center of strength in Salt Lake City, many faithful members emigrated as soon as they had means to do so. This fact contributed to the slow growth of the Church in New Zealand in those early years. In spite of this, New Zealand was proving more receptive than Australia, and the Church moved its South Pacific headquarters from Sydney to Auckland in 1874.

At first missionary work centered among Europeans. At the end of 1880, seven branches (small congregations) had been established with 133 members. However, at this time Church President Joseph F. Smith instructed missionaries to concentrate on the indigenous Maori people. Membership in the mid 1880s grew rapidly, especially among the Maori people.

Prior to the arrival of the missionaries in the south of the North Island, at least five Maori leaders, some of whom were Tohungas (spiritual leaders) while others were tribal wise men, had told of a 'true religion' that would come. Because many beliefs of the Maoris and missionaries were similar, a number of Maoris were converted. The first conversions came in the Waikato region, but others soon followed. The first Maori baptized was Ngataki, on 18 October 1881.

The New Zealand Temple and the Church College of New Zealand are two very well known landmarks in New Zealand. They were constructed largely by labor missionaries serving without pay. The temple, completed in 1958, towers nearly 160 feet with a large, imposing steeple. Membership in 1990 was 76,000.