Church in Delap, Coffee on the Sly, and Gordon B. Hinkley

Like all of the non-Western world, the Marshall Islands were invaded by Christian missionaries sometime in the last hundred years. As Kylie observed, they were darned successful. Kylie said, “There are churches everywhere, and they’re the nicest buildings on the island.”

The most successful group appear to be the Mormons. Eddie counted five different Mormon congregations when I asked, and they were all better looking churches than the Catholics, the Baptists, or the Assemblies. Maritha’s family attend the local Delap Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they invited us to worship with them. Being good Lutherans ourselves (and seeing no Lutheran church on the island), Sunday found us dressed to the nines when jima picked us up in the Hyundai.

We dressed to the nines because we’d been told that was the way to go. We heard correctly. Here are Merdik, Doji, and Mwesap.

merdik doji

Doji does not seem pleased with the arrangement. All is right with the world.

The service was all conducted in Marshallese, but an American Elder who greeted us gave us very nice headsets where we could listen to a live English translator. The translator sat up on the stage in the corner and was very good. Honest, too. He’d say things like, “I didn’t catch that, but I think she’s talking about the one true prophet, Gorden B. Hinkley.”

I must confess that I’ve never worshiped with American Mormons, so I can’t compare the experience in that way, but this service had some familiar components.

It started with the singing of 2 or 3 hymns. We were given a Marshallese songbook, and Kylie and Sherry did pretty well singing along in Marshallese. Jima was sitting next to me, and he sang all the hymns from memory.

There was a baptism. A half dozen male Elders in white dress shirts huddled around a baby girl up in the front and presumably sprinkled her with water. The translator asked, “Hey, wasn’t she supposed to get a new name?” Apparently they forgot something.

There was communion – bread and water. They passed baskets of both (clever water baskets) down each row, so we partook (why not?).

Then there were testimonials. Now here’s where I’m probably going to editorialize too much, but there were six or seven testimonials, and they all said basically the same things:

  • I believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and I know that they’re true.
  • I’m thankful for Joseph Smith who found the Golden Tablets and translated them.
  • I believe in the one true prophet, Gorden B. Hinkley.

Regarding Hinkley, he’s the president of the LDS church based in Salt Lake City. You can see him and all his predecessors here:

They’re quite a group of old, white haired men, and I imagine a lineup of Lutheran bishops would look very similar.

There was one testifier, however, who named a different one true prophet, I think, named Buck. I can find nothing online regarding him, so I can’t confirm my suspicion that there were some renegade Fundamentalists – “Jack Mormons” as they were called in our New Mexico days – in the congregation. (A great book on Mormon Fundamentalism is Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.)

The most interesting testimonial came from a woman who told everyone that she’s been tempted to drink coffee many times, she has never given in, and she never well. She was quite fearsome up in the pulpit, and everyone appeared to be taking her very seriously. Sherry and I made eye contact, and her smile reassured me that we were not going to hell. Or maybe it was that heaven without coffee was over rated. You can ask her sometime.

I asked jima about the coffee rule afterwards when we were a long way from the church.

“Sometimes, I drink coffee,” he said with a little head shake. Then he smiled.

There was also one testimonial from a teenage boy who got up there and couldn’t remember what to say. I was like, “C’mon. The list is pretty short, and you just heard it six times.” He wasn’t nervous, though, like a frozen speech maker. He was grinning pretty much like this was the greatest moment of his life. Sherry figured it was because of some of the visiters in the crowd.

kylie maia


Anyway, it was much like hot church services around the world. Afterwards, we took a few shots of the family in their finery.

Like Maritha and Edison.

maritha edison

David and Torine (David is a church elder).


Maritha and jima (the renegade).


I give all the credit to Joe Smith and Gordy Hinkley.


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2 Responses to Church in Delap, Coffee on the Sly, and Gordon B. Hinkley

  1. Majuro_Gurl says:

    Ahh this very very nice!!! I love it…. It very nice!!!!! And my mommie medrik looks so nice there! I miss her and wanna see her and my brothers and my daddy and my grandpa and everybody ealse…. I am sad. I wish to go back there again.

  2. Tioli says:

    Great posts, Steve! lots of writing could come from these experiences, eh?

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