The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand
LDS Hamilton New Zealand Temple.jpg
Hamilton New Zealand Temple and grounds
Members116,883 (2021)[1]
Total Congregations229
Temples1 Closed for Renovations
1 Under construction
1 Announced
Family History Centers54[2]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand refers to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and its members in New Zealand. As of 2019, the LDS Church reported 115,236 members in 228 congregations in New Zealand,[1] making it the second largest body of LDS Church members in Oceania behind Australia.[3] The LDS Church has one temple in New Zealand, with a second under construction and a third announced. The 2018 census recorded 54,123 individuals, or 1.2% of respondents, self-identify as belonging to the faith. 313,000 respondents objecting to answer the religion census question in 2018 were not counted in the number or percentages.[4]


Membership in New Zealand
*Membership was published as a rounded number.
Source: Wendall J. Ashton; Jim M. Wall, Deseret News, various years, Church Almanac Country Information: New Zealand[1]
A Latter-day Saint assembly hall in New Zealand in 1912

New Zealand was already deeply religious with many Christian sects by the time Mormon missionaries arrived.[5] Formal LDS Church missionary proselytizing began on 20 October 1854 by William Cooke and Thomas Holden, under the direction of mission president Augustus Farnham. All three men left for the island from the United States on the William Denney. However, due to lack of materials and interested individuals, the initial work was slow up until the 1870s when missionaries had more resources.[6] These first proselyting efforts began as part of the Australasian Missionary efforts. In 1855, the first branch of the LDS Church was organized at Karori, with the next organized in Kaiapoi in 1867.[5] The first stakes of New Zealand were created in Auckland on 18 May 1958, and then in Hamilton and Hawkes Bay in 1960.[6]:93 On 4 August 1897 the Australasian Mission was divided to give New Zealand its own respective mission.[6] The mission was again divided in May 1958 to include a New Zealand South portion.[6] As of May 2017, New Zealand has three missions based in Auckland, Wellington, and Hamilton, respectively.[7] The LDS Church continues to hold a notable and respected presence in New Zealand, the first account being when Colonial Minister of Native affairs praised Mormonism for bringing good citizens to his nation back in 1912.[8]

Despite the country being more than three quarters Māori, primitive missionary efforts focused on teaching the English-speaking Europeans living within New Zealand.[9]:284 It was not until the 1880s that missionary efforts shifted from exclusively preaching to the Pākehā (Europeans) to branching out to the native Māori population.[9]:253 The early success that Mormon missionaries had amidst Māori has been thought to be because the Mormon religion was founded in the United States. One theory was that the churches associated with the British were despised by these natives, and the LDS Church was more accepted as a result. Other theories attribute Mormon success in New Zealand to early Christian missionaries who first began to persuade the natives out of their traditional habits that were alarming to Europeans and contrary to Mormon standards of living (cannibalism, nudism, etc.), thereby creating a more Westernized people for the Mormons to indoctrinate.[5][6]

Māori translations[edit]

By 1886 translation of the Word of Wisdom and the Articles of Faith was completed by Ezra F. Richards.[6]:23 In this same year attempts to translate the Book of Mormon began by various elders and mission presidents, the most notable being Ezra F. Richards and Sondra Sanders, although some records state that William T. Steward and James Jury were other notable translators.[9]:278 On 26 April 1887, a home in the Waiapu District was dedicated for the translation of the Book of Mormon and in November of that same year, translation of the book was officially completed.[6]:24 The first editions of the Book of Mormon in the Māori language were published by the Star Publishing Company of Auckland. The entire cost of £371 to print the Book of Mormon was paid for by local New Zealand church members.[9]:279 In 1917, the second edition was published after extensive edits were made by Matthew Cowley under the direction of James N. Lambert. Shortly after its publication, Cowley was again called to start the translation of other sacred texts. With the help of Wiremu Duncan and Stuart Meha, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price were translated and eventually published in 1919.[6]:25

State Involvement[edit]

Māori Language Act of 1987[edit]

Prior to the Māori Language Act (MLA), the church operated only in English. The MLA declared Māori as an official language of New Zealand and greatly encouraged biculturalism into the church. Following the MLA, the church removed language restrictions from its meetings, blessings, and more importantly funerals, a sacred Māori practice. The first noted church events under the MLA include the dedication of the LDS marae (community center) and wharenui (large ceremonial house). These buildings were dedicated in 1994 at the Church College, with prayers in Māori.[10]

Church schools[edit]

After seeing a growing need for education in Māori villages, the LDS Church opened elementary schools to teach children in the English Language.[9]:288 As early as 1877, multiple efforts were made to start private schools that were eventually closed due to lack of interest or to government schools opening in similar geographic areas.[6][9]:288 A government policy passed in 1922 caused more primary schools to open and for all schools to undergo inspection. Most church schools did not pass this inspection. Despite the mass reduction in church schools, one school, the Māori Agricultural College, was opened as an effort to educate local Mormons in agriculture as well as to combine secular knowledge with the spiritual. The school was dedicated in 1913 by Orson D. Romney.[6]:35 The school had strong music and sports programs and the majority of its teachers and supplies came from the United States.[6]:41 In 1915, the church invested in 136 acres of land to add to the school. On this land they began raising pigs, chickens and other farm animals as an added means of income.[6]:43 Despite the school's growth, church leaders in Salt Lake City were concerned with its lack of matriculate growth and prestige and considered closing it down. Before this order could be made official, however, the Napier earthquake of 1931 destroyed the building and ended its use.[5][6]

Church College of New Zealand with the New Zealand temple in the background

Years later, under the direction of the church and a local desire to reinstate a church-run school, the Church College of New Zealand was built and later dedicated on 24 April 1958.[6]:20 The college experienced great success, and on 11 January 1958, 18 American teachers were sent on the Mariposa to meet the needs of the area. What was different about this new college church was the emphasis to hire fully qualified teachers.[5] In addition to involvement in formal education, the church also began to operate the seminary program in New Zealand. In 1968, the first seminary class was held in Kaikohe.[9]:337 In 1970, the seminary program was officially instituted in the country.[6]

Government relations[edit]

The church experienced various interactions with local New Zealand leaders. One of the first recorded incidents took place in 1902 when the mission president requested that various elders be given permission to perform weddings. The request was denied, and he took legal measures to re-appeal. He eventually received permission for two elders.[6][9] In 1917 a temporary missionary ban was instituted. This ban was formed under the premise that American missionaries were allegedly trying to convince Māori to move to the United States with them.[6]:53 [9]:296

1921 report of miraculous language comprehension[edit]

David O. McKay (Church president from 1951 to 1970) toured New Zealand in 1921.

In 1921, David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon began a Pacific-wide tour of the Church. McKay was the first apostle to visit New Zealand; celebrations were organized to commemorate the event. On 21 April 1921, they were received with various cultural performances, athletic competitions, and feasts of local cuisine. After the celebration concluded, a more spiritual meeting was held. Regarding his remarks, McKay felt strongly that he should deliver his address without translation.[9]:304 Multiple accounts state that during his address to the native Māori people, McKay was initially going to have a translator. When he went up to speak, however, he decided that a translation would inhibit the power of his message and decided to give the speech in English instead. Despite this language barrier, Māori people recall being able to understand his talk with complete clarity. In fact, when the message was eventually translated into Māori, many natives who were in attendance offered up correct translations of the speech from what they understood (regardless of the message being delivered in English).[6] Members attributed their comprehension of the English speech to the gift of tongues.[10][6]:55

Stakes and Districts[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

As of October 2021, New Zealand had the following stakes:[11]

New Zealand Auckland Mission

  • Auckland New Zealand Harbour Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Henderson Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Manukau Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Mt Roskill Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Otara Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Panmure Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Papatoetoe Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Penrose Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Tamaki Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Waterview Stake
  • Kaikohe New Zealand Stake
  • Whangarei New Zealand Stake

New Zealand Hamilton Mission

  • Auckland New Zealand Redoubt Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Manurewa Stake
  • Auckland New Zealand Papakura Stake
  • Gisborne New Zealand Stake
  • Hamilton New Zealand Glenview Stake
  • Hamilton New Zealand Rotokauri Stake
  • Hamilton New Zealand Stake
  • Rotorua New Zealand Stake
  • Taranaki New Zealand District
  • Tauranga New Zealand Stake
  • Temple View New Zealand Stake

New Zealand Wellington Mission

  • Christchurch New Zealand Stake
  • Dunedin New Zealand Stake
  • Hastings New Zealand Flaxmere Stake
  • Hastings New Zealand Stake
  • Nelson New Zealand District
  • Palmerston North New Zealand Stake
  • Porirua New Zealand Stake
  • Upper Hutt New Zealand Stake
  • Wellington New Zealand Stake


  • New Zealand Auckland Mission
  • New Zealand Hamilton Mission
  • New Zealand Wellington Mission


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Zealand is located in New Zealand
Temples in New Zealand
Red = Operating
Yellow = Announced
Blue = Under Construction
Black = Closed for Renovations

Groundbreaking for the Hamilton New Zealand Temple was held on 21 December 1955.[6]:31 Following construction, a general public open house was held from 23 March to 13 April 1958, with the dedication by LDS Church president David O. McKay taking place seven days later on 20 April 1958.[6]:85 Other officials from Salt Lake City in attendance included Delbert L. Stapley, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Marion G. Romney.[6]:88 [10]

During the church's October 2018 general conference, the intent to construct a temple in Auckland was announced. During the April 2022 general conference, the President announced the intention to construct a third New Zealand temple in Wellington.

Hamilton, New Zealand
February 17, 1955 by David O. McKay
December 21, 1955 by Ariel Ballif, Wendell B. Mendenhall, and George R. Biesinger
April 20, 1958 by David O. McKay
44,212 sq ft (4,107.4 m2) on a 86-acre (35 ha) site
Modern contemporary, single spire - designed by Edward O. Anderson

Auckland, New Zealand
7 October 2018 by Russell M. Nelson[12][13]
13 June 2020 by Ian S. Ardern on a 2.62-acre (1.06 ha) site

Wellington, New Zealand
3 April 2022 by Russell M. Nelson[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Facts and Statistics New Zealand". Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  2. Category:New Zealand Family History Centers,, retrieved March 28, 2022
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints membership statistics
  4. "2018 Census totals by topic – national highlights | Stats NZ". Archived from the original on 23 September 2019. Retrieved 2019-09-24. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Troughton, Geoffrey (2011). New Zealand Jesus: Social and Religious Transformations of an Image, 1890-1940. Bern: Peter Lang. Search this book on Logo.png
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 Hunt, Brian W. (1977). Zion in New Zealand. Temple view, New Zealand: Church College of New Zealand. Search this book on Logo.png
  7. Hunter, Richard. "LDS Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership". Mormon Newsroom. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  8. Ottley, Sidney James (1912–1913). "Journal vol. 1". Mormon Missionary Diaries. Harold B. Lee Library.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 Britsch, R. Lanier (1986). Unto the islands of the sea: a history of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book. ISBN 9780877477549. Search this book on Logo.png
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Underwood, Grant (2005). Pioneers in the Pacific: memory, history, and cultural identity among the Latter-day Saints. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University. Search this book on Logo.png
  11. "Hamilton New Zealand Temple District",, retrieved October 25, 2021
  12. "Twelve Temples Announced as October 2018 General Conference Closes: Number of temples operating, announced or under construction now above 200", Newsroom, LDS Church, 7 October 2018
  13. "LDS Church announces plans to build 12 new temples worldwide, pioneer generation temples will be renovated". KSTU Fox 13. 7 October 2018.
  14. "7 new temple locations announced by President Nelson to close conference", Deseret News, Deseret News, 3 Apr 2022
  15. "President Nelson Announces 17 New Temples", Newsroom, LDS Church, 3 Apr 2022

External links[edit]

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