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 Pāora Te Potangaroa’s Prophecy

By the 1850's amoung the Maori people in New Zeland, various Christian missionary groups, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Roman Catholics had established their religions.  By 1854, all but about 1 percent of the Maori people had become Christian.

  << Maori people in the 1800's
In March 1881, a convention of representative natives from the Ngatikahungunu tribe of the Maori people of New Zeland was called to discuss political, social, and religious problems.  All in attendance at the convention were devout members of one of the several established churches; some were Catholic; some were of the Methodist faith; and some were of the Presbyterian belief. Many were old enough to have seen the coming of the first Christian missionaries to New Zealand. They discussed the differences among the Christian religions and the diversity of beliefs and confusion of ideas. They discussed which church the Maori should join so there would once again be a unity of religious belief among them; and asked where the power of God unto salvation was for the Maori people. It was evident that not more than one of the churches could be the recipient of divine inspiration nor be recognized as the church of Christ. After lengthy debate, they decided to present their problem to Pāora Te Potangaroa, the wisest chief and the most learned sage among them. They asked him, "Which of the churches is the church for the Maori race? Which of them should we join?" He told the people to wait and he would give them the answer after he had given the matter serious consideration. He left the assembly and retired to his own residence. For three days he prayed, fasted, and meditated upon the matter. He was aware that the true answer would not come without prayerful meditation and without invoking divine aid. After three days he returned to the convention and addressed his people. A scribe, Ranginui Kingi, wrote the words of Pāora Te Potangaroa's prophecy or the Covenant.
Freely translated, these were his words: "My friends, the church for the Maori people has not yet come among us. You will recognize it when it comes. Its missionaries will travel in pairs. They will come from the rising sun. They will visit us in our homes. They will learn our language and teach us the gospel in our own tongue. When they pray they will raise their right hands. This is the day of the fullness. The year 1882 will be the year of the sealing. The year 1883 will be the year of the great honoring. This covenant will be remembered by generations which follow after us. We are the people of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We will learn of the scepter of Judah; of Shilo; of the kingdom of heaven; of the sacred church with a large wall surrounding; of the increase of the races; of faith, love, peace, patience, judgment, and unity. All of this plan will be fulfilled by the people of the Ngatikahungunu tribe during the next forty years."
Pāora Te Potangaroa died the following June 1881.
This covenant was written down on a piece of paper, and at the top of the piece of paper they drew an “all-seeing eye.” This prophecy was then placed in a cement monument in the eight-years house where the convention was held. It remained there from 1881 until 1929, when a Maori sect known as the Ratana Church, in groping for substantiation that they were the true church of the Maoris as foretold by Potangaroa, broke open the cement monument to get at his prophecy, hoping to find something in it that would establish their claim to be the right church for the Maori.
Unfortunately, the storage chamber which contained the prophecy had not been hermetically sealed and the paper had been so damaged by moisture that nothing was legible on it.
In 1944, Elder Matthew Cowley, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the New Zealand mission president. He was there during the war years, and the only American missionaries he had were himself, his wife, and their daughter. They held a convention for the Maoris in the same area where Paora Potangaroa gave his prophecy in 1881. Present at the 1944 convention was Eriata Nopera, another great Maori chief. When he rose to speak, he told his people that he had been a little boy there when Paora Potangaroa gave his prophecy and repeated what he remembered of the prophecy. At the end of that day’s convention, one of the women attending the convention had her husband go fetch parcel wrapped in brown paper from a trunk in their house. When he brought her the parcel, she called President Cowley and Eriata Nopera into an adjoining room and gave it to them. They opened the parcel and found a photograph of Potangaroa’s written prophecy wrapped up in it.
What had happened was that in 1881, when the prophecy was written down by Ranginui, a photographer in Wellington had heard that a Maori had made a prophecy. He traveled out to that village and asked for permission to photograph it. This was granted and he photographed the prophecy before it was sealed in the cement monument. This woman’s family got a copy of that photograph and had kept it since. She then gave it to Brother Nopera, who in turn gave it to President Matthew Cowley. That is the way we know what was in Paora Potangaroa’s prophecy.

Elder Matthew Cowley identified the "sacred church with a large wall surrounding" as the Salt Lake Temple. Elder Matthew Cowley also pointed out that the only Maori people to participate in all the ordinances of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ordinances of the gospel, during the next forty years (until 1921) were the members of the Ngatikahungunu tribe. Later many members of other tribes participated in all the blessings of the gospel. President William Bromley of the Australasian Mission first visited a Maori village, Orakei, on 6 March 1881, ten days before the prophecy was given at the conference. By the end of 1884, membership in New Zealand included 265 Europeans and 811 Maori. Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among the Maori increased to nearly 4,000 in 79 branches by the turn of the century.

Sources of Information:
(Culture Grams Worldwide Saints...Maori Prophecy Fulfilled)
(Cowley, Matthew. Matthew Cowley—Speaks. Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1954)
(BYU Religious Studies Center, by Robert E. Parsons)

Additional Information:

Maori Traditions and the Mormon Church, (New Era, June 1981)