Random thoughts from a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Sacrament meeting in Hawaii

Well, it’s 80 degrees and brilliantly sunny here in Hawaii. Believe it or not, I am working here — my company participates in a January conference every year. Yes, life is tough.

I brought my family this time — usually I come alone because I have been to Hawaii more than 10 times now and seen all the tourist spots. We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center and to the local ward on Sunday. Here are some random thoughts that occurred to me.

–I went to the Polynesian Cultural Center five years ago, and this time it was definitely more Polynesian in terms of the students working there. I have heard that BYU Hawaii is trying to accept a lot fewer mainlanders and concentrate on Polynesian students. I don’t know if this is true, but five years ago about 30-40 percent of the performers were “haoles” (white mainlanders). Now, the number is less than five percent. Definitely an improvement. It was weird five years ago to see red-haired guys doing Tongan dances. (You may not know this, but 70 percent of the workers at the Polynesian Cultural Center are BYU Hawaii students earning their tuition).

–You can get coffee and caffeinated Coke at the Polynesian cultural center, but you can’t on-campus. I wonder how many of the student workers end up drinking Coke (or coffee!) on the sly in between shifts.

–In case you didn’t know, the Laie temple is under construction. My wife and I did a session there five years ago, but no such luck this year.

–I am still amazed at the guys climbing the 50-foot tall palm trees. They wear straps on their bare feet, which makes me think the straps must have some spikes in them (kind of like the workers who climb telephone polls). I’m a pretty strong guy, but there’s no way I could climb a palm tree. These guys do it with ease.

–The drive from Honolulu to Laie is spectacular along either coast, either from the south or the north. If you ever go to Laie, rent a car and drive — it’s worth it.

–The Church (through the Polynesian Cultural Center and other efforts) is probably the single largest force keeping Polynesian cultural alive. The Polynesian Cultural Center is still the largest single tourist attraction in Hawaii — and most of it is an educational experience where people learn about native cultures from people who were born there. It is truly an amazing place. The synergy of Polynesians coming to Hawaii (a Polynesian land), studying and working and building up Polynesian culture while working their way through school is truly extraordinary.

–I have been to church in Hawaii several times, but Sunday was the first time I saw native Polynesian men wearing the “lava-lava” (Polynesian dress skirt, also called a tupenu in Tonga). Three different men walked into Sacrament meeting with a white shirt, tie and lava-lava. Definitely looks comfortable to me. Not sure it would go over too well in 10-degree weather in Colorado.

–If you ever decide to go to Church in Honolulu, I recommend the chapel on Beretania Street (the one that serves Waikiki). The chapel is one of those older, beautiful buildings built many decades ago. It is famous for its mural of Jesus and its gardens.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

8 thoughts on “Random thoughts from a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and Sacrament meeting in Hawaii

  1. It is a wonderful experience to attend church in the islands – the people are always so kind and gracious. Our favorite ward and island are on the big island in Kona – right next to the temple. However, the kids’ favorite was the PCC and the tree climbers… We also loved the university swap meet – you save lots of money on souvenirs and can get just about anything you would want. Did they ever finish the hotel right next to the PCC? Last time we were there they were getting ready to build.

  2. My wife and I similarly attended church in the Laie chapel with some friends last time we visited Hawaii. My favorite moment at church came during the lesson in Elder’s Quorum. The young native Hawaiian teacher gave an excellent lesson about setting a good example for our children. In part of the lesson we were talking about the dangers of “living vicariously” through our children’s sports activities. The response of the (mostly Hawaiian) class to his example was priceless:

    “I remember when I was young, I just wanted to grow up and be the best surfer in the world…”

    …and most of the class nodded and started muttering, “Oh, totally… Me too.”

    Totally made my day. :-)

  3. I don’t know about the palm tree climbers at the Polynesian Cultural Center, but the Tongan missionaries at the LTM in Laie in Autumn 1973 climbed the trees barefoot, with no aids. Then, when they reached the top, they’d hold on with one hand while picking coconuts with the other.

    Elder Hatch of Arizona took up their challenge to try climbing a tree. He had been a wrestler in high school–may even have been a state champion. But he had a tough time on the palm tree. Ended up hugging the tree for a while–the Tongans had always kept just four points of contact, hands and feet–and he had a heck of a time trying to pull one of the coconuts down. He finally succeeded, and made it down without falling, but he was a mess–all scraped up on his arms and legs from the bark.

  4. Kayla, I don’t know about the hotel. I didn’t see anything under construction except the temple. Sorry about that.

    Taylor, great story!

  5. Thank you for this. Part of my mission was served on O’ahu in Honolulu and Laie and I cannot think of the islands without remembering my weekly trips to Laie and worshipping with Deaf church members in the Tabernacle on Beretania. How I love that building.

  6. Mostly what I remember from attending church in Hawaii (I lived in Hauula, right next to Laie) was when the groups of bikers would drive by on the Kam Hwy and drown out the speaker.

    What I miss most is the greeting, “Brothers and Sisters, ALO-HA!”

  7. When I lived in Orem, UT, we had a sister in our ward from Hawaii. Everytime she got up to bear her testimony or speak in church, she would start with “ALO-HA” and expect an “ALO-HA” in return. Fun times.

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