News Release

Governor of Utah Expresses Gratitude for Kindness of French Polynesians

President Fritch welcomes Governor and also thanks church for assistance with pandemic

Utah Governor Spencer Cox, along with his family, recently traveled to French Polynesia for a family vacation.

While there, they were invited to a special meeting with President Edouard Fritch, the country's leader.

When they arrived at the Presidential Palace, they were greeted with flowers and a warm welcome.

The Governor and his wife Abby are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their son, Kaleb, was called to serve a mission in French Polynesia in 2020, but was later reassigned to a mission in the US because of the pandemic.

“We came here because we wanted to see where our son served," Governor Cox said.

"We flew to the island of Taha’a to meet the families who took care of him, to see these beautiful places, and visit your gorgeous islands.”

“We wanted to express our thanks to the people of French Polynesia for the kindness they showed to our son during his time here. He learned to really love the people here and now we see why.”

They were also welcomed by Mark and Melissa Banner, leaders of the Tahiti Pape'ete Mission of the Church.

During his meeting with President Fritch the leaders discussed the pandemic and the relationship between French Polynesia and the state of Utah.

Utah has one of the largest populations of Polynesian people in the United States.

“We have always had close relationships with the Pacific islands," Governor Cox said. "I believe there is an opportunity to enhance that relationship. We talked about all of the common interests we have.”

"French Polynesia is very much interested in such cooperation with Utah,” responded President Fritch. “The majority of our tourists come from the USA and strengthening relationships with US states like Utah will naturally benefit both countries."

The range of the discussion included agriculture, tourism, education, new technology and cancer research. Governor Cox invited President Fritch to visit Utah and the President invited the governor to return.

Governor Spencer Cox of Utah (center left) and his family members meet with President Edouard Fritch and members of his team in his office in Pape'ete. Also attending was Christopher Kozely US Consul (center rear). French Polynesia, August 2021. Presidency of French Polynesia. Used by permission.

“With a strong community of the Church in French Polynesia and their good example, Utah seems to be an excellent choice for us to work with,” President Fritch said.

He also talked about the Church's assistance with the pandemic in his country.

“I offer my thanks to President Nelson for his support and encouraging all to be vaccinated. With such religious leaders committed to help curb the pandemic, we will be more effective in our call to the population to use the vaccine.”

The US Consul, Christopher Kozely, was also invited to the meeting. He thanked the Church for assisting US citizens who were trying to return to the US last spring but whose airline flights were canceled. The Church brought a chartered flight to Pape’ete to evacuate its missionaries and offered travel to many others at the request of the US Embassy.


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