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Tongan Youth Honour Their Ancestral Heritage

Special five-mile trek reminds teenagers of forebears

On Saturday, 17 September, before sunrise, 378 young men and women from the Nuku’alofa Tonga Liahona Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered for a five-mile "family history trek."

The journey symbolized each person’s goal to complete their family history by identifying their ancestors in a project named, “15 in 15.”

During the trek, every young man and woman carried a sack or backpack with 14 husked coconuts representing their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

The trek ended at the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple, where Latter-day Saints believe individuals can be sealed together as a family, not only in this life but in the life to come.

The coconuts were a heavy load for the youth.

Thirteen year-old Job Naeata said, “Throughout the hike I felt the weight of carrying my 'ancestors.' When we first started our hike, we started by carrying six of our ancestors, which was not bad. 

"And then when we got to the final station, we were given eight more of our ancestors to carry. It was very heavy and hard. There was a time I wanted to stop and take out some of my ancestors and leave them behind. But I kept walking. When we finally got to the temple—and I was able to bring all my ancestors to the temple—I was happy.”

Knowing that the temple was their destination gave the youth hope and courage to keep moving and enduring the hardship of the long walk, according to one youth leader. 

"The young people learned the importance of always having a positive attitude, working together and seeking help from their leaders," he said.

Another youth leader, ‘Ofa Liutai, said, “I had the privilege of hiking with these youth. Some of them were singing along the way, some shared stories.

"A young man whose ancestors are from Kiribati shared some of the great memories he has of his parents and grandparents.

"I know that as we help the youth to get engaged in this work, they will increase their love for their ancestors.”

Dorothy Tonga, fifteen years-old, recalled how blessed she was to join the trek.

She said, “The hike was a great experience for me. I was tempted so many times to drop some of the coconuts (my family members) but the love I had for them was what kept me going. I’m grateful that I was able to do it. I am grateful for family history and temples. I know that my family can be together forever.”

The goal to complete this work was given by their stake president, ‘Inoke Kupu.

As they reached the temple, they were warmly greeted by President Uasila’s of the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple, his counselor President Taniela Afu Langi and President Kupu.

President Langi shared a very powerful testimony of the efforts in which the youth were engaged by saying, "The family history work you are performing brings great blessings, and by doing so you are making a mark in history, as well."

Watch videos about family history and temples.

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