An Islander’s View of a Desert Kingdom: Johnathan Napela Recounts His 1869 Visit to Salt Lake City

Jonathan (Ionatana) Hawaii Napela (fig. 1) bridged cultures. As one of the first Hawaiian converts to Mormonism, he helped George Q. Cannon translate the Book of Mormon into the Hawaiian language in 1852-53, he instigated the first language training center for foreign missionaries in 1853, and he helped establish the first gathering place for the Hawaiian Saints in 1854. in 1869 Napela visited Salt Lake City. In an April 11, 1871, letter to Brigham Young, Napela recounted his visit as he reported it to the Hawaiian king, Kamehameha V. Written in Hawaiian, the letter is evidence of Napela’s ability to bridge his native and adopted cultures and pave the way for the restored gospel to take root in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1873, his wife, Kitty, contracted leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) and she and Jonathan went to the leper settlement on the island of Molokai. For the remaining years of his life, Jonathan presided over Latter-day Saints living in the leper colony. Jonathan died of leprosy August 6, 1879, and Kitty died less than two weeks later.

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