• Stan Manu

Mormons Surpass Catholics in Tonga

Hi everyone


I thought I'd copy this latest Matangi Tonga Online article here while it's still accessible online. But this latest statistics is interesting on many levels about our small island country and even more so about our small village of Matahau, which by the way was found in this study to be "The village with the largest Mormon concentration...with 400 of its 628 residents identifying as Mormon".


This is the type of factual data that explains how, for example, the dynamic in which our community people at Matahau operates has changed over the years. This is clearly evident in the last two or three elections for the Town Officer of the village. With the upcoming election next year (I believe) a candidate for the Town Officer has to have these types of statistics, with possible voters in mind, to have a chance of being elected. There are other areas in which this effect is evident at Matahau.


Perhaps for those of us in other denominations, there is something to learn here from our LDS community about missionary work and growth, even within our very own village. True, migration has a big part to play here (which by the way is also true for LDS families) but it is equally interesting that our village has steadily grown over the years. May be our LDS family members - a big number of them here in North America - may be the appropriate people to get answers to any question we may have about this latest statistics from Tonga.


'Ofa lahi atu, Sitani.



Mormons surpass Catholics in Tonga (from Matangi Tonga)


(Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 20:46. Updated on Friday, October 3, 2014 - 10:36.)


There are now more Mormons in Tonga than Catholics, making Mormonism (LDS church) the second largest Christian denomination in the Kingdom after Methodism. Tonga is also the world’s “most Mormon country”, having a higher proportion of Mormons per capita than any other nation.


The Catholic Church has traditionally been the second largest Christian denomination in Tonga. However according to the most recent statistics from the Tonga Department of Statistics, in 2011 there were 18,554 Mormons (18%) compared to 15,441 Catholics (15%). These numbers are a significant shift from the 1996 census when there were only 13,225 Mormons (14%) compared to 15,309 Catholics (16%).


Vava’u has the largest concentration of Mormons (18.5%) whilst Niuafo’ou and Niuatoputapu have the lowest (only 4% or 59 people). The village with the largest Mormon concentration was the village of Matahau in Tongatapu with 400 of its 628 residents identifying as Mormon. The LDS church is also predominant among the Tongan diaspora in the United States.


The island of Niuatoputapu has the largest Catholic concentration with more than half (52%) of its 523 inhabitants identifying as Catholic. Niuatoputapu is the only island in Tonga where Methodists are not the majority.


However, Methodism remains the predominant Christian denomination in Tonga with 56,351 of Tongans (54%) identified as Methodist, the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWC) having the most adherents (35.5% or 36,592 people). The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga has been in recession since 1986 when it once boasted 40,371 followers. The number of Seventh Day Adventists in Tonga has also stagnated from 2,381 followers in 1996 to 2,331 followers in 2011.


The fastest growing denominations in Tonga are the Pentecostal and Gospel churches. The largest Pentecostal church in Tonga is the Assemblies of God, which has more than doubled in followers from 1,082 in 1996 to 2,602 followers in 2011.

2 Comments

Fr. Ekuasi Manu sm, 3:22 PM on October 12, 2014

Bula Stan, Jay & Sepa! Many thanks for the insertion of life to Matahau and especially to those at home and as you know each time we visit it reinvigorates their life. It's great that Sepa has now a better memory of the family and the village. I wouldn't get too hung up on that report concerning the increase of Mormons in Tonga. The same report has been identified across the Pacific Islands regarding the exodus of people from mainline Churches to new denominations. It has been indicated that the Methodist Church is the worst affected. Why the shift? The chief reason is financial and very little regarding the essence of faith. Lots of islanders especially in Tonga and Samoa see Mormonism as a gateway to new opportunity especially to mainland US. Others move to other new Pentecostal movements for varied reasons: sidestepping responsibilities & tithes, boredom, and sheer lack of faith. I've just completed the biggest walk of my life with 50 of my students walking around the island of Ovalau. It was a 40 km walk and it took us 12 solid hours to do that. We left here at 4am and arrived back at school at 4pm. It was one of the proudest moments of my life as Principal to accompany the students and see them through in achieving their goal. 'Ofa atu & hufaki



Uncle Tavo, 8:09 PM on October 14, 2014


Malo Sitani mo 'Ekuasi e ma'u fakakaukau. I've been wanting to add some ideas to your thought-provoking blog Stan but you should thank Kara for bringing me to Brussels airport so early that I have more than an hour now just waiting around to board (flying to Bundaberg to Felise's wedding and hoping to see your mum and all the families there). First of all, congratulations to the Mormons and by extension our own family members who are Mormons for their apparent 'success' in Tonga, but out of the top of my head (= I haven't had time to double check the figures), just three points to add to 'Ekuasi's reflection: 1. According to Tonga's 2006 census, the Mormons had already surpassed Catholics in terms of numbers. So, the fact that this is also the case in this latest census (2011) is not news at all, which begs the question as to why the Matangi Tonga wants to make news out of something that is not really news at all - some editor perhaps who is not a big fan of Catholics? haha. 2. In the aftermath of Tonga's 2006 census, I still remember Tonga's TV newsreader announcing with a certain degree of glee that Mormons have surpassed Catholics to become the second biggest church group in Tonga. But you of all people Stan would know that in this case, numbers are not as important as percentages. If you look at the percentage of the population for each Church group across the last three census in Tonga (2001, 2006 and 2011), the Catholic population is actually holding steady while those of the Methodist tradition (Uesiliana, Tonga Hou'eiki/Tau'ataina, Tokaikolo, etc) are declining which seems to confirm 'Ekuasi's point. A German sociologist by the name of Manfred Ernst once did a thorough study of the churches in the Pacific way back when I was a student in Suva, and he basically came to the conclusion that those losing numbers are the so-called 'established churches' while the minority and often opposition churches are the ones holding steady or even gaining - as exemplified by the Methodists vs Catholics in Tonga. It is interesting to note from the Matangi Tonga article that the fastest growing church groups in Tonga are no longer the Mormons or SDAs but the evangelical groups which seem to confirm Manfred Ernst's theory that once the Mormons or any other religious group for that matter become 'established', eventually they, too, will begin to lose members. 3. Perhaps even more important is the question: when is Christianity or religion for that matter ever about numbers? I know that these new church groups are so keen to trumpet their numbers, but this is something that's never an issue when it comes to a truly global religion such as the Catholic Church which is maybe too big for its own good, such that on this issue of Church numbers, I'd take quality over quantity any time.

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