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Sunday, July 21, 2013


As I sat in the room where Liahona Middle School was holding their awards assembly, I smiled as one of the students I knew was recognized for academic excellence.  But I heard a longer version of his name, and leaned over to ask the principal for his whole name.  “Taumoe’anga (Tow –moh-ay-ahngah),” she said quietly.  “It means fights with shark.

As I considered this information, I knew what thought I would share with the gathered students.  We had been honored at the assembly too, for helping with some of the student programs as well as working with the teachers, and it was our last working day in Tonga.

Taumoe’anga is a slight young man who at age 13 serves in the deacons’ quorum presidency of our ward at Liahona.  He often sits on the stand right behind the bishopric, becoming the bishop’s messenger as needed during Sacrament meeting.  He has a shy manner but a ready smile, and I have watched him work very hard in his classes.  But what impresses me most about this young man is his resolve.  He shows great determination to serve.  I have watched him pick up hymnals after our meetings when nearly all the other Aaronic Priesthood holders have left the little room we use as our chapel.  He regularly helps stack the plastic chairs that serve as our chapel seats.  And nearly every week, he waits outside the bishop’s office for further assignments, after services have ended.  Not your usual 13-year old.

Moe, as I have known him, accepted his award, shook my husband’s hand (Jim was the honored guest asked to congratulate this group of students) and went back to his seat.  After all students were recognized (70% of these students made honor roll this quarter), Jim and I were asked to say a few words. 

Jim urged the students to find ways to serve others, their friends, their teachers, as they grow older.  He paraphrased a prophet’s words that “through service we lose ourselves and when we lose ourselves, we grow.”

Then came my turn.  I called Moe forward.  Turning him to the audience of about 500 people, I repeated his full name:  Taumoe’anga.  “In English, his name translates to ‘fights with sharks.’  Is that right, Moe?”  Moe nodded in agreement.  “This name was a gift from your parents and your auntie, right Moe?”  Again came the confirming nod.

I turned to the audience.  “What a wonderful gift to give a child – a name that means fights with sharks.  I am sure that because of this name, Moe has made sure he is strong.  He doesn’t need to be strong physically, because he may never actually encounter a physical shark.  But he, like every one of us, has to fight with spiritual sharks.”  I paused, and noted many nodding heads in the audience.  “Taumoe’anga has been given the strength and the mission of living up to his name.  Are we living up to our own names?”

I looked over the audience.  Many of these Tongan children had been given English names, or Tongan versions of English names.  “For those of you named Mele – Mary – the name Mary means pure.  If your name is Lisiate (Richard, in English), your name means strong king.  If your name is Viliami (William), your name means that you desire to protect others.  If your name is Siosi’ana (Susan), your name represents both your royal birth and the beauty of a white lily.  What will you do today to live up to your name?  What will you do tomorrow to live the meaning of your name?  How will you use your name to accomplish your mission on this earth?”

Well, as they say, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  Time for me to reflect and answer those questions for myself.  And that’s one more lesson learned.

This is the last story from our mission.  Thank you for your love in reading and responding to this blog. We have returned to the States.  We were released as full-time missionaries on Wednesday, July 17th, and will be spending the next month visiting friends and family before we leave the U.S. for our job in Kazakhstan.  If you haven't heard that bit of news, please go to   

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