March, 19, 2012

Kitty Napela: A Hawaiian Pioneer

Kitty Napela was the wife of prominent Hawaiian Jonathan Napela. They were some of the first converts of George Q. Cannon in the Sandwich Islands. Jonathan had been trained at the Protestant missionary school at Lahainaluna and was a chief of minor rank. He and his wife invited Elder Cannon to preach at their home when he was denied permission to preach in the Protestant meetinghouse.

Courtesy Brigham Young University Hawaii Campus

The couple listened intently to the missionary’s message of the gospel. However, the preaching at their home attracted attention and criticism from the Protestant ministry. Jonathan was threatened, abused, and told that he would lose his judgeship in the community.

Elder Cannon decided to relieve his friend and leave the town. Napela provided him with a place to stay in the new area and two of his relatives joined the Church. Later, upon returning to the Napela’s town, Elder Cannon and his companion felt deeply impressed to visit Kitty and Jonathan. This proved to be providential.

A few days later Kitty and Jonathan were baptized and in less than three months more than 150 people joined the Church in their town. Soon after, Jonathan began assisting Elder Cannon in the translation of the Book of Mormon into the Hawaiian language.

The Napelas’ influence in Hawaii was a key in the Church’s growth. Jonathan served in many Church positions and even became a missionary. Years later in 1872, Kitty contracted leprosy. At the time leprosy was somewhat common and the government had allotted an area called Kalawao for habitation by those stricken with the disease.

The ocean and high cliffs closed off Kalawao from the rest of the island. There were no provisions or amenities provided. Jonathan refused to leave his wife and was able to become appointed assistant superintendent of the colony, allowing him to enter the colony with her.

Even after the government released him from his duties (in which he greatly improved the conditions of the colony) he stayed as Kitty’s nurse. Jonathan eventually contracted leprosy in 1877 and died in 1879. Kitty passed away in 1881. Kitty and Jonathan are a great example of dedication to the Lord, and they demonstrate a willingness to do His will and work and endure to the end.