February, 8, 2013

LDS Church Schools: Island Treasure

“This Church is always only one generation away from extinction. . . . All we would have to do . . . to destroy this work is stop teaching our children for one generation.”[1]

A lot of us are not aware of the Church’s educational worldwide presence. The Benemérito school in Mexico City, Mexico, is being converted into an MTC[2] while Juarez Academy in Juarez, Mexico continues. Aside from Juarez Academy, there are fifteen other LDS Church–operated schools, all in the South Pacific. These treasures provide both secular and religious education because the regions lack adequate public schooling opportunities and infrastructure. Interestingly, a majority of these South Pacific schools end up sending students to BYU–Hawaii, especially the Liahona High School of Tonga.[3]

Liahona High School has an interesting history. In 1924, mission president M. Vernon Coombs obtained a property lease in Tonga, where he started a school called The Makeke School, meaning “arise and awake.” The Makeke School helped advance the Church in that region of the globe for generations.

In later, this became the foundation for an enlarged school system in the region. Church leaders eventually obtained a lease on a 275-acre plantation outside of Nuku’alofa, not far from Makeke. They used the land there to build an expanded school campus named “Liahona,” and Makeke transformed into Liahona in 1947. Building the Liahona School represented the beginning of the Church’s labor missionary program and it was probably a leading catalyst for the Church’s expansion in Tonga.[4] Liahona continues to prepare youth for leadership positions in the families, Church, communities, and in the government.

Education can open many doors: some of them are personal, some are religious, and others are secular in nature. In the end, however, education ultimately helps the Kingdom of God roll forward, whether it’s in a geographical region of the world, a country, or a family.

[1] Education in Zion gallery text quoting BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland in 1981.

[2] “New Missionary Training Center to Open in Mexico.” Newsroom. The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. <>.

[3] “Liahona High School.” Tonga on the ‘NET, n.d. Web. <>.

[4] “Liahona High School.” BYU Hawaii: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d. Web. <>.