Polynesian Cultural Center
Photo courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center
The Church’s history in Polynesia dates almost as far back as the Church itself, beginning on May 11, 1843, when the Prophet Joseph Smith called missionaries to the South Pacific. (Missionaries reached French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Samoa in the mid-1800s and Tonga in 1891, but it would be more than 100 years before they established a presence in Fiji and Rapa Nui—1954 and 1980, respectively.)
In 1865, Brigham Young declared Oahu's town of Laie a “gathering place” for the Hawaiian Saints. With the completion of the Laie Hawaii Temple in 1919, even more islanders from throughout the South Pacific were drawn to the area. Then, during a visit to Laie in 1921, David O. McKay envisioned a school of higher learning to complement the new temple. Though it took decades to come to fruition, ground was broken for the Church College of Hawaii (known today as BYU–Hawaii) on February 12, 1955. In his dedicatory prayer, President McKay stated: “We dedicate our actions in this service unto thee and unto thy glory and to the salvation of the children of men, that this college, and the temple, and the town of Laie may become a missionary factor, influencing not thousands, not tens of thousands, but millions of people who will come seeking to know what this town and its significance are.”
But how would the remote community of Laie influence millions of people? The Polynesian Cultural Center would prove to be the answer to President McKay’s prophetic prayer.
In 1962, President McKay authorized the construction of the Polynesian Cultural Center with three goals in mind: preserve and share the cultures of Polynesia, provide financial assistance and employment to students at the Church College of Hawaii, and demonstrate a spirit of love and service to uplift all who visit the Center.
Since its opening, the PCC has had more than 37 million visitors, including several dignitaries and celebrities.
In 1966, Elvis Presley spent a week at the PCC filming portions of Paradise Hawaiian Style
(Photo courtesy of the Polynesian Cultural Center)
Part of the PCC experience includes their spectacular night show, Ha: The Breath of Life--the world's largest Polynesian revue. Click below to watch a preview.