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Lessons a Hawaiian Kumu Taught Me About the Hosanna Shout

On one of my visits to the Hawaiian island of Moloka‘i to work on the book The Way of Aloha: Moloka‘i, I visited the Kapuaiwa Royal Coconut Grove. This grove was planted in 1863 by King Kamehameha V and contains approximately 1,000 coconut trees. The tallest of these trees towers over 100 feet into the air.

As I stood in the grove, looking up at the sky-piercing palms, rustling and swaying in the wind, I was infused with hope, love, and goodness. I felt as if these majestic creations were embracing me in a hug.

My thoughts turned to a discussion I once had with a Hawaiian kumu (teacher). “You can learn more from a tree than you can a college professor,” he had instructed me. At the time, his statement seemed strange, but as I stood in the Kapuaiwa Royal Coconut Grove that day, I suddenly understood the wisdom of his words. This grove is a sacred place and had many lessons to share with me. One such illumination from the coconut grove forever changed how I perform the Hosanna Shout at a temple dedication.

In the coconut grove, the ground was covered with fallen palm branches. The palm branch is a symbol of triumph and was waved in ancient Israel to celebrate victories. Palm branches were also used to cover paths to welcome royalty. Ancient Israel, as well as Jews today, observe Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, each year. This feast is a time to remember the great Jehovah’s deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt and His leading Israel into the promised land. Sukkot is a time to remember and celebrate the Lord providing for Israel as they traveled in the wilderness. During Sukkot, temporary structures with a roof of palm branches are built. This structure, called a sukkah, is a symbol of your total dependence on God for your care and sustenance.

During the festival of Sukkot, palm branches are waved to celebrate all the Lord has done and to acknowledge total dependence on Him. As the palm leaves are waved, the 118th Psalm is chanted. The chant includes a shout of hosanna. The Hebrew word “hosanna,” found at the start of Psalm 118:25, is translated into English as “save now.”

The New Testament also records the Hosanna Shout and the waving of palm branches during Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.[1] This event is now celebrated on Palm Sunday. When the people heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took branches of palm trees and went to meet Him.[2] The whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen.[3] They shouted with joy, “Hosanna to the Son of David.[4] Hosanna, blessed be the King of Israel that cometh.[5] Hosanna in the highest.”[6]

The people waved palm branches to recognize Jesus as the great Jehovah who delivered Israel from bondage. The shouts of hosanna recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah who had come to save them.

Today, the Hosanna Shout is done at the dedication of each temple that is built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The white handkerchief has the same symbolism as the palm branch. You wave the handkerchief to remember and celebrate all that the Lord has done. You wave your handkerchief to recognize Jesus Christ as the great Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Messiah of the New Testament—the Savior and Redeemer of the world. The waving of the handkerchiefs and the shouts of “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, to God and the Lamb” are a chant of greeting, worship, gratitude, and praise as Jesus Christ makes a triumphant entry into His Holy House.

The shout of “Hosanna” should be a request for Christ to save you. While you celebrate Christ’s entry into His Holy House, you also invite Christ to make a triumphant entry into your life. The apostle Paul taught that your body is a temple.[7] Your own personal temple is the most important temple for Christ to enter.

“Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, to God and the Lamb.”

Lead image from Getty Images


[1] Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19.   

[2] John 12:12-13. 

[3] Luke 19:37.

[4] Matthew 21:9.

[5] John 12:13, Luke 19:38.

[6] Mark 11:10.

[7] 1 Corinthians 3:16


Get more inspiring insights from Cameron Taylor in his new book, The Way of Aloha: Moloka'i.

After two decades of separation, Manu and Elder Taylor are reunited on the beautiful island of Moloka'i. As you visit the sacred places of Hālawa Valley, Kapuaiwa Royal Coconut Grove, and Kamakou rain forest, you'll learn truths about Aloha, slowing down, guardian angels, simplicity, and connecting with your creator. At locations throughout the leper colony of Kalaupapa, you'll be taught how to minister like the Lord Jesus Christ. This book will transport you to a tropical paradise to be touched by the light and love that radiates from the people and places of Moloka'i.

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