Saturday, July 14, 2012

Percy Rivers - First Stake President in Samoa

This past week we attended the North Zone meeting on Thursday.  The zone is made up of 7 missionaries from Samoa and 3 from the United States.  When I was asked to speak I felt impressed to share with them the story of Percy Rivers who was first president of the Apia Samoa Stake, createed 50 years ago.

President Rivers Grand father was from China. He made his living as a sailor during his younger years and one day sailed into Apia harbor.  He fell in love with Samoa so he stayed and purchased land between the Lotopa and Vaimoso villages called Pesega.  It was land that didn't belong to a village so he was not subject to any of the traditions of the villages in Samoa. His name was Ahmu which is the Chinese pronounciation of the Ahur River where he came from.

He married a woman from Samoa and began raising a family.  One day President Rivers father, John, was sent to take the weekly food offering to the pastor of the church they attended.  The pastor kicked the basket of food over and said "This was not enough.  I need food for the whole week." So John picked up the food and took it back to his father and asked him what they should do.  Ahmu said that didn't sound like a man of God and maybe it was time to find another church.  John told his father about 2 mormon elders that were in town looking for people to teach. Ahmu told John to take the wagon to town and bring the 2 elders back so he could hear their message. The family joined the church.

Percy was born in 1911 and married and had 3 children, 2 sons and a daughter. He decided to take his family to New Zealand to seek better opportunities for his family and improved medical care for one of his sons that was not well.  Over the course of 2 years both of his sons passed away and his wife passed away.  He was left as a single parent of his young daughter. He decided they would move to Hawaii to be near some famly members there.  They stopped in Samoa on the way to Hawaii to visit some other family members. Shortly after returning to Samoa he was called to be in the Pesega District Presidency.  So they stayed in Samoa.

 In March 1962 there was a lot of excitement in Samoa as the Apia Stake was created. Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Quorum of the 12 apostles came to Samoa to create the stake. After interviewing all of the priesthood brethren he felt impressed to call Brother Rivers as stake president. The only problem was it was against Church policy to call somebody to be a stake president who wasn't married. Elder Peterson went ahead and issued the call and told President Rivers he had 6 months to get married.

In April 1962 President Rivers attended General Conference with several other members from Samoa. During his time in Salt Lake City he went to lunch at the home of a returned missionary who had served in Samoa name Helen Shields.  President Rivers was quite taken by Sister Shields and she was on his mind as he began his journey back to Samoa.

While in Los Angeles he called Sister Shields and asked her if she remembered him. She said she did. He asked if she would consider marrying him. She said, "Absolutely not.  I hardly know you." So he flew with his group to Hawaii. While in Hawaii he called Sister Shields again.  Told her his situation and asked if she would marry him. She told him no, she still didn't know him well enough.  He told her about Elder Peterson's requirement that he get married in 6 months.  She agreed to go talk to Elder Peterson.  She decided that since President Rivers came highly recommended from Elder Peterson she would travel to Samoa and get acquainted with President Rivers.

Approximately 6 months later they were married on October 11, 1962.  President Rivers told Helen that as soon as the Lord was done with him in Samoa, they would move to Utah to be close to her family.  He went on to serve 9 years as stake president. He was then ordained as the first patriarch from Polynesia.  He also served as a Regional Representative of the twelve. When the Samoa Temple was built in 1975 he served as a counsellor in the temple president. He then served as a counsellor in the presidency of the MTC in Samoa during the mid 1980's.
Percy Rivers, President of the Apia Samoa Stake

The point I shared with the Elders that are serving from Samoa is that they are the future Percy River's, the future Bishops and Stake Presidents in Samoa.


  1. hi would like more information pls,

  2. hope to hear for anyone in regards to this story..awesome

  3. There was a book published about him which we read. I think it was a local book in Samoa. Sorry I can't help you any further.