Unusual 'Anahera Pono' request brings two religions closer

By Bronson Perich

When Ratana apostle Kereama Pene met the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), he had an unusual request.

It was a request, Apōtoro (apostle) Pene says was one that could only come from Te Iwi Morehu (Ratana).

“I asked (LDS church president) Russell Nelson, if the church would place an angel on top of the new Auckland Temple,” Kereama Pene says.

This small, yet significant request is one of many moves by Pene to strengthen ties between Te Hunga Tapu (LDS) and Te Iwi Morehu. Pene has met LDS church leaders several times since 2018.

Why angels?

Angels play a significant role in both religions. LDS church founder Joseph Smith had said he received a golden tome from an angel. That tome formed the source material for The Book of Mormon, published in 1830.

Likewise in Ratana, the anahera pono (faithful angels) are acknowledged as God’s heralds.

Angel sculptures were a signature feature on older LDS temples but it is not common now.

Pene hoped the Auckland temple would be an exception.

"There is a deep relationship between angels and the two churches," Apōtoro Pene says.

LDS temple 'angel Moroni' sculpture - Source / File

A shared history

Apōtoro Pene was present at the LDS Temple groundbreaking in Auckland this Saturday past. He talked about the shared history of the churches, starting with when Tahupōtiki Wiremu Ratana visited Salt Lake City in 1925.

Ratana wanted to discuss the prophecies of Paora Potangaroa, a Wairarapa tohunga of Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitane. Pene says these prophecies predicted the coming of the LDS church to Aotearoa.

"When the Ratana Church started, the Holy Spirit took Ratana to America, to Salt Lake City. He saw the (LDS) prophet of the time, and they spoke about the prophet in Wairarapa.”

Pene explained Ratana acquired the same mauri stone that Potangaroa used in his tohunga role. Pene says the mauri then passed to Ratana.

"That stone spoke to Ratana, and told him that one day a temple would be built in Tamaki that would bring the churches together."

Pene declared his personal belief in that prophecy.

"Yes, that prophecy is true," Apōtoro Pene says.

Renewing connections

Apōtoro Pene had made friends with LDS church leaders including LDS regional president Elder Ian S Ardern.

"This man, (Elder) Ardern, represented the 'Mormon church' when they supported our 100-year anniversary celebrations in Ōrākei.

"I had a particularly deep conversation with him on that day, that particular Seventy (Elder)."

Elder Ardern confirmed the temple was due to be completed in 2023. It would then be open for public viewing before its dedication.

"We know that we're always welcomed by Ratana," Elder Ardern says.

Apōtoro Pene said that a Ratana delegation would tour the temple before its opening. A Ratana choir and brass band would ascend Redoubt hill to perform himene to support the dedication as well.