Micronesia, Guam, Truk. You may have heard of these islands, but what do you really know about them? Devan Jensen is writing an LDS History about these islands and will give us a sneak peek into his upcoming book. We’re getting an early preview.
Devan: It turned out there was a topic. They were coming up with a book on the Pacific, and I said, “Well, I was a missionary, in one of the most remote areas of the world. It’s an area called Pohnpei.” It literally means, “on the altar.” It’s a very Christian nation now, about 30,000 people. I was there in Guam, where the temple is going to be built in Yigo, and I was there in Palm Bay. Those were my two areas that I was a missionary. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to collect some of those conversion stories and some of the early pioneering members?” So, I wrote that into a chapter and that was published in the book. A few years later, I realized, “That is a really important story,” that for some–well, I understand why people aren’t writing about it, because it’s so remote.
Devan: I’ll give you a give you a visual. So, imagine flying out to Hawaii, now flying out to the Philippines, halfway between there, approximately, is Guam and the Micronesia-Guam mission. So, it’s really out in the Pacific. I was a missionary there in Guam and Pohnpei. I decided I would be very interested in interviewing some of the other folks out there. So, I went out to the island of Chuuk. Chuuk is one of the–it used to be called Truk. Some of your listeners will know that. They’ll know that from World War II, because a lot of battles were there. Essentially, what happened, where we know about this story is, is after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had their fleet in the Chuuk Lagoon because it was a beautiful, big lagoon. It was a place where it was naturally protected. I can’t remember. It seems like it’s about 1000 square miles. So, it’s a huge lagoon, surrounded by volcanic islands. Basically, they were waiting there, and the U.S. forces made their way west and then they just bombed the Japanese in that lagoon. There are so many ships at the bottom of that lagoon, to this day. There are actual skeletons, there are artifacts, like gas masks.
GT: This was kind of a reverse Pearl Harbor.
Devan: Yes, it was a reverse Pearl Harbor. Being sensitive to the Japanese, this was sort of the payback for the Pearl Harbor, and it was very devastating attack on them. So, basically, I thought, “I’d like to go out there and interview some people.” So, I applied for funding and got some funding to fly out there. I recorded about—I’m trying to think how many [interviews] I did. I think I did about six or 10 oral history interviews. I submitted those to the Church Archives, and so those interviews now exists there, and they will be donated to BYU as well, when I’m done with them. I’m not quite done, but really close. So, as a result of this, I decided to gather all these into a book. Now we have, we’re getting ready to submit this book for publication. It’s going to be called something along the lines of, From Battlefields to Temple Grounds. It’s going to be the Latter-day Saints in Guam and Micronesia, something along those lines.
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Don’t miss our previous conversations with Devan!