News Release

Missionaries Honour Their Ancestors Through Dance and Song

Two missionaries honour their heritage from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and England,

Elder Jake Mangakahia -- male missionaries are called Elders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- helped to organise and perform in “Mana; The Spirit of Polynesia” on 31st January at the Toronto Stake Centre, Ontario, Canada where he is currently serving.

Jake is from Australia.  He says his parents are convinced he started to dance in his mother’s womb.  He started ballet at the age of five and was a member of The Australian Ballet Company’s corps de ballet (the first professional level) before starting his mission in January, 2014.

He said he chose to interrupt his career because he wanted to focus on eternal goals and lay up his “treasures in heaven”.  He credits his parent’s example of choosing to focus on family over advancing their careers. He wants others to feel for themselves the joy he feels from knowing and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder Mangakahia’s father was born in Maylaysia, his paternal grandfather in New Zealand and his maternal grandmother is from Fiji. 

“My family loves to dance,” he said, “and we like to tell stories through dance.  I’m grateful for the stories in my family history that my parents have shared with me.  As we get to know our ancestors, we all understand more of who we are.

“Sharing my talents on my mission has helped me to understand there are many ways we can bring the Spirit (of our Heavenly Father) to other people and that we are able to relate any part of our lives to the gospel.

“I definitely feel the Spirit when I dance,” he continued.  “Joy is one of the fruits of the spirit and I feel that when I perform.  Dance is an expression that doesn’t require words.”  

Elder Mangakahia wore traditional costumes and educated the audience on the music, dress and language of the cultures he represented.

“He invited the audience to dance, sing and chant with him,” said Michèle Hynynen, copy editor for Mormon Newsroom from Toronto Ontario, “but most importantly, he invited them to find out more about who they are, by researching their family history.”

Jake’s mission president, Weatherford Clayton, said, prior to the event, “Elder Mangakahia will be performing dances telling the story of Polynesia. Sister Claudia Jane Morgan (also a missionary) will join the performance by singing ‘Colour of the Wind’.

“In the Canada Toronto Mission, we feel it is appropriate for our missionaries to share their culture as they spread the good news of God’s love for all of his children across the globe.  Toronto is a melting pot of cultures and peoples from around the world.  In one of our Toronto wards over 40 languages are spoken.

“As he shares his talents of dance and Sister Morgan with singing we are certain that the people who attend will not only be entertained but they will feel the spirit of God’s love for all of us and for families.”

Sister Claudia Jane Morgan is from London England and was discovered on YouTube by record producer, David Nash, who has worked with Michael Jackson and Madonna.  She started performing at the age of four and recorded her first pop single at 14.

She was classically trained for six years at the Royal Academy of Music.  At 15 she signed a contract with CanWood Entertainment with the intent of starring in a Disney TV show.

She chose to interrupt her career and serve a mission because she wanted to live in a way that was pleasing to God, to bring balance to her life and forsake the worldly temptations that come with an entertainment career.  

She has been serving a mission in Canada since April 2014 and is grateful she’s been able to use her singing talents while serving a mission.  Her ancestry is from Australia, England and New Zealand.

She said that the song ‘Colours of the Wind’ was a great music choice for this event because it relates to family history, especially the following lyrics:

‘You think the only people that are people
Are the people who look and think like you,
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew’. 

Dale Fitzgerald, who is not of the Mormon faith, attended the event because he saw an advertisement for it and was interested in researching his own ancestry.  “I really enjoyed the performance and seeing people from all over the world come together.”

“I’m of Irish-Scottish heritage and I’ve been interested in family history research for a while now.  We need to know where we came from if we want to know where we’re going. We should take pride in our backgrounds,” he said.

Several booths were set up by Latter-day Saints that evening to show attendees how easy it is to research their history. 

Learn more about the Church’s FamilySearch program which is free to members of other faiths and people with no faith at all. It is the largest genealogical organisation in the world.

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