There are 12 thoughts on “The Māori Stairway to Heaven”.

  1. Yes I appreciate you sending me a copy of this book. Everyone I have lent it to have been blown away by Jason’s experiences. Of interest to me are the sections of his book that cover the Marino Kato whare wananga korero.(oral tradition) When one reads this material one is struck by the near resemblances it has with mormon doctrine. In fact criticism from certain quarters of Nga Puhi (Northern Tribe of New Zealand) have stressed that the korero (oral traditions) of the Marino Kato whare wananga of Awarua was influenced by mormons. This view initially caused me to be skeptical about the matauranga (knowledge) of this school of learning as it contained unique korero not found in the other schools of learning around New Zealand. Of important note also is that the current tohunga of the school is LDS member Wallace Wihongi. My scepticism changed when I found corroborating korero from the esoteric teachings of the Ngati Maniapoto tribe of the King Country. I recently happened upon a manuscript written by Raureti Te Huia a Ngati Maniapoto Chief describing their version of korero concerning Matariki (pleiades) which substantiates the teachings of the Marino Kato on Matariki. Such then would warrant an open minded reading of these sections.

    Furthermore Jason quotes a beautiful karakia (incantation) from Tohunga (High Priest) Henare Tuwhangai of the Tainui Tribe. Henare was taught at Te Miringa Te Kakara a Ngati Rereahu and Ngati Maniapoto whare wananga (disbanded decades ago) which gives his book added tapu (sacredness)

    Moreover I wish to comment on Jason’s discussion of one of the many sacred names of the Maori Supreme Being – “Io Pa tuwatawata.” This is a very ancient korero. A rough translation of this name is rendered by me as “Io the builder of Fortified Pa.” A Pa is a traditional maori village. It could also be translated as “Io the Fortress Builder.” Ancient ideas and knowledge is encapsulated in this sacred name of Io.

    It is generally accepted among many if not all the tribes of New Zealand that there was a war in heaven among the gods (atua). The war itself was called Te Paerangi. This is a war that consisted of many battles that were fought on different plains and realms. The translation of Te Paerangi is loosely translated as the Threshold or Boundary of heaven. That boundary carried different names: Te Pumotomoto, Uru-rangi etc. The Maori did not teach that the war was ever fought in the most sacred of the highest heavens. But was fought on its boundaries in the lower heavens. (Kahungunu/Rangitane tribes have 12 heavens in their cosmogony.) It is maintained by certain tohunga (shaman – high priests) that Io did not partake in that war.

    However the aftermath of all war brings along with it a train of social, economic and other upheavals where things are never quite the same. The toll is devastating and is sometimes generational. It would seem that after the gods (atua) had ended their war the heavens went through some changes c. Hikawera Mahupuku recorded in his manuscript that after the war Tane (the atua who led the defending atua) established a fortified pa in Hawaiki nui called “Moutere-rangi-ko-te-rake-pohutakawa.” so as to protect him and his people from any future attacks from his other brethren gods (atua). Thus it seems that among other new developments; defensive changes were made that perhaps did not exist prior to the war in heaven in consequence of this Io added a new attribute to his sacred self and became known as “Io Pa Tuwatawata.” “Io Fortress Builder.” This name carries a very ancient korero.

    • Once again I very much appreciate Phillip Lambert’s helpful remarks on my review of Jason Hartley’s fine book. His comments here and elsewhere on my reviews have supplemented and corrected what I have written, as well as validated my own interest in ancient Maori lore. Though I am an outsider, I join with them and also with Jason Hartley in their attempts to find in old things some relevance today. In addition, his remarks illustrate why it is necessary for Maori scholars to deal the some of the most crucial elements of the remarkable and fruitful encounter of LDS missionaries with the Maori. Important elements of the encounter of LDS missionaries with the Maori is lost when the story is told primarily from the perspective of missionaries and Mission Presidents. And sympathetic Maori LDS scholars are now able to speak about matters that LDS missionaries and Mission Presidents have their own understanding, but often could not fully understand those who came to faith in Jesus Christ from within a different cultural horizon.

      Now more than six decades after my first direct contact with the Maori in the far north of New Zealand, I marvel at the tenacity of their faith, and also at the truly remarkable melding of what I have elsewhere described as two authentic prophetic traditions. Beginning in 1950 I was stunned to find a people who in their own way at least as much, if not more, Mormon than I was. They had their own reasons which I struggled to comprehend, which is to say that I argued with them. I found that the faithful Maori Saints were both loyal and also staunchly independent in their faith. I eventually came to understand that they had their own reasons, which were at least as good as mine, especially because they included and rested on different real world encounters with the divine. They actually lived in a world not entirely unlike that depicted with the Book of Mormon, while I tended to consult that book for mostly proof-texts.

      I strongly oppose any efforts to depict the Maori Saints both then and now as naive, superstitious and easily blinded to the realities currently fashionable among secularized Europeans.

    • What David calls “these myth” only work their magic if they are believed to be true and are in fact simply true. One will avoid (or abandon) deeds that are genuinely believed to place one in disfavor with God, if and when one chooses to believe (and act upon) what others may choose to brush aside as mere myth. And this also applies to those who see moral and legal rules as arbitrary oppression from which one must be liberated. Either way, one is not likely to act upon what one chooses to understand as a mere myth.

  2. The proper surname is Colvin, and not Colin, which is an unfortunate typographical mistake soon be corrected. I believe that Dr. Colvin lectures on “education” at the University of Canterbury, from which she also has her PhD and BA degrees. (UC is located in Christchurch, New Zealand.). She also post on Patheos as “Kiwi Mormon.”

  3. “It is, for instance, disheartening to see Gina Colin mocking the grounds and contents of the faith of Māori Saints on her blog.”

    After searching the web, I’ve been unable to locate any information on Gina Colin or her blog. Could you advise?

  4. I am not well read on the Maoris so I can’t give a scholarly comment. Therefore, I will just inform you that I have been reading your articles on these New Zealanders and have been truly interested in what you have written and am appreciative of what you have added to my knowledge on this subject. I have read much on Matthew Cowley and his missionary experiences and therefore your articles caught my interest. Thanks for sharing. Don and Roxie Bybee (friends of George Mitton )

    • I very much appreciate the comment by the Bybees. Matt Cowley was a huge figure in the life of the Saints in New Zealand. Prior to WW I, as a very young kid, he went to New Zealand as a missionary, where sat out that war. He went back to New Zealand as Mission President before WW II, and again sat out that war. He became on these two missions a legend in his own time. But there were other truly remarkable LDS missionaries who served in New Zealand. I have found the missionaries less interesting than the Saints in that beautiful land.

      In 1950 there were only two of the Saints in New Zealand, both Maori, who had university training. It very much pleases me that there are now large number of university trained Saints. Now, over fifty years after my first mission to New Zealand there are a large number of Maori, Pacific Islanders and Pakeha Saints. For the most part they have avoided soul destroying, dreadful doldrums of European vices. They have, I believe, begun to take advantage of a proper education to enhance their contributions to the Kingdom of God. There has been, I am confident, a deep symbiotic partnership between missionaries and faithful Saints. And as interesting and important as Mission Presidents and missionaries have been, what interests me most is the community of faithful Maori (and other) Saints in that wonderful land. I saw in 1950, in what was then an essentially Maori community of Saints, a truly remarkable outpost of the Church of Jesus Christ. Having had some minor involvement with the past and current community of faithful Saints in Aotearoa/New Zealand has been for me a great blessing, as well as an anchor for my own faith.

      • Great reading and insight. I am one of Wallace Wihongi’s children but unfortunately remained closer to my Mother and so didnt receive what knowledge he had. Waimate Wihongi was his Father, and Te Atawhai Wihongi has his Father, and then Pere Wihongi was his – an Anglican Minister in Kaikohe well over 100 years ago. Nga mihi.

  5. Louis,

    I enjoyed your review. Your opening sentence was:

    “Jason Hartley’s book manifests a passion for alleviating the problem of Māori surging into the prisons of Aotearoa/New Zealand2 by restoring their old, traditional religious ethos and the social control that hinges on the recovery of the old belief that they are potentially noble children of God.”

    This is the solution to most of the problems in America as well.

    • I agree. The problem is that an effort to preserve or recover the best of old traditions about both human and divine things is open to twisting and turning for narrow partisan reasons. And, as I have pointed out elsewhere, for the Maori there is a debate over whether the moral teachings Hartley and I would like to see prevail are genuinely traditional or are the best elements in Maori culture. In addition, there are some cultural Mormons who opine about both Maori and Mormon things who question or deny that there really are authentic prophetic traditions, and hence wish to move in other directions. They seem to me to have yielded to elements in of a competing, dominant secular worldview.

      Put another way, I believe that the Maori world has been eroded both from below by the allure of worst that has been made available by the increasingly dominant culture, and also from the top by an attractive high culture bent on replacing or radically transforming what is seen as wishful thinking and/or crude superstition. Those in thrall to such ideologies end up denying that there is a stairway back to a real heaven. They may, however, grant that they once believed and acted upon such a faith, but they also make it clear that they are now in a transitional mode in which such beliefs are either disparaged or denied.

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