Samoa Prime Minister gets a warm welcome to Utah during conference weekend

Sep 30, 2023, 9:56 PM | Updated: 10:36 pm

PROVO — This week, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invited Samoa’s Prime Minister to visit our beautiful state.

It was Fiame Naomi Mata’afa’s first visit to Utah as Samoa’s Prime Minister, and it gave her a chance to connect with Samoan students attending Brigham Young University.

When the Prime Minister stepped onto the BYU campus on Thursday, students crafted a welcome leaning on the fa’a samoa or ”The Samoan way.”

Students performed what’s called an ava ceremony—a custom symbolizing love and respect.

Mata’afa represents an important milestone in Samoan politics. She’s the first female prime minister and a longtime advocate for gender equality.

“It’s really lovely to see all the people here. Just walking into here was sort of like a mini Samoa in the middle of BYU.’’ Mata’afa said.

It was a huge honor for BYU sophomore Sage Purcell to be part of this special ceremony. She never imagined having this kind of access to Samoa’s leader.

“Just to have an example as far as education, and also showing we as women can be leaders, I think it meant a lot more to be part of this,” Purcell said.

Helaman Sosi is a junior at BYU from West Jordan.

“My mom is from Upolu. She’s from the village of Vaimoso. And my dad is from Tula in American Samoa,” Sosi said.

He said this would be a core memory for him.

“My parents and grandparents have dug wells that have given me opportunities not only to be in this ceremony but to be at BYU, to be in the United States,” Sosi said.

Mata’afa encouraged these young Samoans to share their faith and seek ways to serve.

“It’s such a privilege and we must always not only be thankful for it. But utilize it in the best way possible. Just making those connections. I think it’s what makes life meaningful.”

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Samoa Prime Minister gets a warm welcome to Utah during conference weekend