The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
Print Issues

Professor spreads message of religious cooperation

By Jay Logan Rogers

A Hawaiian leprosy colony served as the unlikely setting for building bridges of religious understanding in 19th-century America, a scholar said at an event in the Union Den on Tuesday.

Fred E. Woods, professor and chairman of religious understanding at Brigham Young University, gave the first of several lectures taking place on campus for the first Student Interfaith Week.

Woods said that in the 1800s leprosy patient Jonathan Napela and priest Joseph De Veuster, who was known as “Father Damien,” worked together to create a culture of religious tolerance at the Hawaiian leprosy colony of Kalaupapa.

Napela was a prominent judge and a member of the LDS church. He was the first Hawaiian to visit Salt Lake City and receive LDS temple endowments. He helped LDS apostle George Q. Cannon translate the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian, Woods said.

When his wife Kitty was diagnosed with Hansen’s Disease, better known as leprosy, Napela opted to accompany her to the colony at Kalaupapa. He later contracted the disease as well.

There he befriended the Belgian-born priest De Veuster and convinced him to allow LDS missionaries to stay with him on the island.

De Veuster was described as being kind and just to members of all faiths, although he did feel it his duty to try to convert people to Catholicism.

He allowed LDS missionaries to live with him and conduct their own conversion efforts until his Catholic bishop ordered him to abandon the practice, Woods said.

“This was not the norm in the 19th century,” Woods said of the congenial co-existence of the Catholic priest and the LDS missionaries.

“‘Damien’ and Napela helped launch a model that’s still there today,” he said.

He noted that today one of the three Latter-day Saints currently residing at Kalaupapa sings in the choir of the Catholic Church founded by De Veuster.

Woods said the example of religious tolerance not only applies to relations between Mormons and Catholics, but also to members of all faiths.

“We can learn a lot of important lessons about how to treat one another from Kalaupapa,” Woods said. “It’s needed with all the spiritual leprosy in the world today.”

Andrew Gonzales, a junior in history teaching, said that, as a former resident of Hawaii, he found the lecture interesting.

“I liked seeing how people from completely different backgrounds could work together,” Gonzales said.

“I think it’s a good message to send out, for people to put their religions aside and work together,” said Xiomara Herrera-Diaz, a senior in mass communication.

Student Interfaith Week is sponsored by the Student Interfaith Council. For more information, contact Jacob Madsen at 671-7419 or visit the group’s Web site at

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

We welcome feedback and dialogue from our community. However, when necessary, The Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to remove user comments. Posts may be removed for any of the following reasons: • Comments on a post that do not relate to the subject matter of the story • The use of obscene, threatening, defamatory, or harassing language • Comments advocating illegal activity • Posts violating copyrights or trademarks • Advertisement or promotion of commercial products, services, entities, or individuals • Duplicative comments by the same user. In the case of identical comments only the first submission will be posted. Users who habitually post comments or content that must be removed can be blocked from the comment section.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *