Few outsiders during the early twentieth century made the descent to the Kalaupapa leprosy settlement on Moloka'i more frequently or with more impact than William Mark Waddoups. Waddoups, a self-effacing farm boy, was born in 1878 and spent his youth on a modest farm in Bountiful, Utah, where he undoubtedly cultivated a strong work ethic discernible throughout his life. Concerning his childhood, William wrote, "My boyhood experiences were little different to those of thousands of boys of our time raised as I was on a farm. . . . A constant source of wonder and interest were the trains which passed and re-passed our home several times daily. . . . These great trains, passing daily, inspired me with ambition to see the world and take my proper place in it."1
His first opportunity to leave his rural farm setting and experience the outside world occurred when he left on a mission to Hawai'i at age 22. Concerning his mission call and the acquisition of the Hawaiian language, he wrote, [End Page 147]
In January 1900 I was called on a mission, through John W. Taylor to the Colorado Mission. President Joseph F. Smith, changed the call to Hawaii and I accordingly left home for Hawaii in February in company with Angus Smedley. We traveled steerage on the S.S. Alameda. My brother Anson was in Hawaii having been there doing missionary work for three years. . . . Much of my time was spent studying the Hawaiian language. . . . This was a great blessing to me as Anson had a very good knowledge of Hawaiian and helped me very much indeed. I labored with him in Honolulu until October 1900 when he was released to return home.2
First Visit to the Kalaupapa Settlement
Waddoups served as a Latter-day Saint (LDS) missionary in the Hawai'i Mission from 1900 to 1904, where he grew to have a tremendous love for the local island people. Over time, he became fluent in the Hawaiian language and comfortable living in Hawai'i, which included time spent at Kalaupapa, a place he would return to time and again for decades. In April 1904, his last assignment in the mission field was to travel, with his companion David Johnson, to dedicate the LDS chapels at both Kalawao and Kalaupapa on Moloka'i.3 At this time the Mormon population at this leprosy settlement had increased to at least two hundred, which included the recent baptisms of ten new Mormon converts, making the LDS members just over 20 percent of Kalaupapa's total population in the settlement.4
The following article, written by Waddoups in 1904, appeared in the LDS periodical the Deseret Evening News, titled "Mormon Elders' Work in a Leper Settlement."
The Hawaiian leper settlement is one of the many points of interest in the Hawaiian territory. It is situated on a small strip of land of only two or three miles extent, on the island of Molokai, about 52 miles direct from Honolulu. It is a natural prison, surrounded by the ocean and high precipitous mountains. There are in the neighborhood of nine hundred souls now suffering from this dreaded disease and retained at this station.
The treatment of these unfortunates by the officials is the very best. They are furnished good food and clothing. They have clean, sanitary homes, and good medical treatment. They also have amusements of [End Page 148] various kinds such as baseball, football, athletic clubs, dances, and various social functions. Educational advantages are good, as they have several excellent schools. Nor is their spiritual training neglected, for they have roomy, pleasant houses of worship and all is done for them that can be done.
Elder David Johnson and I had the privilege of visiting the settlement recently, for the purpose of dedicating the two meetinghouses for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one at Kalaupapa and one at Kalawao. These are some of the best houses in the Hawaiian mission.
The building at Kalaupapa has been in course of erection for about five years. It was built entirely from contributions, and finished only after patient, untiring effort by the...