This week I was introduced to Titus Coan who was one of the early Christian missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands and one to lead a great revival. In the early 1800’s, Coan led thousands to becoming true disciples of Christ, ones that knew the gospel well. Not long after this revival, Roman Catholics and Mormons came to the islands to proselytize the natives, sometimes with forceful methods. In his autobiography, Life in Hawaii, Coan recalls the tactics of one Mormon:
One of their number came into our congregation on a Sabbath, and when I arose at the close of the service to dismiss the assembly, the Mormon arose, and with a loud voice gave notice that he would preach immediately. The great congregation moved quietly toward the church door, when he placed himself in the door-way to prevent their egress, demanding in loud, boisterous language that they all remain and hear “the true gospel.” Steadily the crowd moved to the door, and pressing the arrogant intruder aside, returned to their homes.
Though numbers of low characters at first turned after the Mormons, the sect soon ran out here, and now they have neither church, or school, or meeting house in all Hilo and Puna. (103)
Despite the rather brash method this Mormon chose to use, the church members already had a good grasp of the gospel through the discipleship of Coan. They did not need to hear the “true gospel” for they knew the gospel the Mormon wanted to preach was one contrary to the gospel already preached to them. Because of this, the Mormons never established a church in Hilo and Puna in the early 1800’s
Ironically, growing up in Hilo, I lived right across the street from the Mormon church established there. Apparently, Mormon tactics would eventually win converts around Hilo. However, I am fairly confident that it was not the Christians under Coan’s care who eventually caved into accepting their gospel, but rather some other audience.
All this to say—it’s good to know the gospel well. I don’t think we will run into too many ‘arrogant intruders’ these days, but there are still many who have a “true gospel” to preach and will place themselves in the door ways of our lives to prevent our egress. With a firm grasp of the gospel of grace, we can steadily move to the door and return to our homes.