The Other Side of Heaven Study Guide

The Other Side of Heaven By Gerald R. Molen

Elder John Groberg, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, is called on a mission to Tonga in the 1950s. (The title of Elder is given to members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints who have attained the Melchizedek priesthood and are thus able to minister to others, including going on missions.) It foreshadows the trials that he will face that he is jailed in Fiji on the way to Tonga.

Once he arrives, he is promptly sent to a remote group of islands where he meets his partner, Feki, a Tongan fluent in English. Elder Groberg learns rapidly that what he was taught of Tongan was anemic and useless, and starts to study the language intensely. Once he masters the language, he sets about to understand the culture.

The island's minister tells the populace to ignore the missionaries, and even sends men to rough them up. One of the thugs, Tomasi, happened to have been baptized into the LDS church, and he convinced the others to spare Feki and Elder Groberg. Tomasi was later chosen by Groberg to be one of his counselors to the local congregations.

A local lady, with her family's encouragement, tries to seduce the Elder because she wants a half-white baby, but eventually relents when she learns of Groberg's commitment to Jean, the young woman he left back home. Later, at sea, the Elder is washed overboard in a huge storm and fears for his life, but he holds out faith and is eventually rescued. Finally, a hurricane hits the island and destroys much of what has been built, killing many and leaving everyone with little food and water.

Rescue boats take far too long to arrive, and many people die. Elder Groberg works tirelessly for the good of everyone but himself - but is himself saved by the island's minister, who gives Groberg the last of his food and then perishes.

The story closes as the minister is given a very honorable funeral, and Groberg finally returns home to marry Jane.

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