Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Radiating the Spirit - Nephi Setoki and the power of living an honorable life

I have this problem with names – I can’t remember them. I remember waking up one morning, looking at my husband sleeping and suddenly panicking because I simply could not remember his name. It took me a good 5 minutes to come up with it.

This problem has manifested itself in a strange sort of way here in Laie’. I seem to have the problem of calling every Polynesian man “Nephi”. Especially this poor guy named Seth. Wonderful fella in his own right, but all the same, I’m always calling him Nephi.

I’d better explain.

I work with Nephi Setoki. He is our webmaster – with a big emphasis on the word MASTER.
Nephi during a promo trip. That's him on the right.
For those not of our faith, the name Nephi comes from an ancient prophet in the Book of Mormon. It is a noble name, one that carries with it great promise and responsibility. Nephi Setoki honors that name with the same faith, courage and humility as Nephi of old.  

Nephi was born in Samoa – and moved here as a child. He is a graduate of our own Kahuku Middle School and High School just north of the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC).

He has always worked for PCC. He started as a dancer. He then moved to the Promo Team, then over to Sales and is now working in Ecommerce, where I am assigned.

Nephi is the most humble, unassuming man. First and foremost, his family is the center of his world. He is a self-taught photographer, he plays a mean ukulele, and he is well trained in the ancient Hawaiian hula and his own Samoan dances. Besides that, he is a big, muscular, imposing looking dude.

Nephi modeling his own clothing line - and developing
his own graphic art
He knows absolutely everyone here. It’s very difficult to walk through PCC with him – especially when you are in a hurry. EVERYONE stops him to talk story, hug and laugh. Nephi’s laugh is the best laugh you’ve EVER heard, so that's always part of the fun.

To truly explain his character and grace, I want to share a quick story. Nephi has a very pronounced scar on the back of his head. I never asked what happened, but Elder Jones, who never hesitates when he is curious said, “Nephi, I noticed your unusual scar. Tell me the story”.

Nephi explained that one day, back when he was a dancer, he was performing in the canoe pageant. Suddenly he collapsed with a seizure right in the middle of the performance. He was rushed to the hospital where they found that he had a brain tumor. 

“This scar is my badge of honor,” he told us. “It saved my life.”

This is actually a picture of Nephi on that fateful day when he found out that
something was obviously not working quite right....
We discussed whether to include this very personal picture. Ultimately,
Nephi decided that he would as he has been hoping for years to
locate the doctor in the crowd who stepped up to help him. Maybe
sometime, somewhere, someone will recognize the picture.
This was in the Summer of 1991.

That Nephi not only survived, but flourished is a testament not only to his courage, but his great faith. Nephi knows where his strength comes from. He has a solid and abiding love of the gospel as well as the culture, the purpose and the beauty of the PCC. He personifies the deep commitment many of our Polynesian brothers and sisters have to this blessed place. It is one of my greatest honors to be working with him. His kindness and dignity inspires me every day.

So I call all Poly-men Nephi because he is the measuring stick for me.

Luckily, when I call Seth by Nephi’s name, he politely corrects me and then always adds “but thank you, that’s quite an honor”.

Nephi 4:20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

30 Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.


Just for fun, I've included the link to a video clip I found. Nephi (in the white shorts) was helping to coordinate this dance for the 2013 50th anniversary of the PCC. This was the practice video for the following dances - (CLICK HERE) The Sasa and the Lapalapa


  1. Thank you for sharing your life stories and the people you are meeting on this mission!

  2. Thank you for sharing this story about my brother who was my best friend and at times my worst enemy growing up😊 He is one of a kind.

    1. Kijiana - thank you for your reply. You're not telling me Nephi was - gasp - a typical dweeby brother, are you? Lol - I have two brothers and I love em like crazy, but there were times I wanted to pound em into the ground - HA! That said, you must have some fun and amazing stories of him. He is one of a kind, and the best kind at that.