By Tina Mata’afa-Tufele Elise
Haylani Pearl Kuruppu, the reigning Miss Samoa, encouraged hundreds of young men and young women at a youth conference devotional this month – to put the Lord first.
Miss Kuruppu spoke at the Apia Samoa Central Stake Youth Conference just two days after she finished first runner up in the 2023 Miss Pacific islands Pageant.
Miss Kuruppu, born and raised in Australia, was candid in sharing the trials faced as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – and as Miss Samoa, the country’s ambassador to the world.
Serving a mission in her home country of Australia was difficult because in Australia “God is not a priority,” she said.
“I was spat on, punched and kicked,” said Miss Kuruppu.
Wearing the crown and title of Miss Samoa has come with its own set of challenges.
An athlete through and through, Miss Kuruppu never pictured herself as a beauty queen.
At the behest of her aunt and a throng of supporters, and, after many prayers, she decided to give it a shot.
Miss Kuruppu was crowned in September of 2022 at Gym 1 in Tuanaimato.
Since then, she has suffered online abuse from harsh critics and was once told to remove her crown and sash at a 60th anniversary flag-raising event held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia last October.
“I was told to remove my crown and sash in Australia at a 60th independence day celebration and I was not allowed to be there,” she said.
“You have to keep your chin up and face the trials…keep the Lord first and everything will fall into place.”
It was a Scripture from The Book of Mosiah in The Book of Mormon that inspired Miss Kuruppu to come to Samoa and vie for the title of Miss Samoa.
That Scripture is Mosiah 2:17 “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
“Brothers and sisters, the whole reason I came to Samoa is because of one verse – Mosiah 2:17: ‘when you are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God’,” Miss Kuruppu said.
Life gets tough, she noted, but the strong-willed Miss Samoa reiterated: “When you put the Lord first, everything falls into place.”
She told youth to say their prayers, read their Scriptures and encouraged them all to serve a mission.
“I know the Savior loves us,” said Miss Kuruppu when she shared her testimony.
Youth members from 11 wards of the Apia Samoa Central Stake convened for five days of Youth Conference that opened on Wednesday, 1 February, 2023.
The programme was based on four areas of self-development: physical, intellectual, social and spiritual.
Principles found in the Church guide book “For the Strength of Youth” were covered during the conference.
In a partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.), youth members conducted a service project at the Malololelei Bio-Diversity Reserve in support of the government’s drive to plant one million trees to combat climate change.
The purpose of the service project was to have youth make a positive contribution to the community and society.
Youth members played volleyball and had fun at a back-to-school dance.
Youth Conference activities for Apia Samoa Central Stake concluded on Sunday, 5 February with a talk from the Miss Samoa.
The theme was Jesus Christ is the Strength of Youth.
Miss Kuruppu is participating in the Upolu Young Single Adults 2023 Convention that takes place in July.