Marlise Ahuna, Germaine Tauati, and LaRae Mortensen of the Hilo, Hawaii Stake, joined Kurt for an online conversation about their unique Huaka’i youth trek over spring break 2022.

Marlise is currently the stake interfaith specialist in the Hilo, Hawaiʻi Stake. She has previously served as stake communications director, Primary president and music leader, and Relief Society counselor and president. Marlise grew up in Bakersfield, California, served a mission in Fukuoka, Japan, and graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in International Studies and Diplomacy, and from the University of South Dakota with an MM in Vocal Performance. She is the owner of Marlise Ahuna Music Studio, married to Joseph for 20 years, and they are the parents of four children.

LaRae Mortensen is currently the stake Primary music leader in the Hilo, Hawai’i Stake. She has previously served as the stake Young Women president, ward Primary president, music leader, counselor, secretary, and pianist, as well as ward Young Women president and counselor. LaRae grew up in Punalu’u, on the island of Oahu in Hawai’i, and graduated from Brigham Young University–Hawaii with a BS in Business Management. She and her husband Hans own H&L Services LLC, a landscape maintenance company, and have been married for 27 years. They have five children and seven grandchildren.

Germaine Kaleilehua Tauati is currently supporting her husband as he serves as the YSA Branch President of the Hilo, Hawaiʻi Stake. She has previously served as the second counselor in the Keaukaha Ward Primary and prior to that Germaine has served in various positions in the Keauakaha and Ainaola ward as Sunday School teacher, Primary teacher, Relief Society teacher, and Young Women president. In the stake she has served as the stake education specialist, second counselor in the stake Young Women presidency, stake Primary president, and stake Relief Society president. Germaine grew up in Hilo on the Island of Hawaiʻi and graduated with a bachelor of arts in Early Childhood Education Administration with a minor in Organizational Management and a master of arts in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Instruction from Ashford University. She currently works as the Early Literacy Program director at the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture. She met and married her college sweetheart from BYU-Hawaiʻi and together they have four children, two daughter-in laws, one son in-law and soon to be three beautiful grandchildren. They have been married for 33 years.

LaRae Mortensen, Marlise Ahuna, and Germaine Tauati


02:30 Introduction to the speakers and the trek they did in Hawaii

05:00 The church is very established in Hawaii. The demographics there.

05:45 The tradition of treks and how it’s different in Hawaii

08:00 The trek experience in Hawaii and finding a good location.

09:00 Connecting the tradition of the trek to the culture of the people

11:30 The meaning of Huaka’i

13:30 A summary of the trek and what they did each day

16:20 There was a lot of preparation and activities before the trek. It created a richer experience.

17:30 The follow up experience to the trek. Many of the youth shared their experiences in sacrament meeting.

18:15 The Hawaii trek was adapted in a way that allowed the youth to connect with their ancestors and traditions. They didn’t do as much walking.

20:00 The dynamic of the adult leaders and what they did on the trek

24:30 The trek was almost like a glorified youth conference. They packed the days with activities. Because of Covid they didn’t do overnights.

26:00 The amount of adults involved and what it took to put the trek together

27:00 There were a lot of cultural activities taught by different members of the stake.

29:20 What the youth got out of the activities and what they went away saying about it

31:15 Sometimes we try too hard to orchestrate a spiritual moment. In reality just gathering together with a focus on Christ, tradition, and our ancestors we can walk away with a spiritual experience.

32:30 Things the leaders think they could change for the next trek

  • More youth-led activities
  • Involving the youth more in preparation and planning

33:40 A cultural based trek is an opportunity to show the youth how their culture aligns with the gospel.

  • Many of the youth see culture and religion as two different things. It was important for leaders to show how they could integrate the two.

36:45 A cultural based trek helps the people inside and outside the culture to see each other better.

  • The pioneers in Hawaii are just as important as the pioneers that crossed the plains
  • There are many different cultures within Hawaii. All the youth were able to connect and learn more about Hawaiian culture to bridge the gap between them.

44:00 Kurt recaps the overall trek experience.

44:50 The dress on the trek and the importance of the clothing they chose to wear that was connected to their ancestors

52:00 Final thoughts. The trek was exactly what the youth in Hawaii needed. It wasn’t their event; it was the Lord’s event.


Video of days 1-3 activities
Hilo, Hawai’i Stake Facebook page
Read the TRANSCRIPT of this podcast
Watch on YouTube
Get 14-day access to the Core Leader Library

Ranked in the Top 20

The Leading Saints Podcast has ranked in the top 20 Christianity podcasts on iTunes.

Over 500,000 Listens Each Month

Over 10 million Total Downloads

Part of the nonprofit Leading Saints' mission is to help latter-day saints be better prepared to lead.

How do we help leaders

Pin It on Pinterest