1176) The Mutiny on the Bounty– The Rest of the Story

Poster from the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty (movies were also made on this story in 1935,with Clark Gable; and 1984, with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins)

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By Dan Braves at http://www.Christianity.com

     On April 28, 1789, mutineers on H. M. S. Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian, dragged Lieutenant William Bligh from his bed.  They set Bligh adrift in an open launch with eighteen men.  A capable but tyrannical leader, Bligh managed to guide the little boat 3,600 miles to safety in the Dutch Indies (Indonesia).

     The mutineers, however, headed for Tubai, an island south of Tahiti.  Reception was hostile and, after a trip to Tahiti and back, in which the mutineers picked up some native women and men, and at least one child, they abandoned Tubai and sailed back to Tahiti.  Some of the sailors had not been mutineers at all and elected to stay on Tahiti.  Eight accompanied Fletcher Christian to parts unknown with the women and with six Polynesian men.  

     What became of them was not known until September, 1808, when a New England whaler, the Topaz, spotted Pitcairn Island and landed to take on water.  To Captain Folger’s surprise, he found natives who spoke a garbled English.  It turned out that the mutineers of the Bounty had settled on the uninhabited Pitcairn.  (The movies usually end here, with the brave adventurers beginning a new life on this island paradise.)

     But all was not well in paradise.  The mutineers all fought with each other, and with the native men and women (brought from Tahiti), until all the men were dead except two:  Edward Young and John Adams (also known as Alexander Smith).  

     Ashamed of the violence and horrors they had witnessed and had partaken of, the two remaining mutineers began to read the Bible (which became their textbook) and to teach it to the children who had been born to the settlement.  By the time Folger arrived, Young also had been dead several years, dying of an asthma attack.  Adams was patriarch of the clan.  Thanks to his continued efforts, the older children were able to read and write a little (Adams himself was poorly educated) and the whole community was devout.

How Christianity Came to Pitcairn Is.

John Adams/Alexander Smith, mutineer and settler/leader of Pitcairn Island  (1767-1829)

     Indeed, what impressed early visitors most was the obvious piety of the islanders, who prayed morning and evening and both before and after their meals, did not engage in the sexual promiscuity common to other islands, were able to recite the creed and parts of the Bible, and observed the “Sabbath” (as they called Sunday).  One observer wrote, “In conducting the most trivial affairs they are guided by the Scriptures, which they have read diligently, and from which they quote freely and frequently.”

     The hard conditions of the island, which could not be neglected if it were to produce enough food, and their continual grounding in the Bible stories, had made the Pitcairners a serious, although good-humored, community.  The gifts they most wanted from Topaz were books, and the whaler managed to provide them with 200 which the islanders received with the greatest delight.

     In 1887 the island’s entire population converted to Seventh Day Adventism by missionairies.

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Sir Charles Lucas, Pitcairn Island historian, describes the coming of religion to the island:

Many notable cases of religious conversion have been recorded in the history of Christianity, but it would be difficult to find an exact parallel to that of John Adams.  The facts are quite clear.  There is no question as to what he was and did after all his shipmates on the island had perished.  He had no human guide or counselor to turn him into the way of righteousness and to make him feel and shoulder responsibility for bringing up a group of boys and girls in the fear of God.  He had a Bible and a Prayer Book to be the instruments of his endeavor, so far as education, or rather lack of education, served him.  He may well have recalled to mind memories of his own childhood, but there can be only one simple and straightforward explanation of what took place, that it was the handiwork of the Almighty, whereby a sailor, seasoned to crime, came to himself in a far country, and learned and taught others to follow Christ…  

In order to fully appreciate the Pitcairn story, it is necessary to keep before the mind’s eye the contrasts which it presented.  What could be more remote from the murders and crimes of the early years upon the island, than the settlement as it developed under John Adams, in peace, godliness and comparative innocence?  Or, again, contrast the day-to-day life of this tiny, isolated group of human beings, as it flowed on in even monotony, with the wars and rumors of wars and great events which in the same years stirred the whole outside world.  Pitcairn might have been on another planet!

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For more on this story go to:

https://library.puc.edu/pitcairn/pitcairn/religion.shtml

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Pitcairn Isalnd today, population 50:

The island features beautiful scenery and wildlife but that doesn't seem to be enough to attract new residents

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Luke 15:13…17-18  —  The younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living…  When he came to himself, he said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.”

Zechariah 1:2-4 (portions)  —  This is what the Lord Almighty says:  “Return to me… and I will return to you…  Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.”

Galatians 5:19-25  —  The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Isaiah 42:10, 12a  —  Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earthyou who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them…  Let them give glory to the Lord.

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Merciful Father, your kindness caused the light of the Gospel to shine among us.  Extend your mercy now, we pray, to all the people of the world who do not have hope in Jesus Christ, that your salvation may be made known to them also and that all hearts would turn to you; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, page 45