Three years ago, Tum Puhi found himself “in the depths of misery”. He was in a prison cell and with no contact with his two children from a previous relationship, Sirron, 11 and Tehya, 9.
“I was in a position where I couldn’t feel my heart or soul. I was rotting away inside,” he said.
“Bombarded with all my sins and wrongs, I said to myself, ‘how am I going to get out of here?’ Not out of prison itself but the darkness I was in.”
After much contemplation, he heard a still, small voice that whispered “Pray, pray, pray.”
Tum started to pray daily and felt good after every prayer. After two weeks of praying, he was released from prison on electronically monitored bail.
“Praying was my only hope as I was battling with depression, anxiety, and a broken heart so I continued to pray daily even when I was locked up at home,” he said.
“One night as I prayed, I felt the love of the Lord descend on me. I felt I was being hugged and wrapped around his cloak. This experience carried on every night. I would even open a prayer and say nothing just to feel his love and take away the pain.”
Two weeks into this experience, missionaries showed up at his house.
“I looked at them (the missionaries) and said, ‘do you think you can help me?’ They gave me a big smile and promised me that they can.”
The missionaries were at Tum’s house every day for the next year, teaching him the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tum read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover three times. That’s when life started changing for him.
“I got to know the Lord beyond measure. Through the Book of Mormon’s spiritual power, I gained a conversion and testimony that is unwavering.”
Tum was released from bail and was baptized in 18 April 2015. His children started to gain their own testimonies too and learned how to pray.
“My children started praying that I’ll find a wife and it brought me to tears. They prayed every night until she came.”
Emily, originally from Makati City, Philippines moved to New Zealand in 2011. She has a son from previous relationship called Alex, 11.
Tum and Emily met at a mid singles family home evening in Auckland.
After overcoming trials and healing from a failed relationship, Emily gave up on dating. She decided to devote her life to motherhood and service.
That was until she met Tum, a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The first time I saw him I thought he was the most handsome Maori I have ever seen,” she said.
However it was his strength in faith and conversion that amazed Emily.
“When you meet Tum and hear his testimony, you’ll know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real,” she said.
“It’s not a superficial change. The strength of his testimony carries our whole family. His change of heart and how Heavenly Father sees him, that’s who I saw. He is everything I imagined him to be.”
Little did she know that his eyes were already set on her. He asked her on a date and the couple began their relationship a few months after their first meeting. Both Tum and Emily’s children immediately became best friends.
They both decided early on that temple marriage was their goal.
“Since growing up that’s always been my goal and since he met the missionaries he’s done everything he could to obtain it,” she said.
“We worked hard to stay clean and pure, so we could obtain temple blessings.”
Tum, 31, and Emily, 33, were eventually married in the Hamilton, New Zealand Temple last August.
“When you embrace the gospel, the Lord paves the way,” he said.
“Marriage is beautiful, but a temple marriage is one you can’t give up on. You learn to forgive each other quickly because you understand the principles of the gospel.”
The Puhi family are currently based in Tum’s home town of Huntly. Tum is the ward mission leader and Emily is a ward missionary in the Huntly Ward.
Marriage, Emily said, is “bliss.”
“It’s a beautiful story but we have weaknesses that we work on together. The peace and joy we obtained from temple marriage is beyond compare.”
Tum and Emily have seen many blessings from temple marriage, including miracles that led them to buying their first home in Huntly and Emily given permission to work from home as her office is based in North Shore.
Tum concludes, 'I know that when the desires in our heart are in line with Heavenly Father's, He will place before you all that you need. I love this gospel. It has purified me and brought me nearer to my Father in Heaven and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, whom I dearly love. I know this gospel is true and the Book of Mormon is the most powerful book on earth. The principles of this gospel will carry us into heaven. Learn it, live it, and love it.'