New Zealand Cultural Event Honors Heritage, Expresses Faith in the Future

Contributed By Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writer

  • 18 June 2017

Young women from the Temple View New Zealand Stake perform a traditional Maori dance highlighting the cultures of the Pacific during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017.  Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND

High atop a lush green hill—known as Tuhikaramea in Maori—stands the beloved Hamilton Temple, the only temple in New Zealand. The area located just below the temple, known as Temple View, has been an important part of the Latter-day Saint community, not only for its close proximity to the house of the Lord, but as the home of the Church College of New Zealand.

A song composed for the first reunion of the college, titled “Ko Tuhikaramea,” extends a call of love and welcome to all who visit Temple View.

Although the college closed in 2009, Latter-day Saints in Temple View performed the song during a cultural event on Friday, June 16, in preparation for the dedication and opening of four renovated buildings from the college campus—including the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Center—and the completion of a new custom stake center.

A young woman performs a traditional dance during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

More than 200 Latter-day Saints from four stakes performed songs and dances to honor the area’s rich history while expressing faith in its future. Close to 800 people gathered in the cultural hall of the new David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Event Center on the eve of the dedication. Many others viewed the event in meetinghouses throughout New Zealand via a live broadcast.

The performance began with the blare of the putaratara, or conch shell, alerting all of the safe arrival of honored guests. Among the honored guests to Friday’s event were President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Bishop Dean M. Davies, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; and the Pacific Area Presidency—Elders O. Vincent Haleck, S. Gifford Nielsen, and Craig A. Cardon, General Authority Seventies.

Elder Andersen, who spoke on behalf of President Eyring and the other visiting Church leaders, promised those in attendance that the principles they have learned through their heritage would be in their hearts forever.

The cultural event featured many traditional songs and dances, not only from New Zealand, but also from Hawaii, Tonga, the Cook Islands, and Samoa.

Many songs were written just for the occasion, including “Ua Maea le Galuega”—Samoan for “The Work Is Finished”—in which the singers gave thanks to Heavenly Father that the stake center is finished and ready for their worship.

The Temple View New Zealand Stake performed a traditional Maori haka, comparing the aggressive movements of the ceremonial war dance to the Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni rending his coat and raising the title of liberty for all to see.

Commentary from local members on the history of the Church College and the building of the temple as well as historical photos were projected on screens throughout the performance. A large section of the event paid tribute to the sacrifices and efforts of the labor missionaries who constructed both the temple and the Church College.

The lyrics to the final song of the program, “Te Korowai O Rawiri,” or “The Cloak of David,” were also written in honor of Saturday’s dedication and were inspired by the prayer offered by President David O. McKay to dedicate the Church College in 1958. The English lyrics read in part: “Oh God, we are here at your call. We are blessed to witness this new beginning. … To turn the hearts of the children to their ancestors, and to turn the hearts of the ancestors to their children. We feel of Thy Spirit: this place is certainly yours. The cloak of David O McKay, a house of praise, a house of worship, a house of peace. A place of peace.”

Elder Andersen called the event “marvelous” and “beautiful” and said that he, President Eyring, Bishop Davies, and all who saw the performance would never forget being there. “We are thankful for this most unique and special place upon this earth, and we leave our blessing upon you and upon this special place,” he said. He promised that the “great spirit of the past—of the school and the labor missionaries and all the good that’s found before you—will bring to you and bring to those who live in this area a spirit of the holy house of the Lord.”

The presidents and their wives of the four stakes participating in the cultural event perform classic dance steps, such as the samba and salsa, during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Church leaders attend a cultural celebration held in conjunction with the dedication of a new stake center and renovated buildings in Temple View, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

President Henry B. Eyring applauds performers following a cultural celebration held in conjunction with the dedication of a new stake center and renovated buildings in Temple View, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

A trio performs during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform a traditional dance highlighting the cultures of the Pacific during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform a traditional dance highlighting the cultures of the Pacific during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform a traditional dance highlighting the cultures of the Pacific during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Men and boys from the Temple View New Zealand Stake perform a Maori haka during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

A young woman performs a traditional dance during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Wearing traditional dress, young women from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform a dance highlighting one of the many cultures found within the Pacific during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Young women from the Temple View New Zealand Stake perform a traditional Maori dance highlighting the cultures of the Pacific during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Men and boys from the Temple View New Zealand Stake perform a Maori haka during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Young women wearing authentic costumes perform a traditional dance during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Children from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Latter-day Saint youth from Hamilton, New Zealand, perform during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency watches the cultural event held prior to the dedication of the Temple View development project in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

The audience reacts to a musical number featuring youth in authentic costumes performing traditional dance during during the cultural event held at the David O. McKay Stake and Cultural Events Center in Hamilton, New Zealand, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.