News of the Church

By Taralyn Trost, Church Magazines


Fire Destroys Samoa Temple

On 9 July 2003 the Apia Samoa Temple was destroyed by fire, less than one month before the temple’s 20th anniversary was to be celebrated.

“A lot of tears were shed,” says Iamafana Lameta, a translator who works at the Church’s regional offices in Samoa and a witness to the fire. “It’s just like a part of our lives has been taken away.”

The fire started around 7 P.M. in the temple’s southwest corner near the sealing rooms and celestial room, then quickly engulfed the roof while spreading in a U shape, says Richard Chadderton, LDS service center manager in Samoa. The temple had been closed for remodeling, so no patrons were in the temple at the time of the fire, and no one was injured.

At press time the cause of the blaze had not been determined. However, initial reports indicate it may have been related to the construction project. The building was being renovated and expanded to add administrative offices and 12 large oxen statues to support the temple’s baptismal font. The temple was scheduled to be rededicated in October.

Brother Lameta and more than 100 volunteers were on hand to help the firefighters douse the blaze. Prior to the arrival of fire trucks, at least 20 members attempted to put out the flames with hoses and buckets of water. Airport Authority firefighters from Faleolo International Airport were called in to help due to the size of the blaze.

Brother Chadderton and others estimate that the structure is unsalvageable. “We have to believe in Heavenly Father and carry on,” says Brother Chadderton.

Despite concern that the fire would spread to surrounding buildings in the Church complex, no other buildings sustained damage. Temple president Daniel Betham reported that it began to rain quite heavily about 30 minutes after the fire began, and that likely preserved the other structures, he said. The adjacent buildings include a meetinghouse, a family history center, temple patron housing, a service center, the mission home, and the Church’s College of Western Samoa.

“We could feel the heat and sparks go all over the place, and all of a sudden it rained. We thought it was a miracle,” said President Betham, who has served in the temple presidency for 11 years.

Members have also looked to the smoke-stained angel Moroni as another symbol of hope amidst the devastation. The statue held its place atop the charred frame of the temple and did not fall.

“Their hope is not gone, because the angel Moroni is still there,” said Sister Olivia King, who along with her husband, Jerry, directs public affairs for the Pacific Islands Area.

The Church received an outpouring of support and sympathy from the community. Local companies and residents immediately offered assistance and prayers, Brother Chadderton says.

Several days after the fire, the First Presidency announced that the temple will be rebuilt. Plans for reconstruction will follow the design of recent temples. It will be more than 16,000 square feet and will include a fire-prevention sprinkling system required by current building codes.

Besides the original Nauvoo Temple, which was partially destroyed by fire in 1848, the Apia Samoa Temple is the only temple to be damaged this extensively by fire, says Coke Newell of Church Public Affairs.

Temple patrons who typically attend the Samoa temple will have to travel to the Nuka’alofa Tonga Temple, which is 800 miles away, until the temple is rebuilt. Members had already been traveling to other temples while the Samoa temple was being renovated.

Located on a 1.7-acre site, the Apia Samoa Temple was completed in 1983 and dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley. The temple district includes 74,500 members of the Church in 16 stakes and one mission. Currently, 29 percent of Western Samoans are members of the Church, one of the largest percentages of Church membership within a country.

[photo] Flames engulf the Apia Samoa Temple. The temple was under renovation when it caught fire in July. (Photograph courtesy of Church Public Affairs.)

[photo] The angel Moroni still stands atop the charred building, a sign of hope for many local Saints. (Photograph courtesy of Church Public Affairs.)

President Hinckley Dedicates Temple, Visits Members “Down Under”

In a whirlwind tour of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated Australia’s fifth temple and encouraged Latter-day Saints to be faithful to the gospel and to each other.

Brisbane Australia Temple

Calling upon Heavenly Father to bless those who attend the temple and to bless the land of Australia, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Brisbane Australia Temple on 15 June 2003. It is the country’s fifth temple and the Church’s 115th.

“May all who come within these walls be worthy before Thee to enter into Thy presence,” President Hinckley said in the dedicatory prayer. “Incline the hearts of Thy people to come here frequently to engage in Thy service. May they love this Thy house and find sweet communion here.”

The Brisbane temple was dedicated in four sessions attended by more than 6,500 Saints. The sessions were broadcast via closed-circuit satellite transmissions to local stake centers. Located about 600 miles north of Sydney in Queensland’s capital city, the temple will serve the more than 23,000 Saints who live in Queensland and the northern areas of New South Wales.

“We’ve found here a very devoted people, a wonderful people,” said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who also participated in the dedication. “From the time we arrived last night … large groups gathered. They’re so anxious to see the prophet and [are] so grateful for the opportunity of having a temple.”

Patience and perseverance were essential for the Brisbane Saints during the long wait for the construction of their new temple. President Hinckley announced the temple in 1998. It was to be the first of four such announcements affecting Australia. Temples were announced for Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth shortly thereafter, joining the existing temple in Sydney.

However, concern from a local community group resulted in delays to the Brisbane project. After negotiations and some minor changes to the design, the Brisbane City Council approved the temple, and the groundbreaking took place in May 2001.

With the Brisbane dedication, the last of the new Australian temples is complete, and these sacred edifices now encircle Australia. Only in the United States, Mexico, and Canada are there more temples within the geographical boundaries of a nation.

Elder Brian and Sister Mildred Stafford, a senior missionary couple serving in the Aboriginal Reserve of Yarrabah near the city of Cairns, traveled more than 1,000 miles to the temple dedication.

“It’s marvelous to be here, especially after praying for a temple for so many years,” Elder Stafford said. “The temple, to us, is the most sacred place on earth.”

Hobart, Tasmania

Members in Tasmania are an important part of a great family that is found in more than 160 nations, said President Gordon B. Hinckley as he addressed a gathering on this Australian island state during a visit following the Brisbane temple dedication.

Speaking on 16 June to about 1,500 members, President Hinckley expressed his love and appreciation to members in “this great part of the world.” Although it was his fourth visit to Tasmania, it was his first visit as Church president—the first visit of any Church president. Members gathered in record numbers from throughout Tasmania on a pleasant winter evening and listened in wonder and reverence as they were addressed.

President Hinckley was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie. Also speaking in the meeting were Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy, President of the Australia/New Zealand Area.

President Hinckley appealed to the Saints to think of their blessings. “What a wonderful time it is to be alive—in this time of great opportunity, great possibilities.”

He cited 1 Peter 2:9 [1 Pet. 2:9], which refers to “an holy nation.” President Hinckley said, “I don’t think [Peter] was talking about a political organization. I don’t think he was making reference to the fact that we are Australians or New Zealanders or Americans or Englishmen. I think he was speaking of a family of faithful, wonderful people: ‘an holy nation.’”

“This great Church, which is now spreading over the earth in a wonderful, miraculous manner, becomes the family of God, an holy nation, in worship and spirit and truth,” he said.

Concluding his address, President Hinckley said, “God bless you, my fellow Latter-day Saints. How I love you. How I appreciate you. How I respect you. How I admire you, and pray for you, that the Lord will smile in favor upon you.”

In his remarks, Elder Johnson said, “We are blessed to have a prophet come to Tasmania. He wanted to come and meet you and share his testimony with you. I pray that as a result of this visit, our faith will be increased, our faithfulness will enlarge, and the testimony of this work will be reflected in our lives, that we might be disciples of Christ.”

Christchurch, New Zealand

On 17 June President Hinckley presided at a nationwide fireside in New Zealand. President Hinckley’s message was broadcast via satellite from the stake center in Christchurch to 25 stake centers throughout the country. The fireside was attended by approximately 18,000 Latter-day Saints and local dignitaries. President Hinckley’s message was one of admiration for the people of New Zealand, of family values, and of the need to remain close to the Lord during everyday life.

Elder L. Tom Perry spoke on the importance of family home evening, and Elder Kenneth Johnson conducted the meeting.

President Hinckley invited his wife, Marjorie, to join him at the lectern. He put his arm around her and told the audience that for more than 66 years she has stood by his side and that they had five children, a host of grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren than he could count. He joked that he and Sister Hinckley were a little shorter now, to which Sister Hinckley rose up on her toes and smiled at the audience, to their great pleasure.

This was the first visit to the South Island of New Zealand by a Prophet of the Lord. President Hinckley informed his enthralled audience that he had been to Christchurch on several occasions before being called as president and had retained a special place in his heart for New Zealand ever since he accompanied President David O. McKay in dedicating the Hamilton New Zealand Temple in 1958.

Port Vila, Vanuatu

More members than anyone had ever seen before on the island of Port Vila, Vanuatu, assembled on 19 June for the biggest event in local Church history—a visit from President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Some 2,200 members gathered from throughout this island chain. In the largest Church meetinghouse on the island, they filled classrooms, sat outside the chapel where they watched through louvered windows, and clustered around doorways and on the lawn.

“I was surprised to see all these people,” said pioneering member Tony Mahit, who joined the Church in 1981.

President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, walked into the meetinghouse on bright yarn-fringed woven mats, placed in their honor, and were given shell necklaces. They were seated on a stand wreathed in tropical flowers of oranges and reds.

President Hinckley met with priesthood leaders and government dignitaries before the meeting. He was accompanied by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Ronald D. Halverson of the Seventy, President of the Pacific Islands Area, both of whom also spoke.

“My dear beloved brothers and sisters, what a great pleasure, what a great privilege and opportunity to be here,” President Hinckley said as he looked over the congregation in a land where the Church has been established for only about two decades.

President Hinckley reminded members that the Lord expects each of them to become acquainted with Him. Every man and woman in the Church should be able to stand and say “I know God our Eternal Father lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world.”

The Lord also expects members to serve in whatever capacity they are asked, he said. “We think we are inadequate to do the work when we are asked, but the Lord blesses us and magnifies us and makes us equal to the responsibility as we fulfill our callings,” he said.

President Hinckley also encouraged members to pay their tithing, which is “a matter of faith.” He said the Lord would pour out a blessing upon faithful tithe payers, and “I can testify that He keeps His promises.”

“President Hinckley has given us a blessing,” said G. Paul Hilliman, president of the Port Vila Vanuatu District. “The lights are on in Vanuatu. We will achieve good things.”

Christmas Island, Kiribati

During a brief stop on Christmas Island on 19 June, President Hinckley promised the Latter-day Saints who gathered to meet him that if they will “be true to the faith, marvelous things will happen.”

“Live the gospel,” he told the crowd, which also included numerous missionaries. “Study the gospel. Pray about the gospel. Be true to the faith and marvelous things will happen. You will raise missionaries who will go out among the islands of the Pacific and teach the gospel. You will be blessed in your lives. You will enjoy greater comfort and all of the good things of life if you will live the gospel.”

Christmas Island is part of the island nation of Kiribati in the Pacific. Members and missionaries on the island—where there is little or no infrastructure—live in grass huts without water or electricity.

“My dear brothers and sisters, I am so happy to be here with you,” President Hinckley told them during his brief visit. “You look wonderful to me. I am very grateful to you that you have joined the Church and that you are active. This will bless your lives.”

President Hinckley told the crowd that he wished he could spend more than a few minutes on the island. He also expressed the desire to shake hands with every member—something time would not permit.

Then President Hinckley told the members to listen to the missionaries. “They will bless your lives.” In conclusion, he said, “I just want to say to each of you that we love you. We are very proud of you. We are grateful to you. We will remember you in our prayers that God will bless you and sustain you and comfort you in your times of need. We leave our love with you. We leave our testimony with you.”

Australia/New Zealand Public Affairs, Pacific Islands Public Affairs, and Church News contributed to this article.

Brisbane Temple Wins Construction Award

The Brisbane Australia Temple was named the 2003 “Brisbane Project of the Year” by the Queensland Master Builders Association. “On viewing the Brisbane temple, judges commented on the intricate finishes, including the granite cladding, coffered and domed ceilings, timber panelling and mouldings, marble floor tiling, gold leaf and decorative artwork, and the array of symbolic features,” the QMBA stated.

In addition to being the overall winner, the Brisbane temple also won in the category of “Community Service Facilities.”

[photo] The Brisbane Australia Temple is situated atop cliffs overlooking Queensland’s capital city. Dedicated in June, the temple is Australia’s fifth and the Church’s 115th.

[photo] Brian and Mildred Stafford traveled 1,000 miles for the dedication of a temple they prayed would be built. (Photograph by Alan Wakely.)

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley greets Bob Parker of the Banks Peninsula District Council in Christchurch, New Zealand. Gordon W. Ryan, Christchurch Stake public affairs director, and Colleen S. Ryan, stake Relief Society president, look on. (Photograph courtesy of Australia/New Zealand Public Affairs.)

[photo] Sisters in Vanuatu gather flowers to decorate the stand where President and Sister Hinckley would sit during their meeting with members on this island nation. (Photograph by John L. Hart, Church News.)

[photo] President Hinckley greets members who gathered to meet him on a beach on Christmas Island. The prophet stopped briefly to offer encouragement to the Saints. (Photograph coutesy of Office of the President.)

President Hinckley Receives Ninth and Tenth Honorary Doctorates

Extolled as “a tremendous leader in faith, education, and higher ideals, affecting people around the world,” and as a man who has made “endless contributions toward humanitarian causes,” President Gordon B. Hinckley was recently awarded honorary doctorates by both Salt Lake Community College and Brigham Young University—Hawaii. President Hinckley has received ten such honors.

President Hinckley received an honorary doctorate of humane letters on 6 May from Salt Lake Community College at a Presidential Graduation Gala hosted by college president H. Lynn Cundiff.

On 21 June, at the university’s commencement, BYU—Hawaii president Eric B. Shumway presented President Hinckley with a doctorate of Christian service and leadership honoris causa for his endless contributions toward humanitarian causes and his leadership in Asia and the Pacific.

In announcing the award, President Shumway said, “President Hinckley does not need this honor, but we have a need to bestow it.”

“I deeply appreciate this honor. I hope to live worthy of it,” said President Hinckley, who also later addressed the graduates.

Church News contributed to this article.

President Hinckley Rededicates Historic Los Angeles Building

President Gordon B. Hinckley delighted members of the Los Angeles California Stake when he visited their stake to rededicate the newly renovated stake center on 8 June 2003.

“Ground was broken for this building when I was 17 years of age,” President Hinckley said. “It was a tremendous case of consecration, a tremendous effort. When President [Heber J.] Grant came down to see it, he could hardly believe what he saw.”

President Grant dedicated the chapel in 1929. At the time it was the most expensive building the Church had undertaken, aside from its temples—costing nearly 10 times that of a regular chapel.

President Hinckley noted that the building was originally paid for in large part by the local members and was intended to make an impression on the growing city.

“It was built well because of a desire of those who constructed it to be something appropriate to the area,” he said. “How grateful we are that it has been preserved all these years.”

The chapel, listed as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, is as unique among Los Angeles churches today as it was when it was built more than 70 years ago. Its unusual style—a mix of art deco with distinctive Spanish themes—was purposely designed by Church architect Harold Burton to have no specific architectural design so as to avoid dating the building. Burton also designed temples in Cardston, Alberta; Laie, Hawaii; and Oakland, California.

Los Angeles stake president Michael J. Fairclough said he hoped that at this time of rededication members would rededicate themselves to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“This building represents the basic message of the Church: that we are all children of a loving God,” President Fairclough said. “By its design and its size, this building calls upon members and others to aspire to high and noble purposes.”

[photo] Originally dedicated in 1929 by President Heber J. Grant, the Los Angeles Stake Center was rededicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley in June after extensive remodeling. (Photograph courtesy of Los Angeles Multistake Public Affairs.)

Fireside Commemorates 1978 Priesthood Revelation

In an evening filled with music, testimony, and gratitude, members of the Church gathered at the Salt Lake Tabernacle to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the revelation known as Official Declaration—2 in the Doctrine and Covenants, stating that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.” The announcement was made on 8 June 1978 under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball.

“Tonight we commemorate one of the most significant revelations in this dispensation, … a revelation that allows the gospel in its fulness to be taken literally to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people,” said Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy, who presided and spoke at the fireside.

The program included The Saints Unified Voices, a choir of Church members based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and directed by Sister Gladys Knight. A widely-known rhythm and blues artist, Sister Knight joined the Church about six years ago through the example of her son who had joined about ten years earlier.

Elder Bateman was the concluding speaker at the fireside. He shared his personal experience with the 1978 revelation. In his professional life, Elder Bateman had several opportunities to travel to West Africa. In the 1970s he met groups of people in Africa who had learned of the Church or the Book of Mormon and had organized themselves to discuss and live their teachings. By the mid-1970s Elder Bateman, not yet a member of the Seventy, had met several people in these unofficial congregations who asked him to send missionaries with the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder Bateman was again in Africa on business in late 1977. At the request of Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and president of the International Mission, he sought out members who had joined the Church in other places and had returned to their homelands in Africa. “I spent 10 days in Ghana and Nigeria engaged in business by day and visiting African Church members during the evenings and on the weekend,” he said.

He returned to Africa again in May 1978 and reported to Elder Faust the plight of these members. “Many of them were on their own, there were no Church units to attend, and some had not received the sacrament for three or four years,” Elder Bateman said. “But they were faithful with strong testimonies.”

Elder Bateman continued: “Can you imagine my feelings 10 days later when I turned on the car radio and heard a voice say, ‘Flash bulletin! Today, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that from this time forward all worthy males may hold the priesthood and all worthy members may enjoy the blessings of the temple.’ Tears ran down my face as I thought of my African friends and the blessings that awaited them.”

Today, 25 years later, the Church continues to grow at a miraculous pace as it spreads to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples. Almost 70 percent of the current Church membership has been added since the 1978 revelation. There are temples across the earth, including one functioning and two under construction in Africa.

“Why does the Lord work in stages in taking the gospel across the earth? Why did He initially send the Twelve only to the house of Israel and not to others during His ministry? Why did it take a special revelation to Peter following the Lord’s Ascension to expand the work to the Gentiles? Why has the Lord phased His work in this dispensation? It is clear that the Lord has a divine timetable,” Elder Bateman concluded. “We are all God’s children, and the great plan of redemption is organized so that every person who has lived, now lives, or will live on this planet will have an opportunity to accept it.”

[photo] Sister Gladys Knight leads a choir at a fireside commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1978 priesthood revelation. (Photograph by Jason Olson, Church News.)

Comment

Conference Photos

The person responsible for the photographs in the general conference issues is doing great work. My family looks forward to seeing the pictures, and we have noticed that they usually match the talk. What great photographers you have. I am always inspired by your photos. Keep up the good work. Carmen Cathey Apache Junction, Arizona

Material Wealth or Spiritual Wealth

I was delighted to read an article on “The Cost of Riches” in the Ensign (June 2003, page 24). This is a topic with which I have concerned myself for many years now. On a personal level, we’ve noted an increase in our family unity as we’ve turned our hearts away from seeking material wealth and chosen to pursue spiritual wealth instead. Thanks again for addressing this very important issue. John O. Andersen Portland, Oregon