At the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in the south China Sea is the diamond-shaped country of Singapore. According to tradition the country was named after fierce warrior invaders (singhs or lions) a thousand years ago. Less than one-fifth the size of Rhode Island, this republic is an important shipping and financial center with terminals for a number of airlines. Singapore is often referred to as the “Crossroads of the East.”
Three-fourths of the more than two million people who live on this tiny cosmopolitan island are Chinese. The rest of the population is made up of Malays, East Indians, Pakistanis, and Europeans, who often speak two languages.
The country’s history probably dates back to the eleventh century. However, it wasn’t until 1819, when a Britisher, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, rediscovered Singapore, that it began to grow as a major shipping and trading center.
Many older people living in Singapore still dress in their native costumes. Hindu men wear a dhoti, a simple white garment wrapped between their legs. Moslems are clothed in long robes, the Chinese in puffy pants, loose shirts, and little caps. Some wear western dress.
Because Singapore is only two degrees north of the equator its climate is sultry. Over 95 inches of rain fall there each year, and because of the constant heat and humidity windows and doors are usually left open to permit cooling breezes to blow through.
Many families eat in local food stalls situated around the city instead of cooking at home.
There are some private homes, but high-rise apartments and skyscrapers help to conserve Singapore’s limited living space. A family, living together in a one- to three-bedroom apartment or flat (one-floor apartment), will often include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
The Oriental custom of removing shoes before entering a home helps to keep feet cool and floors clean.
In rural areas there are still kampongs, jungle-like villages of bamboo and palm houses built on stilts to protect the people from floods, snakes, and insects.
The people of Singapore celebrate many holidays in addition to Christmas and Easter. For example, the Chinese have the Lantern or Moon Cake Festival where children buy colorful lanterns and parade with them at night.
The Hindus celebrate (Feast of Lights). They make cakes and candy out of honey and decorate their houses and gardens with lights.
Malay girls do a traditional dance in which candles are lighted on a saucer and then gracefully waved by the dancing girls.
Feasts, parades, fireworks, and new clothes are all part of the Chinese New Year celebration.
The flag of Singapore is divided in half horizontally. The top half is red and stands for equality and brotherhood. The bottom half is white and signifies purity and virtue. In the upper left corner are five white stars and a white crescent. The stars stand for democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality.
Elder Ezra Taft Benson stood atop Mt. Faber near the city of Singapore on April 14, 1969, and officially dedicated this island country to the preaching of the gospel. Six years earlier, however, four British servicemen had organized a branch of the Church under the direction of the Southern Far East Mission presidency. In March of 1968 missionaries in Hong Kong were sent to the island.
Sunday sacrament meetings were first held in a downtown YMCA building and priesthood meetings on Wednesdays in a member’s home. When Elder Benson visited the eighty-five-member branch for sacrament meeting, they had more than a 100 percent attendance.
Today there are two branches and over 450 members in Singapore.