One day I was working in my office at Brigham Young University, counseling students with academic problems. It was February 15, 1980. A phone call came from Salt Lake City to inform me that President Kimball wanted me to come to his home that same afternoon at 4:00 P.M. When I went home for lunch I told my wife that President Kimball wanted to see me, she laughed and thought I was teasing her. My heart pounded with excitement as I sat in the presence of the prophet and heard him say: “You have been selected to be the president of the first temple in Asia.” What an honor and privilege to be called to such a sacred responsibility! Quickly my mind went over my weaknesses and inabilities. My lack of understanding in the language and other shortcomings seemed insurmountable. Then, the scriptures in 1st Nephi 3:7 came to mind. “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the things which he commandeth them.” [1 Ne. 3:7] This gave me courage to accept the call.
Since that day many exciting things have happened. The selecting of Yukus Inouye as first counselor and Yasuhiro Matsushita as second counselor and recorder has added strength and balance to the temple presidency. Being set apart as the president of the temple and then given the sealing power by President Kimball, who was assisted by President Tanner and President Romney, was an unforgettable experience. Putting our home and personal affairs in order came next. Following that we received training from faithful and devoted workers in the Salt Lake, Provo, and Hawaii temples. We were now several steps closer to returning to Japan.
On July 8, 1980 we arrived at Narita airport. Many friends were there to meet us, carrying a banner of greeting. When we saw the words, “Welcome Home,” our hearts felt a special glow, for we truly felt like we were coming home and we were thrilled to be here. The temple was more beautiful and much larger than we had imagined. We express our deepest gratitude to all the dedicated members and nonmembers who have labored hard and long to build this magnificent structure. They have been guided and strengthened by the spirit of the Lord to construct an extraordinary monument to Him. I am sure He is pleased with their labors.
Since arriving in Japan this time, I have reflected on a few events of the past. I thought of the discouraging hardships that Elder Grant went through as he labored to open the land of Japan to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of the Japanese were not spiritually ready at that time, and so only a handful of people accepted the Gospel before the mission was closed in 1924. I recalled my first visit to Japan in 1951 and remembered how the people were struggling to get enough money to feed and clothe themselves. I then thought it would be almost impossible to have the full program of the church in Japan. The events of my return to Japan in 1962 next came to my mind. Much growth and progress has occurred, and it seemed possible for wards and stakes to be established in the near future. But first the priesthood needed to be enlarged, strengthened, and given a vision of the full gospel program of the church. A chartered plane took most of the priesthood leaders and their wives to the Hawaii Temple in 1965 where a miracle occurred. The tears of joy shed by the Japanese Saints as they absorbed the spirit and message of the temple was only surpassed by events surrounding the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in the early history of the church. Following this historical event in Hawaii, thousands of faithful Japanese members have made the long journey to Hawaii and Salt Lake to perform sacred ordinances for themselves and their kindred dead. Stakes and ward have subsequently resulted. The devotion of the Japanese Saints had pleased the Lord and touched the heart of His prophet, for He made an announcement in 1975 of a temple to be built in Japan. This would be the first temple in a non-Christian nation.
Today this glorious temple is nearing completion and will open a new era of spirituality in Asia. It will require greater sacrifice and devotion of the members as they serve in the House of the Lord and participate in its sacred ordinances. In return the eternal rewards will far exceed any sacrifice made. Families will be strengthened and personal lives will be enriched. The purpose of life will be made more clear and sealing bonds will extend into the eternities.
Work is done in the temple for both the living and the dead. But the information and instructions are focused on helping the living to meet the challenges of probation on earth.
We, the Tokyo Temple Presidency, pledge our full dedication to temple service and extend our fondest welcome to all the people of Japan and Asia. We encourage members everywhere to prepare themselves to come to the House of the Lord and partake of His sacred ordinances and the rich blessings that follow.