“Saga of Sacrifice,” Ensign, Aug. 1974, 66–67
What sacrifices would you be willing to make to go to the temple? Would you sell your car? Jeopardize your home? Give up your job?
These thoughts nagged at the mind of young District President Donald W. Cummings of Perth, Australia. The mission president had challenged the Australian Saints to attend the New Zealand Temple dedication, just four months—but 4,000 miles—away. Perth was the farthest district from Church headquarters—so far that if you went any farther you would be heading back to Zion.
The mission president’s challenge kept ringing in his ears. “If you have a righteous goal and pray about it, the Lord will help you achieve it.” President Cummings reviewed his finances. He was struggling to purchase a home for his burgeoning family; he earned only a modest salary; he had no money in the bank; he drove an old car. The price of going to New Zealand was 600 pounds ($1,200 U.S. dollars). He set his jaw and picked up the newspaper to look in the classified section for loans.
Several years earlier, every Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the district, including Donald Cummings, had driven 3,000 miles round trip, much of it on primitive dirt roads, in two battered cars, to see President David O. McKay during his historic visit to Adelaide, South Australia. Now President Cummings was 26 years old, a convert of 10 years and district president for eight months over an area that encompassed the entire state of Western Australia, nearly one million square miles.
He began preparations for their temple trip. He borrowed money on his furniture, the last loan of that type granted by the company. He sold the car and started walking, riding buses, even hitchhiking. And, during the next 18 months, he never missed his visits to any branch. He recalls, “Yes, it was hard getting around, but my wife and I remember this as one of the happiest periods of our lives. We had discovered the joys of sacrifice for the Lord. We appreciated walking all the more.”
Even after selling the car and mortgaging both house and furniture, he was still $200 short—with no other funds in sight and only a few weeks to go. President Cummings had to give his company notice, for they would not hold his job open for six weeks.
With less than a week to go, a relative who was not a member of the Church met him on the street and surprised him with a gift of $100. With one day left before departure, another nonmember relative drove in from the country and pressed the final $100 into his hands. President and Sister Cummings both knew that “the Lord had intervened. He had touched the hearts of those closest to us.”
The 8,000 mile round trip started with a 2,000 mile, four and a half day train ride across the width of the Australian outback. In Sydney, the family delightedly met with the other Saints who had also arranged passage on a boat bound for Auckland.
To their wrenching disappointment, the boat had just been damaged in hitting the wharf, but remarkably, they were able to charter an airplane without any excess cost. They all flew to the dedication and witnessed this sacred event as President David O. McKay presided and prayed. President Cummings spoke in the spacious auditorium of the new Church College adjacent to the temple. The family was blessed to attend the first day of endowments; they were also members of the first company to do work for the dead.
The Cummings family planned to lodge in tents, for their funds were so meager. But at the last minute, arrangements were made for hotel accommodations. They could pay later—but they were never billed, nor could they discover whom to pay. Too poor to tour, they rejoiced in working in the temple for several weeks. Then, filled with the spirit of their new blessings, they traveled home with $10 in their pockets, no job, no car, and mortgages on their home and furniture. But they were rich in rewards that only a temple can provide: they were sealed together for time and eternity.
President Cummings went back to his old employer and, to his astonishment, was hired as a sales manager with an increase in pay. But he would not get paid until the end of the week, and their money had run out completely. There was nothing to eat. One of his wife’s country relatives paid a surprise visit and dropped off enough fresh garden produce to sustain them until payday.
When Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve organized the Perth Stake in 1968, Donald W. Cummings became its first president. He had seen the kingdom of God swell from a handful to a stake, but he never forgot the promise of his mission president: “If you have a righteous goal and pray about it, the Lord will help you achieve it.”
Many Perth Stake members have since heard this same challenge. As a result, more living endowments per capita are performed in the New Zealand Temple by the Perth Stake than by any other Australian stake. One year the Perth Saints performed more endowments than all of the other six stakes in Australia combined. At present, every member of the Perth Stake high council, bishoprics, quorum presidents, and every other stake officer has been through the temple.
A fitting tribute to determined Saints blessed by the Lord for their perseverance.