“Conference in New Zealand,” Ensign, Apr. 1976, 75–77
TEMPLE VIEW, New Zealand—Twenty-five years ago this area was a rough hillside surrounded by peat swamp, but today, with the temple, the Church College of New Zealand, and with the Saints who live here, it has become the glittering focal point for the Church in this country. It was here that the Saints gathered by the thousands to meet with President Spencer W. Kimball and other General Authorities in a great spiritual outpouring of love and fellowship in the first New Zealand Area Conference.
In the week preceding the conference, the Saints from across the country began their trek here. With a prayer in their hearts and an eye on the weather (New Zealand was experiencing the wettest summer in forty-six years), they traveled all day and night in cars, buses, trains, and boats. Enterprising presidents in the South Island districts of Dunedin and Christchurch organized jet charter flights and filled them with the elderly, the infirm, the children, and anyone else who could get aboard. Plane load followed plane load in the early hours of the morning. In Invercargill, stopping off point for the South Pole, the Saints in this southernmost branch of the Church chartered a bus, loaded it with Kai (food), and sang their way up the islands.
Clear blue skies and sunshine greeted President Spencer W. Kimball and the official party when they landed north of here at Auckland following their night flight from Samoa. After a press conference, President Kimball hosted a luncheon attended by the Right Honorable Robert Muldoon, Prime Minister of New Zealand, other General Authorities, local leaders, and their wives. President Kimball was introduced to the Prime Minister by Brother M. Ben Couch, member of Parliament for Wairarapa and longtime member of the Church.
The party then journeyed here where a colorful crowd of about 10,000 watched the traditional ceremonial Maori welcome. President and Sister Kimball did not attend since they were trying to recuperate from a mild virus infection. A traditional challenge was made by a solitary warrior who laid greenstone before President N. Eldon Tanner. Then followed the welcome. Earlier the Maori queen, Dame Te Ata-i-rangi-kaahu, and her party were welcomed to Temple View by Maori members of the Church.
On Friday evening 3,000 entertainers presented three hours of spectacular entertainment featuring Maori Polynesian Culture and climaxing with a “Youth Garden Extravaganza.” The massed choirs had just sung the New Zealand national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand,” when a wave of excitement went through the 15,000 in attendance as a sleek, white, Rolls Royce bearing President Kimball entered the stadium. When he alighted the enthusiasm of the crowd knew no bounds. At the conclusion of the program, President Kimball responded briefly and the entire assembly sang “I Am a Child of God.”
The general sessions were held outdoors in the oval-shaped, green-grassed Church College stadium, easily accommodating the estimated 16,000 in attendance.
President Tanner conducted the Saturday morning session, and he commented that there were ten General Authorities in attendance, in addition to Regional Representatives of the Twelve and local leaders representing the eight stakes and two missions in New Zealand. The combined choirs from the Auckland area prefaced the opening address by President Spencer W. Kimball by singing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”
President Kimball, noting that this was an official conference of the Church, made reference to the beauty and variety of the country and recalled that the first stake organized outside of continental America was the Auckland New Zealand Stake. He observed that since the time of its organization, the stake’s growth had been rapid throughout the country, with locally trained leadership replacing imported leaders. He expressed appreciation for the contribution of local Saints and leaders and then went on to trace in detail the history of the Church with particular emphasis on the purpose of temples. He concluded by saying, “The Lord is good to us—he gives us everything, everything we deserve and sometimes much more. When we earn something we receive it and sometimes much more.”
William Campbell, president of the Wellington New Zealand Stake, the next speaker, indicated that “our time is now.” He counseled against seeking after the treasures of man.
Bishop Victor L. Brown related the story of the First Vision and the organization of the Church, emphasizing the importance of young people in the Church.
On Saturday afternoon separate sessions were held for all sisters and brethren twelve years of age and over.
The Sunday sessions were held in brilliant sunshine. The first speaker at the morning session was President N. Eldon Tanner, who recalled the history of the Tanner family and expressed appreciation for his heritage. Douglas J. Martin, president of the Hamilton New Zealand Stake, expressed gratitude for his twenty-five years in the Church and said that he “never had cause to doubt the divinity of the Church.” Elder Robert L. Simpson traced the history of the Church in New Zealand and recalled the dedication of the early missionaries.
Elder Robert D. Hales counseled the Saints to show love in their dealings with one another. “As we serve one another,” he said, “we learn to love one another.” Elder Marion D. Hanks was the concluding speaker and, in an address punctuated with moving stories, encouraged the Saints to have the Spirit of God in their lives.
President Tanner conducted the afternoon session in an atmosphere of great spirituality—one of the features of the entire conference. Elder McConkie spoke on the necessity of each individual making his own personal plan of salvation. He noted that perfection comes degree by degree and suggested that the Saints ponder in their hearts the instruction given at the conference and then seek inspiration through prayer as to what they as individuals need to do in the search for eternal life.
Brother William Roberts, former Regional Representative of the Twelve and a newly called mission president, encouraged the Saints to read and study the Book of Mormon.
Elder Loren C. Dunn spoke on a missionary theme, exhorting the Saints to issue a warning voice “every man to his neighbor in mildness and meekness.”
President Kimball indicated in his closing address that he and the General Authorities were saddened at the thought of leaving. He noted, “The memories of these days in New Zealand are priceless to us.” He said that if “we received the messages given here, we should be a different people after today.” The President asked the Saints to start a new effort to “expand knowledge and friendship to reach the sons of man.” He indicated that “the Lord is getting a little concerned and worried that time is going on. We cannot return to our Maker and say we were too busy. People will not be saved and exalted unless they live the commandments. They can think what they like [but] people cannot think themselves into exaltation.”
The conference was over. The Prophet of the Lord had spoken. The Church in New Zealand was ready for the challenge.