Times of Great Blessings: Witnessing the Miracles

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“Times of Great Blessings: Witnessing the Miracles,” Ensign, Jan. 1981, 70–75

Times of Great Blessings: Witnessing the Miracles

“We are jubilant this day, our Holy Father, and have hearts filled with praise to Thee that Thou hast permitted us to see the completion of this temple and to see this day for which we have so long hoped and toiled and prayed.”

In this inspired sentence, sent heavenward by President Spencer W. Kimball in his prayer dedicating the Tokyo Temple, are encompassed the thanksgiving and joyful exultation experienced during six area conferences and the temple dedication in Asia.

Indeed, the 15 days—October 18 through November 1, 1980—of conferences and dedicatory activities in the vast populous reaches of the Pacific were a celebration of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Participants who gathered in Manila, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, and Osaka were, in the words of Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, “witnesses of the miracle” that had begun 79 years earlier. Their hearts nearly bursting with emotion, they could understand why Tokyo Temple President Dwayne N. Andersen described the temple dedication as “the most important event in the history of Asia.”

Front view of the Tokyo Temple

Front view of the Tokyo Temple.

That sentiment echoed President Kimball’s remarks welcoming 860 members to the first of seven sessions of “one of the most significant events that have occurred in the Church, the dedication of this lovely building to the Lord.”

During the next two hours and during subsequent dedicatory sessions, those in attendance came to understand better than ever before why the Lord has declared, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12.)

It was a rare spiritual experience to hear the twenty-eight member choir invoke divine blessings in their rendition of “O My Father.” Tears sparkled in every eye and muffled sobs became a grand amen then and later as “Bless This House,” “This House We Dedicate To Thee,” and the glorious “Hosannah Anthem” proclaimed, “The house of the Lord is completed.” The power of heaven was truly manifest.

That power was no less evident when President Kimball declared: “God is our Heavenly Father. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer.

“We know what we are doing. We know we are members of the Lord’s true Church. … It is true and divine.”

He called upon “every man and every woman … to make a very strenuous effort to see that they are married in the holy temple … and train [their] children to love the Lord and keep his commandments.”

He expressed concern about “many young people who are not fully and properly trained in the Church.” Many parents, he said, are seeking after the pleasures of the world and are not spending as much time and attention as they should for the benefit of their children.

“I am sure that if every mother and every father will use their home evenings every Monday night—every Monday night—to teach these truths to their children, then every boy and girl will be married for time and all eternity in the holy temple. … Then we will make great progress and will have established righteous homes for all our people, and they will be happy and contented and will become devoted workers in the Church and in our holy temples.”

He called for “an immediate change to start with a reformation in the homes of all Latter-day Saints so that this would be very well established in every home and in every child’s life and in every family.”

“It would be foolish,” President Kimball warned, “for us to come to the dedication of a temple and not make up our minds that from this hour on, we aren’t just here for a visit, we are here to receive the word of the Lord, and from this hour to the end of our days, we pledge ourselves that we will live the commandments of the Lord and see that our children are properly taught so they will also enjoy the great happiness that can come only through living the commandments of the Lord.”

His dedicatory prayer reflected that concern as President Kimball pleaded, “Please bless us that we may be able to stir the youth of Zion with a desire for eternal marriage in Thy holy temple.”

President Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency, explained that “temples did not, do not originate in the mind of men; neither do the ceremonies performed therein. They are revealed from heaven by the Lord’s decree.”

President Romney recalled the reaction five years earlier to President Kimball’s announcement that the Tokyo Temple would be built:

“It was on a Sunday, and everyone broke out in a clapping spell—and well they might have.” The challenge now is that “we use this temple to its capacity,” he said.

Multistory stained-glass window in the Tokyo Temple

Multistory stained-glass window in the Tokyo Temple.

Referring to the hymn, “O My Father,” Elder Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles thanked “those who have so beautifully reminded us of the great and wonderful things of God: Father, Mother, the life before this, the reality of life to come. These are of the very essence of temple work.”

His words found ready assent from all present: “I feel so deeply grateful to be here with my beloved brothers and sisters of Japan and other nations. … You are my friends and I love you; I’m grateful to be one with you in the work of our Eternal Father.”

Another tender yet powerful moment was experienced at the close of the first dedicatory session when Han In Sang, Regional Representative from Seoul, Korea, offered the benediction. He was one of several Korean ecclesiastical authorities invited to the dedication.

Current legal restrictions largely prevent Korean husbands and wives from leaving the country together or with their children. But during President Kimball’s visit to Korea, the government had announced its intentions to review the restrictive law. And on Sunday, October 26, President Kimball had paused during his opening address to the Seoul Area Conference to state:

“Before long we hope there will be a temple in Korea.”

Later, President Kimball was to say to the Japanese Saints, “We hope it won’t be too long until every major country will have a temple.”

Thus burdened by concerns for his people, yet heartened by prophetic promises, Brother Han gave expression, first in Korean and then in English, to profound gratitude and love, especially for the sacrifices of the Japanese people in the completion of the Tokyo Temple, and pleaded for a prompt relaxation of legal restrictions and the fulfillment of the hopes of the Korean and other Saints for temples in their lands.

In the subsequent six dedicatory sessions conducted the next two days in the Tokyo Stake Center in order to accommodate larger congregations, President Kimball repeated his dedicatory address and prayer, and other General Authorities and members of the Tokyo Temple presidency were called upon to speak.

President Kimball was accompanied on the entire journey by President Romney; Elder Mark E. Petersen and Elder Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Marion D. Hanks and Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi of the First Quorum of the Seventy; President Barbara B. Smith of the Relief Society; President Elaine A. Cannon of the Young Women; and David M. Kennedy, special representative of the First Presidency.

Joining them in Tokyo for the temple dedication and area conference were President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder W. Grant Bangerter and Elder Adney Y. Komatsu of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

President Ezra Taft Benson described the temple as “the nearest place to heaven on earth.” He urged the Japanese Saints to attend the temple regularly on stake temple days and promised them, “the Lord will bless your labors and you as you serve him faithfully.”

Temple covenants require that we acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, and embrace all of his laws and principles and comply with the ordinances of the gospel, he said.

Fundamental ways by which parents may strengthen their families, President Benson said, include spending more time in the home; practicing daily devotion in the home with family prayers, family hymn singing, and scripture study; giving more parental instruction to children in life’s problems; doing things as a family; and developing closer parent-child relationships.

The Tokyo Temple exhibits “Oriental” detailing on the pillars and spire

The Tokyo Temple exhibits “Oriental” detailing on the pillars and spire.

Explaining that all ordinances of the Church are essential to both the living and the dead, Elder Mark E. Petersen said the temple “is the gateway to celestial glory, as baptism is the gate to membership in the Church.

“Every human being needs the blessings of the temple. Let no one think the temple is optional if they hope to receive blessings in heaven.”

He reiterated the plea that every man and woman “go to the temple to be married; every young person plan to marry only in the temple.”

Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, the first General Authority of Japanese descent, spoke of the “deep feeling of joy in my heart” in the fulfillment of the long-held dream for a temple in Asia.

He told of a Japanese sister who had died recently after her eighty-sixth birthday. “She had been a member since 1914 and finally, after fifty-five years’ preparation, was able to go to the Hawaii Temple in 1969.” He expressed “great appreciation that this present generation will not have to wait so long to receive the blessings of the temple.”

Elder W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of temples, counseled, “We have prepared the temples. Now we must ask how we have prepared the people.”

There is no purpose to having temples, he said, if the people are not devoted and willing to sacrifice to receive the temple ordinances in their own behalf and for their deceased ancestors and to share the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with their neighbors and the world.

A recurring theme of the dedicatory services and area conferences was the recognition of and gratitude for the stalwart Saints who laid the foundations of the Church and carried its testimony of Jesus Christ to the world.

President Romney described the conversion and baptism of his and Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball’s great-grandfather Miles Romney in 1839 in England by Heber C. Kimball, the great-grandfather of President Spencer W. Kimball.

Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi recounted the sufferings of one of Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley’s forebears on the journey from Nauvoo to Utah. It was necessary, he said, for others to amputate her frozen limbs with an axe in order to save her life.

The expansion of the Church into Asia, Elder Kikuchi said, was one of the direct answers to the prayer of the Prophet Joseph Smith when he dedicated the Kirtland Temple and pleaded:

“We ask Thee, Holy Father, that Thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power. … And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth.” (D&C 109:22–23.) Referring also to the beginnings of missionary work in Japan, which eventually spread elsewhere in Asia, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley quoted from the diary of Elder Heber J. Grant, later to become seventh president of the Church. On August 12, 1901, Elder Grant, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and three companions introduced missionary work in Japan. His prayer of dedication, Elder Hinckley said, foresaw a slow beginning, but an eventual flourishing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia. He was correct on both counts.

President Grant wrote of those early years in Japan: “I have an abiding faith that this is to be one of the most successful missions ever established in the Church. It is going to be slow work at first but the harvest is to be something great and will astonish the world in years to come.”

The harvest was, indeed, slow in coming.

Alma O. Taylor, who accompanied Elder Grant to Japan and remained for nine years, reported that in that time four women and three men had been baptized, six in Tokyo and one in Hokkaido.

The passing years didn’t bring much change.

By July 31, 1925, after 24 years of labor, 166 had been baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Japan.

Shortly before that “when the work was not doing well,” explained Elder Marion D. Hanks, “the Lord called four young couples to come to Japan in the hopes they would be more successful.”

Among them were Elwood and Arva Christensen of Brigham City, Utah. Elder Hanks introduced Brother Christensen to the Saints gathered in the temple dedication. He was accompanied by two of his sons, one of them born in Osaka, and two of his daughters, one of them Elder Hanks’ wife Maxine.

Elder Hanks encouraged all to do their work thinking of the truth that life is eternal.

“Those who worked here sixty and seventy years ago,” he said, “could not envision what we are experiencing this week.

But they were laying the foundation of a great work.”

Stained-glass window, hazy through the drapes, and chandelier in the Tokyo Temple

Stained-glass window, hazy through the drapes, and chandelier in the Tokyo Temple.

And what a contrast it was for all those who had shared or read or heard of the early sorrows and disappointments and were now witnesses of the fulfillment of divine promises. For instance:

—The morning after the final dedicatory session for the Tokyo Temple, 1500 missionaries from the nine missions of Japan gathered in the Tokyo Stake Center for a special conference with President Kimball. Earlier, the Church leader and other Church authorities had met with 1800 missionaries in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea.

—Before returning to their proselyting duties, 150 native Japanese full-time missionaries who had not previously received their temple endowments were among the first to enter the Tokyo Temple for that purpose.

—The next evening, 122 men, women, and children from Okinawa participated in sealing ceremonies after the husbands and wives had first received their temple endowments. (The temple opened its regular schedule on Tuesday, November 4.)

—Although days and nights on this long tour were filled with travel, area conference activities, and seven temple dedicatory sessions, the organization of new stakes in Asia didn’t let up. In the days immediately before the temple dedication, President Ezra Taft Benson had organized new stakes in Okinawa and Yokohama; Elder Gordon B. Hinckley had organized the Kwangju Korea Stake; and the day after the last area conference session in Osaka, Elder Hinckley and Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi organized new stakes in Sendai and Nagoya, Japan, respectively. Elder Hinckley also ordained three new stake patriarchs in Japan and one in Korea.

—Elaine A. Cannon, president of the Young Women, told of being introduced to a tailor and his wife in their shop in Taipei. At her invitation the wife attended the women’s meeting and the husband a general session of the Taiwan Area Conference.

“Amy had been wondering how they could learn more to help their children. Together we read in 3 Nephi, chapter 11, to learn about baptism and why it was necessary,” Sister Cannon said. “After thinking about it, she wanted to learn more so her children could learn more. [3 Ne. 11]

“‘But that isn’t enough,’ Amy said. ‘The woman who tends the children must know and the neighbors must know so they can help.’”

All agreed with Sister Cannon: “What a missionary find! This is the way the gospel works, the way it spreads.”

—More than 45,000 Church members, about 35 percent of the approximately 130,000 members in the five countries, attended area conference sessions. Attendance ranged from 18,000 in Manila to 10,000 in Tokyo, 6400 in Osaka, 6000 in Seoul, 2500 in Hong Kong, and 2200 in Taiwan.

—Approximately 7500 attended the temple dedicatory sessions.

—Possibly never before in the history of Asia had such clear direction been given about the exalted role of women in the kingdom of God.

Relief Society President Barbara B. Smith said, “Our Church leaders today stand in support of Relief Society.” At her invitation in each area conference, the General Authorities present stood and expressed their total support, typified by the concurrence of Elder Mark E. Petersen. “Relief Society is not optional. It is part of our responsibility to see that Relief Society is organized in each ward or branch.

“Do not postpone this action,” he admonished. “Do it now. It will be a blessing to you.”

In his dedicatory prayer, President Kimball pleaded, “Wilt Thou richly endow the sisters of the Church, our wives, our mothers, our daughters, with the spirit of their exalted callings and responsibilities. Father, Thou knowest our great love for them. So, also, in their various needs, pour out precious gifts of wisdom, faith, and knowledge upon them.”

“Relief Society is rejuvenating, stimulating, and refreshing,” and its product is virtuous, faithful, courageous women, President Smith said.

Thousands of members of Relief Society and Young Women and hundreds of their officers from the twenty-eight stakes and twenty-three missions in the five countries met with their general presidents, most of them for the first time.

President Kimball gathered greater strength each day, blessed by answers to the prayers offered by Saints in special fast meetings prior to his arrival in Asia. He delivered thirty-one addresses to the Saints, conducted many of the meetings, and set apart temple workers in Tokyo and Hawaii (on a three-hour stopover).

In addition, President Kimball renewed acquaintances with President Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Philippines in a thirty-minute visit in Malacanang Palace in Manila, sat at breakfast with President Chiang Ching-Kuo of the Republic of China, was honored at a twelve-course luncheon by Governor and Mrs. Yang-Kang Lin of the Taiwan Provincial Government in Taipei, and attended a luncheon hosted by Tae Wan-Son, president of the Korean American Friendship Association in Seoul and former deputy prime minister of Korea.

Only twice in the course of the conferences did his voice drop to apparently fatigued whispers, but the moments passed quickly.

Thus it is understandable that these not-to-be-forgotten days richly deserve the description—“times of great blessings”—given them by President I-Ch’ing Chang of the Taipei Taiwan Stake.

Elder Hinckley’s testimony in Manila, when he invited Brother David Lagman to stand with him before the 18,000 Saints gathered in the Araneta Coliseum, could stand as a summary of the blessings felt by all who attended the conferences and temple dedication:

“I see before me a miracle. You are a miracle. Twenty years ago we held a meeting at the American Cemetery and rededicated this land to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You, David Lagman, were the only native Filipino member of the Church that we could find.

“Look up; look at these people. This one man has become a congregation of 46,000 in the Republic of the Philippines. To his great credit through all these years he has kept the faith.”

And so it is throughout Asia. All of which explains President Kimball’s parting words to the Saints in Asia:

“I leave you with regret and give to you my love and blessings.”

Both chandelier and a warm glow from stained-glass window light this sealing room in the Tokyo Temple. (© LDS.)

Saints cluster outside Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, site of the Taipei area conference.